Posts Tagged ‘October 19’

B.C. Comics?

Posted in General on October 19th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – 8 Comments

October 19, 202 B.C.:  The Battle of Zama

On this day in 202 B.C., Hannibal had the character-building experience of losing a battle…and a war. If only Hannibal had read “War and Peace” (and since the Second Punic War lasted sixteen years, he might have had the time), the Carthaginian general would have known that his military genius was only as good as his men. Unfortunately, at Zama, his men really stunk.

Carthage had an all-volunteer army: in other words, mercenaries. Prior to Halliburton stock options, mercenaries usually were compensated by loot. It is a wonderful incentive when you are on the attack, rampaging through Italy. However, when you are on the defensive, protecting Carthage, looting the employer is discouraged. In those circumstances, Hannibal was not getting the best resumes.

Worse yet, the Romans had outbid him for all the available cavalry. After all, working for Rome, the North African horsemen now would be entitled to loot Carthage. Hannibal hoped to compensate by using elephants, whose charging tonnage presumably would flatten the legions. Since the fearsome beasts were not really maneuverable, the tactic only worked if the Romans remained patiently still. For some reason, they wouldn’t. When confronted with a charging elephant, the Romans simply stepped aside and let the pachyderm pass.

(Despite the elephant’s tactical futility, the Italians evidently were impressed by such overblown, lumbering theatrics and would eventually invent opera.)

Hannibal lost the battle, and Carthage was at the mercy of Rome. Mercy was not a Roman trait. The Carthaginian empire was reduced to the city limits. Hannibal, however, did retain his reputation. Even twenty centuries later, the young Sigmund Freud regarded Hannibal as a hero. Battered by the blond schoolyard bullies, Sigmund loved the idea of a tough Semitic guy who could scare the id out of the foreskinned crowd.

The same solace may have occurred to Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel.