Author Topic: Carthaginian cavalry  (Read 5692 times)

Jim Webster

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 3742
Carthaginian cavalry
« on: February 28, 2017, 10:38:27 AM »
I'm wondering if I might have come across the point at which point the Carthaginians stared putting some emphasis on Cavalry
The figures are from Dio Sic (All bar the last are from armies in Sicily)

409BC   200000 infantry   4000 cavalry            
396BC   300000 infantry   4000 cavalry   400 chariots
345BC   50000 infantry      no cavalry       300   chariots  "2000 extra teams"   Dio Sic 16 67
341BC     70000 infantry        'cavalry'             'chariots'     "extra teams of horses amounting to not less than ten thousand" Dio Sic 16 77
311BC   40,000 infantry   5000 cavalry
310BC   40000 infantry    1000 cavalry   2000 chariots    (This was in Africa facing Agathocles, a somewhat hastily raised army)   

Whilst it's obvious that the early figures for infantry are 'inflated' (but might include the crews of the fleet transporting the army to Sicily) the cavalry figures remain steady.

The anomaly is the two entries for the campaign which led up to the Battle of Crimissus. We see figures for 'extra teams of horses"
Has anybody got a decent Greek translation of what this term is?
2000 extra teams seems a lot for 300 chariots, as for 10,000 teams! Especially when the largest number of Chariots we have is 2000 and that's not far from Carthage

I'm wondering if they were cavalry horses

But even without this, it looks as if the 3rd Sicilian war (the one against Agathocles) is the one where the Carthaginian army started showing a comparatively high proportion of cavalry.
I'm wondering whether we can link the first appearance of Numidian cavalry in any numbers to Crimissus (which fits in with the date on the army list  8) )   
  • Jim Webster

Patrick Waterson

  • Administrator
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6902
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Pretty much everything to do with warfare, especially how military systems actually work.
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2017, 11:29:31 AM »
Let us see what we can do ...

What we have for the 341 BC listing is:

hippeis de kai harmata kai sunōridas ouk elattous tōn muriōn

My reading of this is:

cavalry (hippeis) and (de kai) chariots (harmata) and (kai) two-horse teams (sunōridas, which could just mean 'team' generally but usually signifies a pair) not less than (ouk elattous) ten thousand (tōn muriōn, literally 'a myriad')

This I would interpret as the cavalry plus the chariots equals at least ten thousand in total, but whether this is the total number of horses or of cavalry plus chariots plus horse teams (which could add up to the same amount) is unclear.

I think you would be justified in interpreting this as either:
1) More chariots than usual, or
2) More cavalry than usual.

In effect, Diodorus has the Carthaginian army consisting of 70,000 infantry and not less than 10,000 mounted troops.

Going back to XVI.67, we have:

harmata de triakosia, sunōridas de huper tas diskhilias

which we can recognise as 300 chariots, more than 2,000 'sunōridas' - and here the 'sunoridas', which  do not match up with the chariots, seem at a loose end and there is no mention of cavalry.  Care to guess that Diodorus might have put 'sunōridas' where he meant 'hippeis'?  That would give 300 chariots and 2,000 cavalry (or maybe even 4,000 cavalry if he was counting in pairs).

Returning to XVI.77, we come to guesswork time.

My guess is that the Carthaginians would not have undertaken an order of magnitude increase in chariot strength as of 341 BC: the armies for which we have figures fielded chariots in the hundred, and I suspect that in an era where the popularity of the chariot was on the wane Carthage would not undertake sudden mass production and field thousands of them, at least not without a very good reason.

Assuming the number of chariots was along the lines of previous armies, say a maximum of 500 and probably less than that, and allowing two or four horses for each chariot, and assuming Diodorus was counting horses rather than men (not necessarily a tenable assumption), we are left with a likely maximum of 2,000 chariot horses and hence at least 8,000 cavalry, which would be double the number known for any previous Carthaginian army.

I emphasise this is guesswork, but to me a doubling of cavalry numbers seems a more likely proposition than a tenfold increase in the number of chariots between 396 and 341 BC.  The problem area is the sunōridas, which a) imply two-horse teams whereas received opinion is that the Carthaginians were using four-horse chariots and b) may be wrongly used in the context of the 345 BC expedition, hippeis being intended instead.  This would give us a probable twofold increase in cavalry numbers as of 341 BC and hence perhaps an indication that Numidians were arriving on horseback - or at least with mounts.

That at least is my conjecture.  Of course, it could be that the Carthaginians in 345 BC stocked up on horse teams on the basis that not all of them would survive the crossing, but even so, as you observe, 2,000 pairs for 300 chariots seems a little excessive.

A final thought: Numidians may have taken more than one horse apiece.  Could Diodorus' sunōridas mean not chariot teams but rather Numidians, each with a pair of horses?  This might solve all our problems ...
  • Patrick Waterson
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." - Winston Churchill

Jim Webster

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 3742
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2017, 05:32:53 PM »
with regard pairs of Horses

Livy XXIII 29
[5] His cavalry he placed before the wings, attaching the Numidians to the Carthaginian infantry, and the rest to the Africans. Nor were all the Numidians placed in the right wing, but such as taking two horses each into the field are accustomed frequently to leap full armed, when the battle is at the hottest, from a tired horse upon a fresh one, after the manner of vaulters: such was their own agility, and so docile their breed of horses.

Carthaginian chariots had four horse teams, but it seems that Numidian light horse did work in two horse teams
  • Jim Webster

Patrick Waterson

  • Administrator
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6902
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Pretty much everything to do with warfare, especially how military systems actually work.
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2017, 09:28:48 PM »
Nicely spotted, Jim.

I am inclined to work on the assumption that in XVI.67 and XVI.77 Diodorus' use of sunōridas is referring to Numidian horse pairs and hence Numidian cavalry and not replacement chariot teams (his previous uses of the term - both of them - occur in a distinctly chariot context, which muddies the water a little).  Assuming he is using the term in the sense of 'pair' in XVI.67 and VI.77, we can tentatively start the appearance of Numidian cavalry in 345 BC as opposed to 341 BC - if the extra four years matter.

Livy's quote also indicates that not all Numidians had two pairs of horses, so those which had would presumably be distinguished in some way, and sunōridas - pairs - is probably the best way Diodorus found of doing so.  It would also explain why he groups the sunōridas with the other mounted.

Fingers crossed, we may have the solution. :)
  • Patrick Waterson
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." - Winston Churchill

Duncan Head

  • Former Officer
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3623
  • Country: england
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2017, 10:57:27 PM »
Carthaginian chariots had four horse teams, but it seems that Numidian light horse did work in two horse teams

There are scattered references to Hellenistic-era cavalry with two horses each - Livy 35.28.5 of the Tarantines is one of the best known, "et quos Tarentinos uocabant equites binos secum trahentes equos". And the Suda, entry iota.546:

Quote
Of cavalry one kind is simply so called, cavalrymen and the units mounted on horses; the other [is] aphippoi. And aphippoi [are] those who ride on two horses without saddles tied together; they leap from one to the other, when need summons.

(However the online Suda has a link to entry alpha.4621, which says that aphippoi means "without horses"; and I am sure that i have seen the two-horse word rendered as "amphippoi", which would seem more convincing.)

But it does always seem to be just these odd asides, nobody discusses the concept or the troops in any detail.
  • Duncan Head

Patrick Waterson

  • Administrator
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6902
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Pretty much everything to do with warfare, especially how military systems actually work.
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2017, 08:20:50 AM »
Well sourced, Duncan.

I agree that 'amphippoi' is probably what went in originally before the Suda copyists ended up with 'aphippoi'.

One wonders whether the Numidians learned the idea from the Tarentines or vice versa, or whether both arrived at it independently.  Tactically they seem to have been very similar, relying on close-range missile work and rapid movements.

Deviating slightly from the purpose of the thread, I could not help noticing in the Suda entry that 'akrobolistai' (sic - should be akrobalistai) is translated as 'far-slingers', whereas it is in fact users of the crossbow (cf. Latin arcubalista).  Note the likely similarity of use to the gastrophetes.
  • Patrick Waterson
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." - Winston Churchill

Duncan Head

  • Former Officer
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3623
  • Country: england
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2017, 09:14:11 AM »
Deviating slightly from the purpose of the thread, I could not help noticing in the Suda entry that 'akrobolistai' (sic - should be akrobalistai) is translated as 'far-slingers', whereas it is in fact users of the crossbow (cf. Latin arcubalista).  Note the likely similarity of use to the gastrophetes.

I think you're quite wrong here. Patrick; not had your morning coffee yet? Akrobolistai surely has nothing to do with arcubalista; the first element of the former is from Greek akros, "high" or "far", so "far-thrower" or "-shooter", and the LSJ entry suggests the word goes back to Herodotos, far too early for any crossbow connection. And although it seems ultimately to be from ballein with an alpha, the -o- spelling is common in the longer compounds. 

The latter word couples the originally Greek "ballista" with the Latin arcus, "bow" (one wonders if there were ever objections from linguistic purists, like those who considered "television" an unacceptable barbarism because it combined Latin and Greek roots) - it's a completely different derivation, and probably originates much later than the Hellenistic tactical manual tradition from which the Suda entry derives.  (And now I think of it, I've only seen "arcuballista" in Latin writers anyway; do the Greeks use it?)
  • Duncan Head

aligern

  • Committee Member
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2371
  • Country: gb
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2017, 09:54:30 AM »
Morning coffee?? I'd suggest that something stronger is needed before a tryst when Duncan might be in the lists and always enter late in the day so night can part the combatants if it prove necessary.:-))
Roy
  • Roy Boss

Andreas Johansson

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 2193
  • Country: se
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2017, 12:05:56 PM »
And although it seems ultimately to be from ballein with an alpha, the -o- spelling is common in the longer compounds. 
Using a different ablaut grade in derivation wouldn't be remarkable, cf e.g. the epithet Philopator from philos and pater.
  • Andreas Johansson
Lead Mountain 2019
Bought: 297 infantry, 50 cavalry, 20 chariots, 110 other
Finished: 48 infantry, 28 cavalry, 0 chariots, 25 other, 70 bases redone

RichT

  • Former Officer
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 917
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2017, 12:20:22 PM »
I believe arcuballista is first used in Latin by Vegetius, so pretty late, and not in Greek at all.

Akrobolistai of course in Asclepiodotus et al are missile-using cavalry.
  • Richard Taylor

Patrick Waterson

  • Administrator
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6902
  • Country: gb
  • Interests: Pretty much everything to do with warfare, especially how military systems actually work.
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2017, 09:38:09 PM »
Thank you, gentlemen, I shall assume it is a faux ami, then.

Are we reasonably happy with sunōridas in Diodorus XVI.67 and 77 designating Numidian horse-pairs?
  • Patrick Waterson
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened." - Winston Churchill

Duncan Head

  • Former Officer
  • Society Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3623
  • Country: england
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2017, 10:04:33 PM »
Are we reasonably happy with sunōridas in Diodorus XVI.67 and 77 designating Numidian horse-pairs?
Not especially. I suppose it's possible, but since our only mention of two-horse Numidians is almost a century and a half after the sunoridas listing, it seems to be a bit of a stretch.
  • Duncan Head

Jim Webster

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 3742
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2017, 10:34:32 PM »
it's difficult to think of any other use for two horse pairs. arguing that the Carthaginians moved to two horse chariots is probably a bigger jump
It could be that the Carthaginians supplied all their horsemen with a horse and a spare but for some reason Dio Sic only really mentions it at this point.

Typically it's the last time Dio Sic has to cover major Sicilian campaigns, as much of the third Sicilian war takes place in Africa, and then from book 21 and after we're largely left with fragments.
  • Jim Webster

evilgong

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 56
  • Interests: Persia
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2017, 11:00:01 PM »
The mentions of chariots and spare horses reminds me of Plato's description of the army of Atlantis where there is similar confusion about the spares.

Regards

David f Brown
  • David Brown

Jim Webster

  • Society Member
  • Posts: 3742
Re: Carthaginian cavalry
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2017, 11:15:01 PM »
The mentions of chariots and spare horses reminds me of Plato's description of the army of Atlantis where there is similar confusion about the spares.

Regards

David f Brown

As to the population, each of the lots in the plain had to find a leader for the men who were fit for military service, and the size of a lot was a square of ten stadia each way, and the total number of all the lots was sixty thousand. And of the inhabitants of the mountains and of the rest of the country there was also a vast multitude, which was distributed among the lots and had leaders assigned to them according to their districts and villages. The leader was required to furnish for the war the sixth portion of a war-chariot, so as to make up a total of ten thousand chariots; also two horses and riders for them, and a pair of chariot-horses without a seat, accompanied by a horseman who could fight on foot carrying a small shield, and having a charioteer who stood behind the man-at-arms to guide the two horses; also, he was bound to furnish two heavy armed soldiers, two slingers, three stone-shooters and three javelin-men, who were light-armed, and four sailors to make up the complement of twelve hundred ships.
http://www.activemind.com/Mysterious/topics/atlantis/critias_page7.html
  • Jim Webster