History Blog

History Blog: Hannibal (247 - 183 BC)

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INTRODUCTION: What can we say about him? The "thunderlight" (This was the meaning of his surname) of Carthago, one of the greatest general of the history, and the last man who tried to stop the rise of Rome .His victorys, Tesino, Trebia, Trasimeno, Cannae still today have an enormous legend. I`ll try to make a work about his live.

HIS YOUNG TIMES: He borned in 247 BC in the city of Carthago, This city one time has been the queen of West Mediterrane, but the things had changed, because a young Republic called Rome had beaten them recently.

He was borned in one of the most important families of the city, the Barcas. His father, Almilcar Barca, has been the only Carthago's general never defeated by the romans and after the war he becomes the "Sufetta" of Carthago, the leader of the city (Like roman Consuls) , and tried to repair the war devastations in the city.

But early began the problems. Carthago has lost almost all his money and couldn`t pay to his mercenaryes, so they got rebel, they almost destroyed Carthago, only the incredible military talent of Almilcar couls at last defeat them. But the Romans used the Carthago weak to broke the peace and conquer Sardinia. This action shows to Almilcar the ambition and evil of Rome and swear himself to destroy Rome.

But to do it he needs money, and armys. So he decided to began the conquest of Hispania(Spain) a land rich in silver and Gold, so he went to Gades(Cadiz), when he makes his older son Hannibal to swear in Melkart temple "Eternal hate to the romans" and "that he`ll not stop until destroy them". Also he remember him that he was from Carthago and he always must go to help Carthago.

Then Almilcar began a quick conquest of South East Hispania, but he died in a little battle against one hispania town rebel(Helike)in 229 BC.

This young days were really important to Hannibal, first of all they shown him the ambition of Roma and that they would not stop until they conquer Carthago. In this times also Hannibal had the fortune of learning the art of war from the best general of his times, his father. To Almilcar it`s one of this strangest situation in which a great man fall in forgotten because his son surpass absolutely him (It`s the same situation of Philipo-Alexander or Pipino-Charlemagne)

The next years Carthago Hispania was ruled by Almilcar political son Asdrubal, who built Cartago Nova in 227 BC, their capital in Hispania, In this times Hannibal, although he was 17 to 24 years only, was the commander of the punic cavalary. In 226 BC Asdrubal signed a peace with Rome in which he promised that Punic armys will not cross the Iberia river (Modern Segura), this peace was for Hannibal another sign of the ambitions of Rome, who didn’t allow to Carthago to continue his expansion in his own lands of Hispania.

But in 221 BC Asdrubal was murdered and the things changes.

HANNIBAL'S PLAN: After Asdrbal`s dead Hannibal took the lead of Carthago army in Spania, he spent one year making the peace in his lands and after it began his great project.

Hannibal`s plans were easy, instead suffer a Roman army in Africa , he`ll send a Carthago army to Italy. One time there he `ll give the freedom to italic people, destroying roman confederation. His plans wasn`t to make an Carthagian Empire, he only wanted to destroy roman power allowing so to Mediterraneans countries to survive. For making this plan come true he created a perfect mercenary army, which uses the Phalanx weapons to his heavy infantry, he also used Honderos from Baleares that send stone with more aim and more letal that archers arrows, but the jewel of the crown was his cavalry, he used Numidian equestrians and he armored them as heavy cavalry, a weapon that romans had`t seen never before; this cavalary was trained to fit as well upside the horse and in the floor were they become a phalanx army, this cavalary became the hammer that would hit the romans in the anvil that was his phalanx.

His first step was to cross the River Iber (Modern River Segura , in Spain) and attack the city of Sagunto, that was ally of Rome.The siege was really hard and they were months there, from this siege Hannibal realised fom one thing, that he had needed months to conquer a medium town like Sagunto, he`ll never been able of conquer Rome without a siegecraft that he hadn`t, and that he couldn`t do because he wants to move as quicksilver and so he couldn`t carry a complete siegecraft with him, this must be sended later by Carthago by sea.

During the siege of this city, arrives an roman embassy, Hannibal insulted them, and send them to Carthago, where the Senade of Carthago decided to began the war, because they didn`t want to leave Spain and their rich silver mines as romans ordered.

After the fall of Sagunto in later 219 Hannibal went quickly to Gades (Cadiz) to made a sacrifice to his god Melkart, then he went out from Cartago Nova to North and left Hispania, he had more or less 40,000 infantry men and 10,000 of cavalry and a little elephants group , the romans when knew it got stranged and sent one army to destroy him in Rhone river , but Hannibal moved such quick than when roman army arrives he had crosses the river , how din`t found him the romans decided to come back Italy and wait him untill Spring, because they thinked that he couldn`t cross the alps in Winter, but…

HANNIBAL AD PORTAS (Hannibal at the gates): Hannibal ever moves more quickly than romans can imagine and so they were astonished when they realised that Hannibal had crossed the Alps in Winter and that he had arrived to Galia Cisalpina (Po valley).

The cross of the Alps was , as all the road to Italy , really hard he had to figth against cold, snow, heigth and Alpins tribes, but he finally had crossed Alps pening a new Road to cross them (Montgeneve one) that romans would use for centurys.

In the road of Italy he had lost around a half of his original army, but he wasn`t worried about it, he had plans to made an alliance with Gauls of Po valley that had been conquered only a couple of years before.

The first fight with romans happened in Tesino were a little cavalry Roman army commandeed by Publius Cornelius Scypio (father) suddenly found the Punic Army; the army that they think were still in the other side of Alps, Roman army surpassed in number is easily defeated, the roman general was injured and only survived thanks to his son , also named Publius Cornelius Scypio, that saved him, this man the son of roman general with time would be the saver of Rome.

Romans quickly when see that his enemy it`s in italy move their north army against him, the Cónsul, Tiberio Sempronio Longo moves his army and find Hannibal near the river Trebia, romans are sure of defeat him, they had more men and Roman Legions had been invincible for centuries and almost ever had defeated Punic armys (They forgot Almicar`s victorys).

The battle (218)was a complete punic victory; Hannibal Army was in the other side of river Trebia, upside a hill: romans began to cross the river and when a half of roman army had crossed it were attacked by Hannibal's soldiers that were hidden behind a little forest near the river, the army upside the hill come down ; and the rest of Roman army in the other side of the river was attacked by punic cavalry that had been hidden behind a hill until this moment, roman army has anhilated and punics had only a few casualties.

After this victory all Cisalpine Galia got in rebellion and Hannibal could recover all the casualtys he had in the road Italy, also Hannibal leave freedom to all the Italic prisioners he said them that his war it`s only against Rome, not against Italy and in this way he wants that Italic rebells against Rome

After it he takes some time to rest his army and the in 217 he begans his way to south, they crossed the Arno`s Swamps were Hannibal lost one eye, after cross it he continue the road to Rome waiting the moment in which Romans would send other army aginst him.

Romans had built a new army and had sent it North, the commander of theis army it`s Caio Flaminius Lomginius the man who conquered Galia Cisalpina years ago, this army was discovered by Hannibal`s explorers and Hannibal made an ambush to it.

In Lake Trasimenus(217) the road go near a precipice near the lake and rounded by hills; Hannibal hide his army behind the hills; when roman army was inside the road he sent his cavalry to close both sides of the way and he mades his men attack hill down; the romans wasn`t in battle order and hadn`t time and space to take it; they were annihilated almost all soldiers died (general too).

In this moment began the terror in Rome, they choosed one Dictator (A Roman instituition for crisis times) to rule them, this dictator was Quintus Fabius Maximus, a member of the most important and ancient Rome family; he decided that if Hannibal was invencible in battlefield they would not give battle to Hannibal; they would make him weaker slowy, man by man; this strategy was correct and made Hannibal suffer a lot; he was losing men and without a big victory Italians would never rebell against Rome.

CANNAE: But fortunately for Hannibal the time for a dictator in Rome constitution was only six months and after it were elections in Rome (216); in which were elected Consuls Lucio Emilio Paulo and Marco Terencio Varron.

Both consuls (especially second one) wanted to defeat Hannibal inmediatly and so began to build the bigger army than Rome had ever (and would ever) seen; 80,000 infantery and 10,000 cavalry soldiers; in the other side Hannibal only had 40,000 inf. and 10,000 cav.

Hannibal had choosed for the battle a land perfect for romans, a big plainin Cannae (216) and he had behind his positions one river so he couldn`t run away; the reason for this is that he realise that romans were such afraid from him that only would figth against him in a land that was absolutely perfect for romans.

Romas when saw this thinked that Hannibal had become crazy, he wanted to figth against an roman army bigger , better equiped in a land perfect for romans.

The consul that leads the army this day , Emilio Paulo got afraid of Hannibal and decided not to figth this day; but the next day the lead was in hands of Varron who decided to figth inmediatly.

Hannibal battle order was a line a little circled to front, he began the battle making his cavalry go away; the roman thinked they run away afraid of roman army and send his cavalry against them both dispear in the horizont; the Hannibal order fire to his onderos that began to hit romans; to avoid it Varron order to his army to charge against enemys; the distance betwen army was big and this way romans were really tired when arrive to punic lines. But romans were still many more and pushed, pushed slowy Hannibal's center began to retrogress; romans though that punic line was goning to break and continue pushing; they didnt realise that Punic wings didn`t go back and that the center was retrogressing in perfect formation, slowy all the roman army get inside the "bag " that punics were making and when all romans get inside they close it… Punics wing go ahead and Punic cavalry come back after defeat easely roman one closing the bag. There were such many romans inside that they coulden`t move, they couldn`t fight the only could die and they died; around 80.000 roman soldiers died this day both Consuls included (Emilio in the battle, Varron run away but suicided later) in the other side only 5.000 Punic soldiers died. In opinion of many people this battle it`s the greatest victory of all history and show that Hannibal it`s the best general.

After the battle hannibal was the owner of Italy many Citys change from Roman side to Carthago one one of thisiare Capua The 2nd City of Italy, Siracusa the gretest city of Sicily, Tarentum , Macedonia makes an alliance with Cathago…, Rome hadn`t more soldiers; many people thinked that in this moment Hannibal must have went for Rome, even his cavalry general Maharbal thougth this, he show it in his famous sentence "Hannibal you know to win battles but you don`t know how to use it".

But in the other side we can say many things that made this conquer impossible; first of all he hadn`t siegecraft and a navy both needed to made the siege of Rome, he asked for it to Carthago but his mother city used his war efforts in other sides more important for punic economy Spain and Sicily they also were afraid of Hannibal power, Carthago Senate didn`t want a too strong Hannibal that would rule them. Hannibal also had other problems his army was tired , they coulden`t figth without a big rest.

And the biggest problem the iron will of romans; never romans were bigger than in this dark moment of defeat; they never thinked of surrend, they didn`t listen the peace Hannibal offered them, quickly they rise new legions legions of old and young people, legions of slaves that become citzens to figth for his country and they sent these legions to Spain, Sicily, Macedonia not against Hannibal, never would figth against Hannibal in Italy again; this way Hannibal couldn`t had reinforcements, romans would made a guerrilla warfare against him and this way they would slowy made weaker.

Also we saw how strong was the roman control of Italy because although Romans defeats most of Italy remains loyal to Rome; and this point it`s the biggest harm to Hannibal plans

THE WAR IN SPAIN : Since 217 BC Romans had a little base in North Spain in Ampurias form which they fougth against Hannibal`s brothers (Magon and Asdrubal) who rules Hispania, this roman army it`s ruled by Publius and Gneo Cornelius Scypio and at the beggining they had some victorys over the north punic spanish armys, but in 211 roman army suffer a completely defeat in which deads both generals and almost all the roman army it`s destroyed.

But in 210 Bc the son of Publius Cornelius Scypio also named this name it`s send to Hispania, and in this men suvivor of Cannae the romans are going to found their great general, in a thunder movement he conquer Punic Capital in Hispania Carthago Nova that was without guards Asdrubal moves quickly North to defeat this new roman army but suffer a complete defeat in Baecula (209). Scypio begans to gain land to Carthago quickly.

In 207 Asdrubal left Hispania with an army, his brother Hannibal need reinforcements, and he repeats the same way to Italy that his brother used years ago; with this movement In Hispania not remains almost any Punic army and Scypio becomes the lord of it. He defeats in Ilipa (206) to the last punic armys in Spain .

Magon still rules in Baleares were he made a little army with which go Italy were survive for three years untill be defeat an died; in all this time he couldn`t made the union with Hannibal`s army.

THE END OF THE WAR: After Cannae Hannibal begans to be in a difficoult situation, romans never give him a battle but slowy began to conquer the citys allied with him and kill his men.

One by one his citys allied fall : Tarentum ( 208), Siracusa (212), Capua (211)… when he went to break one siege romans run away but when he went other place were it`s needed romans come back.

He even tried to attack Rome when Capua and Tarento was sieged, he thinked that romans would send all army to save Rome , but Rome armys didn`t move they continue the sieges leaving Rome to the defend of their walls showing again the iraon will of Romans.

In 207 he tried to made the Union with the armys of his brother Asdrubal that had just arrive to Italy, but romans captired the man who carry the message of the meet point; so Hannibal didn`t know were it`s gong to be his brother and the romans know it; they united all their forces and defeated and killed asdrubal in Metauro (207)

When Hannibal knew this he saw that he would not have more reinforcements and retreated to the Brucio in South Italy were he remains untill 203 still invencible, still without the oportunity of figth battles against romans who were afraid of them.

Finally in 204 BC Scypio rise an army to attack Africa ; although the Senate afraid of his rise power didn`t give him an army the people of Rome , who loved him as hero went voluntary to his army; he invade Africa an inmediatly won a great diplomatic victory; the numidians allieds of Carthago changes from side; and his King Massinisa made an alliance with Rome giving her his wonderful cavalry.

Carthago saw heer defeated and ask for peace; but in secret asked to Hannibal to come back home and when he arrives home in 203BC with his last 10.000 men , Carthago rise quickly an army and broke the peace negotations:

In Zama (202) both armys fought for the final battle of the war, both armys had around 40.000 infantery soldiers although romans thanks to his new alliance with Numidians had several more cavalry soldiers. Hannibal army it`s bad and newbie except his Italy campaignes veterans; but he hopes that his war elephants would break enemy lines:

Battle began with an elephant attack but Scypio anticipated it and had give to his army instructions of open rads for them; by this roads opened in roman lines crossed the elephants without danger for romans; then both cavalry go away to figth inside the desert; and both infantery armys attack each other ; first roman (astarii) line defeat the first newbies soldiers punic line but was defeated by second punic line; the second roman line (principii) crossed second punic line but was destroyed by the Veterans Italians soldiers of third (and last) punic line; the last roman line, the triarii, fougth against Hannibals veterans and seems that the battle would finish in a tie, but in this moment Roman Numidian cavalry after defeat punic one come back and broke the third punic line; after this Hannibal saw the battle lost and retreat to Carthago were he ask for the peace conditions.

THE PEACE: The peace was signed in 201 BC.Peace conditions were hard, many romans wanted to see Cathago destroyed, but thanks to Scypio (now knew as Africanus thanks to his victory) mercy, Carthago could survive; They could govern his Carthago city and the land that sourrond it, but they lost all theyr colony lands in Hispania and North Africa, theey must destroy his fleet, made his army really small and they couldn`t made war without Roman allow; Carthago must also must pay an enormus war indemization.

In this dark times Hannibal , who has como back to the city he left 34 before, takes the rule of Carthago(From 201 untill 195 BC), he become "Suffet" and uses all his talen in peace instead of war. He did a great job, Carthago paid the imdemnization really quickly and Carthago become rich again.

This made the romans to get a little afraid again, they still hated Hannibal and with the alliance of his enemys in Carthago Senate, the mede that Hannibal was declaimed rebell in 195 BC he had to run away.

HIS LAST DAYS: Hannibal run away to the ancient Carthago metropoli, Tyre, this city was in lads of Antioco III Empire, this king that was enemy of romans ask to Hannibal to go to his palace, but Antioco III to pride and selfconfident didn`t listen to Hannibal advices and it`s absolutely defeated by romans in Magnesia (189) after it Antioco had couldn`t figth gainst romans wishes and so he said to Hannibal to run away because in peace with romans they ordered him to give Hannibal to romans and he couldn`t protect Hannibal more.

In the next years Hannibal run away by East Mediterranean sea Creta, Armenia ( were he designed Armenian new Capital Artaxata)etc.. are his home, finally he arrives to Bitinia(186) here he made that Bitinia won a battle against Pergamus (A roman ally), after this Romans discover that Hannibal was in Bitinia, they send one ship to capture him, Bitinia couldn`t disobey Rome and allow them to capture hannibal, but he commit himself suicide before fall in Roman hands, this happens in 183 BC 33 years later of his big victory in Cannae and 20 after his defeat in Zama, romans never forgotten the victories he won against them. His own city, Carthago , would only survive a few years more, untill 146 BC

He was the only men who defeats romans easily and many times from centuries before him and centurys later him, he was the men that won the most genial world history batlle (Cannae), he was the man that the invincible roman were more afraid in all their two thousands history and those are some of the reasons because of several people think he was the greatest general in world history.
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