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 Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.

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Parallax
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PostSubject: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Sun 14 Dec 2014, 18:16

I have often thought about the differences wrought by individuals in situations. This comparison, if my conclusion is correct would have changed our world dramatically.

When Hannibal defeated several Roman armies and arrived at the walls of Rome he could not enter the city because he lacked siege materials.
Considering Alexander, in Hannibal's position at that moment in time, I believe Alexander would have found a way...just as he did at Tyre.

 Alexander was probably a more determined type than Hannibal, excellent leader that he was, having built a mole out to the island of Tyre and the siege equipment he needed on the spot. I don't understand why Hannibal did not undertake to build the siege equipment needed to take Rome, since he had the manpower and the technology within his army.
The world would be very different today if Rome had fallen to Hannibal.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 15 Dec 2014, 10:03

But would Rome necessarily have lost the war with Hannibal had the city fallen to him in a siege? He wasn't quite in the same situation as Alexander in that the latter always had recourse to scarper or simply move on if the siege proved problematic (disease being the main killer in long sieges for the besieger and therefore the benefit of a city's capture had to be weighed against that probability should the exercise drag out). Also Rome had already deployed at that point an "expeditionary force" of its own - its own generals' strategy being to wear their enemy down, their numerical superiority in terms of potential conscriptions being vast, estimated at 700,000 soldiers at full deployment. Hannibal on the other hand had a depleted force of under 50,000 after Cannae and knew his best bet was touring the Italian peninsula portraying himself as a "liberator" to what he hoped were disaffected communities along the way, essentially recruiting to his own cause those who otherwise would be in the Roman muster. This required that he actually go to these places. Getting bogged down in a siege of a huge city might have actually delivered the Romans an even greater victory and an earlier one than that which actually transpired. None of these things were considerations that bothered Alexander, well at least not until he had extended his own expeditionary force's supply line and fighting capabilitiy to snapping point in the Orient.

The big "what if" that always struck me about the Punic Wars had already happened by then - the completely fortuitous shipwreck of a superior Carthaginian ship completely intact on the Sicilian coast during the First Punic War. The story may be apocryphal that this kick-started the development of a navy comparable to the enemy's (and the highly effective corvus seems to have been completely a Roman innovation), but if it is true then it ranks up there along with the Luftwaffe's switch from bombing Britain's air defence installations to bombing civilian targets as one of those great "near misses" or "close shaves" in history. After Agrigentum, Rome really had no great prospect of adopting anything other than a defensive position without what that capture enabled them to do.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 15 Dec 2014, 10:04

Welcome to the boards, Parallax.

I have read (somewhere, can't remember exactly) that if Alexander had lived, his next targets would have been Rome and Carthage. The objective being to eliminate them as potential threats to Macedonia/Greece and add Italy & North Africa to his Empire.



Livy's view of a potential war with Alexander (Livy; History of Rome, Book 9)

"It is quite possible, too, that as Rome and Carthage were at that time leagued together by an old-standing treaty, the same apprehensions might have led those two powerful states to take up arms against the common foe, and Alexander would have been crushed by their combined forces."
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 15 Dec 2014, 10:34

@nordmann wrote:
The big "what if" that always struck me about the Punic Wars had already happened by then - the completely fortuitous shipwreck of a superior Carthaginian ship completely intact on the Sicilian coast during the First Punic War. The story may be apocryphal that this kick-started the development of a navy comparable to the enemy's (and the highly effective corvus seems to have been completely a Roman innovation)

The corvus also made the galley top heavy. Not only did the Romans build a fleet to match the Carthaginians, but twice afterwards the Romans lost their entire fleet in storms and had to rebuild it.

It is this persistence which made Rome so formidable, many other states would have baulked at the cost in blood and treasure.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 15 Dec 2014, 15:07

As much as I like the thought of Alexander taking Rome I do have to admit that the Romans always had another army somewhere. They seemed to create them as needed.
I have to agree that Hannibal would have been defeated earlier had he tried to besiege Rome and perhaps Alexander also...but Alexander probably would have made the attempt.
Hannibal did very well with his 50,000 soldiers against the mostly very well trained and equipped Romans.
Thanks for the welcome!
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 15 Dec 2014, 15:14

@Triceratops wrote:
Welcome to the boards, Parallax.

I have read (somewhere, can't remember exactly) that if Alexander had lived, his next targets would have been Rome and Carthage. The objective being to eliminate them as potential threats to Macedonia/Greece and add Italy & North Africa to his Empire.



Livy's view of a potential war with Alexander (Livy; History of Rome, Book 9)

"It is quite possible, too, that as Rome and Carthage were at that time leagued together by an old-standing treaty, the same apprehensions might have led those two powerful states to take up arms against the common foe, and Alexander would have been crushed by their combined forces."

Thanks, glad to be here Triceratops.
It would have been interesting had Alexander lived and headed west with his army swelled by Persians and other men from his vast empire.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 15 Dec 2014, 15:50

Good to see a new member, Parallax.

Would have been very interesting. Alexander's cavalry could have been decisive, then again would the Macedonian Phalanx cope with the Legion, especially on broken or hilly ground.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 15 Dec 2014, 19:00

Alexander would surely have chosen the ground to fight on so that it suited his phalanges - and surely the Roman legion prior to the Marian reform was largely made up of spearmen, wasn't it?
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 16 Dec 2014, 09:41

Don't forget the Romans got the better of the Macedonian phalanx at Cynoscephalae and Pydna, just after the Punic Wars.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 16 Dec 2014, 14:09

@Triceratops wrote:
Don't forget the Romans got the better of the Macedonian phalanx at Cynoscephalae and Pydna, just after the Punic Wars.
But look who wasn't commanding the Macedonians at either battle.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 16 Dec 2014, 14:54

Very true, Gil.

I've taken a closer look at the Roman situation at the time of a potential Alexandrian attack, and from the Roman perspective it does not look to good, as such an attack would have coincided with the period of the 2nd & 3rd Samnite Wars as well as combat with Etruscans and Gauls. A veteran Macedonian Army commanded by Alexander might well have been the end of Rome's imperial ambitions.

Central Italy in the Fourth Century BC;

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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 16 Dec 2014, 17:50

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
Alexander would surely have chosen the ground to fight on so that it suited his phalanges - and surely the Roman legion prior to the Marian reform was largely made up of spearmen, wasn't it?

From what I have read the phalanx, when it's flanks were properly protected with cavalry and well led, was unbeatable.
Romans were particularly susceptible to heavy cavalry, including the legions.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 16 Dec 2014, 18:16

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
@Triceratops wrote:
Don't forget the Romans got the better of the Macedonian phalanx at Cynoscephalae and Pydna, just after the Punic Wars.
But look who wasn't commanding the Macedonians at either battle.

That was because the Phalanx had no flank protection. It chased the Romans three times...taking it to rough ground, where maneuvering was not suited to it. This is more the fault of their commander. It has also been stated that the Roman commander had his soldiers withdraw by design, so as to lead the Phalanx onto rough ground.
I also read where there were no cowards there that day, the Phalanx fighting down to nearly the last man before breaking.

There were other factors too. First, the Greek Phalanx was composed of trained militia, more like our national guard here in the US while the Romans had up to five years of training before joining a legion. This means the Romans must have been better trained than the Greeks, a professional army against a militia.
Second,  the Romans had a superiority in weapons...the spear that bent upon impact and stuck in an enemy shield, making it useless, the full shield the legions carried that covered their whole body and their short sword.  The Romans had 8,000 Greek mercenaries on their side and were overall, twice the size of the Greeks facing them. I think that, without cavalry on the flanks and a capable commander it was not a surprise defeat.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 16 Dec 2014, 22:40

@Parallax wrote:



There were other factors too. First, the Greek Phalanx was composed of trained militia, more like our national guard here in the US while the Romans had up to five years of training before joining a legion. This means the Romans must have been better trained than the Greeks, a professional army against a militia.
Second,  the Romans had a superiority in weapons...the spear that bent upon impact and stuck in an enemy shield, making it useless, the full shield the legions carried that covered their whole body and their short sword.  The Romans had 8,000 Greek mercenaries on their side and were overall, twice the size of the Greeks facing them. I think that, without cavalry on the flanks and a capable commander it was not a surprise defeat.
Not in the late 4th century, I'm afraid At that juncture, the Romans were still a "citizen army", of recognisably Greek-style hoplites, arrayed in a phalanx-like formation, largely spear armed (the soldier had to provide his own arms, so only the front and richest rank had swords as well, as of course did the Macedonian phalangists), whilst Philip's reforms made the Macedonian forces closer to a "standing army". It is a common error to suppose that Alexander's army consisted purely of heavy infantry phalanges plus the Companion cavalry.

The Spanish-style gladius was only just being introduced, the shield was more or less a Greek style aspis, and the pilum still had two iron pins (the breakable wooden pin was part of the Marian reforms of a couple of centuries later, and the soft iron shank was even later). The Romans had, I contend, neither an equivalent nor an effective counter to Philip's invention of heavy shock cavalry, which Alexander used teamed with light cavalry which would probably have been quite capable of screening the flanks of the phalanges, whilst the throwing-strap of the peltasts should have given them a distinct range and accuracy advantage over Roman javelins - not as much advantage as that enjoyed by his mercenary Cretan archers in either respect.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 16 Dec 2014, 22:59

I have actually seen wargames which pitched Caesar's army against Alexander's. It was no surprise when 300 years of military progress triumphed - Grand Fleet vs Spanish Armada, anyone? Or Nelson's fleet against that of Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky or that of

Count Carlo Pellion di Persano? Surely even genius can be faced with too great a disparity of force?
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Thu 18 Dec 2014, 13:57

18 December 218 BC, the Battle of the Trebia;


http://www.theartofbattle.com/battle-of-the-trebia-218-bc.htm
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PostSubject: It was not 4th. cent. bc, it was 2nd cent. bc. The pilum and gladius were in use.   Mon 22 Dec 2014, 15:11

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
@Parallax wrote:



There were other factors too. First, the Greek Phalanx was composed of trained militia, more like our national guard here in the US while the Romans had up to five years of training before joining a legion. This means the Romans must have been better trained than the Greeks, a professional army against a militia.
Second,  the Romans had a superiority in weapons...the spear that bent upon impact and stuck in an enemy shield, making it useless, the full shield the legions carried that covered their whole body and their short sword.  The Romans had 8,000 Greek mercenaries on their side and were overall, twice the size of the Greeks facing them. I think that, without cavalry on the flanks and a capable commander it was not a surprise defeat.
Not in the late 4th century, I'm afraid At that juncture, the Romans were still a "citizen army", of recognisably Greek-style hoplites, arrayed in a phalanx-like formation, largely spear armed (the soldier had to provide his own arms, so only the front and richest rank had swords as well, as of course did the Macedonian phalangists), whilst Philip's reforms made the Macedonian forces closer to a "standing army". It is a common error to suppose that Alexander's army consisted purely of heavy infantry phalanges plus the Companion cavalry.

The Spanish-style gladius was only just being introduced, the shield was more or less a Greek style aspis, and the pilum still had two iron pins (the breakable wooden pin was part of the Marian reforms of a couple of centuries later, and the soft iron shank was even later). The Romans had, I contend, neither an equivalent nor an effective counter to Philip's invention of heavy shock cavalry, which Alexander used teamed with light cavalry which would probably have been quite capable of screening the flanks of the phalanges, whilst the throwing-strap of the peltasts should have given them a distinct range and accuracy advantage over Roman javelins - not as much advantage as that enjoyed by his mercenary Cretan archers in either respect.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 22 Dec 2014, 17:43

I think there has been some confusion about battles. I was referring to...in this particular reply, the battles of Cynoscephalae and Pydna, which were 2nd century BC. with regards to the Greek losses.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 22 Dec 2014, 21:50

@Parallax wrote:
I think there has been some confusion about battles. I was referring to...in this particular reply, the battles of Cynoscephalae and Pydna, which were 2nd century BC. with regards to the Greek losses.
I'm not arguing that issue, about which I am in full agreement with you, I'm pointing out that few of those advantages would have accrued to the Romans at the time of Alexander.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 23 Dec 2014, 10:16

Alexander and his army proved they knew how to win a battle against almost any contemporary opposition pitched against them. A key factor in this was the army under his command's adaptability in formation as time and the nature of the challenges before it progressed. The army at the end of Alexander's Asian campaign looked very different from that which had begun it, with some divisions demoted in terms of importance, troop numbers and effectiveness and whole new divisions with entirely novel skills from a Greek/Macedonian perspective having been subsumed into it. In fact it is this willingness to adopt new tactical tools and the obvious wit to understand their potential and deploy them with immediate effect that marks Alexander out as one of the greatest military tacticians of all time.

At the same time as Alexander was forging his way through Asia, Rome was facing a military crisis of its own. Around the time of the consulship of Laenas and Scipio, more or less just as Alexander was initially embarking on his meteoric succession of military victories, one of the first "Greater Roman" armies had been assembled using troops from allied Italian territories as well as purely Roman to counter a new and potentially devastating military invasion from Gallic lands. The disaster of Allia and the sack of Rome by the same Gauls within living memory had galvanised Rome's army both in terms of formation and weaponry in the meantime. Just as Alexander was also doing at the same time, Rome too had already jettisoned a reliance on the old Greek phalanx style spear. They had learnt in particular from their encounters with the Gallic Senones army that if they were to compete with them they would have to improve not only their close quarter fighting techniques but also equip their troops with weapons more suited to that purpose, as well as emulate the superior craftsmanship in iron that the Senones then enjoyed. An arms industry revolution was also part of the new agenda.

So in that sense, at that particular moment in time, one could say that both Rome and Alexander's armies were undergoing drastic revisions in tactical application and choice of weaponry. Moreover both demonstrated that their own particular revolution in that respect was a success. Alexander began a long line of successive military victories; Rome defeated the same Gauls who hitherto had seemed invincible. If they had ever come head-to-head at this particular juncture then it must be assumed that the relative extent of this adaptability as much as their respective fighting skills would have been tested. But who would have won?

To me, winning in military terms is actually a much vaguer concept than battle victories tend to imply. Alexander might well have crushed a Roman army in battle given the state of the armies in terms of experience and training, and their respective arsenals, equipment and overall formation at the time. But would Alexander actually have "won" in the long term?

A crucial difference between Alexander and Rome also emerged during the same period, and that was their respective competency as strategists in maintaining whatever advantage a battle had secured them after victory. What constituted advantage however was hugely different in each side's case. Colours on a map might simplistically tend to suggest that they were similar, bringing ever larger swathes of territory under the control of one power through conquest. But what each side was doing in the aftermath of conquest was fundamentally different. Alexander's obsession was with removing the potential for a threat from his rear as he advanced. Rome's obsession was with complete assimilation of the conquered peoples into its body politic.

This not only had political implications (Alexander's empire was doomed to fracture and atrophy, Rome's was fated to expand and develop) but also military implications that almost certainly would have played a major role in a direct confrontation between the two, and especially in territory already under Roman control. Rome had already become, and would remain, one of the first great "occupying powers", one which consolidates militarily and administratively the ground gained before advancing further. This consolidation was as thorough as it was effective in Rome's case. Had Alexander invaded Roman territories, now run and defended by a military structure that had learnt much and changed utterly from the time of the disastrous defeat at Allia, he would have encountered an opposition deployed in no manner resembling anything he met in Asia. As one historian put it (I forget who) when talking about Hannibal's invasion in later times, the Italian peninsula under Rome's revised military strategies after Allia was akin to encountering a succession of Maginot Lines, actually composed in human terms of much the same troops but deployed so rapidly as to resemble an opposition numerically ten times greater than its actual amount, moreover an army as often as not dug in and even when on the move loathe to engage in open battle.

As Hannibal would demonstrate a century later the effectiveness of a "blitzkrieg" expeditionary invasion into territories containing an enemy which could switch between fortified entrenchment defence tactics and highly mobile counter-invasion tactics almost in an instant is greatly reduced in terms of "winning" anything. As with Hannibal, Alexander might well have found that his own army's speed and mobility in advancing could well have become its Achilles Heel in a war on the Italian peninsula. Whether Alexander as a strategist had the nous to avoid the same fate as Hannibal (another great tactician whose strategies were ultimately found wanting) is debatable indeed.
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PostSubject: Possibilities...   Sat 27 Dec 2014, 15:37

I would have to assume that Alexander would  first take Carthage, if he went against Rome. I think that he would have defeated a combined  Roman-Carthaginian alliance with a large Eastern army. For one thing he certainly would have employed heavy cavalry...the nemesis of the legion, horse archers and archers. I would assume he would use elephants also.
Alexander's phalanx would certainly be protected by cavalry making it unstoppable as long as it was deployed on suitable ground. One can assume he would engage only on proper terrain, since he seemed to make the right decisions militarily.

It could also be that Carthage would have sided with Alexander instead of Rome since they had never been friendly with the Romans and become an ally of the Greeks, which would certainly have ended Rome's military adventures.
Actually, I've taken this further than I originally intended, which was just to show the difference between Alexander and Hannibal at the walls of Rome. It was a comparison of the tenacity of two leaders and I felt Alexander would have taken Rome. Of course the world would be much different if either man took Rome.
Finally, if Alexander is at the walls of Rome the implication is that he already has defeated some Roman armies to get there and his habit of not leaving any danger behind him would be an asset
. Ain't history grand? :)
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Sun 28 Dec 2014, 11:37

I think your last sentence is very true, Parallax, in this "what if" scenario. For Alexander to have reached the gates of Rome then it would have been at the culmination of an obviously successful campaign conducted in true Alexandrian fashion. Had Rome tried to counter him along the way then we can safely take it that in this scenario it has already been defeated by the time he arrives at the city.

At the time of Alexander Carthage did not apparently rate Rome as much of a rival to its own plans in the region, which were primarily concerned with the establishment of a trade empire under their control rather than territorial conquest for its own sake (their "tribute" treaties with the Greek colonies in the Western Mediterranean indicated their preferred modus operandi prior to Rome screwing these arrangements up through their forcible conquest of these colonies). Had Alexander picked a beef with Rome then Carthage would most likely have stepped back as a neutral observer and simply waited for Alexander to return the region in trade terms to the status quo that had pertained.

Alexander picking a beef with Carthage is a far more difficult "what if" to construct. He seems to have had no problem at all accommodating (and even protecting) the established trade routes in the Mediterranean with their long-thrashed out arrangements of autonomy and levy between the principal players. In fact his policy-in-legacy of subsequent Hellenisation in Egypt and the Levant bolstered Carthaginian autonomy and power by finally completely severing its traditional ties with Phoenicia which by then had been officially subsumed into a Greek-run sphere of trade and influence anyway. Had his empire stuck together after his death there may have come a time when this "Greater Greece" might have decided to take over the Western Mediterranean lands too but that would have most probably have taken generations to come about and an awful lot else could have happened in the meantime to change the scenario anyway.

I still think however that it is unfair to compare Hannibal and Alexander based on what either did or might have done when faced with the prospect of sacking Rome. They most certainly would not have been facing the same task in terms of how they got there, what condition Rome would be in with regard to its defence (in Alexander's time it had practically no walled defences at all), and what the political gain in sacking it would have been anyway. Tenacity might not have been the overriding factor in deciding their respective actions but simple political and military pragmatism. In pragmatic terms Alexander might well have left it intact and unassaulted too, especially if he had already achieved dominion. Just as he did with other great trading hubs in his Asian campaign.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 29 Dec 2014, 14:18

My first thought is, if Rome had practically no walls at all then why does history tell us that Hannibal departed because he did not have the siege machinery to take the city? Why would he have needed it?
I made the comparison between Hannibal and Alexander because the subject was "people" and to show the difference in what one person might accomplish versus another, but it seems to have grown to encompass more than originally intended...enjoyable as that is.
Your points are interesting and logically surmised and it's nice to swap views with you.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 29 Dec 2014, 16:38

It all depends on when. The main fortification of Rome in the Republican period, the Servian walls are thought to have been built in the 4th century BC and later strengthened, possibly as a response to the Gallic sacking of the city (which occurred after Alexander's death IIRC - will check & confirm). Hannibal lived in the mid 3rd century BC, and Alexander was a century before him, so it is possible (to say no more) that if he had turned up outside Rome the walls would have been incomplete.

BTW - I think Hannibal was trying to draw a Roman army away from Capua, he wasn't intending to try to take Rome, and, when he discovered that the feint had been unsuccessful, he departed, never having been closer to the city than about 3 miles.

Edited - and will be re-edited. Posting because going off to other sites often means the message in hand gets lost, and it is such a naus to retype it.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Mon 29 Dec 2014, 17:03

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
It all depends on when. The main fortification of Rome in the Republican period, the Servian walls are thought to have been built in the 4th century BC and later strengthened, possibly as a response to the Gallic sacking of the city (which occurred after Alexander's death IIRC - will check & confirm). Hannibal lived in the mid 3rd century BC, and Alexander was a century before him, so it is possible (to say no more) that if he had turned up outside Rome the walls would have been incomplete.

BTW - I think Hannibal was trying to draw a Roman army away from Capua, he wasn't intending to try to take Rome, and, when he discovered that the feint had been unsuccessful, he departed, never having been closer to the city than about 3 miles.

Edited - and will be re-edited. Posting because going off to other sites often means the message in hand gets lost, and it is such a naus to retype it.
I've been talking rowlocks (or something akin to them).
Alexander III of Macedon (20/21 July 356 – 10/11 June 323 BC)
Gallic sack of Rome - see Wikimisleadia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Allia
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 30 Dec 2014, 13:57

Not entirely rowlocks, Gil.

After Allia we know only that Rome paid a little more attention to walling their city, and not even immediately. Remnants of a wall built around the time of Alexander survive. But what we also know is that it must have been one lousy wall for true defensive purposes. It skirts the city at the extremity of its then municipal extent, which is also to say that it encompasses the outward facing inclines of the famed seven hills. Which is also why it was crap should it ever be attacked - Rome's topology does not lend itself easily to such a defence, with the bulk of the population that mattered as well as all their most valuable property situated invitingly at a height just above this defensive structure. It was marginally better than what was there when the Gauls sacked the city (nothing at all) but in truth must have served primarily as a reassurance to the population rather than something upon which the city's safety could be trusted in a proper siege situation. It was these walls that Hannibal would have encountered and most historians agree that it was not their presence that dissuaded him from taking the city.

"Taking" Rome, for Hannibal as well as in a hypothetical Alexandrian assault, brings with it huge implications militarily. For a start the "conqueror" now inherits all the problems and expense in terms of money and manpower involved in defending it. Expeditionary forces do not do well when bogged down in such commitments, even when a city is relatively easily to garrison and defend. It's a large chunk of the fighting force that is lost to the great strategy Hannibal, we know, had adopted. Besides, Rome's defence strategy in times of real threat - from the early Gauls to Romans themselves centuries later - was simple; run like hell and bring all your valuables with you. Our hypothetical Alexander would have taken over an empty city in terms of wealth and power, with an impoverished and abandoned peasant-citizenry of huge size. Even killing them would have been an ordeal stretching his resources to the limit. Hannibal, in reality, obviously thought this too. And anyway, if one really wanted to "take" Rome at the time the solution was very simple - take the lower reaches of the Tiber and the road from Puteoli (then Rome's principal port) and wait. Hannibal, knowing that his main threat came from a highly mobile Roman military command that had nothing to do with the city (they weren't even allowed bring their army into it) did the intelligent thing and moved on to more realistic targets in terms of ultimate victory. Alexander, in his hypothetical invasion (the reason for which we have yet to ascertain), would have been forced to consider the same facts.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Tue 30 Dec 2014, 14:33

@Parallax wrote:
My first thought is, if Rome had practically no walls at all then why does history tell us that Hannibal departed because he did not have the siege machinery to take the city? Why would he have needed it?

This is only slightly true in that yes, Rome had poor defences but it still had defences and surrounding the city and starving it out using conventional siege equipment of the day (and he was no slouch himself in knocking these things up when required) was a daunting task. Rome's perimeter by the standards of the day was one of the longest the world had then ever seen. However, as I mentioned above, the real challenge facing him was the question of whether it would be worth the effort. At the time Hannibal reached Rome the only Roman army left in Italy was one legion then at Tarentum. He had naval reinforcements from Carthage who were anchored off Pisa at the time. We know that he made no move to meet with them but their subsequent detachment to Sardinia and assault there seems to have been directed by him. This certainly smacks of a commander whose current strategy did not need naval support in an attack on any city on the western coast of the Italian peninsula.

After the non-siege at Rome he led his own army immediately to the Adriatic coast and we know that the Roman legion fell back to Sicily while new consuls set about raising through conscription a huge army to join with them. These manoeuvres in hindsight we know were the reason why he ended up fighting (and winning) an extremely bloody battle at Cannae later. He took Cannae because it was the primary supply base for the Roman army knowing that this would flush his opponent out of their island retreat and into battle with him. It was also an excellent point of naval communication and supply for his own troops, opening an easy line of transport for reinforcements from Carthage. Cannae, he reckoned, would be the decisive blow (and he was almost right). In strategic terms this prize would have far exceeded any advantage in having held himself up in Rome beforehand.

After Cannae he again passed up on the opportunity to sack the city. But this time it is even more understandable. Now he was faced with the Fabian tactic of what we would now call "guerilla warfare" and which presented him with a stark choice. Bank everything on bringing Rome's allies over to his side and taking political control of the peninsula (including the city of Rome) or bank everything on "mopping up" the Roman military resistance through pursuing and fighting them - the bit he knew he was good at, and he knew they were in no position to mount another assault on him like they had done at Cannae. He did not have the manpower however to pursue both policies. He went for the latter option and we now know that ultimately it didn't pay off. However there is no guarantee that the former option would have been any better for him in terms of success either.
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PostSubject: Re: Alexander instead of Hannibal at the walls of Rome.   Wed 31 Dec 2014, 12:09

Parallax, an incident you might be interested in and which probably provides a clue as to what Alexander would have done had he been in Hannibal's position and faced with the same choice outside Rome.


This photo of Termessos is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Termessos, which still has one of the most beautifully appointed theatres from ancient times, was a Pisidian city situated on the mountain pass that linked Phrygia with the Pamphylian plains. It stood therefore on a very profitable artery of the day, as well as being a formidable obstacle to anyone, like Alexander, who wanted to bring an army along that route. Why he needed to bring his army precisely that way in 333 BCE is debatable - given his overall objective at the time he could easily have by-passed the place entirely and chosen a lower pass, after all he had already negotiated passage for his army with those who controlled the plains and who had subjected themselves to his authority rather than Persian. Maybe he just wanted to make an example locally of his military strength or maybe he was simply after the loot, but he invested his full efforts into taking the city that year. Unlike Rome, Termessos was easy to defend from within due to its mountainous location. However it was also by the same token extremely easy to isolate and besiege and so he set about that task with gusto. Initially he tried simple military deployment using just his troops, but grew impatient and set about constructing siege engines as well as recruiting through force and bribery local contingents of engineers and soldiers. This was an extremely expensive venture, costly also in terms of time. Almost the entire year was spent stuck around Termessos, Alexander's full attention and effort committed to the city's surrender rather than advancing his army against a Persian enemy that was using the same time to get its act together and mobilise. Persia even took back territories that had gone over to Alexander that year.

As autumn approached he realised - or was made to realise - his folly and abruptly called off the siege, took one of the other routes available, and sacked the neighbouring Pisidian city of Sagalassos instead (one that had actually already surrendered to him and therefore did not even need to be besieged).

Termessos enjoyed a rather unique reputation afterwards of being the one city that Alexander failed to conquer. Moreover the attempt had seriously jeopardised his entire campaign. After Sagalassos he advanced on the Phrygian capital of Gordium (again a city that had surrendered already) and it is there that the story of how he "undid" the Gordian Knot occurred. His solution - to hack it to pieces with his sword - smacks of overt propaganda and may well have been prompted by a need not only to subdue the locals and remind them who was now in control but to reaffirm to his own soldiers how "great" he was. Termessos had obviously rattled him and probably done his prestige some considerable damage, a prestige that was vital to his mission at the time as without it he had little else to bind his army under his leadership. Persia, and the real loot, had yet to be delivered to them.

It is noticeable though that after this, although Alexander successfully besieged several cities, he did not again waste time on cities that had surrendered in advance or which could not be taken without considerable hold-ups to his general progress. He realised that a by-passed city could be rendered neutral when one takes its hinterland and supply routes. Also he found that he could damage these cities simply by nominating an alternative on the same trade route and forcing trade and commerce to use it instead - the number of places whose names today are based on his own are testimony to this strategy.

Rome, with its innate vulnerabilities despite its immense reputation even then, might well have been a candidate to be by-passed, not besieged, in our imaginary Alexandrian invasion of Italy.
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