Hannibal Essay, Research Paper
Hannibal was great Carthaginian general. He is remembered for his great tactical skills on the battle field and as a great military leader. Born in late 247 BC, was the eldest son of Hamilcar Barca. In 237 BC, Hamilcar took his nine year old son, Hannibal, to the alter of a Carthaginian god and made him swear eternal hatred to the Romans. Hannibal and his father then left for Spain. The center of Carthaginian power in Spain was the city of New Carthage. Hannibal saw firsthand his father’s techniques for war (Green, 9).
When Hamilcar died in battle in 230 BC, his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, became the military leader as well as the political leader and continued Carthage’s influence in Spain. In 226 BC Hasdrubal signed a treaty with the Romans. The treaty stated that neither army could cross the Ebro River in northern Spain (Charles-Picard, 11).
When Hasdrubal was killed in 221 BC, the Carthaginians unanimously elected twenty-six-year-old Hannibal to be the leader in Carthaginian government and commander of the army in Spain. Hannibal married a Spanish princess and conquer the surrounding land and took hostages from the surrounding tribes to insure their loyalty to him without crossing the Ebro River, except for the city of Saguntum, an ally of Rome. When Saguntum began trouble between Carthage and Rome in 219 BC, Hannibal raided the city. This began the Second Punic War (George, 88). 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 began a long and dangerous journey across the Pyrenees and the Alps in August of 218, with battle elephants marching at the front of his army (Green, 21).
In the spring of 218 BC, Hannibal handed over command of the Spanish armies to his brother Hasdrubal. He then led his troops north toward the Pyrenees Mountains and began one of the most famous journeys in history (Green, 24). Hannibal’s army included Libyans and Numidians from North Africa, Iberians and Celtiberians from Spain, and Gauls from Spain, France, and Italy. There were thirty-five thousand foot soldiers, twelve thousand horsemen, and fifty war elephants. Hannibal used the elephants to break infantry lines and to create fear and disorder. The elephants also frightened horses, so they were able to disrupt the enemy’s cavalry (Green, 25). In the Pyrenees, Hannibal encountered resistance from local tribes. He lost a lot of his men to fighting, and some of the mercenaries went home because they were scared of the long journey. With all this, Hannibal continued to move as quickly as possible, but bad luck fell into Hannibal’s lap as early snows and landslides kill many of his men and almost all of his war elephants (Green, 27).
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 BC When news of Hannibal’s army reached Rome, the Gauls of northern Italy revolted. They joined Hannibal in fighting the Romans. Now Hannibal had a sufficient army of infantry and cavalry. The Romans had plans to attack Carthage and New Carthage, but they had to be delayed because of the rebelling tribes in Italy and the approach of Hannibal. So the Romans sent troops under the command of Publius Cornelius Scipio, to stop Hannibal at Massilia (Lancel, 21).
Massilia is on the French coast where the Rhone River runs into the Mediterranean Sea. The Rhone is a wide river with a swift current, so it was a great obstacle to Hannibal. Scipio’s troops set up camp by the sea, thinking that Hannibal would reach Massilia in the near future. But he did not realize how fast Hannibal was moving his troops (Lancel, 26).
When Scipio received news of Hannibal, it was too late. Hannibal had moved his entire army across the Rhone, fifty miles north of Massilia (Lancel, 29).
Although Hannibal’s army had been reduced to twenty-six thousand infantry, nine thousand horses, and five or six elephants, it was a great accomplishment to get across the Rhone. To transport the elephants, the men built rafts (Green, 31). When the Alps came into view, Hannibal allowed his army a few days to rest, because he knew that his army had doubts about crossing the Alps. Never before had elephants crossed the Alps. The army did not reach the Alps until late in the year, and many troops and horses were killed. Some troops who came from warmer climates died from the cold. Some troops died of hunger because food was short to come by. Others died in fights with mountain tribes. Some of the mountain tribes rolled big stones down the mountains and caused men and animals to fall from the narrow mountain passage (Green, 33). When Hannibal reached the Italian side of the Alps, he had lost nearly half of his soldiers and a third of his horses, but there is no record of him losing any elephants. The news ran throughout Italy: Hannibal has crossed the Alps! (Green, 35).
With the Alps behind him, he set out to conquer the Romans. He could not hope for the surrender of Rome unless he defeated the Roman army. 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. Hannibal would win, beginning with a battle at Cannae, in southwestern Italy, in 216 BC 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 (Charles-Picard, 31). He won the battle of Cannae because of his smart thinking and planing. He knew the weaknesses of the Roman generals and used it to his advantage, by outflanking their army.
Scipio’s troops had gone on to Spain. When he got back to Italy from Massilia, he took command of the Roman forces that had been sent north and went out to meet Hannibal. Hannibal was eager to face the Roman forces, because he needed to know how many there were and what sort of man was in command (Green, 40). The first battle between the two forces occurred when Hannibal’s horsemen met the advancing Romans at the Ticinus River. The Romans retreated, but not before Scipio was wounded (Green, 41).
The Roman general Tiberius Sempronius Longus arrived with reinforcements from Sicily. But Longus and Scipio disagreed on how to handle Hannibal. In December of 218 BC Hannibal lured Longus into a trap at the Trebia River. Longus took all of the Roman horsemen and legions. The Carthaginians destroyed about three-quarters of the Roman army (Green, 45).
Hannibals impact was so great that the Romans were driven at times to desperate measures, the appointment of dictators and human sacrifices to appease gods. (Great Lives from History, 883). Winter weather stopped the advance of Hannibal. Most of his men and animals had died. By spring, only one elephant was alive (Lancel, 51). Hannibal had to fight in two other battles before he could get close to Rome. But he did not attack Rome. He did not have enough men or supplies to attack. So Hannibal went and stayed in Italy until 203 BC(Green, 55).
The armies of Hannibal and Scipio met one more time near the city of Zama in 202 BC The two armies had set up camp across from one another. Hannibal and Scipio rode out on horseback to meet each other on the battlefield (Green, 56). On the day of battle, Hannibal placed eighty elephants in front of his infantry. The elephants were not done with their training, and the Romans used trumpet blasts and shouts to confuse them. Hannibal had suffered his first and last defeat. With it came the end of Carthaginian influence around the Mediterranean and the end of the Second Punic War (Green, 58).
In 183 BC, the Romans heard that Hannibal had gained control of an army. They demanded that Hannibal should be turned over to them. Roman troops surrounded Hannibal’s house. When they crashed into his house, Hannibal was dead on the floor. He had drank a cup of poison (Green, 61).
Today s politics, culture, and languages would be different if Hannibal had conquered Rome. Carthage might have ruled the world and change the way of architecture that we use today. Europe would have a large amount of Carthaginian ancestry, so the influence of their different clothes and different gods would be much greater. The government would not have been led be leaders elected by the people, but by the wealthy families. Most languages in Europe would be a dialect of Carthage and the people, would have different accents. A holiday for Hannibal would be celebrated for his great victory that kept the people from becoming Romans. Hannibal was important in history because of his military expertise. Although he had learned many of his tactics from his father and Alexander the Great, he will always be known for his maneuvers in battle. He will also be remembered for being the first person to cross the Alps with elephants.