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The Macedonian Phalanx

In my sixth book I made a promise, still unfulfilled, of taking a fitting opportunity of drawing a comparison between the arms of the Romans and Macedonians, and their respective system of tactics, and pointing out how they differ for better or worse from each other. I will now endeavour by a reference to actual facts to fulfil that promise. For since in former times the Macedonian tactics proved themselves by experience capable of conquering those of Asia and Greece; while the Roman tactics sufficed to conquer the nations of Africa and all those of Western Europe; and since in our own day there have been numerous opportunities of comparing the men as well as their tactics,—it will be, I think, a useful and worthy task to investigate their differences, and discover why it is that the Romans conquer and carry off the palm from their enemies in the operations of war: that we may not put it all down to Fortune, and congratulate them on their good luck, as the thoughtless of mankind do; but, from a knowledge of the true causes, may give their leaders the tribute of praise and admiration which they deserve.

Now as to the battles which the Romans fought with Hannibal,

The Roman defeats in the Punic wars were not from inferior tactics, but owing to the genius of Hannibal.
and the defeats which they sustained in them, I need say no more. It was not owing to their arms or their but to the skill and genius of Hannibal that they met with those defeats: and that I made quite clear in my account of the battles themAnd my contention is supported by two facts. First, by the conclusion of the war: for as soon as the Romans got a general of ability comparable with that of Hannibal, victory was not long in following their banners. Secondly, Hannibal himself, being dissatisfied with the original arms of his men, and having immediately after his first victory furnished his troops with the arms of the Romans, continued to employ them thenceforth to the end.1 Pyrrhus, again, availed himself not only of the arms, but also of the troops of Italy, placing a maniple of Italians and a company of his own phalanx alternately, in his battles against the Romans. Yet even this did not enable him to win; the battles were somehow or another always indecisive.

It was necessary to speak first on these points, to anticipate any instances which might seem to make against my theory. I will now return to my comparison.

1 See 3, 87.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 31-32, commentary, 32.37
  • Cross-references in notes to this page (1):
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