110 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

While the total encirclement might be the most impressive thing about Cannae, remember that it's just a special case of a pincer movement where the pincer goes all the way around the enemy. A pincer ...
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102 votes
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Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

While the tactical factor (not being able to move units around) is important, the main issue is one of soldiers panicking. Remember that it does not matter what the numbers are actually; your soldiers ...
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41 votes
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Why didn't Hannibal attack Rome after the Battle of Cannae?

Short Answer: His army was too small to either assault or securely besiege Rome Rome itself remain defended by two legions and a large, conscriptable population Marching on and laying siege to Rome ...
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37 votes
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Why did the original Carthage never become a Roman city?

First of all, Carthage did not fall in the First or Second Punic Wars. The Carthaginians were defeated twice, and compelled to surrender to particularly harsh terms the second time, but the City of ...
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27 votes
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Where did Hannibal cross the Pyrenees?

This is a subject of some dispute, but perhaps the most common view is that Hannibal probably crossed the Pyrenees via the mountain passes of modern Le Perthus. He crossed the Pyrenees by the Col du ...
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20 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

I just wanted to expand on a comment by armatita and hence address some part of the OP's question more generally. Independent of the specifics of this battle and tactics, it is mathematically ...
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18 votes
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Why have we never found any elephant skeletons in the Western Alps?

The simple answer is because bones are organic, and organic things don't last 2000 years. Even hard organic things like bones, except in very extreme (eg: rare) circumstance. Exposed bone, unless its ...
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18 votes
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Was the Carthaginian Senate for life or not?

SHORT ANSWER Unfortunately, we can't be sure, but it is likely that the Carthaginian senate was for life at some point during its long history. DETAILED ANSWER The main problem in determining ...
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17 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

tl; dr - encirclement creates a mobility advantage for the encircling forces. Ultimately encirclement permits the encircling commander to choose the location, time, conditions, and duration. The ...
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14 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

You are correct that being surrounded isn't necessarily a bad thing, and this question isn't a straightforward one to answer. As Pieter Geerkens noted in a comment, if you do it right then the ...
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12 votes

Why didn't Hannibal attack Rome after the Battle of Cannae?

(Refer to map below) After the Battle of Cannae (2 August 216 BC), Hannibal went immediately to Compsa (1), where he set up a base and took some of forces and sent them on a mission to collect allies ...
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10 votes

Was there a state or kingdom in the Maghreb of North Africa that predates the founding of Carthage?

Not really, no. Carthage itself started out as a Phoenician colony, along with Utica probably in the 8th Century BC. The Phoenicians themselves were a Northwest Semitic people whose language was ...
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9 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

I think there may be a bit of confusion here between "encirclement" and "envelopment" - or a pincer movement. Think of an encirclement being a possible outcome of a double envelopment, with a single ...
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Did Cato the Elder think destruction of Carthage was more important than anything else for Rome?

No. We see an inference made in English language about an interpretation in English language over a single word and how to interpret it when the 'original' is supposed to have been in Latin. That is: ...
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8 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

There is a big reason and a small reason: Big reason: There's sampling bias. If encirclement leads to defeat, the result is a wipeout, which is notable. If encirclement doesn't lead to defeat, the ...
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8 votes

At the start of the Second Punic War, why didn't Hannibal engage Publius Scipio in Hispania, but crossed the alps instead?

The reason is that this was the Second Punic War. During the First Punic War the Carthaginians beat the Romans more than once, destroying their fleets...and the Romans built another fleet. This was ...
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7 votes

Why have we never found any elephant skeletons in the Western Alps?

The absence of evidence is not proof, particularly when it comes to archeology where there's so much ground to [un]cover and so few people to do it, and in this case the proof is particularly ...
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6 votes
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Why was Archbishop of Carthage, Cyriacus, arrested?

Turns out that he [R]efused to perform uncanonical consecration, and for this reason some of his flock accused him before the Saracenic emir, who tortured him in a cruel manner. Source EDIT ...
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6 votes

Why have we never found any elephant skeletons in the Western Alps?

Neither Polybius or Livy, the 2 main accounts, mention how many elephants, if any, died during the crossing of the Alps. Appian's account says that Hannibal took 37 but also does not number those lost,...
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5 votes

Where did Hannibal cross the Pyrenees?

I am quite surprised that nobody mentionned Livy's History of Rome Ab Urbe Condita. In book 21 - parts 23 and 24, the historian says about Hannibal that: He placed Hanno in charge of the whole coast-...
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4 votes

What kind of siege weapons were used during Punic wars?

As for siege equipment used during the Punic Wars it's quite a long period and should be looked at in a progressive manner. When the Roman republic entered the war in 264 BC there was little siege ...
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4 votes

Why didn't Hannibal attack Rome after the Battle of Cannae?

Hannibal's troops were not numerous enough (about 40,000 after the battle) to have a hope of taking Rome, which had a very large population (somewherere around 200,000) and was well fortified (the ...
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4 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

Encirclement means that you cannot retreat. The enemy can evade your blows but you cannot evade theirs. Given how tightly packed ancient formations were this simple mobility limitation meant death ...
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3 votes

How did the african kingdom of Carthage adapt to their environment?

Where did the people of Carthage come from? What was the climate like? Compare that to the climate of Carthage. Look at climate zones. See if you can find climographs for both the new location and the ...
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3 votes

Why have we never found any elephant skeletons in the Western Alps?

This thread in history reddit claims that someone found elephant poop, presumably in the Alps, and hopes to do genetic testing to discover which species of elephant they are from. https://www.reddit....
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3 votes

Where did Hannibal cross the Pyrenees?

Polybius clearly states the route - Ilergetes (the people of Ilerda, now Lleida) which is slightly north-east of the Ebro river and where the Segre (Sicoris) River flows through. He mentions the ...
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3 votes

Why didn't the senate of Carthage reinforce Hannibal in Italy?

It comes down to two issues: no army to send and no navy to get it there. The war of Hannibal and the Barcas against Rome was more or less a personal project by that family, who controlled Spain and ...
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3 votes

Why didn't the senate of Carthage reinforce Hannibal in Italy?

They did send more aid. Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, came with a whole new army which miraculously made it all the Italy, but then was unfortunately wiped out at the Battle of the Metaurus.
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3 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

This reminds me the battle of Alesia, in 52 BC where Romans set siege to the city to find themselves to be under siege. So I think at the end of the day it depends on the situation and on the ...
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3 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

As a non-historic answer, I've participated in a number of large (around 2000 participants) live-action roleplaying battles. In all of them, encirclement was a sure sign of imminent defeat. Two ...
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