So, I have recently re-watched the DW episode “Hannibal vs. Genghis Khan”. What conclusions watching this episode have come forth to me?
Firstly, the weapons. Genghis Khan’s weapons were all cavalry weapons – the recurved bow, the jida lance, the Turko-Mongol saber. Each of them is at its most efficient when used on a horse, especially the saber, as the show’s tests have demonstrated. When used as a foot weapon, the saber lost to Hannibal’s shorter falcata; on the horseback test, the saber was the better weapon. The bow can be used on foot (the bow is a very versatile weapon on its own), but the lance? Forget it. A lance is a cavalry weapon and DW’s staff did not even try to use it on foot-based test. It was horseback through and through.
While Genghis Khan’s weapons were adapted to cavalry fighting, Hannibal’s were of a more mixed variety. The falcata, as already mentioned, was better adapted for fighting on foot rather than on a horse, while the war elephant is the war elephant, and the soliferum is a giant dart or a javelin rather than a spear.
To elaborate. During his lifetime, Hannibal often sought to win his battles using super-weapons of his time, such as the war elephants (and later on – catapulted clay pots filled with snakes). Those super-weapons were of a relative effectiveness, and in fact, when you look at the battle of Cannae, Hannibal won those without the use of elephants or any other specialized weapons. Clearly, he has been doing something wrong, and that is why Rome defeated Hannibal and his forces in the end.
As for the soliferum, it is an effective weapon, but it is more like the atlatl or the sling when compared to the bow and arrow – it is second-rate. Sure, it can still kill people, but bowmen do it better. Is it a deadlier weapon than Genghis Khan’s jida lance, though? The show reasons that since the lance is a single-shot weapon while the soliferum is not (a single soldier took several of them into battle), it is. Fair enough.
Regardless, the soliferum’s efficiency doesn’t change the fact that in this episode Hannibal was represented by a second-rate cavalry weapon, a first-rate foot weapon, and a super-weapon that just didn’t live to its promise (as the Punic wars went on, the Romans got Hannibal’s war elephants to turn on his own forces every while). This is very different from Genghis Khan’s kit, which is composed of three weapons that really do complement each other.
In turn, this reflects the actual forces of Genghis Khan and Hannibal (do not forget – they were not just warriors, but also leaders of armies). Genghis Khan’s forces may have utilized pieces of foreign technology, especially military technology, but the soldiers in his Horde were overwhelmingly his countrymen – the Turko-Mongols from the plains of Mongolia. This makes Genghis Khan almost like Hitler, except that he did not have any of that Aryan philosophy (really, the Mongols are basically like the anti-Aryans) and his officers were competent (unlike Himmler or Goering), so his Horde worked.
On the other hand, Hannibal’s forces were a bag of races – a fact that is realized even by professional historians, including the military historians, of the modern times. There were Spaniards, Gauls, natives of the Balearic Islands, Africans, etc, all of whom specialized in their own ethnic weapons. Hannibal’s army was thus more of a horde than Genghis Khan’s forces were...but were remarkably like Napoleon’s, who, when he invaded Russia, numbered soldiers from all over Europe, and all of whom had their own culture and language.
Was Napoleon more successful than Hannibal was, though? After all, Napoleon was an emperor, while Hannibal was not. But building an empire was not Hannibal’s goal at all – it was to destroy Rome, neither more nor less. Was this goal unrealistic? Hard to say, but Hannibal failed at it just as spectacularly as Napoleon did in his – building an empire.
And it is trivial, really, but Hannibal was defeated by the Romans, while Napoleon – by the Russians, who at one point in their history openly believed their domain to be the third Rome after the real deal and the Byzantine Empire. Coincidence?
Maybe not. Maybe it was a simple matter of overextending their resources. Unlike Napoleon and Hitler Genghis Khan’s Turko-Mongols have all but said “Enough” during their initial conquering, and stopped. Sure, there was plenty of warfare in their history afterwards, but never on the scale done in Genghis Khan’s lifestyle. Foolish? Perhaps, but it gave the Turko-Mongols time to assimilate what they have conquered and build-up their numbers, something that neither Napoleon nor Hitler appeared to have realized as they marched upon Russia – they just wasted their troops, confident that their more sophisticated military technology will give them the edge.
It was the same thing was Hannibal, really. True, he did not build an empire, but he tried to build an anti-Rome alliance in Italy (without much success), and he was wasteful of his troops: half of his entire forces died during the infamous march through the Alps, complete with the war elephants. Hannibal was a man of war, but he was no leader of men – unlike Genghis Khan.
Back to DW. How does the data described above fit into the show. Easy. Genghis Khan had the better weapons that complimented each other better than Hannibal’s did. Genghis Khan was also a better general than Hannibal was, and he did have a better armor, made of steel rather than bronze and brass than Hannibal had, since Genghis Khan lived at a later age, when steel was more widespread than in Hannibal’s time. Put it all together, and you have Genghis Khan – a better warrior than Hannibal was, diet differences be damned.