Monday, 14 November 2011

Hannibal in Bithynia and his Death

Hannibal's Death

The end of Hannibal is not glorious - but rather is a story of a man pursued implacably by the Roman state.

Hannibal's last years are spent selling his military services to increasingly unattractive (and unappreciative) rulers in the Near East.

After the defeat of Antiochus at Magnesia, Hannibal himself had anticipated that his surrender would be a clause of the peace treaty and had already abandoned his command and fled to the court of King Prusias I of Bithynia in northern Asia Minor. One story is that he fled via Crete. Either way, he eventually took refuge with Prusias, who at this time was engaged in warfare with Rome's ally, King Eumenes II of Pergamum.
Prusias had tried to increase his small territory by profiting from the war of Rhodes against Byzantium (220) and fought against Attalos I when he sided with Phrygia (207). As an ally of Philip V of Macedonia he was party to the peace of Phoinikê, when the Romans supported the kingdom of Pergamon against him.

Hannibal helped Prusias to fight against Eumenes II. In one of the victories he gained over Eumenes at sea, it is said that he used one of the first examples of biological warfare - he threw cauldrons of snakes into the enemy vessels.

The war became a stalemate, and both kings appealed to Rome, which in 183 sent T. Quinctius Flamininus to settle the war. Whether on instructions from the Senate or his own initiative, Flamininus demanded from Prusias the surrender of Hannibal.The year is uncertain but was probably 182 or 183. Seeking to avoid violating at least the letter of the law of hospitality, Prusias left it to the Romans to capture the Carthaginian themselves, and they surrounded his house (in the Bithynian village of Libyssa, near modern-day Gebze in Turkey). Discovering that every exit was guarded, Hannibal committed suicide by taking poison. 

At the end, according to Livy and Plutarch, he is supposed to have proclaimed “Let us relieve the Roman people of their long anxiety, since they find it tedious to wait for the death of an old man.”

Ironically, his old rival Scipio Africanus died in the same year, himself an exile from his mother city. And thirty-seven years later Carthage would follow its most famous son into extinction, also at the hands of Rome.

he chronicler Zonaras wrote "At this time [182/3 BC] also occurred the death of Hannibal. Envoys had been sent from Rome to Prusias, monarch of Bithynia, a part of whose errand was to get him to give up Hannibal, who was at his court. But Hannibal learned of this beforehand, and being unable to escape, committed suicide. An oracle had once announced to him that he should die in the Libyssan or Libyan land, and he was expecting to die in Libya, his native country; but, as it happened, his death occurred while he was staying in a certain place called Libyssa. Scipio Africanus also died at this time."

Tzetzes recorded (Chil. 1, 798-805): "He himself, Hannibal, died by drinking poison near Bithynia in a place called Libyssa by name, though he expected to die in his own Libyan land. For an oracle had once been written out for Hannibal to the following effect: "A Libyssan or Libyan clod shall hide the form of Hannibal." Later the Roman Emperor Severus, being of Libyan birth, placed in a tomb of white marble this man, the general Hannibal."

The ruins of Lybissia, aka Hannibal's Castle, located right across the bay from Karamursel Air Station. Hannibal is supposed to have killed himself here rather than let the Romans capture him. By permission, Bob Peterson, Quixote Graphic Images (spotted by Bruce Kilbourne)

Plutarch recorded (in the Life of Flamininus): "For Hannibal, having fled his country, first took sanctuary with Antiochus; but he having been glad to obtain a peace, after the battle in Phrygia, Hannibal was put to shift for himself, by a second flight, and, after wandering through many countries, fixed at length in Bithynia, proffering his service to king Prusias.

"Every one at Rome knew where he was, but looked upon him, now in his weakness and old age, with no sort of apprehension, as one whom fortune had quite cast off. Titus, however, coming thither as ambassador, though he was sent from the senate to Prusias upon another errand, yet, seeing Hannibal resident there, it stirred up resentment in him to find that he was yet alive. And though Prusias used much intercession and entreaties in favor of him, as his suppliant and familiar friend, Titus was not to be entreated. There was an ancient oracle, it seems, which prophesied thus of Hannibal's end: -- Libyssan shall Hannibal enclose. He interpreted this to be meant of the African Libya, and that he should be buried in Carthage; as if he might yet expect to return and end his life there. But there is a sandy place in Bithynia, bordering on the sea, and near it a little village called Libyssa.

"It was Hannibal's chance to be staying here, and having ever from the beginning had a distrust of the easiness and cowardice of Prusias, and a fear of the Romans, he had, long before, ordered seven underground passages to be dug from his house, leading from his lodging, and running a considerable distance in various opposite directions, all undiscernible from without. As soon, therefore, as he heard what Titus had ordered, he attempted to make his escape through these mines; but finding them beset with the king's guards, he resolved upon making away with himself.

"Some say that wrapping his upper garment about his neck, he commanded his servant to set his knee against his back, and not to cease twisting and pulling it, till he had completely strangled him. Others say, he drank bull's blood, after the example of Themistocles and Midas. Livy writes that he had poison in readiness, which he mixed for the purpose, and that taking the cup into his hand, "Let us ease," said he, "the Romans of their continual dread and care, who think it long and tedious to await the death of a hated old man. Yet Titus will not bear away a glorious victory, nor one worthy of those ancestors who sent to caution Pyrrhus, an enemy, and a conqueror too, against the poison prepared for him by traitors."

Hannibal's Mausoleum at Gebze

No comments:

Post a Comment