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Monday, 25 May 2015



Hannibal Barca was born in 247 BC in Carthage, North Africa. His name was derived from Jehovah’s Old Testament rival god, Baal.

Hannibal's father, Hamilcar Barca, was a Carthaginian General who established a Carthaginian empire in Spain. He died in battle and Hannibal inherited from his father an aversion for Rome.

At the age of 8, Hannibal's father made him swear to always hate Rome on the family altar. A year later he was accompanying his father on the Carthaginian expedition to conquer Spain.


From his boyhood, Hannibal was trained as a soldier.

Hannibal served between 229-222 under his brother-in-law, Hasdrubal in Spain.

Following the assassination of Hasdrubal in 221,. Hannibal was elected at the age of 26 Commander-in Chief of the Carthaginian army.

The Second Punic War between Carthage and the Roman Republic broke out in 218. Hannibal marched an his army of 38,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry over the Pyrenees and the Alps into Italy.

Hannibal's army also included 38 elephants. It was not unusual to use elephants in war in Hannibal's day. The big charging jumbos frightened the enemy and their height allowed the archers to survey the whole battlefield. In addition they were relatively speedy with a maximum speed of 18 mph and only needed around five gallons of water per mile.

On Hannibal's way through the Alps, his passage was constantly blocked by immovable rocks. The Carthaginian commander resorted to pouring vinegar into the cracks of the rocks which were then heated up with blazing logs underneath. The boulders crumbled into fragments, allowing a zig zag descent.

It took Hannibal and his army 15 days to cross the Alps, battling storms, snow and barbarians.

After crossing the Alps, Hannibal's  army swept through North Italy  winning three dramatic victories—Trebia, Trasimene, and Cannae. The Carthaginian commander distinguished himself for his ability to determine his and his opponent's strengths and weaknesses, and to play the battle to his strengths and the enemy's weaknesses—and won over many allies of Rome.

The Death of Aemilius Paullus by John Trumbull, 1773

On one occasion, Hannibal fooled his opponents at night-time by tying torches to the horns of a herd of cattle. The Romans mistakenly thought it was Hannibal's army,  but the North Africans were advancing in a different direction

The Roman General Quintus Fabius used defensive delaying tactics against Hannibal, attempting to avoid pitched battles. In fact he was nicknamed "The Delayer" back home.

Hannibal occupied much of Italy for 15 years, but a Roman counter-invasion of North Africa forced him to return to Carthage, where he was decisively defeated by Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama on October 19, 202 BC.

The Battle of Zama by Henri-Paul Motte, 1890
Hannibal caused great distress to many in Roman society. Hannibal became such a figure of terror that whenever disaster struck, the Roman senators would exclaim "Hannibal ante portas" ("Hannibal is at the gates!") to express their fear or anxiety.

The Romans built statues of Hannibal in Rome itself to advertise their defeat of such a worthy adversary.


Hannibal was described as very dark skinned, with black, kinky hair and beard. He would have looked similar to modern Tunisians or Sicilians, who are descended from the Phoenicians.

Statue of Hannibal by Sébastien Slodtz, 1704, Louvre

On becoming Commander-in Chief of Carthage, Hannibal married a Spanish princess, Imilce.

Hannibal was virtuous all the way through North Italy but when he got to the luxurious city of Capua in Italy, where he spent inter the good life got to him and his campaign started becoming less effective.


After the Second Punic War ended in 201, Hannibal successfully ran for the office of suffete (a civil magistrate) As suffete he was able to overthrow the power of the oligarchic governing faction at Carthage and bring about certain administrative and constitutional changes.

Hannibal's reforms were unpopular with members of the Carthaginian aristocracy and in Rome, and he fled into voluntary exile in 195. During this time, he lived at the Seleucid court, where he acted as military adviser to Antiochus III in his war against Rome.

The precise year of Hannibal's death is unknown (it was approximately 182 BC). He died in the Bithynian village of Libyssa on the eastern shore of the Sea of Marmara. Hannibal took poison, which, it was said, he had long carried about with him in a ring, knowing that he was about to be handed over to Rome.

Before dying, Hannibal left behind a letter declaring, "Let us relieve the Romans from the anxiety they have so long experienced, since they think it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man's death."

Source Enyclopedia Britannica

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