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Hannibal’s Half Vast Army - All war stories ain't alike # 10

Updated on June 30, 2012

Hannibal's master strategy

The side having fewer elephants wins.

That is a truth illustrated by one of the great war stories of all time, the tale about Hannibal crossing the Alps Mountains with his vast Carthaginian army and a huge herd of pack elephants. Carthage was seemingly always at war with Rome, and Hannibal was attempting to surprise the Romans by attacking them from the rear – a good direction from which to attack Romans.

The Romans were surprised just enough to get their adrenaline flowing properly - enough to fire them up sufficiently to administer a sounder than usual whipping to Hannibal’s vast army.

Soon, the Carthaginians were to be held down by the weighty Roman foot that would stand atop their collective necks. In the senate of Carthage, and at a time of the counting of Carthage’s final days of independence from Rome, debate among the senators raged on, day and night. One gray-hared senator took to the podium and, with a scathing speech to his fellow legislators, he condemned their foolish thinking, their short-sightedness, and their contemptible penny-pinching that had caused General Hannibal’s expedition to be doomed to failure.

Each one counts for between 20 and 30 men
Each one counts for between 20 and 30 men | Source

Oh men of Carthage...

"Oh men of Carthage, you who are soon to become suburbanites of Rome," cried out the senator, "had you not counted each elephant as being the equal of its weight in Carthaginian fighting men, you would have realized that Hannibal’s army was only half vast, and that it could never win a victory over the more numerous Romans."

The centuries have moved right along since those days, a few changes taking place as old pages fell from the calendar.

The problem is, however, that the military, the generals, the legislators, and the home folks have seemed not to have learned the lessons from all of that history. There is still the tendency to believe that elephant-counting is enough.

When history tries to teach, people should try to learn. Even elephants know that much. Indeed, it is said that they never forget.


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