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112 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 ...
Gaurav's user avatar
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106 votes
Accepted

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 ...
SJuan76's user avatar
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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 ...
ttbek's user avatar
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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 ...
MCW's user avatar
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15 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 ...
congusbongus's user avatar
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10 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 ...
Nick Halme's user avatar
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 ...
Peter's user avatar
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8 votes
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Why and how did Macedon support Carthage in the Punic wars?

During the Punic Wars, the Macedonians allied themselves with the Carthaginians with the expectation they would be the victors of the war and therefore be on good terms with them in the future. In ...
Notaras's user avatar
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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 ...
Mark Olson's user avatar
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5 votes

How did Carthage Lose the First Punic War to Rome?

Started to write an answer, realized midway through I was summarizing the wiki page and rewrote. The shortest answer I can now give is there really was no single tactic that won the battles, both ...
Twelfth's user avatar
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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-...
Steph's user avatar
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5 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 ...
user27201's user avatar
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 ...
user26472's user avatar
4 votes
Accepted

How did Scipio Africanus recruit his army for Zama?

I think part of the error here is in assuming that such losses would be sufficient to put a dent in Roman yearly recruitment. The spring of Cannae (216 BC) had actually been their best recruitment ...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
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3 votes

Did Hannibal's elephants wear protective footwear?

Elephant feet are rather odd. Elephants like many other animals walk on the toes but they have a big soft circular pad behind the semi circle of their toes, and those pad support much of their weight. ...
MAGolding's user avatar
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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 ...
Tom's user avatar
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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 ...
agcala's user avatar
  • 131
3 votes

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

Carthage did send some troops to Hannibal in Italy, just not very many. I remember reading that ships did make it into either Tarentum or Lucri but I am having trouble finding the original source I ...
ed.hank's user avatar
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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....
MAGolding's user avatar
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2 votes

Where did Hannibal cross the Pyrenees?

Looking at ancient warfare strategy and tactics, it's likely Hannibal used two different routes through the Central Pyrenees. Any other option is unlikely as Hannibal had enemies on the North side and ...
user27524's user avatar
2 votes

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

Soldiers arranged in a circle will need to step backwards when casualties occur, in order to maintain a cohesive circle without gaps.Those encircling will then push forward. Soldiers were generally ...
Scott's user avatar
  • 169
2 votes

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

Well, he wasn't the famous all conquering general of the history books as yet. Those victories were in the future. Taking the coastal roads is exactly what the Romans were expecting. That would work ...
Jos's user avatar
  • 22.4k
1 vote

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

Encirclement, by itself, and for ancient armies, with little needed of supply lines, didn't place the encircled in an specially disadvantageous position. The main negative point was the psychological ...
xxavier's user avatar
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