Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Battle of the river Ticinus, November 218 BC

Cornelius Mattens - The Battle of Ticino
After Hannibal crossed the Alps he recruited amongst the Gauls in north Italy and soon advanced south, towards the waiting Roman army led by Scipio (the father of Africanus)and Lucius Manlius.

Hannibal arrives in Italy (218 BC)

{short description of image} Hannibal caught the Romans on the wrong foot by eluding their forces in France and by emerging  so quickly from the Alps, in about October 218 BC.

Hannibal Crosses the Alps (218 BC)

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The Crossing of the Alps
A. Charpentier, 1905
Some details of Hannibal's famous crossing of the Alps have been preserved, although the actual route is not entirely clear.

Hannibal's Crossing of the Rhône and March into Gaul (218 BC)

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Crossing the Rhône
After marching across northern Spain, Hannibal then crossed the Pyrenees into Transalpine Gaul, where his army met with stiff resistance from the Pyrennean tribes. This opposition and the desertion of some of his Spanish troops greatly diminished his numbers, but he reached the Rhône River with but little resistance from the tribes of southern Gaul.
Along the way, Hannibal recruited reinforcements from the warlike Celtic tribes who hated Rome. (see Gaul before the Romans)

The Romans, shortly before they heard of this, had decided on war. Hannibal's offensive move meant that they had to mobilise quickly to meet the threat.

Hannibal Crosses the Ebro (218 BC)

The first stage of the invasion of Italy was to cross the Ebro river, leaving Carthaginian territory in Spain.

This was the last time Hannibal would see Spain, the country where he grew up.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Hannibal's Brother Mago (243 - 203 BC)

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Mago (probably)
The Barca brothers were a formidable team. Mago (also written as Magon) was the younger brother, the third son of Hamilcar. He  played a major part in the Second Punic War in Italy and Spain and took the war to the Balearic Islands.

Rome Wins at Sea - Gaius Duilius and the 'Crow'

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The 'corvus' or crow
Before the First Punic War Rome was a land power only. The expansion of Rome's ambitions to Sicily revealed to them the importance of sea power in building up an overseas empire.

Gaius Duilius was the first of all Roman leaders to receive a triumph for a naval victory, won over the Carthaginians during the First Punic War (264–241).

Crossing the Alps - Hannibal and the Allobroges 218 BC

Hannibal vs. Allobroges

The first reference to the Allobroge tribe of Gaul is made by the Greek historian, Polybius, who described Hannibal's crossing of the Alps in 218 BC.  They were one of the richest and most powerful nations of Gaul. Because of their territory, among the most extensive in south-eastern Gaul, they controlled part of the Rhône Valley, and were situated at the point where all the roads across the Alps arrived.

The Allobroges attempted to prevent  Hannibal from crossing when he entered the first passes. But they were not successful.

Elephants, Hannibal and the Metellus Family

Silver Denarius with Elephants
drawing a chariot.
Minted in Rome  - circa 125 B.C.
The coin shown was minted around 125 BC by the Metellus family to commemorate a triumph at Panormus (now Palermo, Sicily) in 251 BC, during the First Punic War by the then consul Lucius Caecilius Metellus. Metellus decisively defeated the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal by panicking the enemy's elephants (as Scipio later did at Zama). The elephants which he took in this battle were exhibited in his triumph at Rome - the first time elephants had appeared in a triumph. Thereafter the image of an elephant frequently appeared on coins issued by the Metellus family.

Other members of the Metellus family figured in the story of Hannibal and his family.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Hannibal, Capua and Spartacus

The entry of Hannibal in Capua
 (engraving from the XVII century)
After Hannibal's crushing victory at Cannae (in 216BC), the city of Capua made a major strategic decision and allied itself with Hannibal and opened its gates to his army. This was one of Hannibal's greatest political successes and he probably assumed that other cities would ally themselves with him against Rome.

It was not to be and the 'soft living' available in Capua may have diverted the almost unstoppable military momentum that Hannibal had built up.

There was also a heavy price to pay when Capua was subsequently recaptured by the Romans.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Carthage and the fall of Gaius Gracchus (122-121 BC)

Gracchus addressing the Concilium Plebis

There is one further historical footnote to the destruction of Carthage by Rome - by the adoptive grandson of Scipio Africanus - and it involves another of the Scipio clan, Gaius Gracchus, the son of Africanus' daughter, Cornelia.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Scipio Family Tree

The Scipio family figures large in the story of Hannibal, with Scipio Africanus being perhaps the best known of them. Senior members of the family were the first to counter-attack the Barcas in Spain; Scipio's father was injured at the battle of Ticinus (and was rescued by his son) but then killed in Spain (alongside Africanus' uncle); his father-in-law fell at Cannae. Finally, an adopted member of the Scipio family led the final destruction of Carthage.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Roman Rivalries: Cato versus Scipio Africanus

The conflict between Cato the Elder and Scipio Africanus  provides a continuing tension to the politics of Rome before and after the Second Punic War (the Hannibalic War). Even at the height of the war, this rivalry was bitterly contested.

The end of this war appears to mark a transition from the "pre-Hannibalic War" style of politics - in which the Republican constitution functioned successfully - to a "post-Hannibalic War" style of politics - which exhibited many of the trends that undermined the stability of the Roman constitution and led, ultimately, to the collapse of the Republic and its replacement by an autocratic empire.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The War Elephant

Elephants in battle
War elephants were important, although not widespread, weapons in ancient military history. Their main use was in charges, to trample the enemy and/or break their ranks. War elephants were exclusively male animals, as they are faster and more aggressive.

War elephants were so important that they were frequently portrayed on

Portraits of Hannibal

Coin attributed to Hannibal

The problem is that we don't have any portrait that definitely depicts Hannibal.

The Battle of Zama - According to the BBC!

Clip from a cheesy BBC drama charting the rise and fall of Hannibal, the Carthage Warrior. Here we see how Scipio, his Roman nemesis, used Hannibal's own tactics to destroy the Carthaginian army at Zama.

Hannibal's Tactics at Zama (202 BC)

The disposition of troops at Zama
Although he was defeated at Zama, the battle shows some indications of Hannibal's tactical genius.

Hannibal could not do what he had done before, but if he had been able to force Scipio into a set battle shortly after he arrived, he would have held the cards because Scipio had practically no cavalry. But his astute opponent knew this, and after Carthage reneged on a peace with the arrival of Hannibal, Scipio's strategic move of laying waste to the hinterland of the Bagradas Valley, which also closed the gap between him  and Massinissa, was brilliantly implemented; Carthage's vital lifeline was assaulted, and Hannibal was compelled to march west before he wanted to.

The Battle of Zama: Scipio defeats Hannibal (202 BC)

The Zama Tapestry, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, Spain
The Battle of Zama, in what is now Tunisia, resulted in the defeat of Hannibal and Carthage and marked the end of the Second Punic War.

Hannibal was defeated by Scipio (later 'Africanus'), who had learnt Hannibal's tactics.

Hannibal Prepares for the Invasion of Italy (218 BC)

Hannibal's Route to the Alps
Hannibal began his assault on Rome with the capture of Saguntum after an eight month siege in 218 BC. He was only around 25 years old.

As he expected, this forced the hand of Carthage and triggered off the series of events that started the Second Punic War. 

The Siege of Saguntum (218/9 BC) - Polybius vs. Livy

The battle of Saguntum as told by Polybius and Livy gives two separate accounts of the same battle and the events leading up to it. Livy's account of the siege take up the better part of two pages. Polybius' account of the war is a much more condensed overview of what he considers to be its high points, told in two paragraphs.

The most significant force shaping these two authors is most likely the nationalities of the two men. The differences in the styles and facts between these two stories are extensive. While neither side fully identifies with Carthage, one author definitely gives a more well-rounded and evenly-balanced account. The two histories differ not only in facts about the battle, but also in the events leading up to the battle as well as how Hannibal is depicted.

Hannibal's Attack on Saguntum - by Livy (218/9 BC)

Livy relates the terrible story of the attack and conquest of Saguntum by Hannibal (Livy XX1 21.7-15 ).

Hannibal Attacks Saguntum (218/9 BC)

The ruins of Saguntum
Hannibal's attach on Saguntum triggered the Second Punic War.

More than twenty years had elapsed since the termination of the First Punic War (264-241), during which period the Carthaginians had recovered their strength, and had obtained possession of the greater part of Spain; and now a favourable opportunity had arrived for renewing the war with the Romans.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Marcellus and the Death of Archimedes

The Death of Archimedes

Avoiding a direct clash with Hannibal in Italy, Rome moved a force to Sicily. The results were mixed. Although the campaign was successful, there was a particularly two sad event - the murder of Archimedes.

Roman Expansion After the Second Punic War

After the Second Punic War, Rome chose to intervene in Macedonia, Greece and Asia Minor.

Rome had begun to create borders abroad that served its interests by being ill-defined -- borders that kept various powers at odds with each other and wanting to maintain Rome's favour.

The Alps - Elephant Free!

No comment!

On Hannibal's Trail - The Wood Brothers TV Series

Watch the BBC series in which three Australian brothers - Danny, Ben and Sam Wood - set out cycling on the trail of Hannibal, the warrior who marched from Spain to Rome at the head of an invading army.

See the episode guide here and list of clips here.

Destruction of Carthage - Regional Background

Roman Territories After the Third Punic War
The final destruction of Carthage took place at a time of unrest throughout Hispanina, Macedonia and Greece - and unrivalled expansion of Rome.

211: Nearly The End of Rome?

Rome's San Sebastian Gate
During the war with Hannibal, the year 211 BC saw Rome's darkest hour.  Hannibal, victorious and seemingly unstoppable was only thirty miles from Rome.

Roman women appealed to the gods by sweeping the floors of their temples with their hair.

Rome: The Home Front After Hannibal

Pompeii Fresco - Venus and Mars

After the war against Hannibal, overseas wars continued and life in Rome for most people was not at all luxurious - or even comfortable.

Although some Romans became wealthy, most were poor and unable to find work.

Summary of Petrarch's Africa, Books 6-8

Francesco Petrarca aka Petrarch

Petrarch is perhaps not the most reliable source for Hannibal's era - given the long passage of time - but he certainly adds some colourful detail.
This helpful summary of Petrarch's Africa, Books 6-8 is by Timothy Moore of the University of Texas.

Summary of Livy Books 26-30

Livy is one of the major historical sources for the detail of Hannibal's life.

This helpful summary of Books 26-30 of Livy's History of Rome is by Timothy Moore of the University of Texas, taken from his course - Hannibal: Hero or Monster?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Portus Hannibalis

Location of the Arade River

A commercial port Portus Hannibalis was identified in Algarve only by Pomponius Mela: "In Cuneo sunt, Myrtili, Balsa, Ossonoba; in Sacro Lacobriga, et Portus Hannibalis; in Magno, Ebora". (De Chorographia, 3,1,7,)

The location of the original site is unclear.

Although the port may have played a part in the conquest of southern Hispania by the Barca clan, it is likely that the port was founded well before the time of Hannibal Barca; Hannibal was - after all- a common Carthaginian name.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Hannibal ad Portas!

This is a Latin saying, which means 'Hannibal is at the door'.

The fear of Hannibal became so great that it was said Roman parents would use it as a way to threaten their misbehaving children. If a child was bad, the parent would tell them that Hannibal was coming for them - the modern equivalent is the 'bogeyman'.

The Character of Hannibal

Hannibal was certainly aggressive, clever and persistent but what more do we know about his character?

Who better than Polybius, who actually spoke to people who knew Hannibal well.

Hannibal and the Second Punic War: An Overview

Hannibal's War was the Second Punic War - a war he sought with Rome - to the general dismay and disapproval of Carthage. This was had its roots in the First Punic War, and in particular the hatred of Hannibal's father for Rome, resulting from his defeat in Sicily during that war.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Hannibal's Father: Hamilcar Barca (~ 290 to winter 229/228 BC)

Hamilcar was the father of Hannibal and probably a member of the Carthaginian high aristocracy. The name might also be spelled Barcas or Barak, meaning 'lightning' - a reference to fast movements as a military commander.

Hannibal's Wife

Imilce? at Baeza

Livy reports that Hannibal had a Spanish wife, Imilce .

He may also have had a son, although this may be just literary speculation.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Scipio Africanus in Asia

Signet ring bearing the image of Scipio
Scipio Africanus was the only Roman general to defeat Hannibal in a major battle (Zama in North Africa) - but his military exploits - and his obsession with Hannibal - did not end there. When Hannibal fled to the court of Antiochus III of Syria (in 195BC), Scipio pursued him.

In 190 Scipio was sent as legate to his brother Lucius, who was consul in command of the Roman army in the war against Antiochus III of Syria (supported by Hannibal). In fact, Scipio had engineered the election of both Lucius and Gaius Laelius in order to ensure for himself the effective command.

Battle of Magnesia (190 BC)

Asia Minor
The battle of Magnesia was a major turning point for Rome - which established its power in Asia for the first time - and also for Hannibal, who lost the last trappings of his reputation as an unbeatable commander. In fact, although Hannibal was present (on the side of Antiochus III, to whose court he had fled in 195BC) there is no indication that Hannibal played a major role in the battle.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Carthaginians in the New World?

World map according to ideas by Posidonius (150-130 B.C.),
interpreted in 1628
(The following is based on Roy Decker's 1999 article of the same name)

Phoenicians and later Carthaginians were known as the most able and adventurous seamen of the ancient world.

Carthage was the pre-eminent sea power in the western Mediterranean, up to the disastrous wars with Rome.

There is some evidence that the extent of their ancient sea journeys may have been under-estimated.

Carthage's Culture - Phoenician and Punic

In comparison with the extent of its power and influence, the artistic and intellectual legacy of the Phoenecians and Carthage seems to be relatively small.

Carthage carried Phoenician culture throughout North Africa, Spain and the Mediterranean. Following the determined destruction of Carthage by Rome, much of the architecture and cultural artifacts have been lost, but Carthaginian and Phoenician culture still survives in the form of its art and its alphabet.

The history of Carthage was written by her enemies, who painted them as evil avaricious greedy people, more concerned with money and deceit than honor. Almost nothing remains of their literature and culture, though it is known that some must have been of high quality. 

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Why Did Rome Win?

Looking back over the long history of conflict between Carthage and Rome, what can we say about the reasons for the eventual victory of Rome and the Roman system?

Hannibal's Use of Espionage

As well as being the sole commander of the Carthaginian forces and its allies he was also its chief of intelligence - although no ancient James Bond.

Rome soon learned how effective advance intelligence could be in the hands of a skilled opponent such as Hannibal.

Hannibal's Route Across the Alps

Hannibal's most famous exploit was to cross the Alps with elephants, to invade Rome.

The route that Hannibal took across the Alps is unclear from the historical account. However, a well-argued case can be made for the most likely route. This route was first identified by Peter Connolly in his book Hannibal and the Enemies of Rome (1978 London) and the justification for the choice of route is described in more detail in an excellent article by Jona Lendering - some of which is used (with permission) below.

Freud and Hannibal

Perhaps surprisingly, the story of Hannibal had a great impact on Freud, the father of psychoanalysis.