Logistics: Alexander the Great vs. Hannibal

Two armies stand, weapons ready. The generals, Alexander the Great and Hannibal, make the war cry. The armies rush forth, weapons clashing against shields, men falling to the ground bloodied and broken. When the dust has settled, only one army can still stand. The question is, which one?

One Will Stand, One Will Fall

Hannibal and Alexander the Great were two of the greatest generals to ever pick up weapons. Furthermore, these men had great generals beneath them and well-trained armies that were more than capable warriors of their specific times.

The outcome, of course, relies on many variables. While both men were excellent warriors in their own rights, Hannibal was more of a warrior whereas Alexander was more of a born politician. Both were tactical geniuses, but the edge would go to Hannibal on a toe to toe battle.


Alexander’s greatest weapon during his conquests was the use of the phalanx formation. This formation involved the front line of soldiers being armed with 12-foot long spears which would form a nearly impenetrable wall for anyone attacking from the front of the line. While attacking soldiers were dealing with the intimidating front line of the phalanx, the soldiers behind the spear wall were virtually invisible and could rain death down upon their enemies with their ranged weapons almost at surprise.

The weakness of the phalanx formation is that it tends to leave the rear of the formation unprotected. Hannibal, being the greater of the two tacticians, would likely pick up on this fact quite quickly. It would be most likely that he would send a small force to the front of the line to distract the soldiers while a second force circled around to take out the phalanx either front the sides or from behind.

This speaks nothing of Hannibal’s predilection to use war-trained elephants during his campaigns. The phalanx would be much less effective against these monstrous beasts, but the rear or sides of the formations would be even more vulnerable, lacking even the meager protection the phalanx would provide the front lines.

That is not to say that Alexander the Great was a slouch in the tactics department. Alexander, however, tended to be more honorable and disciplined than Hannibal, who had a vicious brutality in his combat style that had the Romans in absolute fear of him during his heyday (plus you cannot deny his logistics were better.

Does Alexander Stand Any Chance?

If Alexander was able to learn of Hannibal’s tactics, or foresee them, it would not be a difficult job to modify his own tactics to provide protection to the sides and rear of his formations. This would significantly reduce the effectiveness of Hannibal’s tactic, but would require Alexander to be able to guess that Hannibal would pull that trick. How might Alexander know this? Supposing the two generals existed at the same time, perhaps some mercenaries that had faced Hannibal at some point and lived to tell about it would join up with Alexander and clue him in to the brutality of Hannibal’s tactics.

Also, Hannibal had war elephants.

Article written by Jet Russell. Jet finds ancient greek mythology to be very interesting, as well as acutaly ancient history. These are two people that Jet has studied and is amazed by.