The Battle of Zama
Rome’s Greatest General
Rome’s Greatest Enemy
It is 218 B.C. and the second Punic War is about to break out against two of the biggest powerhouses in the Mediterranean, Rome and Carthage. This war will determine the fate of two empires and two men, both of whom will become legendary figures. Publius Cornelius Scipio and Hannibal Barca are forever intertwined; two military geniuses, two great empires and the fate of the western world were decided on the field of Zama.
Hannibal Barca was born into a noble, wealthy family steeped in military tradition. His father, Hamilcar, had been a general in the first Punic War, which Carthage ...view middle of the document...
Hannibal had brought Rome to the brink of collapse in two years and, unknowingly, set the stage for the rise of Scipio and their meeting at Zama years later.
Publius Cornelius Scipio was raised in a similar situation as Hannibal. Scipio was the son of a general and his father fought Hannibal at Ticinus. Scipio was born into the Cornelii, “a family which provided the Eternal City with consuls and magistrates for over a century.” At 17 he joined his fathers army as it marched out to meet Hannibal. Scipio then won a great bit of notoriety by charging into battle to save his father when he had been surrounded, wounded, and knocked of his horse. Scipio was then present at the battle of Cannae as a military tribune and was able to escape, but was affected by seeing so many of his countrymen slaughtered at the hand of Hannibal. Scipio was only 20 when the battle of Cannae took place, yet when he and 4,000 legionnaires were fleeing the battle, Scipio was elected one of the two new commanders. In a further display of loyalty to the Roman state, Scipio went to address the rumors of a rebellion among some prominent Roman nobles. Livy tells us that Scipio “burst in, and holding his sword over their heads, “I swear”, he cried, “with all the passion of my heart that I shall never desert our country, or permit any other citizen of Rome to leave her in the lurch.” Scipio then challenged the nobles to take the same oath or face his sword. They all took the oath and gave themselves to the service of Scipio. Scipio’s ability to inspire nobles and soldiers to follow him at such a young age shows unusual leadership and patriotism for a young man. When Scipio was given his first command, it was in the darkest hour of Rome’s history. Scipio’s father and uncle had just died in Spain, and (their) seven years of progress against Carthage in Spain was lost. Livy tells us “things were so desperate, that hope of saving the country had been so utterly lost that no one dared accept the Spanish command.” It was in that moment that Scipio stepped forward and announced his candidacy, and went on to be elected unanimously. It is in Spain the (that) Scipio hones his soldiers’ skills as fighters and his own skills as a general and by 206 B.C. he had wrestled Spain from Carthaginian hands. Scipio had restored Roman spirit and now had a well trained army that was loyal to him. It is clear that to the extent that (awkward) Hannibal is said to have hated Rome, Scipio loved her equally as much, and now the stage was set for one final battle to decide the war.
In 202, after spending years in Italy, Hannibal was called back to Africa because Scipio had landed there with a large force and was threatening the Carthaginian homeland. Hannibal’s force consisted of 36,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and 80 war elephants. Scipio’s army consisted of 29,000 infantry and over 6,100 cavalry. Scipio knew that his advantage in cavalry would lead him to victory, yet he had to avoid Hannibal’s charging...