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Many ancient battles were merely a test to see who could muster a bigger army. If you had a bigger army, you generally won the battle, but Hannibal changed that. He is known as the "Father of Strategy" for a reason.

Many historians argue over the number of troops that Hannibal started off with. Some believe he marched on Rome with about 60,000 infantry, cavalry, and elephants. Others argue it was more in the 40,000 range. Whatever the number, against the Romans, he was almost always on the short end of the stick in terms of numbers. He exited the Alps short on men by about half, but after many small victories over the Romans, many territories and provinces sided with Hannibal, giving him additional troops. This was Hannibals strategy from the begining. He figured that many provinces would side with him and Carthage after winning battles; he just underestimated how many would turn, and that in turn might have cost him the war.

Hannibal left Cartagena with a fighting force consisting of Spainards, Libyans and Iberians. He also had a contingent of elephants with him that probably numbered about 40.