You will have to bear with me a bit on this. As usual, I am going to tie in something that seems totally disconnected to the subject at hand. But that is my M.O. for a lot of my blogging. Trust me; I will give you some nice detailed stuff at the end. Or you can just be a sissy and skip to the hyperlink at the end.
Sometimes I am stubborn or just fearful of doing what needs to be done. In short that is often just making the decision to give up. But as a student of military history I have a little story to tell about someone that should have given up before it was too late.
On August 2, 216 BC, Hannibal (you know, of the elephants-crossing-the-Alps fame), commander of the Carthaginian army in the 2nd Punic War against Rome, faced a double strength Roman army near the town of Cannae. The Romans had in excess of 86,000 troops and support personnel. Hannibal was outnumbered 2:1. But one-eyed Hannibal was a wily general. Sitting atop the last surviving elephant of his army he deployed his troops in a crescent formation bowing out towards the Romans daring them to charge to the middle and break his center. This was carefully planned of course.
The Romans were ruled by two annually elected leaders called consuls. Both of them, Lucius Aemillus Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro were present. This would be like having two Presidents of the United States and both being actual, in person, Commanders in Chief. But that was how things were done in the Roman Republic. Each day they rotated command of the army between them. On the fateful day, Varro was in charge. He looked to break Hannibal’s center and then once routing the center, split in half and roll up each side and destroy the threat to Rome once and for all.
The battle began as the skirmishers fired their arrows and slings. As the Roman heavy infantry, double stacked deep in the center and thereby reducing the width of their army, approached, Hannibal’s center in a carefully orchestrated feint, fell back in good order converting the convex (bowed out formation) to a concave (bowed inward) formation. The Romans filled this bowl quickly finding the Carthaginian center a lot more firm in their resolve to fight than expected. Then Hannibal’s cavalry and light infantry circled around the rear of the Roman army, routed their merger cavalry, and completely surrounded the Romans. By then it was too late. More than 80,000 Romans bought the farm that day. Hannibal’s victory was complete and his model for defeating an enemy force is the holy grail of land combat to this day.
Varro and Paullus should have realized the trap when Hannibal’s center fell back drawing them in. I am sure the centurions (kinda like a senior non-commissioned officers) of each legion realized it was a trap. At that point Varro should have quickly redeployed and obliterated their numerically inferior enemy. Instead of giving up their tactic for the day they just keep going forcing a bad decision and turning it into a catastrophic one.
Ok, I have done similar crap in my life. I have forced a bad decision in the hopes it would turn out. Sometimes it does and such stories feed the heroic stories of history or our personal lives. But it is the stories of when to give up that are just as critical. One day maybe I will be good at this. Until then, I found a list to share with you of just what to give up. Some of the items on the list are ones I hadn’t thought of. Goes to show you just how much this armchair general of ancient battles has to learn.