David vs. Goliath: Round Two of the Little Guy Triumphs

In the story of David vs. Goliath, the little guy wins. These events, as in part one, are battles or a series of battles in which a small army defeated a much larger one, often through smart strategy and wits, rather than firepower.

Dear gentle readers, thank you so very much for all of your suggestions on the first round of David vs. Goliath. Some of them hadn’t made the final round, but were in my notes, and some were new to me (and I love learning new things, and have a new interest in 17th century Poland!). We’ve taken your suggestions to create a part two to David vs. Goliath, and were excited to see so very much discussion on part one. I’d like to note that we skipped the Battle of Britain here, simply because this site has a recent article.


Battle of Cannae

The Battle of Cannae took place on August 2, 216 BCE during the Second Punic War, between the Romans and Hannibal’s forces from Carthage. The battle took place in Apulia, in the southeastern part of modern-day Italy.

During the Second Punic War, Hannibal had made quick gains as he moved across the Pyrenees and Alps with his forces. The Roman response was an attempt to cut off his supply lines; however, Hannibal was able to use this time to regroup effectively.  The Roman Senate responded by increasing the size of the Roman army to combat Hannibal and his forces. The Roman forces may have numbered as many as 86,000 individuals; however, estimates vary widely. It is, however, certain, that the Romans had amassed a massive force. Hannibal’s forces likely numbered around 40,000 to 50,000, drawn from a wide range of sources, with different weapons and skills.

In the spring of 216 BCE, Hannibal seized a supply depot at Cannae, limiting Roman access to supplies needed by the Roman army. In addition, Hannibal’s army was well-supplied, and had competent, skilled generals in command. As the Romans approached to regain control of Cannae, there were two Roman generals present; Varro and Paulus. Varro was overconfident, and Paulus more cautious.

Varro planned his army’s attack. He opted for a traditional Roman plan, with some increased depth; the infantry was in the center of the formation and the cavalry to either side. Varro believed he would force Hannibal and his troops back to the Aufidus River. Hannibal, on the other hand, was prepared to use the versatile skills of his forces.

During the course of the battle, Hannibal’s forces first eliminated the Roman cavalry, then by gradually retreating encircled the Roman infantry. Written sources vary on how many Romans were killed; however, later Romans widely accepted a figure of roughly 50,000 Roman deaths and 8,000 Carthagian deaths.

After the victory at Cannae, much of southern Italy allied with Hannibal. Hannibal offered peace terms to the Roman Senate; however, they were refused. The battle led to a significant change in the structure of the Roman army, but was also the first use of the brilliant double envelopment tactic in battle.