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"Scipio Africanus and Wellington" Topic


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01 Jan 2019 4:58 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Crossposted to Ancients Discussion board
  • Crossposted to Napoleonic Discussion board


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©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian01 Jan 2019 4:57 p.m. PST

As has been pointed out:

Both spent a large part of their career fighting in Spain, and then topped off their career by defeating the second best general of their time in a Super Bowl.

Who was the better general?

Last Hussar01 Jan 2019 5:20 p.m. PST

I don'y know much about Scipio, but it won't just be on the field – its how you manoeuver to get there. Who was the best at making the enemy fight on his terms?

Also would Scipio adjust to ranged combat easier than Welling to Melee? What worked for Marlborough wouldn't have necessarily worked for Wellington just 100 years later with superficially the same weapons and army. (Interestingly, their Seats – the towns they became dukes of – are only 100 miles apart.)

Artilleryman01 Jan 2019 5:25 p.m. PST

Last Hussar, be aware, 100 miles is a long way in England.

Glengarry501 Jan 2019 5:32 p.m. PST

I imagine that what is meant that by defeating Napoleon Wellington proved himself the better general (helped out somewwhat by Blucher!) and by defeating Hannibal Scipio proved himself the best general of his age. Victory has many causes, not in the least luck, to the describe it as simply an attribute of a single commander is dubious at best.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2019 7:53 p.m. PST

Both were superior soldiers and generals, and would have done well no matter the army or weapons.
Soldiering is soldering.
This is like saying that since Napoleon had never seen a tank…
Or commanded a pike phalanx…

emckinney01 Jan 2019 8:21 p.m. PST

Not sure if Boots gets a win, splits a win, or gets an assist for beating Boney.

I am sure he would have taken the loss if Blucher hadn't made it in time.

The Prussian story isn't so well-told in English-language works. Napoleon said, "This battle is lost, but there is time to fight another" at a different time. The Prussian achievement was, perhaps, even greater than that of Napoleon.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine02 Jan 2019 1:17 a.m. PST

If we aren't giving Wellington any credit due to his allies maybe Scipio shouldn't get any either without gaining the bulk of the Numidians on his side Zama would have been a different battle.

jurgenation Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2019 2:44 a.m. PST

agree with Prince Rupert/

Marcus Brutus02 Jan 2019 8:55 a.m. PST

But part of Scipio's genius was his recognition that he needed Numidian allies in his attack on Africa. His diplomatic instincts and his general tact with people made him a superior commander. Politics and diplomacy are part of strategic planning and in this Scipio excelled. Add to this was his ability to train his troops to a high level and provide superior logistical support. Add to this Scipio's incredible tactical insight and ingenuity and we have one of the truly great commanders of all time.

coopman02 Jan 2019 11:00 a.m. PST

I don't think that either general was ever defeated in battle.

imrael02 Jan 2019 1:19 p.m. PST

Hm – hard to be sure but the main sources for Scipio (Polybius) were payed by his descendants, so he may win for PR.

Mike the Analyst02 Jan 2019 2:55 p.m. PST

I think Wellington was good at the political side of things too having to manage relations with the Spanish and later in the Netherlands with the Dutch, Belgians and the Prussians.

Marcus Brutus02 Jan 2019 4:06 p.m. PST

Hm hard to be sure but the main sources for Scipio (Polybius) were payed by his descendants, so he may win for PR.

Perhaps but the hard facts are what they are. Scipio went to Spain and cleared it of Carthaginian forces over several campaigns and then went to Africa and defeated several Carthaginia/Numidian armies before winning at Zama. Hard to spin that in any way but positive.

dibble Supporting Member of TMP02 Jan 2019 5:17 p.m. PST

perhaps but the hard facts are what they are. Scipio went to Spain and cleared it of Carthaginian forces over several campaigns and then went to Africa and defeated several Carthaginia/Numidian armies before winning at Zama. Hard to spin that in any way but positive.

So what of Wellington (Wellesley) in India, (Skipping Portugal and Spain) southern France and Belgium? No spin there.

Marcus Brutus02 Jan 2019 7:49 p.m. PST

Actually I think there are close parallels between Scipio and Wellington. Don't really have an opinion about the one relative the other. Both stand as great captains, and later, failed politicians.

Hector Blackwolf03 Jan 2019 10:26 a.m. PST

Both achieved victory over the greatest generals of their age, indeed any age. Both Napoleon and Hannibal are on the short list for history's greatest commanders.

They might have had help, and both Napoleon and Hannibal had lost much of their old magic by the time of their final defeat, but Scipio and Wellington achieved the near-impossible.

I seriously doubt I could win a wargame against any of the four of them.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 4:59 a.m. PST

am sure he would have taken the loss if Blucher hadn't made it in time.

Equally lucky for Blucher that Wellington rescued the Prussians by standing firm on both the 16th and 18th June. Had he not done that, Blucher turning up would have made no difference. Instead Blucher would have just made it 3 fought, 3 lost, rather than 2 lost and being present at someone else's victory.

The Prussian story isn't so well-told in English-language works.
The debunked myths, on the other hand, revive zombie-like pretty regularly.

Marcus Brutus04 Jan 2019 5:10 a.m. PST

If Blucher doesn't show up June 18 there wouldn't be "someone else's victory" to present at. But the whole line of argumentation is misguided (which is your bigger point?) Wellington wouldn't have stopped at Waterloo to fight the French if he hadn't been convinced of Prussian assistance. And the Prussians would have retreated east if they had not been convinced that Wellington would stand at Waterloo.

As an aside, I know of one lost Prussian battle in 1815, Ligny. What is the other one?

Prince Rupert of the Rhine04 Jan 2019 8:54 a.m. PST

Wasn't Wavre a techinical loss for the Prussians but a strategic success?

Lewisgunner04 Jan 2019 10:54 a.m. PST

Wellington had a fairly disparate army at Waterloo. His troos had not practised together. Scipio had a veteran and generally homogenous machine that had drilled and prac5ised together. Had Wellington been commanding his 1813 Peninsular army he might have been more adventurous against Napoleon. As it was he exploited the disadvantage of Napoleon's central position, if one of tge pe4ipheral armies holds the central army cannot avoid the other, converging army ( the Prussians) . coming in on its flank. If the Centrally positioned army, ( the French) beats but does not destroy one of tge conveging armies it turns to face the other army ( the Allies) at its peril

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 4:43 p.m. PST

Wavre was a tactical total defeat for Prussia. It can't be argued to have been a strategic win (by tying down Grouchy) because Grouchy was tied down by his orders anyway.

The Prussians lost every battle they fought alone in 1815. Wellington won every battle, and the only victory at which Prussians were present was the one at which Wellington was also present. This is not a coincidence. At Waterloo Wellington fought and defeated 85% of the French army, while the Prussians eventually defeated 15% with 3x their numbers. Another 33,000 French weren't defeated by anyone at all.

The same pattern of abject Prussian mediocrity is evident, mutatis mutandis obvs, in 1806 to 1814, too. All suggestions otherwise are just mendacious late Victorian myth-making.

Marcus Brutus04 Jan 2019 5:05 p.m. PST

Scipio left his veteran legions in Spain and was elected Consul with the province of Sicily and the right to cross over to Africa should he so choose. The two legions in Sicily were the leftovers from the defeat at Cannae supplemented with additional drafts and volunteers. So the army Scipio took with him in 203 BC was essentially a start over much like Wellington in 1815.

42flanker04 Jan 2019 5:09 p.m. PST

"the Prussians eventually defeated 15%… The same pattern of abject Prussian mediocrity is evident"

In that case, just as well Wellington didn't give them more to do.

Marcus Brutus04 Jan 2019 5:09 p.m. PST

I don't consider Wavre much of a Prussian defeat. Outnumbered 2 to 1 they did their job and kept Grouchy from involving himself at Waterloo. The fact that Grouchy wasn't inclined to move west on June 18 is really a historical after thought.

Tying down 6th Corp and the Young Guard was a big deal at Waterloo. The combination of the two might have tipped the battle in Napoleon's favour.

Brechtel19804 Jan 2019 5:29 p.m. PST

Grouchy won at Wavre and Quatre Bras was a drawn battle.

dibble Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 5:50 p.m. PST

So what was Ney's mission on the 16th? The Duke held the ground and the French didn't prevent the overall outcome either. The 'Beat the enemy in detail' by Nappy was no such thing. in-fact, Napoleon got such a battlefield beating in 8 hours at Mont St Jean, that it is more than the equal of the battle of Austerlitz in terms of military and political disaster for France.

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