Twenty-two centuries ago there lived a man named Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca a Carthaginian. Hamilcar was a general in the Carthaginian military in the first Punic War. After the defeat of Carthage in the first Punic War, Hamilcar made Hannibal swear “eternal enmity” to Rome. In 228 b.c. Hasdrubal, Hannibal`s brother-in-law, succeeded Hamilcar and became commander.
This meant that not only was the leader of the military but also the political leader as well. In 221 b.c. Hasdrubal was assassinated and Hannibal became commander in Spain. Hannibal was only 25 years old when he was put in command of the Carthaginian armies and the Carthaginian government in Spain. Even at a young age he knew his responsibilities, so he kept his father’s plan of military conquest and his brother-in-law`s policy of strengthening Carthaginian power by democracy.
He married a Spanish princess and took hostages from the surrounding tribes to ensure their loyalty to him. As a result of this he expanded the Carthaginian power toward the Ebro river, which was the written northern boundary of Carthage by the Rome treaty of 226. Rome attacked Saguntum, a city close to but clearly on the Carthaginian side of the border. This provoked Hannibal to take back Saguntum. The romans considered this an act of war. So in 218 b.c. Rome declared war on Carthage. This begins the second Punic War. After hearing the declaration of war Hannibal immediately starts off towards Rome. The problem was he had to go by land because Rome controlled the seas. Hannibal takes an army of thirty-five to forty thousand men, some on foot and others on horse, along with fifty war elephants across the Pyrenees and the Alps in August of 218. Bad luck falls into Hannibal’s lap as early snows and landslides kill many of his men and almost all of his war elephants.
While traveling through the Alps he fights battles at Arausio and Genua, easily defeating the Roman warriors, although his troops are in horrible shape. He enters Italy with only twenty-six thousand men and five or six war elephants in September 218. Hannibal and his troops spent the winter in Po Valley. In the spring of 217 b.c. Hannibal was joined by the Gauls, northern Italians who were subdued into fighting the Romans. Now Hannibal had a sufficient army of infantry and cavalry. The hardened Carthaginian troops easily crushed the Roman armies in their way, but without siege equipment the Carthaginians could not destroy the Roman cities. So instead of trying to siege the city they simple killed the Roman soldiers and moved on. Sometimes the Romans would retreat into their city surrounded by high walls so that they would not die. In 217 Hannibal won a major battle at Lake Trasimene. Hannibal`s army along with the Gauls would roam the Italian countryside and destroy any opposing army. In 216 he defeated a huge Roman army at the city of Cannae in southwestern Italy.
At Cannae the Romans loss was much greater than that of Hannibal suffered. The Romans lost twenty-five thousand men and ten thousand were captured, on the other hand Hannibal only lost five thousand and seven hundred men. Hannibal, being a military genius, let the Romans advance at his main infantry, while his cavalry charged around the sides easily defeating two other groups of Roman infantry. Then after destroying the two side groups of Romans the cavalry swept around the back of the main Roman attack force. Hannibal used this strategy often because it worked so good. Even though he was killing Roman soldiers he was not destroying any cities.
Finally, to get Hannibal out of Italy, the Romans sent armies led by Scipio, a great Roman general, to attack carthage in Africa. Carthage ordered Hannibal to Africa to protect the city of Carthage. This was the clash of the titans, Hannibal vs. Scipio. They met at Zama, a city near Carthage. This would end up to be the final battle of the Second Punic War, and the great Hannibal would be the loser. Hannibal escaped but his army didn’t. After the war Carthage had to pay Rome a very large sum of money and agree to terms that they could only wage war in Africa, even then they had to have Rome’s permission. Hannibal returned to Carthage and became one of the two chief magistrates in 196. He then challenged the aristocrats of being corrupt, the aristocrats told Rome that Hannibal was planning another attack on Rome with Antiochus III of Syria. Rome, already very angered with Hannibal, deported Hannibal out of Carthage. So he traveled to Syria and was made a member of the Syrian court. He then remembered his father’s words and advised Antiochus III to declare war against Rome.
Antiochus III did wage war on Rome, the Syrian War, from 192 b.c. to 189 b.c. Syria was defeated and Hannibal left to become a member of the Prussian court. He then persuaded Prussia to go to war against Rome. Instead of directly attacking Rome, Prussia attacked Rome’s ally Pergamum. Rome came into the fight and demanded that Hannibal be handed over to them. Instead of being humiliated Hannibal took his own life in 182 b.c. Hannibal Barca, being eternal enemies with Rome, fulfilled his father’s words.
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