The Battle of Zama

The Battle of Zama was fought in October of 202 BC between “a Roman army led by Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus” and “a Carthaginian force led by the legendary commander Hannibal.” (Battle of Zama)

Scipio set himself apart from other historical leaders by using scouts and spies from both his own, and the Carthaginian army to benefit his cause. When Hannibal came to Zama, “he sent spies to ascertain the place, nature, and strength of the Roman general’s encampment.” The Roman soldiers caught them, and brought them before Scipio to decide their fate, but rather than punishing them, he “appointed a tribune to show them everything in the camp thoroughly and without reserve,” and then “gave them provisions and an escort, and dispatched them with injunctions to be careful to tell Hannibal everything they had seen.” This reaction was so far from the norm that it seemed to charm Hannibal into “a lively desire for a personal interview with” Scipio, at which meeting he proposed a treaty which, although not successful, seemed to hint at some intimidation by Scipio’s tactics. (Polybius)

Hannibal’s terms for a new treaty (Now that they had broken the previous one) were unnacceptable to Scipio, and eventually told Hannibal the Carthaginians “must submit [them]selves and [their] country to us (The Romans) unconditionally, or conquer us in the field.” Hannibal chose to attempt the latter.

Scipio had also been studying Hannibal’s techniques for years. “Having been at Cannae,” He knew most of Hannibal’s tricks, and was able to “trump [him] with a few minor adjustments.” Having seen the use of war elephants before, he knew how to counter them in a battle. After they were taken care of, he used Hannibal’s own “battle strategy from Trebbia and Cannae” (Billau) to defeat him. One might say that he had been gathering intelligence for fourteen years, and it served him well.

Charlotte Mary Yonge, 1880, Hannibal and Scipio meet to discuss terms.




“Battle of Zama.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 09 Dec  2011. Web. 16 Feb 2012. <;.

Billau, Daneta, and Donald Graczyk. “Hannibal: The Father of Strategy Reconsidered.” Comparative Strategy. 22.4 (2003): 335. Web. 16 Feb. 2012.

Polybius. Evelyn S. Shuckburgh. Translator. Histories. London: Bloomington, 1962. Web. <;.

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by | February 16, 2012 · 11:27 pm

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