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Hannibal was an incompetent general

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/25/2014 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,403 times Debate No: 49745
Debate Rounds (4)
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This will be a debate about a historical topic. This debate is impossible to accept, so write your proposed topic in the comments and I'll invite the person with the best proposal to debate. Please include all definitions and assumptions you'd like to use in your comment.

Structure will be as follows:
Round 1: acceptance only, no arguments
Round 2: Opening statements for each side (no rebuttals allowed)
Round 3: Rebuttals and additional arguments
Round 4: Final rebuttals and conclusion (no new arguments)
Sources are encouraged, but Wikipedia is not allowed as a source. Use of Wikipedia or non compliance with the debate structure will result in a 7 point penalty.

Looking for a serious debater who won't troll or forfeit. Burden of proof will be shared. I am slated for Con so you must be in favor of whatever prompt you give. Looking forward to a fun debate.


I accept!
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks Pro for accepting this debate, looking forward to a good one.

In addition to the rules in Round 1, we have agreed to define “competence” in terms of one’s ability to accomplish a set task. We have also agreed that a war’s outcome does not necessarily determine competence (i.e., winning/losing the war does not automatically make you competent/incompetent). With that, I will make my case.

Hannibal is one of the most famous and competent generals in history. Although he ultimately lost, he holds a rightful place among the ranks of other highly skilled yet defeated generals such as Robert E. Lee, Napoleon, and Erwin Rommel. Hannibal proved his competence through his ability to innovate, win on the battlefield, and strike fear into his enemies.


A good commander has the ability to innovate new strategies and strike in ways his enemy least expects. Hannibal proved more than capable of accomplishing this task. His most famous feat was the march over the Alps and invasion of Italy from the north. This approach was so unexpected the Romans considered it impossible and did not even bother defending it. Instead, the Romans attempted to seize the initiative by sending two invasion forces by sea to Spain and Carthage [1]. Yet, after landing in Spain, the Roman commander Publius discovered that Hannibal had already taken his army with unimaginable speed into the Alps and that Italy was now defenseless. As the historian Polybius records:

"Now the Roman consul Publius arrived at the crossing of the river three days after the departure of the Carthaginians, and finding the enemy gone was in the highest degree astonished, as he had been convinced that they would never venture to march on Italy by this route . . . he himself turned back and made sail for Italy with the design of marching rapidly through Etruria and reaching the foot of the pass over the Alps before the enemy. [2]”

Similarly, the Roman invasion fleet lead by Tiberius was recalled while en route to attacking Carthage to “hasten to the help of his own country [3].” Without even fighting a battle, Hannibal seized the initiative, thwarted two Roman invasion fleets, and put Rome completely on the defensive. These are not the actions of an incompetent commander.

Furthermore, Hannibal proved his innovation through his flexibility and creativity on the battlefield. When a barbarian army gathered near a vital river crossing Hannibal intended to use, he quickly reacted. While ordering half his army to begin constructing boats to draw the enemy's attention, he sent the other half at night to cross up river and move in behind them undetected. The next morning, he ordered his men to begin crossing in their boats, which forced the barbarians to gather at the far bank in preparation for a battle. Precisely at this moment, his flanking forced arrived in the enemy’s rear, causing them to flee and allowing Hannibal to cross uncontested without losing any time [4]. During another river crossing, Hannibal's war elephants refused to move near the water. He solved this by constructing a pontoon bridge and packing earth and grass on top of it to fool the elephants into thinking they were still walking a dirt path, and they all crossed without major incident [5]. Creativity and innovation are skills incompetent commanders do not have.

Winning on the Battlefield

Hannibal proved his ability to defeat his enemies on the battlefield time after time. His string of victories in Italy included Ticinus, Trebia, Trasimene, Herdonea, and Cannae [6]. He achieved these victories by using a superior knowledge of the battlefield topography and his enemy’s capabilities and weaknesses. Much like Abraham Lincoln’s inability to find a Union general who could defeat Robert E. Lee, the Roman senate frantically cycled through numerous commanders in hopes of finding one who could defeat Hannibal. Hannibal’s campaign only began losing momentum after the Romans adopted a strategy of attrition – Hannibal was so good at crushing the Romans that the only way to win was to avoid fighting him! Ones does not typically avoid fighting an incompetent commander.


Finally, Hannibal’s skill bred fear throughout Rome. Not only did his presence terrify the Roman government enough to immediately recall all their invasion armies, but his victories inspired numerous Roman allies to break ties with Rome and join him. Nations and tribes do not lightly break alliances in order to support someone who is incompetent and unlikely to win. Furthermore, the Romans elected a temporary "dictator" to handle the invasion, something that at that time was only done in dire emergencies. There would have been no cause to implement emergency procedures if Hannibal was an incompetent commander who could be easily defeated.

Finally, as a result of Hannibal’s near destruction of Rome, generations of Roman parents used a common proverb to scare misbehaving children into obedience: Hannibal ad Portas, “Hannibal is at the Gates [7].” This is quite remarkable considering the Romans ultimately defeated Hannibal and yet still regarded him as a symbol of national fear. People do not develop terror that lasts for centuries at the prospect of an incompetent enemy.

While admitting that Hannibal was ultimately defeated, I submit that he indeed displayed more often than not his ability to accomplish set tasks to such a degree that he remained a symbol of fear in Roman culture for centuries and is regarded by historians as "one of the great captains in military history. [8]"

[1] Polybius, The Histories, Book III.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Fronda, Hannibal: Tactics, Strategy, and Geostrategy. (Blackwell Publishing, 2011).

[7] Dr. Joseph Hughes, Lecture on the Second Punic War: We are the Champions, Missouri State University

[8] Fronda, Hannibal: Tactics, Strategy, and Geostrategy. (Blackwell Publishing, 2011).



It was several years after Hannibal's ultimate defeat at Zama, that the grizzled Carthaginian general happened to meet his old rival, Scipio Africanus, once again, only this time on a less formal occasion. Africanus was sent by Rome on a diplomatic mission to Antiochus III's court. It was here that Hannibal had fled into exile after the Romans demanded he be surrendered to them. Appian recorded one of their meetings in a gymnasium. In verse 10, Hannibal, in his arrogance and pride, suggested that he of all generals, was the third greatest general, and would have been the aboslute greatest had he not been beaten by Africanus. His reasoning is this:

"When I was a young man I conquered Spain and crossed the Alps with an army, the first after Hercules. I invaded Italy and struck terror into all of you, laid waste 400 of your towns, and often put your city in extreme peril, all this time receiving neither money nor reinforcements from Carthage."

These may seem like laudable feats from a great general, but here in this debate, I will persuade that what Hannibal himself viewed as great feats were in fact horrible errors in strategy. His conquests in Spain, march across the Alps, and campaigns in Italy were costly manpower and resource wise, mismanaged whenever a foothold was gained, and didn't accomplish anything of real value for Carthage. It was his pride and arrogance that blinded him to the truth of his campaign and ultimately persuade many of us to this effect as well.

My burden of proof is not to show how Hannibal was the worst general. He did win some decisive military battles. However, his general strategies for his campaign were tremendously poor. Beginning with the seige of Saguntum, Hannibal made his first mistake. Rome had just recently allied itself with Saguntum in order to preserve its independence as it is a focal trade point, but Hannibal, itching for war with Rome, had the city beseiged and captured. An unnecessary engagement to say the least, however soon after, war was declared. It was Hannibal's pride that began his ultimate undoing, and it wouldn't be the end.

The war itself was sanctioned by the oligarchy back in Carthage, and Hannibal eagerly began to cross the Alps and invade Rome. However this was his second grevious mistake. An estimate by Polybius, numbers Hannibal's infantry at 90,000 and cavalry at 12,000. The general consensus is that these numbers are exaggerated, but nevertheless it was still a huge army for the time. Had Hannibal consolidated his holdings in Spain and waited to engage Rome's army as it arrived by ship, he could have dealt decisive blows against Rome on his own land with his Spanish allies. An unfortunate consequence of this was during Hannibal's famous march across the Alps, roughly half of his army died. What a blunder! Thousands of military veterans perished needlessly. Because of his arrogance and pride, Hannibal made his second mistake.

During his campaign in Italy, Hannibal could never hold onto any city or town permanently. Every time he conquered a city, Rome would be right behind him to take it back. All the Italian Allies were fiercely loyal to Rome. Through guerilla warfare and scorched earth tactics, Hannibal's army was constantly worn down. Unfortunately the Roman's just couldn't take this and had to have a pitched battle with Hannibal. Thus Cannae happened. It was at this point that many cities began to defect to Hannibal without even having been conquered. Yet Hannibal never beseiged Rome itself because he couldn't. He had too few men, and not enough resources to beseige such a large city. What he should have done was regroup back in Carthage and prepare for a final assault on the city of Rome. Unfortunately due to his pride he couldn't bare to leave Italy. He ordered his reinforcements to be brought to him, and it was this final mistake that sealed Hannibal's fate. The Roman's defeated the two reinforcement armies before they could reach Hannibal.

Soon Africanus, whom Hannibal would have faced in Spain, made his way to North Africa and defeated the Carthaginians in battle. A peace deal was signed immediately, and Hannibal was relucanctly recalled back to Carthage. Soon after his arrival, Hannibal rashly wanted to fight Africanus with his army of veterans, but was ultimately defeated at the battle of Zama. Had Hannibal calmed his war party, and properly prepared his army, he may have won the battle of Zama and possibly could have assaulted Rome itself, but instead his pride and arrogance disallowed him from victory.

Seeing Hannibal for who he is, we can determine that Hannibal was not similar to truly great strategists and generals such as Genghis Khan, Sun Tzu, Julius Caesar, and many others. These men not only had tactical talents, but also had incredible minds for strategy. Nearly every single strategic move throughout Hannibal's whole campaign was a rash and foolhardy mistake only a self-lauding, prideful, arrogant man would make.

Hannibal is like a dog chasing after a car. He chases and chases with great enthusiasm and speed, but once he catches the car, he doesn't know what to do with it.

Here, the famous Latin quote by Maharbal applies, "You, Hannibal, know how to gain a victory; you do not know how to use it." -Livy, The History of Rome 22.51
Therefore its due to Hannibal's pride, foolhardiness, and arrogance that draw him as an incompetent general.

Polybius Histories Book 3
Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars
Livy, The History of Rome Books 21-30
Debate Round No. 2


Thank you Pro for your opening statement. I will now give my rebuttals.

To introduce their case, my opponent quotes verse 10 from Appian. It is interesting however that Pro fails to mention verse 9 of the same passage, in which Appian describes Hannibal as "a most profound military genius [1]." My opponent may think that Hannibal was a blundering failure, but the author of their own source certainly does not.

Siege of Saguntum

My opponent cites Saguntum as an unnecessary engagement that began an ill-advised war. To understand the Second Punic War (Hannibal's), one must understand the First. The First Punic War was a very costly 24 year struggle over control of Sicily. Carthage eventually signed a treaty with Rome, but felt it was not totally defeated. After the war, Rome continued to embarrass Carthage by seizing Sardinia and increasing their war reparations [3]. Polybius tells us this was the real cause of the Hannibal's war, that Carthage felt it had not really lost the First Punic War and was just preparing for an opportunity to resume hostilities: "Unvanquished in spirit by the war for Sicily . . . [Hannibal's father] maintained his resolve and waited for an opportunity to strike. . . with the anger felt by all his compatriots at this last outrage [Sardinia and the reparations] . . . at once threw all his efforts into the conquest of Spain, with the object of using the resources thus obtained for the war against Rome." So, we see that Saguntum was not an impulsive mistake but an intentional act of war resulting from years of calculation and preparation.

Crossing the Alps

My opponent suggests crossing the Alps was a mistake and that Hannibal could have won decisively by waiting for the Romans in Spain. Pro seems to overlook that there were two invasion fleets sent by Rome, one to Spain and one to Carthage. If Hannibal waited for the first fleet in Spain, the second (and much larger) invasion fleet would have landed unopposed on the shores of Carthage. This is exactly what Rome was hoping for. The only way for Hannibal to avoid this disaster was to divert both invasion fleets by invading Italy first, and it worked. The historian Michael Fronda confirms, "To wait to fight the Romans in Spain would mean risking a replay of the First Punic War, with the Romans . . . potentially able to send army after army against him. Hannibal"s best hope was to fight the war in Italy. [4]"

Pro argues the crossing was an unnecessary waste of manpower. Quite the opposite, it was the only real chance Hannibal had of defeating Rome. Staying put in Spain would have invited disaster as stated above, and attempting to attack Italy from the sea invited destruction from storms and Rome's vastly superior navy. The fact that only half was lost, rather than the entire army, attests to Hannibal's competence! Polybius writes that Hannibal "conducted his plans with sound and practical sense" by performing detailed recons and interviews with local tribes to find the best routes. Polybius tells us that Hannibal's army faced total destruction numerous times at the hands of mountain tribes and weather, yet his brilliant leadership and competence averted every potential disaster. This is confirmed by Scipio's amazement that Hannibal's army survived the crossing at all, "when he heard that Hannibal was safe and was already besieging towns in Italy he was amazed. [5]" Furthermore, Hannibal knew he would lose troops in the crossing, which is why he made preparations to replenish his numbers afterward. He sent envoys to the Celts and secured their promises of support once he crossed into Italy. This indeed happened, as Polybius records, "they all [the Celts] came in at once and submitted to him. [6]" This displays more genius than miscalculation by Hannibal. Finally, if the crossing was such a crippling loss of manpower, how was Hannibal immediately able to begin laying siege to Roman towns and route the Roman army twice?

Refusing to leave Italy

My opponent suggests a strategy that makes no sense. Hannibal was destroying Roman armies and land almost at will. Why would he stop, completely evacuate Italy, return to Carthage in ships and risk being destroyed by Rome's superior navy, only to then get back on ships and return to Italy, all the while allowing Rome to regroup and strengthen its defenses?

Historians agree that Hannibal never besieged Rome because he had no desire to destroy Rome. Rather, as had happened in the First Punic War, his goal was to defeat the Roman army and force them to the negotiating table, where he could get Rome to cede Sardinia and Sicily back to Carthage [7]. This explains why Hannibal kept crushing the Roman army and refused to leave Italy - he was waiting for the Romans to invite negotiations. If Hannibal can be faulted, it should be for his underestimation of Rome's stubbornness.


My opponent suggests that Hannibal performed poorly at the Battle of Zama. According to Polybius, Hannibal had "done in the battle all that was to be expected of a good and experienced general . . . he who had never been beaten before failed to secure the victory now, we must excuse him. [8]"

Just as my opponent does not need to prove Hannibal was the worst general, I do not need to prove he was the best. Like every other commander in history, he made mistakes. But he was also calculating, audacious, tactically brilliant, and came within a hair's breadth of bringing Rome to its knees. While he may not have been the best, his many victories put him well above the level of incompetence.

[2] Polybius, The Histories, Book III.

[3] Ibid., Book I.

[4] Fronda, Hannibal: Tactics, Strategy, and Geostrategy. (Blackwell Publishing, 2011).

[5] Polybius, The Histories, Book III

[6] Ibid.

[7] Fronda, Hannibal: Tactics, Strategy, and Geostrategy. (Blackwell Publishing, 2011).

[8] Polybius, The Histories, Book XV


My opponent says that Hannibal was an innovative general, and his example is the invasion through the Alps. An innovative strategy doesn't necessarily make a good strategy, and I have proved in the previous round how it was a poor strategy. My opponent also says this strategy was Hannibal's only way of defeating Rome. Hannibal had a huge army of veteran fighters. During his crossing of the Pyrenees, he left approximately 11000 well trained Iberians in Spain. If Hannibal had waited for the Romans to come to him, his huge army could have taken care of the approaching Romans, and then he could have taken those same ships the Romans used and sailed straight to Italy. Carthage had experience scuttling enemy ships in the past so this would not have posed a problem to a huge army of veterans. [1] Suggesting that storms off the coast of Italy would hinder Hannibal is unlikely seeing as the Romans had just come from Italy on ships, and the Carthaginians were well renown sailors. Also wasting valuable manpower and time finding and implementing solutions for things like elephants crossing rivers could have been avoided had Hannibal not crossed the Alps in the first place. This only serves to strengthen my argument in the previous round.

My opponent says that the Romans would have threatened North Africa with their armies en route, however, Hannibal had prepared North Africa for an invasion [2], and obviously after Hannibal dispatched the Roman army in Spain he would journey to Italy and threaten Rome in the same fashion as he did in reality, which would have caused the Senate to recall their North African campaign.

My opponent says that winning battles makes a good general; however, if the army Hannibal faced in Rome was also incompetently led then transitively Hannibal can still be an incompetant general. During the war, Rome was beleagered by government inefficiency. The battle of Cannae for instance was led by two Roman consuls who switched leadership positions every day. This kind of leadership is definitely not efficient at all. All Rome had to do was continue to ware Hannibal down, and send their large army to Spain under a single competent leader, capture key holdings there, and then begin to threaten North Africa. This is what Rome eventually did under Scipio, and what ultimately led to winning the war.

My opponent says that competence comes through fear, but this is completely irrelevant. Just because an army pillages towns and springs ambushes, doesn't mean it has any bearing on strategic prowess. Any average army raiding a hometown should inspire fear, but that doesn't make what the army is doing a wise strategical move in general.

My opponent has appealed to the 'authority' of historians. We can't allow their bias to cloud are judgement. They had to show Hannibal in a good light because of the victories he gained over Rome. Romans back then thought that they were always strategically competent, so they obviously had to think Hannibal was also strategically competent because Hannibal had defeated them in some battles.

My opponent suggests that it would be too risky for Hannibal to return to North Africa to regroup and prepare for an attack on Rome. A rebuttal to this relies on past changes in strategy I recommended. If Hannibal had captured some of Rome’s ships in Spain, he would have a decent navy that would have helped him capture the ports that he was never actually able to capture. In these ports, Hannibal could have built more ships and would be able to make a relatively safe return journey to North Africa. Keep in mind that Hannibal had a sizable alliance built in Italy already. He had many major cities in southern Italy including the metropolis of Capua. There’s no way Rome could have captured these cities after their defeat at Cannae.

My opponent says that Hannibal never wanted to capture the city of Rome, however this only concedes my point that Hannibal was a poor strategist. Capturing Rome should have been the key strategy in Hannibal’s mind. The Senate would have been neutered. The entirety of Italy would have been dissolved of Roman confederacy. Suggesting that the historians you sourced agree that Hannibal’s strategy was a good one is being dishonest. Historians should only be used in this debate for source material and not confirmation bias.

My opponent says that he came within a hairs breadth of bringing Rome to its knees, and I would agree. However it was Hannibal himself who through tremendously poor strategy kept Carthage away from this victory.

It seems as if Hannibal did what he did only so he could brag about it for the rest of his life. Honestly he sounds like a douche. haha

My burden of proof relies on the fact that Hannibal was an average tactician on the battle field, and was a poor strategist in general. These coupled together draw Hannibal as an incompetent general.

[1]Mommsen 1862, p. 15

[2]Livy book 21:21

Debate Round No. 3


Thank you Pro for the swift response. I will proceed with my final rebuttals and conclusion.

First, I would like to address my opponent’s accusation that citing historians is dishonest. Why would we not appeal to the authority of historians? They are the experts who dedicate their entire lives to the study of their field. An argument is only made stronger when supported with published and peer reviewed historian opinions. The real dishonesty is pretending one knows more about historical events and military strategy than the experts who have actually done the research. I clearly established in Round 1 that sources were encouraged, so I should not be criticized for using them.

Pro also complains about “confirmation bias,” yet no one is more biased than myself and my opponent, because we are deliberately arguing for a certain side in a competitive debate. Therefore, introducing the opinions of uninvolved historians only helps to dilute any bias our arguments may have. Contrary to what Pro claims, Polybius is actually known for being relatively objective, which is why I quote him so much. If that is not sufficient, I have also quoted some modern historians who have no reason to inflate Hannibal and make Romans who existed 2200 years ago look good. I believe this sufficiently disarms Pro's objections.

My opponent claims to have proven Hannibal’s poor strategies by offering hypothetical alternatives. Unfortunately, hypothetical “could haves” and “would haves” do not prove anything. Pro builds a scenario where Hannibal “could have” defeated the Romans in Spain and “could have” captured their ships intact and then he “would have” captured ports where he “could have” built more ships and then Italy “would have” magically been dissolved. The only problem with this story is its lack of any historical facts or reason. Pro cannot prove any of these things would have gone according to plan for Hannibal. It all sounds good in theory, but I’m sure Napoleon’s invasion of Russia did too at the time. As for me, I'll stick with the careful analysis of historians who agree that invading Italy overland was the only realistic option.

It is confusing that my opponent criticizes Hannibal’s Italian invasion, but then suggests that after “Hannibal dispatched the Roman army in Spain he would journey to Italy and threaten Rome in the same fashion as he did in reality, which would have caused the Senate to recall their North African campaign.” So aside from wrongly assuming a swift Roman defeat in Spain, Pro ultimately advocates that Hannibal should have done exactly “as he did in reality”? This contradicts their entire argument!

Pro dismisses the possibility of a Carthaginian fleet being destroyed by storms or the Roman navy. To this I submit the narrative of the First Punic War, where hundreds of ships and thousands of men on both sides were destroyed by rough storms and naval engagements [1]. Hannibal was surely familiar with this history, which made him rightfully cautious about the dangers of putting his army on ships. Carthaginians may have been well renowned sailors, but Rome had a far stronger navy - Hannibal was wise to avoid it.

My opponent claims Hannibal was “transitively incompetent” because the Roman generals he defeated were even more incompetent. This is an argument of last resort. Since Pro cannot deny Hannibal’s many victories, he is trying to downplay them by saying the Roman generals were morons. Even if we pretend this was true, it still does not prove Hannibal was incompetent. Pro reveals the use of a double standard with their description of Scipio as Rome’s single competent leader. If Hannibal was incompetent, as Pro claims, and Scipio defeated him, why is Scipio’s victory the result of his brilliance while Hannibal’s many victories over similarly incompetent Romans don't count? Robert E. Lee’s genius is not blunted by the fact that his Union opponents were less skilled. The fact is that Hannibal crushed the Roman armies on their home turf for years without a reliable supply line - anyone must admit this is impressive.

Pro misunderstands my argument about fear. I agree that it’s easy to inspire local fear by burning a few farms. Hannibal certainly did a bit more than that. Whatever temporary fear Hannibal could arouse would have been quickly forgotten if he was an incompetent moron who was easily crushed. Instead, Hannibal’s terror was so great that it burned in the memory of Rome to a legendary degree for centuries. Incompetent enemies get laughed at, they do not inspire a memory of terror that lasts for generations.

Finally, Pro suggests Hannibal only went to war so he could brag for life and that he “sounds like a douche,” but gives no real historical evidence that this is true.

To conclude, I remind the audience that my opponent and I agreed the final result of the war is not the only factor that determines competence. While Carthage did not win, the facts suggest they would have lost much faster in the hands of a less capable general than Hannibal. Like Robert E. Lee and Napoleon, who similarly suffered ultimate defeat and lived out their years in obscurity, Hannibal’s daring invasion and tactical brilliance earn him a place among history’s great generals.

I congratulate Pro on a great and fun debate. Thanks for accepting the challenge.

[1] Polybius, The Histories, Book I.



I wish I had more than 6000 characters to respond to all of sengejuri's rebuttals, but I'll do my best to consolidate my answers.

My opponent says that I said citing historians is dishonest. I actually said using historians' bias to prove your argument is dishonest. Just because you think Polybius is objective doesn't mean he is. In fact Polybius's patron was Scipio Aemelianus, who was the relative of Paullus who lost the battle of Cannae. Therefore isn't it odd that it was the other consul, Varro, who took the majority of the blame for the defeat? So when a historian makes statements of opinion, like suggesting Hannibal was a genius, it doesn't really prove anything in your argument. Its just confirmation bias. I'm not saying you're being a dick for doing it hahaha. I just want to point it out because its a debate.

My opponent suggests my hypothetical alternatives do not prove anything, however, this of course didn't stop him from suggesting his own hypotheticals like a storm destroying Hannibal's ships. There is a difference between and unlikely hypothetical such as a random storm, and a realistic option Hannibal could have chosen, like choosing to take a clear road instead of a swamp. Livy 22.2 As for Napoleon's invasion of Russia, I'm not sure what he is getting at here. Obviously Napoleon's invasion of Russia was way different from Hannibal's invasion of Italy. I don't even have the characters to go into this.

My opponent has become confused by my argument. He thinks that an invasion across the Alps is the same as a naval invasion in north-western Italy. My opponent also does no good to suggest that Hannibal would not defeat the Roman army in Spain. If he suggests that Hannibal could not defeat the Roman army coming to Spain then everything he has debated in praise of Hannibal is not true anymore. In fact he might as well just hand me the victory if he wants to argue this.

My opponent gives me an example of a storm destroying hundreds of ships in the First Punic War. Storms that could destroy ships were and still are rare occurrences in the Mediterranean, and, seeing as the Carthaginians were top notch sailors, I imagine that they would have no trouble sailing to Italy along the coast of France and avoiding any chance of storms.

My opponent thinks that I'm calling the Roman generals morons, but I never said this. I actually said the Roman government was very inefficient in how it ran its army. I gave a good example of there being two generals who switched the role of general every day. He also rightly says that this by itself doesn't prove Hannibal was incompetent, however my opponent seems to be suggesting that this is my whole argument. Actually it is only a part of my argument. Scipio wasn't a brilliant general either. He had good strategies throughout his campaigns, however he did make some mistakes, but I won't get into those right now. Also my opponent seems to be likening Robert E Lee to Hannibal in some way. I'm not sure how, because the American Civil War and the 2nd Punic War are very different wars. I honestly know of no parallels in history that can match well enough to be called a parallel with the 2nd Punic War. A hypothetical parallel would be if Scipio decided to trek across the Sahara desert in order to 'sneak up' on the Carthaginians. Obviously there's no sense in this since the Romans could just travel there by boat. It would be an unnecessary and dangerous detour.

Just because Robert E Lee was outnumbered doesn't mean his campaigns are like Hannibal's at all. Lee wasn't exactly brilliant either. When he tried to invade the North during the war he was always repelled. Even at the end of the war he made a huge mistake by charging his troops up a hill toward an entrenched Union army (Picket's Charge). There's no sense in allowing popular culture to dictate whether a general was really competent or not.

My opponent thinks that I'm arguing that Hannibal was "an incompetent moron who was easily crushed." I have never indicated this at all. Hannibal was not the worst general of all time. He wasn't even a horrible general. A competent general needs to have average tactical abilities and average strategic abilities. Hannibal was an average tactician and a very poor strategist. These together make him an incompetent general. Incompetent enemies do not always get laughed at. Again let's not cloud the facts with popular culture and bias.

When I said Hannibal sounds like a douche I was obviously just making a joke. But I do think anyone who considers themselves so highly as Hannibal did, he may well have really had a douchey personality haha. The historical evidence is here -

I believe I have not allowed the result of the war to determine whether or not Hannibal was an incompetent general. What I have done is shed some factual light on Hannibal's strategies during the war.
Provoking an unnecessary war with a major power that has not threatened you is a bad strategy. Livy 21.10 (Hanno's Speech)
Losing half of your veteran soldiers while doing no damage to your enemy is a bad strategy.
Marching through marshes instead of taking a clear road is not good strategy. Livy 22.2
After his major victory, not regrouping in a safe place and preparing an attack on the capital is a bad strategy.
Having your reinforcements cross the Alps and come to you through enemy territory is bad strategy.

Practically all of Hannibal's strategies were poor. He had some decisive victories, but the tactics surrounding these engagements were average ambushes and flanking maneuvers.

I want to say thank you very much for debating with me sengejuri. I really had a lot fun and I learned quite a lot about the 2nd Punic War.
Thanks everyone for reading!

Source: Livy's History of Rome
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by sengejuri 7 years ago
jasonk, I accept your challenge as long as we can agree that competence is not necessarily determined by the outcome of the war, because that would obviously be impossible to debate against. I have opened the debate for you to accept, good luck!
Posted by jasonk 7 years ago
"could you provide definitions for your terms?"

Ok sure. The resolution is 'Hannibal was an incompetent general.'

Incompetent is not able to accomplish a set task.
General is a leader of men assigned by a governmental group of people for a specific task, usually warfare.
Posted by lannan13 7 years ago
Resolved: Hitler could have won WW2.
Resolved: Stalin was worse than Hitler.
Resolved: Johnson should have been impeached.
Resolved: The Death Star was an inside job. (obvious joke here don't pick it)

I'm Pro on all these.
Posted by sengejuri 7 years ago
all good topics, could you provide definitions for your terms? I hope to avoid semantics by agreeing to definitions up front.
Posted by alexmiller887 7 years ago
I would like to be your opponent, and I will argue that Germany lost the war when it invaded Russia.
Posted by jasonk 7 years ago
I would like a debate surrounding the Punic Wars of Ancient Rome and Carthage. The debate resolution will be, Hannibal was an incompetent general.
Posted by Cats14 7 years ago
I will be your opponent and argue that The mongols were the greatest army of all time, and genghis khan is the greatest leader
Posted by Ozzyhead 7 years ago
I will be your opponent and I would like to argue that Hitler is solely responsible for Nazi Germany's defeat in World War Two, and that the military itself is not to blame.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by ESocialBookworm 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Okay. Honestly, this was really difficult. Awesome job guys. Conduct- "sounds like a douche" isn't the most appropriate comment for in a debate. However, I changed my mind because people have said worse. Sorry if I disappointed you guys. I think either one of you can and should win.

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