Scipio Africanus and the battle of Zama.
It is said that Scipio was Rome's own Hannibal
, that Hannibal Barca and the second Punic
war created Scipio.
During Hannibal's time in Italy
he defeated three Roman
armies, the last, at the battle of Cannae
he destroyed 8 entire legions
thats around 50,000 men and had Rome
teetering on the brink of annihilation.
It was only a dogged defence and an iron will that Rome managed to hold onto its existence and produce new legions.
After the fall of Syracuse
Hannibal's major supply line was cut off and when Scipio took New Carthage
in Spain he was forced to return to North Africa to check Scipio's rapid advance toward the Punic Capital.
How the tables had turned. Scipio's invasion of Africa and his rapid advance as well as his total victories over two Carthagenian armies had eerie similarities with Hannibal’s success in Italy. It could be said then, that he was indeed 'Hannibal's Ghost'
One more battle had to be fought before Carthage would fall and the second Punic war would be over.
This was to be the Highlight of Scipio's career
and effectively the end of Hannibal’s.
The armies faced each other across the dry and arid plain.
It is well known that the two generals
met before the battle and although we'll never know what exactly was said, they seemed to have a soldierly respect for each other.
When the battle came it was by no means a walk over for the Romans.
Hannibal had arrayed his battle line with 50 war elephants
in front of his infantry.
these were sent charging as the legions advanced.
But Scipio had anticipated this and had arranged his legions into checker board formations so that when the elephants came they simply came moved to the sides creating lanes for the deadly animals to charge harmlessly down.
The cavalry on the wings were tied up as the skirmishers of the infantry fought it out ahead of their own main lines.
Hannibal had kept his Spanish
troops, which were his tried and true veterans, at the back, behind the African infantry
who were now engaged with the first line of the Triplex acies
, which was the Roman 'three lines' way of a legions battle formation
The Romans would put the youngest troops in the first line, the mildly experienced veterans in the second, and the most blooded and hardest troops at the back.
The psychology of this was that the young ones would not be able to run for the veterans behind them, they felt that they had to prove themselves, and with the best troops at the back they would form the back bone and hold the line if the worst happened.
Also with the checker board formation troops could be gradually fed to the front through the gaps and provide relief for those at the front.
at Zama, this was happening now. The first line of the Roman legions were breaking as the second pushed up and finally succeeded in routing the African infantry, who in their wake left Scipio’s troops face to face with Hannibal’s hardened Spanish Infantry, the men who had decimated so many Roman units in Italy.
in the Roman second and third lines fell upon them with a vengeance, some of these men had been at Cannae and almost all of the roman troops would have lost a friend or relative in that battle.
The fighting at this stage turned extremely brutal, the Spanish troops giving as good as they got.
In the end it was the Romans procedure
and the return of the Roman cavalry into Hannibal's rear that swung the day.
Scipio had brought the second Punic war to an end and with it Hannibal’s' career as a general.
The two were to meet again when Rome was knocking out a treaty
Scipio is said to have asked Hannibal "who he thought where the greatest generals ever", Hannibal replied, "1:Alexander the Great
and 3:Hannibal of Carthage."
Scipio was surprised and asked "where would you be then, if you had beaten me?"
And Hannibal is said to have replied:
"The best, better than Alexander"
To Scipio Africanus, this must have been quite a compliment.