Monday, November 12, 2012

Hannibal of Carthage

In 247 BCE, the year before the start of the 1st Punic War a son was born to Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, the proud father named his young boy...Hannibal.  In the wake of Carthages' loss to Rome in the 1st Punic War, Hamilcar with his young son, set the ground work preparing for the next war by establishing Carthaginian control over much of the rich province of Spain. At the age of twenty-six,  Hannibal took control of the Carthagian forces in Spain and readied for war with Rome. In 219 BCE, he judged the time was ripe and lured the Romans into war by attacking and looting one of their client city states-Saguntum. The decisive conflict between Roma and Carthage for supremacy of the Mediterranean had begun-the 2nd Punic War.

From 218-209 BCE, Hannibal's brilliant tactics out maneuvered the Romans and brought the Republic nearly to its knees.  His passage through the Alps and massive defeats of the famed Roman Legions at the battles of  Trebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannea (where the Roman Army of over 85,000 was virtually annihilated) are still studied by historians and military experts today.  Yet with all his victories the Romans continued to thwart Hannibal's goal of total victory.  New armies were raised, improved tactic were installed (including the "Fabian Strategy" where attrition not pitched battles wore the forces of the enemy down), better generals were chosen and the war was taken to the shores of Africa by the Romans.

In his last great battle, at Zama in 202 BCE, Hannibal was finally defeated by a Roman General, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. Forced to abandon the Carthage he loved, Hannibal fled to the perceived safety of the Eastern Kingdoms, but the long arm of Rome followed him and circa 183 BCE, one of the greatest military leaders in history died by his own hands rather than be taken prisoner by his hated enemies the Romans.  He had failed to save Carthage (which would be totally destroyed by Rome in 146 BCE), but through his greatness he earned immortality for himself and the memory of his once great nation.

No comments:

Post a Comment