Rome’s Greatest Defeat – The Battle of Cannae

Carthaginians – Blue

Romans – Red

Source: Wikipedia

In 216 BC, a battle was fought between the forces of Rome and Carthage. At Cannae, Hannibal the legendary leader of the Carthaginian forces went head on against a much larger Roman force. The battle would go down in history to be one of the greatest tactical masterpiece in military history and also Rome’s greatest defeat.

The Romans around 87,000 men sought to break the Carthaginian center by using a deep infantry formation. To counter this, Hannibal decided to use what would be known in the future as pincer movement or double envelopment. Hannibal intentionally placed his least reliable soldiers in the center and the superior Carthaginian calvary at the the flanks. Hannibal’s forces formed a crescent that faced outwards.

The Romans seeing that Hannibal’s left flank was near the river perceived that the Carthaginian force would have little room to manoeuver and would be cutted to pieces once their center formations broke. On the contrary, by anchoring one of his flanks to the river, Hannibal sought to protect one flank from being overwhelmed by the numerically superior Romans.

When the battle was joined, the Roman calvary was quickly decimated by the Carthaginian calvary thus destroying the Roman defence of their flanks. As the Roman infantry advance towards the Carthaginian center, the Carthaginian infantry intentionlly  gave way making their formation into a crescent enveloping the Romans.

When the Carthaginian calvary attacked the rear of the Roman lines, the encirclement was complete. At the end of the day, only one in six Romans were alive. Casualty figures were said to be 6,000 Carthaginians and around 50,000 Romans making this the greatest defeat in Roman history.

Further Reading:

The Fifth Meditation, Armata – The Limitations of Military Might

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