Battle of Zama

Orfeas Katsoulis | Feb 10, 2024

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The Battle of Zama, fought on October 19, 202 BC, was a decisive battle of the Second Punic War. The army of the Roman Republic, led by Scipio Africano, defeated the forces of Carthage led by Hannibal. Soon after this defeat, the senate of Carthage signed a peace treaty, thus ending a war of almost 20 years.

The successive disasters in the spring and early summer of 203 B.C. had greatly alarmed all of Carthage. The same Hanoan who had commanded Hannibal's heavy cavalry at Cannae was put in full charge of the defense, and Carthaginian emissaries were sent to Rome to try to negotiate the terms of peace. As a final blow to Carthaginian fortunes, an attempt to rid Utica failed. All these successive disasters generated an outcry at every level, from the council of Birsa to the homes, workshops, and warehouses of the city - "Call Hannibal back!" Unfortunately, as events would show, they had done so too late.

Despite Rome's naval superiority, three Carthaginian fleets managed to cross the Mediterranean between the Italian peninsula and North Africa during that year. One was leading the dying Magan back from the Ligurian coast with its mixed force of Balearic, Ligurian, and Gaul troops; the second was dispatched from Carthage to evacuate Hannibal; and the third was that same fleet, augmented by the ships Hannibal possessed at Crotona, bringing him back to defend Carthage in its time of need. The sea is vast, and in the days of early communications it was quite difficult for the Romans to keep an eye on all the shipping lanes. Centuries later, even Nelson, who was eagerly searching for Napoleon's fleet, failed to spot him as he sailed triumphantly toward Egypt.

Hannibal's fleet, inadequate for his needs, and the army he finally brought with him back to Africa probably numbered no more than fifteen thousand men (estimates are between twelve thousand and twenty-four thousand). Hannibal's army in Italy was a strange composite. There must have been few of the veterans who crossed the Alps with him some fifteen years earlier. The Brutians, Gauls, and Roman deserters, who then made up the bulk of his troops, were clearly not of the same quality, but they still gladly followed the same man, their one-eyed Carthaginian general. He clearly didn't have many means of transportation, due to the fact that he couldn't take back the horses that had helped him in so many of his victories and that he would need so much the following year. They all had to be sacrificed so that they would not be left to the Romans.

In the fall of 203 B.C., Hannibal saw for the last time the small port of Crotona and, beyond the old city, the rugged, tree-covered hills of the Sila mountain range, a wild wolf landscape. During the few years before he left, he had to make that region his home, but before that he had traveled all over the Italian peninsula; from the valley of the Po River in the far north, to Etruria, to the west coast and the Gulf of Naples, where the Greek cities were embedded, and from there many times to the wildest beaches of the Adriatic. He knew the land and its peoples as few Italians ever would: cities and towns, the frowning walls of Rome - which he had never penetrated - warm plains like Canas, tame valleys, indolent Capua, peasants and charcoal burners, rough mountain people and disciplined Romans - a whole world he had almost made his own. Now he was leaving, for a city he could barely remember. Yet it was for Carthage that he had fought so long and suffered so much - for Carthage and for an oath taken by a boy before a misty altar.

In the same autumn, before Hannibal left the Italian peninsula, the terms of a treaty proposed by Scipio Africano to the Carthaginians had already been accepted by them and sent to Rome for discussion. In view of the long bitterness of the war, and the desolation they caused to large parts of the peninsula, they were moderated. First, all Carthaginian forces should leave Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula should be abandoned. All deserters, fugitive slaves, and prisoners of war were to be sent back to Rome. All but twenty Carthaginian warships were to be surrendered. A very large quantity of wheat and barley was to be supplied to feed the Roman troops, and finally, a heavy indemnity was to be paid. It is no surprise that Carthage accepted such terms, which were favorable compared to those of the First Punic War, and an armistice was concluded, leaving one ratification of the treaty by Rome. Scipio also sent Massinissa to Rome in company with Lellius, the former to obtain recognition of his Numidian reign and the other, who was familiar with Scipio's ideas, to augment the proposed terms and act as spokesman for Scipio's interests in the treaty. It is significant that Massinissa went to Rome for the confirmation of his reign. In the past, Carthage had been the natural center of authority for all the local kings and their tribes. Scipio's action had already secured Rome's dominion over North Africa. Moreover, he had gifted his Fabian enemies with a fait accompli, and made Rome responsible for North African affairs.

In the same year that Hannibal left the Italian peninsula, his old opponent Quintus Fabius Maximus died, the man who had done more than any other to teach the Romans that the only way to wear down - and finally defeat - such military genius was the "Proteller's" way. The Romans, except on a few disastrous occasions, had followed his precepts to the point of keeping Hannibal confined in the wild southern land, and eventually in a narrow area around Crotona. The news that Hannibal had finally left his land naturally brought rejoicing to Rome and an outpouring of hope, but great anxiety still persisted, as Livy reports: "Men did not know whether they began to rejoice that Hannibal had withdrawn from Italy after sixteen years, leaving the Roman people free to take possession of it, or whether they were still apprehensive that he had gone on to Africa with his army intact. No doubt the location had changed, they thought, but not the danger. Foreshadowing that mighty conflict, Quintus Fabius, recently deceased, had often predicted, not without reason, that in his own land Hannibal would be a more terrible enemy than in a foreign country. And Scipio would have to deal (? ) with Hannibal, who had been born, one might say, in the headquarters of his father, the bravest of generals, and had been brought up and educated amidst arms; he who in childhood was already a soldier and in youth a general; who, growing old as a victor (Hannibal was about forty-five), had covered the Iberian and Gallic lands, and Italy from the Alps to the Straits of Messina, with the evidence of his mighty exploits. He was in command of an army whose campaigns equaled his own in quantity; he had hardened himself by efforts so great that one can hardly believe human beings could have withstood them; he had been splashed by Roman blood hundreds of times and carried the spoils, not only of soldiers, but of generals. Many men who would face Scipio in battle had killed with their own hands pretenders, commanding generals, Roman consuls; had been decorated with crowns for bravery by scaling city walls and protected encampments; had wandered through fields and cities captured from the Romans. All the magistrates of the Roman people together had not, in those times, as many faces (symbols of authority) as Hannibal could boast in front of him, for having captured them from fallen generals."

This account, while revealing the great dread Hannibal still inflicted on the Romans, gets the description of his army wrong. Livy, or his sources, speak of the army that marched through the Alps, which had long since disappeared. Hannibal now had under his command the ragged and mixed force that had occupied Crotona during the past few years. However, his arrival in Africa, bringing whatever army he had, had such an effect on Carthaginian morale that the Barbadian party began almost immediately to seek a resumption of the war.

Hannibal landed at Leptois, near Adrumeto, where he set up camp for the winter and began to reorganize his forces and recruit more soldiers and horsemen. There he was reinforced by the remnants of Magon's army and learned that his younger brother was dead. There should be little doubt that Hannibal had accepted Scipio's peace terms as the best thing for Carthage, even though he knew little of the political factions and intrigues of the city. But he was too astute not to see that the overall Carthaginian situation was hopeless, in view of the loss of the Iberian Peninsula, Rome's growing power by sea and land, and the native human power that supplied his legions. He had defeated the Romans many times in battle, it is true, but he knew that the Romans were vigorous and brave soldiers, and that they were already - dangerously - beginning to learn his tactics, adopting more flexible methods on the battlefield. In his early years in Italy, he had taken advantage of the outdated systems whereby consuls were automatically put in charge of the legions, and since they were changed every year, they never had time to learn professional expertise or adapt their tactics. He had also been able to make use of known divisions and differences in temperament between two consuls. But he saw clearly in Scipio's emergence the shadow of the future, where other generals; in their own way would emerge - men totally dedicated to war, learning by experience on the battlefield and familiarizing themselves not only with the nature of the battle ground, but with the quality and racial character of their opponents. Whatever Hannibal may have thought about accepting the terms of peace, the war faction of Carthage, making use of its name and fame, had now taken control.

In the winter of 203 BC, a supply train from Sicily destined for Scipio's forces was caught in a storm and ran aground in the Carthage region, and Carthaginian warships were sent to capture it and bring the supplies to the city. This was totally contrary to the truce, and Scipio dispatched envoys by sea to register a protest. On their return trip, the ships carrying the envoys were treacherously attacked by Carthaginian triremes, sent to wait for them, and narrowly escaped alive. Scipio rightly saw this as a declaration that the truce was over and the war resumed. Here, certainly, the Punic faith was evidenced, although it is very doubtful that Hannibal, seventy miles away in Adrumeto, had any knowledge of it. It was a foolish action, something he was not prone to.

Scipio resumed the war and attacked every settlement in the region still under Carthage's jurisdiction. Throughout the summer of 202 BC, while Hannibal, realizing that a major battle was now inevitable, continued to gather and train more recruits for his army, Scipio besieged Carthaginian cities, showing no mercy when they succumbed, and enslaving the inhabitants. He was determined to show the Carthaginians that those who broke treaties placed themselves outside the normal considerations of war. He was also aware that the final test was yet to come, and that Carthage could not be forced to surrender until he and Hannibal faced each other on the battlefield, conclusively establishing the outcome of the war. Massinissa, having returned from Rome with the confirmation of his reign, was away in Numidia consolidating his power over the country; he received an urgent summons from Scipio to round up all the men he could and join the Romans.

Hannibal then received orders from Carthage to march out and challenge Scipio before it was too late. The council and the city were deeply concerned about the rampant devastation of their land and the loss of tribute-paying towns and villages: they were witnessing the destruction of fertile land that had sustained the great trading city for centuries. Hannibal refused to hurry, and replied that he would fight when he was ready. He had good reason for such an answer, since he was still waiting for reinforcements from his still very deficient cavalry, and he knew well enough that much of his successful actions were due to the Numids. He tried to make up for this deficiency by training elephants, and at the time of the final battle he had about eighty of them in his army. These were, however, new animals, which had never been in action before, and, as the facts showed, were more of a liability than a resource.

The truth is that, although the Romans themselves would use elephants centuries later, this was already an obsolete weapon of war. Elephants had succeeded in the past by the terror they caused when unleashed in great packs on primitive peoples and undisciplined ranks of infantry. But the Romans on the Italian Peninsula had already taken their measures and discovered that when attacked by rains from the formidable pylons, they almost always turned around and shot into their own army. Semi-trained elephants, which were all Hannibal had been able to get, were going to prove this truth in the crucial battle. Some historians have commented that Hannibal made a tactical error in relying on them, but the truth is that he had been forced to do so in view of the lack of cavalry. He had, however, received at the end of that summer some useful reinforcements in the form of two thousand horsemen from a Numidian prince, Thycheus, Massinissa's rival and who, no doubt, hoped to do to Massinissa what he had done to Syphax, and then take the kingdom for himself. These North African rivalries and intrigues, though difficult to decipher after so much time, nevertheless played a big role in the battle that was about to decide the fate of the Western world.

The army that Hannibal finally led to fight Scipio was even more heterogeneous than usual: Balarids, Ligurians, Brutians, Gauls, Carthaginians, Numidians, and (very strangely at this late date) some Macedonians sent by King Philip V of Macedonia, who perhaps finally realized that the defeat of Rome was all-important for the freedom of his own country.

Leaving Adrumeto, Hannibal marched westward toward a town called Zama, which is probably identified with the later Roman colony Zama Regia, ninety miles west of Adrumeto. Reports reached him that African Scipio was setting villages on fire, destroying crops, and enslaving the inhabitants of all that fertile region on which Carthage depended for its grain and other foodstuffs. It can only have been such imperative necessity that made Hannibal march after Scipio, for apparently it would have been more logical for him to lead his army toward Carthage and stand between Scipio and the city. But the latter's systematic destruction of cities and villages, and his activities in the Carthaginian countryside, clearly prevented the city from being able to feed an additional forty thousand or more men, along with its horses and elephants, as well as its own prolific masses. Soon, the main cause for the battle to take place where it did arose from an urgency for supplies for the capital. Scipio knew what he was doing, and had deliberately lured Hannibal away from the city in order to decide the outcome of the war in a region of his own choosing. It is ironic that the great Carthaginian did not know his own country, having seen nothing of it since he was nine years old, whereas Scipio and the Romans were by now very familiar with Carthaginian terrain. But Scipio was not without his worries: his army, probably somewhat smaller than Hannibal's, although well trained and experienced in the climate and conditions of North Africa, still lacked a cavalry weapon. He desperately awaited the arrival of Massinissa and his Numidians, without whom he could hardly engage in a major battle - particularly against an opponent like Hannibal.

On reaching Zama, Hannibal, as was quite natural, sent ahead spies to try to find out the nature and quantity of the Roman army: in particular, he must have been concerned to try to find out how strong Scipio's cavalry was. These men were discovered and brought before the Roman general, who received them, showed them the whole camp, and then released them to report everything to their chief. Some historians have cast doubt on the veracity of this, mentioning among other things that the same story is told by Herodotus about Xerxes I and the Greek spies, prior to the great Persian invasion of Greece. There is nothing exactly improbable in this, however, and the fact is attested to by Polybius, which gives it a certain authenticity. Scipio, no doubt, wished to let his enemy know that he was supremely confident of the outcome of the impending battle. There was something else that this cunning Roman must have wanted to reveal to Hannibal: Massinissa and her Numidians were not in camp. That, logically, was what Hannibal wanted to find out more than anything else, and the news that Scipio was weakened in his cavalry must have been encouraging. What he didn't know, of course, and Scipio undoubtedly knew very well, was that Massinissa and her Numidians were only two days ride away.

The encounter of African Scipio and Hannibal

Unaware that Massinissa was approaching, and thinking that he was still busy establishing his somewhat precarious hold on the Numidian kingdom, Hannibal possibly felt he was in a superior position to the Romans. This would be a good time, then, to try to negotiate and see if he could obtain favorable terms for Carthage - terms similar to those Scipio Africano had previously given the Carthaginians but, if possible, somewhat improved.

So he sent a message to Scipio requesting a personal meeting to discuss terms, to which Scipio agreed. Apart from anything else, there must have been considerable curiosity on both sides about the nature and even the appearance of the adversary. The two men had never seen each other before, although on three occasions in recent years they had stood close together on the battlefield.

First, the young Scipio had been present at the Battle of Ticino, just after Hannibal had burst into the Italian peninsula (when Scipio had managed to save his wounded father from the battlefield). Then he had been to Cannae and had witnessed all the Carthaginian's wrath and genius as storm against the Roman legions. Finally, he had initiated the successful advance against the port of Lycris Epicephyria (in today's Calabria region of southern Italy), when he had thwarted Hannibal's attempts to recover it. He had thus had three opportunities to confront Rome's great enemy, and on each occasion he had had the foresight to observe exactly how Hannibal reacted to each given situation.

The Carthaginian, on the other hand, had never been aware of the penetrating pair of eyes of a young man watching him nearby. It was as if an old chess master was soon to meet a pupil who for years had studied his "moves", detected his weaknesses, deciding to implement the master's moves. Hannibal, on the other hand, only knew from accounts of the young man's triumphs in the war on the Iberian Peninsula, although he was tactician and strategist enough to recognize how brilliant was the man who had captured New Carthage and won several battles against men as capable as his late brother Asdrubal, his late brother Magnon, and Asdrubal, the son of Gisgon. He had observed how the Romans were changed, learning to move without the old consular command and acquiring flexibility on the battlefield, and was probably as curious as Scipio to meet his opponent face to face.

The factual accounts by both Polybius and Livy, composed many years after the events, must be considered suspect, but there should be no doubt as to the outcome of the encounter between the commanders - two of the most distinguished soldiers not only of antiquity, but of all time. Hannibal, in addition to his ability to speak Punic, various Iberian and Gallic dialects, could also speak Greek and Latin fluently. Scipio, besides speaking Latin, was also educated in Greek.

The two men could well have chosen either Latin or Greek as the language of conversation, but (like many modern leaders) they preferred to make use of their interpreters in order to have flexibility and time to work out their answers. If we ignore Livy's rhetoric, the content of their meeting was brief and to the point.

Hannibal offered Scipio "the surrender of all the lands once in dispute between the two powers, especially Sardinia, Sicily, and Spain," along with an agreement that Carthage would never again make war against Rome. He also offered all the islands "located between Italy and Africa," that is, the Egates off western Sicily the Aeolian Islands, places like Lampedusa, Linosa, Gozo, and Malta - but did not include the western Balearic Islands, which had proved so useful to Carthage. He made no mention of indemnities, nor of control over almost the entire fleet, nor of the return of Roman prisoners and fugitives.

Scipio was hardly impressed by the offer, and said "if, before the Romans headed for Africa, you had withdrawn from Italy, there would have been hope for your propositions. But now the situation is manifestly changed (...) We are here and you have been reluctantly forced to leave Italy (...)". Scipio could not accept inferior terms for the Carthaginian surrender to those that had been accepted by Carthage before the recent treaty betrayal. There was nothing more to be said.

Scipio had gained invaluable time from his meeting with Hannibal: he knew that Massinissa and her Numidian horsemen had been crossing the terrain quickly to be at his side when the great clash occurred. The delay had provided the assurance that Massinissa would arrive in time for the battle. It was Hannibal who was stunned by the vastness of Africa, not Scipio, and it was Hannibal - accustomed for so many years to the relative size of Italy - who had had his intelligence service fooled by the absence of Massinissa's cavalry in Scipio's camp, and his lack of knowledge of events in Numidia.

The meeting between Hannibal and Scipio has been compared to that between Napoleon and Alexander I of Russia, two thousand years later. "Their mutual admiration left them mute," Livy wrote. It is doubtful that Hannibal would have been mute, for he certainly felt confident, while Scipio, for his part, knew that the great Carthaginian expatriate was eager to make peace, and knowing that one's opponent has something more in his heart than victory is always a considerable comfort in any dispute.

The preparation for battle

The day after this historic encounter, Massinissa's troops reached African Scipio - there were something like four thousand Numidian horsemen and six thousand infantrymen in all - and the Romans prepared to fight at a place of their choosing.

Even with all the debate of subsequent centuries, the exact location of the battle of Zama has never been satisfactorily established, although it certainly got its name from the fact that the city of Zama was the only well-known landmark. It is almost impossible to define a specific location in a region of North Africa which has not been mapped so far, and where one cannot estimate the changes of the land over two thousand years, although the research of various scholars seems to locate the battle twenty miles southeast of Naraggara (mentioned by Livy) and thirty miles west of Zama. The location is distinctive in that there are two elevations on the ground dominating a shallow plain, one having a spring and the other no water (both mentioned by Polybius and Livy).

Scipio, who had chosen the battlefield, naturally selected the site with the spring for his camp, while Hannibal's men found that they would have to travel a good distance for water. Since the warm North African autumn prevailed, this fact alone may have had some influence on the subsequent battle. Scipio's forces, though somewhat smaller than Hannibal's, had two major advantages over the mixed and poorly trained opposing army: most were disciplined Roman legionnaires, and with the arrival of Massinissa, Scipio had superior cavalry - the best horsemen in the world.

Scipio could be confident that his Romans would not panic at the elephant charge, which Hannibal was certainly counting on for the initial phase of battle, and he took careful steps to ensure that its effect was minimized by the usual arrangement of the infantry. Instead of positioning the levers (units of one hundred and twenty men) in the normal way, as on a checkerboard, with the levers of the second line covering the gaps between the levers of the first line, and so on, as was standard procedure, Scipio positioned them one behind the other, so that there were open spaces running through the army. These gaps he filled with light troops, so that they could attack the elephants when they advanced, and at the same time take cover behind the armored legionnaires when necessary, leaving the gaps empty. On his left wing he placed the Roman cavalry commanded by Lelio, and on his right, the Numidians of Massinissa.

Hannibal's dispositions were governed by the fact that the shortage of cavalry had left him dependent on elephants: all eighty were lined up at the front of the army, in the hope that they would overwhelm the Roman front line and cause widespread chaos in Scipio's dispositions. Behind them Hannibal placed his infantrymen - Gauls, Ligurians, Balarids and Moors, his intention being, as in other battles, to let the Romans expend their first momentum on these crude troops while keeping his best infantry in reserve in reserve. As a second line, he placed the Carthaginians and Libyans, and behind them what remained of his army from Italy, the "old guard," kept in the rear until the end. On his right wing, facing the Roman cavalry, was the Carthaginian cavalry, and on his left, to face Massinissa, his own Numidian cavalry.

The beginning of the battle

On that unrecorded autumn day, the last great battle began: the elephant charge thundered across the plain between the two camps. Besides the terrifying sight of those great beasts coming over the lines of infantry and their effect on the horses, unaccustomed to their appearance and smell, the elephant drivers relied on their barrage to strike fear into the heart of any enemy. Unfortunately for them, in this case, the Romans reversed the procedure and began a great shout accompanied by the resounding of dozens of war trumpets. The effect on Hannibal's insufficiently trained elephants was such that they panicked and began to halt and run away from what, perhaps, seemed to them to be the noise of strange beasts considerably larger than themselves.

Some, retreating against their own front line, while others rushed to the left and burst through Hannibal's Numidian cavalry. Massinissa, whose horsemen were perfectly accustomed to the elephants, was quick to take advantage of the disintegration of the Carthaginian left wing and attacked behind the elephants, scaring off the other Numidian opponents. The elephants' charge ended as Livy describes it:

"A few animals, however, penetrating frightfully among the enemy, caused great losses among the ranks of the light troops, though suffering many wounds themselves. By retreating into the gauntlets, the light troops made way for the elephants, to avoid being trampled by them, and so would also throw their spears on both sides against the animals, now doubly exposed to the projectiles. Nor did they slow the azagai of the front-line men on these elephants, who, touched from the Roman line into their own by missiles thrown at them from all sides, put the right wing, the Carthaginian cavalry itself, on the run. Lelio, seeing the enemy in confusion, increased his panic."

Massinissa pursued Hannibal's left wing, while Lelio set off on the Carthaginian cavalry and tore it apart. The elephant load that Hannibal had been forced to rely on had deprived him of the cavalry he possessed. The disciplined Roman legionnaires forced back Hannibal's entire front line onto the second (composed of his best troops), but the disorganized Gauls and other mercenaries were not allowed to retreat, and they encountered a row of spears that caused them to retreat to the flanks of the second line, many of them fleeing the battlefield. For a moment, the contest seemed fully evened out; the waves of Carthaginians and Africans, breaking on the legionnaires, managed to contain them and even push them back. But gradually the discipline of the Romans began to prevail, and Hannibal's second line also collapsed - trying to retreat through the "old guard" behind them, they were met by the same row of spears they had given the first line.

Seeing that his men were about to burst upon Hannibal's best troops, African Scipio sounded the call back. It was an example not only of Scipio's genius in warfare but also of Roman discipline; even in that heated moment of a bloody battle on the plain covered with the dead, they answered their officers. Scipio immediately repositioned his troops in single, extended ranks to face Hannibal's vigorous "old guard". The latter had barely been involved in the battle and, also in single file, would face the Roman legionnaires. This was the beginning of the second phase of the battle, foot soldiers against foot soldiers, since the elephants had been lost, and the cavalry was distant with Massinissa and Lellio pursuing the Carthaginian cavalry and Hannibal's fleeing Numidians. As the two ranks drew closer, Scipio must surely have prayed that Massinissa and Lelio would not linger too long chasing the defeated and return to give him victory. As the two lines swayed back and forth, tied up in that "claw movement" fight at which the Romans were always so good, the contest still remained undecided. Then the dust rising and the thundering of hooves over the plain indicated to Scipio - and certainly to Hannibal - that it was all but over. Llio and Massinissa were flying back to attack the Carthaginians on both wings and from the rear. The knights of Numidia, who had served Hannibal so well in previous years on the Italian Peninsula, finally sealed their doom. The remnants of the "old guard" stopped and dispersed. The battle was over. The Romans had won the war.

The end of the battle

Hannibal himself left the scene of his defeat with a small escort and retreated to Adrumeto. There was nothing he could do now except warn the Carthaginians that further resistance was impossible and to accept the best terms they were offered. For the first time in his long career, he had met a general on his level, but he had been defeated mainly by his lack of cavalry. Even then, other Numids, commanded by a son of Sophax, had gathered in the desert to come to his aid, but by the time they reached Carthaginian territory, it was all over.

The triumphant Romans and Massinissa's forces annihilated them in what was to be the last fight of the Second Punic War - the war Hannibal had started sixteen years earlier and ended at Zama.

Hannibal rushed from Adrumeto to Carthage to communicate to the council that, whatever was said, there was no longer any hope of success in prolonging the war. Many of the Carthaginians, aware that their city was still the richest in the world and remained relatively untouched by war, found it hard to believe that all was lost. A typical story tells that Hannibal, present at a meeting at which a young nobleman urged his fellow citizens to garrison their defenses and refuse Roman terms, climbed up on the speaker's pallet and threw him to the ground. He immediately apologized, saying that he had been away for a long time and, accustomed to the discipline of the camps, was not familiar with the rules of a parliament. At the same time, he asked them, now that they were at the mercy of the Romans, to accept "terms as lenient as those offered to them, and pray to the gods that the Roman people ratify the treaty." He thought that the terms that Scipio Africano had proposed upon his arrival before the walls of Carthage were better than could be expected from a conqueror dealing with a people who had already betrayed a previous treaty.

Polybius adds that the council recognized Hannibal's words as "wise and right, and they agreed to accept the treaty on Roman terms, sending emissaries with orders to agree to it. Seeing that the great general of the Carthaginians and his last army were defeated, and that the city lay defenseless - even though the siege was long and difficult, as the Third Punic War would one day show - Scipio's conditions for peace were reasonable. As before, all deserters, prisoners of war and slaves were to be surrendered, but this time the warships would be reduced to no more than ten triremes. Carthage, on the other hand, could keep its initial territory in Africa, and its own laws within it, but Massinissa would have total control of her kingdom, and Carthage could never again make war with anyone, either inside Africa or outside, without Roman permission. This effectively guaranteed that the Numidian kingdom would grow at Carthage's expense, something that would one day provoke the last Punic War. Since they had broken the truce, the original war indemnity was doubled, although they were allowed to pay in annual installments for fifty years. All Carthaginian elephants were to be surrendered, and never trained again, while at the same time a hundred hostages, chosen by Scipio, were to be dispatched to Rome. In this way, he would secure himself against any treacherous attempts. As before, the Roman army was to be supplied with grain for three months and receive its pay during the time the peace treaty was ratified.


  1. Battle of Zama
  2. Batalha de Zama
  3. MAGNOLI, Demetrio (2009). História das Guerras 1 ed. [S.l.]: Contexto. p. 62
  4. ^ The term Punic comes from the Latin word Punicus (or Poenicus), meaning "Carthaginian" and is a reference to the Carthaginians' Phoenician ancestry.[1]
  5. ^ Sources other than Polybius are discussed by Bernard Mineo in "Principal Literary Sources for the Punic Wars (apart from Polybius)".[18]
  6. ^ Roman and Greek sources refer to these foreign fighters derogatively as "mercenaries", but the modern historian Adrian Goldsworthy describes this as "a gross oversimplification". They served under a variety of arrangements; for example, some were the regular troops of allied cities or kingdoms seconded to Carthage as part of formal treaties, some were from allied states fighting under their own leaders, many were volunteers from areas under Carthaginian control who were not Carthaginian citizens. (Carthaginian citizenship was largely reserved for inhabitants of the city of Carthage.)[61]
  7. ^ "Shock" troops are those trained and used to close rapidly with an opponent, with the intention of breaking them before, or immediately upon, contact.[62]
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ Davis, William Stearns, Readings in Ancient History — Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, p. 79, ISBN 1-4067-4833-1
  10. ^ Livy, 28.40
  11. a b Nossov, 2012: 28
  12. a b Davis, 2001: 47
  13. Delbrück, 1990: 370, 378

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