Hannibal at Cannae
a Deception that Keeps on Deceiving

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by Douglas Moreman

A brief analysis I wrote and had on a website circa 2000 was preserved by someone unknown to me.
About ten years after that website was taken down at university, the analysis lives on.
When, just now (20Mar2014) Googled was searched via:

Hannibal Cannae Douglas "Moreman" deceiving

it reported a few hundred hits. The popularity grew without me even suspecting it.

I had figured that "history" (individual post-Roman historians) could not possibly be right about the battle. It seems that some folks have agreed.
The Roman commander of the day was perhaps brash and assumed that Hannibal was, on this day, the same. Hannibal was not, it seems to me, a risk-taker and did not use a simple-minded plan such as: I will stand and fight man-to man (as that Roman seemed to expect). Or, I will surround the huge Roman army with my fewer soldiers and count on the Romans not being able to beat their way through my thin lines. Instead, Hannibal used a form of jujitsu in which the Roman's mass and inertia, cleverly re-directed, tricked them into a mass, probably against the river there, into which Hannibal's more agile forces could, on the edges of the mass, achieve local superiority of fire power (slings and javelins).

I remember working on a computer simulation to illustrate the robotic nature of the likely behavior of the Roman army, as probably anticipaed by Hannibal, but gave up that project before being satisfied with it.

Here is an overview, taken from another, long defunct, website:

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Hannibal at Cannae - his deception fools to this day
Thanks to "Libitina" for preserving this.

By Douglas Moreman
Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisianna

The Battle of Cannae told in many books on military tactics and strategy violates fundamental principles of war and teaches bad lessons to young officers. Hannibal misled, mystified, and surprised his enemy. He created a sequence of real situations and illusions. Some of his deceptions were so good they have been repeated in histories to this day as if they were facts. I will describe how the historians and books on strategy have erred in their description of the battle. Briefly, I will correct these flaws:


1) the failure to penetrate all of Hannibal's deceptions,
2) the suggestion that one army surrounded and beat to death an army twice its size, and better equipped,
3) the failure to clearly show all four of the major points where Hannibal achieved, by clever plan, overwhelming superiority of numbers,
4) the claim that 8,000 cavalry blocked the retreat of 70,000 infantry,
5) the failure to explain how Hannibal survived what seems to have been an obvious blunder in the disposition of his troops and of his own person,
6) Hannibal had no routes of escape,
7) A successful general sacrifices sizable contingents of his army,
8) There were not multiple paths to success,
9) Hannibal's plan risked his total destruction upon the rapid success of just one contingent of troops.