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BatiGol Weekly 227: Ain’t leavin’ your love

In which we discuss the Second Punic War, strategems, and how nice it probably is to have a walnut-paneled library.

ACF Fiorentina v Empoli - Serie A
The poor man got him an airplane tryin to cruise across the traffic jam. The rich man got him a Chevrolet. I’m stayin’ right where I am.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

As you sit in the library of your comfortable estate, wrapped in your favorite silken cravat and smoking jacket as you smoke a fine cigar with one hand and slowly swirl your snifter of Armagnac with the other, your eyes may stray across the walnut panelling to the reading stand, where you left Paton’s translation of Polybius’ Histories open last night. Strolling over, you realize that it’s been exactly 2,236 years since Hannibal’s overwhelming victory at the Battle of the Trebia.

Sinking into a reverie, you wonder to yourself how much of the Carthaginian’s reputation was due to his own military genius, how much of it was due to his opponents’ blunders, and how much of it was due to the dedication and of his men. After all, the massacre never would have occurred if T. Sempronius Longus, fueled by a desperate thirst for glory, had heeded his co-consul P. Cornelius Scipio and not engaged his wilier opponent. If he’d avoided spreading his troops out and exhausting them in the snowy conditions, or if he’d scouted the terrain better to avoid Mago’s ambush, it may have been a very different result.

Too, by this point, Hannibal’s troops were battle-tested, well-trained, and had absolute confidence in their commander. They were able to anticipate his commands and put his plans into action nearly instantaneously, each trusting that his comrades would keep him safe. As you take a little draught of the brandy and feel it warm you, though, you decide that more than Sempronius’ bone-headedness and the Carthaginian army’s expertise were secondary factors; it was Hannibal’s ability to simultaneously exploit an opponent’s weaknesses while minimizing his own that won the day.

Watching the snow fall outside your window on this solstice night, your mind drifts to the great tacticians of the modern era. Napoleon, certainly, but you’d rather not think about more bloodshed in this warm and comforting place. No, you turn your thoughts to the great thinkers of the football pitch. Karl Rappan, Johan Cruyff, Helenio Herrera, Arrigo Sacchi, Pep Guardiola: these are the names that will resound through history. And you wonder if, even after a minor victory, Stefano Pioli is as overmatched as Sempronius, as Scipio the Elder before him at Ticinus, as Flaminius after him.

Will this taste of triumph give him the confidence to experiment? Secure in the knowledge that his players are well-drilled and provide an advantage, will he begin to probe for his opponent’s weaknesses? Confident in his own intellect, will he seek to expand his advantages? Or will he continue on his dour course, convinced now that the win was a result of his refusal to change his approach, until he runs his charges into complete and irreperable defeat? It’s an interesting question to mull, and you settle back into your leather chair to consider it.

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Which of Hannibal’s battles best showcased his brilliance?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 36%
    Lake Trasimene
    (7 votes)
  • 63%
    Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane
    (12 votes)
19 votes total Vote Now

Comment of the week(ish)

No matter how bad things look, nobody can take away our fondest memories, as slakas (with an assist from Sebastien Frey) was kind enough to remind us.

That’s it for this week, folks.