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Hannibal

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

B. C. 247-183

DEFEATED, BUT UNCONQUERED

Hannibal, son of Hamilcar, and hero of the second Punic War, was unquestionably one of the ablest military organizers and greatest tacticians of ancient times, and one of the foremost in the world's history. For fifteen years he menaced the Roman Empire, and ravaged Italy from its most northern provinces to the southern extremities, during which his progress was marked by a series of victories in battle seldom equaled and never excelled by any warrior, ancient or modern.

From childhood on for half a century he held firmly to a vengeful purpose against the enemies of his land. He defeated the greatest armies of Rome and outgeneraled her most brilliant commanders, this, too, largely with troops recruited in a hostile country, and mercenaries who often could not be depended upon. His efforts ceased only with death. In the career of Hannibal, the genius and power of Carthage, blazed into a flame that lasted throughout his life and then expired with him. He died as he had lived, defiant, unconquered, and unyielding. Fearing the ingratitude of his own countrymen, hunted and persecuted by the Romans, who feared him even after the nations were at peace, he became a voluntary exile and finally, when about to be surrendered into the power of his enemies by a cowardly ruler, chose death at his own hands rather than yield to the ignominy and humiliation of captivity.

The first Punic War had stripped Carthage of one of her richest colonies, Sicily, and laid the conquered State under a burdensome tribute to the victors. Then Sardinia was wrested from her. It was a bitter blow to the Carthaginian patriots, although a large and powerful party, consisting of the aristocratic and mercantile classes, cared little about these losses, except as they affected trade or reduced the revenues of the wealthy. To these classes it meant a considerable pecuniary loss, for the Sardinian and Sicilian commerce was highly lucrative. Notwithstanding this, they were opposed to another war, whereas the popular and patriotic party felt keenly the loss of the National prestige and the diminution of the ancient power of Carthage.

To this party belonged Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal, and he trained and taught his son, along the lines deeply graven in his own life, hatred of Rome. This was the predominating spirit of the patriot party, of which Hamilcar was a leader, and it became the animating motive of his son.

After the first Punic War Hamilcar had undertaken several expeditions against the rebellious African tributaries of Carthage, and Roman suspicion had become lulled. But Hamilcar had not forgotten his hate nor abandoned his determination to avenge the wrongs of his country. By political intrigue, at which he was a master, he secured the supreme command of the Carthaginian troops for the purpose of a war with the Libyans, and made preparations for the great enterprise of conquering Spain.

At this time Hannibal, who was born, according to the generally accepted authorities, in 247 B. C., was nine years old. Even at this tender age he seemed to realize the destiny that awaited him. He begged his father to be allowed to accompany him to the war. The request was granted, but first the parent took pains to instil into the mind of the child the antagonism of his own nature toward Rome. He caused the boy to take a vow of eternal hatred to the Roman name. Hannibal never forgot the oath of his boyhood. It clung to him through youth and manhood, and years after he had become a homeless wanderer and the cause of Carthage had been lost forever, it continued to be the animating motive of his life.

According to the most authentic record, Hamilcar started from Carthage in the spring of 236 B. C., apparently with the intention of attacking the Libyans. As he proceeded along the coast with his army his son-in-law, Hasdrubal, who commanded the fleet, followed with his ships close to the shore. The next thing the Carthaginians heard of Hamilcar was that he had crossed to Spain with the aid of the fleet and secured a foothold there for his army.

For nine years Hamilcar toiled at the gigantic task he had imposed upon himself and then fell in battle. During eight succeeding years Hasdrubal, to whom the supreme command had fallen, continued the fighting, the cajoling of Celtic chiefs and the formation of alliances which Hamilcar had begun, and among other achievements founded Carthagena, or New Carthage, on a fine harbor on the southern coast.

The complaints of the Conservatives at home were stilled by the results of this activity, for the trade that had been lost in Sardinia and Sicily was, to a large extent, being replaced through Hamilcar's enterprise in the colonization of Spain. Wealth once more flowed into the coffers of the Carthaginian Treasury, and even the Senate willingly accepted the situation.

In 220 B. C., according to the chronology of Mommsen, Hasdrubal fell by the hand of a Celtic assassin. The army as well as the people of Carthage called Hannibal to take the command. According to R. Boswell Smith, he was at this time in his twenty-sixth year, or twenty-five years of age. On this point Smith is quoted by Larned in his "History for Ready Reference." Dr. Thomas Arnold also gives his age as twenty-five, and this seems to accord best with Hannibal's own statement of his age when he took the oath against Rome, and with the periods that followed, but Mommsen says he was in his twenty-ninth year, or twenty-eight years of age. The young commander was a thorough warrior, trained to arms through all his life. His earliest recollections were of the camp, the battle and the siege. He had been present when his father fell. His associates from childhood had been warriors. He had already commanded cavalry under Hasdrubal and had shown unmistakable talents for leader-ship. He was a skilled horseman, an expert swordsman, and excelled in those feats of physical daring that always excite the admiration of men. His mind was amply endowed with all the cunning and craft of the Orient, and in addition to this he was an accomplished Greek scholar, so that even the learned men of the period whose historical criticisms of him are adverse, found something to admire in him.

As soon as he was appointed to the command of the army Hannibal determined to lose no time in striking at his hereditary enemy, the Romans. His difficulty was to find a pretext. In Carthage the peace party had gained ascendency. The Romans in spite of the menace which the expanding power of Carthage in Spain contained, made no move which would give him cause to attack them. He resolved upon a cunning plan to bring about hostilities.

The town of Saguntum in Spain, originally a Greek colony, but now tributary to Rome, he selected as the means of provoking the Romans into action. He harassed the territory of the Saguntines and shamefully encroached upon their rights, but instead of making any show of resistance they only complained to Rome and the Romans in turn despatched a commission to Carthage protesting against Hannibal's action. Having thus far been disappointed in his efforts to induce the Romans to 'declare war, Hannibal falsely reported that the Saguntines were responsible for the trouble, and without waiting for further instructions he began the siege of Saguntum. The town held out for eight months, and when it fell Hannibal had carried out the initial step in his great design against Rome.

At last the Romans were aroused. An embassy was sent to Carthage with the demand that Hannibal be surrendered to them. But the crafty commander had foreseen this very move and had already taken steps to outwit them. He had judiciously sent to Carthage the rich spoils of Saguntum, and its distribution among the people had won favor for the daring General and kindled popular pride in his exploits. The demands of Rome were peremptorily refused.

Then followed a scene thrilling in its intensity and important in its consequences. The Roman embassy was headed by the proud Quintus Fabius. Livy, the Latin historian, tells us that in response to the curt refusal of the Carthaginians, Fabius gathered the folds of his toga about him and spoke in solemn tones : "Here I carry peace and war; say, ye men of Carthage, which you chose." "Give us which ye will," replied the Carthaginians. "Then we give you war," and Fabius spread out his toga. "We accept it, and will support it with the same spirit with which we have accepted it," haughtily replied the Carthaginians.

War had at last been declared. Hannibal's great desire had been gratified. In his prowess as a warrior he had gained his first great victory in the fall of Saguntum, while the Roman declaration of war was a triumph of his intellectual cunning.

After the fall of Saguntum Hannibal retired to Cartagena to pass the winter and reorganize his forces for the attack on Italy. He had about 120,000 infantry, 16,000 cavalry, and 58 elephants. On the sea were 50 quinqueremes. His army consisted of mercenaries, Libyans, and Spanish Celts. As Commander-in-Chief of the Carthaginian armies in Africa as well as Europe he had to pro-vide for the safety of the capital and, moreover, must pre-serve the Carthaginian Empire in Spain. When he had detached a sufficient number of troops for these purposes he had remaining about 90,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry, and 37 elephants.

In the spring of 218 B. C., Hannibal had completed every preparation and was ready to move. He made an address to his troops. With perfect frankness he stated to the common soldiers the purposes of his project. He pointed out the peril of Roman aggressiveness and in-flamed their hearts with the hatred Which he himself bore toward the enemy. No body of troops was ever more eager to follow its leader than were the soldiers of Hannibal after listening to this address.

While Hannibal was acting with decision the Romans apparently were doing nothing. Until he marched into Italy they did not appear to realize the extent of the action which Fabius had precipitated. They raised armies, but moved them slowly, and the advantages gained by Hannibal through this fact were great. Tiberius Sempronius Longus commanded one of the consular armies which was to be sent to Sicily and Africa, while Publius Cornelius Scipio headed another which was to operate against Hannibal in Spain. Before Scipio was fairly ready, Hannibal was already out of Spain and well on his way to Italy. The Carthaginian General encountered resistance on the Ebro and sacrificed a quarter of his army in reaching the Pyrenees. Here he detached a part of his troops, which had become dissatisfied, and with 50,000 veteran infantry and 9,000 cavalry, he ascended the mountains and began to make his way through the Celtic territory, some of the inhabitants of which he had previously induced to make common cause with him against the Romans.

The army of Scipio was now at Massilia, a five days' march distant, and that General sent word to the Celts to hold Hannibal in check until he could arrive. But the movements of Hannibal were too rapid. The Carthaginians had no boats, but all the craft on the Rhone in that vicinity were bought up and rafts were made out of felled trees to carry the army over. While this was being done a strong detachment was dispatched two days' march up stream to outflank the Gauls. Three days later the army of Hannibal began to cross the river. The Gauls assembled for resistance, but immediately the cry was started that their camp was in flames and on turning about they were taken in flank by the detachment previously sent out and completely routed. When Scipio, who had been holding councils of war, learned what had happened, he started for the locality of Avignon, but arrived too late. Hannibal had cleverly outgeneraled him and Scipio returned to Massilia in disgust. Here he divided his army, sending part into Spain and leading part to Pisa in order to intercept Hannibal in Cisalpine Gaul. It was not the intention of the wary Hannibal to attack Rome directly, but to gain a thorough foothold in Italy that would serve him as a base of operations. After crossing the Rhone, he took up his march toward the Alps. There has been a dispute among historians in regard to which route Hannibal took in crossing the mountains, but Leighton, Mommsen, and the more modern students of history agree that the army used the pass of the Little St. Bernard. The passage of the Alps proved a terrible experience for the Carthaginian army. The season was well advanced. The summits of the passes were covered with snow. The paths were continually blocked by avalanches. The half famished elephants struggled desperately along the icy trails and became a hindrance. Horses and riders frequently disappeared over the edges of precipices and were dashed to death in the chasms. To add to all of these natural disadvantages and difficulties of the passage the army was continually harassed by hostile tribes, which threatened to throw the column into helpless confusion. The suffering of the African soldiers in this frigid climate was terrible, and resulted in disease and death to many.

At the pass over the first range of the Alps the Allobroges in force were waiting for Hannibal, but he had been warned and waited until night, when he seized the pass by a quick move and dispersed the enemy. At the second wall an attempt was made to destroy the Carthaginians by treachery. Hannibal suspected that the protestations of friendship and the effusive welcome accorded him were false, and sent his baggage ahead, thus saving it from falling into the hands of the enemy, and giving his men more freedom to repel the attacks made upon them. The descent was almost as perilous as the upward march had been. It was necessary to cut and build roads through the fields of ice in order to make any progress. After fifteen days of the greatest hardship, during which 50,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry had been reduced to 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry, the heroic army at last was enabled to go into camp on Italian soil among friendly people, who hailed the Carthaginians as deliverers. In the entire valley of the upper Po the tribe of the Taurini alone opposed Hannibal but he quickly brought them to terms.

Scipio now hastened to take command of the army in northern Italy. Advancing up the left bank of the Po his cavalry encountered the Carthaginian cavalry near the confluence of the Ticinus. The battle, the first in the second Punic war resulted in a rout for the Romans, Scipio him-self being among the severely wounded. The Romans now retreated to Placentia and Scipio's force was joined by that under Sempronius. The hostile forces were here separated by the Trebia, a southern affluent of the Po. In numbers the Romans were far superior to the forces of Hannibal, having 40,000 troops, but the latter by his skilful strategy, drew the enemy across the river and in a tremendous battle gained a decided victory. The remnants of the Roman forces retreated to Placentia, the Gauls joined the victorious army and the northern part of Italy was practically in Hannibal's control.

For the next campaign four new legions were raised by the Romans and placed under the command of Servilius and Flaminius, consuls for the year 217 B. C. Once again Hannibal demonstrated his great ability as a strategist. By rapid marches he crossed the Apennines and his army after enduring great suffering in the low grounds along the Arno where the soldiers were compelled to wade in swamps up to their shoulders and where Hannibal himself suffered the loss of an eye from opthalmia, he marched past the camp of Flaminius at Arretium and at Lake Trasimenus prepared an ambuscade that nearly resulted in the annihilation of the consul's army. Part of the Carthaginian forces had been posted on the heights of a narrow defile while the remainder waited in the bottom for the appearance of the Romans. They unsuspectedly followed the Carthaginians into the gorge and as the rear guard entered the defile Hannibal gave the signal to attack. Pressed on all sides and from above the Romans became panic stricken and were literally cut to pieces. Fifteen thousand were killed and as many were taken prisoners. Flaminius was among the slain. Hannibal dismissed the Roman allies without ransom in the hope of gaining their friendship. By this victory Etruria was won and the path-way opened to Rome, but Hannibal knew too well the temper of the Roman people to commit the blunder of an immediate assault on the imperial city. He crossed the Apennines toward the Adriatic hoping for the dissolution of the Roman federation and the enlisting of the local communities in his cause. In this hope he was doomed to disappointment.

Thoroughly aroused and alarmed the Romans now appointed to the post of Dictator, Quintus Fabius Maximums, an old and conservative aristocrat, who became famous principally on account of the policy of delay which he pursued. Fabius had four new legions and with these he set out to follow Hannibal. He was determined, how-ever, not to invite the fate of Flaminius by risking a battle and in spite of Hannibal's shrewdest efforts, Fabius refused to be tricked into a conflict. Weary of this inactivity, Hannibal led his troops into Campania where he inaugurated a season of plundering, burning, looting and laying waste the country as far as Capua which he hoped would join him. That city remained loyal for the time being, and Hannibal started back for Apulia. Fabius, who had been following with his impatient army along the crests of the mountains, seized a pass and attempted to hinder the retreat of Hannibal.

It was on this occasion that Hannibal employed a trick which has made his name familiar to even those uninterested in the details of the histories of nations. He waited for the darkness and had a detachment of his light armed troops tie burning faggots to the horns of oxen and drive the animals up a pass weakly guarded by the Romans. Thinking that Hannibal was about to escape, the enemy hastened after the torches and Hannibal marched his army through the pass which the Romans had deserted.

Dissatisfaction with the policy of Fabius led the Romans to declare Marcus Minucius, master of the horse, codirector. He bravely engaged Hannibal's army and his force would have been annihilated had it not been for the timely assistance of Fabius.

In the following year, 216 B. C., Hannibal won his greatest victory. His army now numbered about 40,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry. With this force he seized Canna, a Roman magazine, on the river Aufidus. Here he was confronted by a Roman army of 80,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry under Paulus and Varro, the newly elected consuls. The conditions were excellent for Hannibal. His cavalry which comprised a fifth parth of his army, outnumbered that of the Romans and the wide plain on which the foes had met served to give this arm of his forces its greatest efficiency. Paulus saw the advantage which the position afforded to Hannibal and concluded to avoid battle. He stationed his forces so as to prevent foraging and hoped to starve the Carthaginians out of their favorable situation. With this object in view he pitched two camps a mile apart on either bank of the stream, but Varro was impatient of these tactics and determined to strike as quickly as possible. On the day on which the command, according to Roman custom, alternated to him, he led the bulk of the Roman army across the river and took up a position opposite Canna. He placed his infantry in the center with the cavalry on either wing.

Hannibal crossed the river and drew up his infantry in a semicircle in the center with the wings composed of the Gallic and Numidian horse. The Roman legions forced their way through Hannibal's center but the Libyans in the wings swung around by the movement, menaced their flanks. The onslaught of Hannibal's cavalry was irresistible, and Hasdrubal, his brother, who commanded the left, pushed in the Roman right and then swept across the rear and attacked Varro's cavalry on the Roman left. Then he assailed the legions from behind. The Roman army was hemmed in with no chance of escape. Livy puts its total loss at 71,100, Polybius at 92,500. Mommsen says 70,000 covered the field. Among the slain were Paulus, Servilius and eighty men of senatorial rank. Varro was saved only by the speed of his horse. Ten thousand Romans left as a garrison at Paulus' camp were nearly all made prisoners of war and included in the Roman losses. The total Carthaginian loss did not exceed six thousand.

In spite of this the victory was a disappointment to Hannibal. Among the cities which fell into his hands was the important one of Capua, but even this failed to satisfy him as only a few of the tribes which he had expected to gain as allies consented to join him.

While these events were taking place in Italy, Gnaeus and Publius Scipio were meeting with considerable success against the Carthaginians in Spain and it was impossible for Hannibal to receive any reinforcements from that quarter. Later, the Carthaginians recovered their foothold and drove out the Romans, both the Scipios being slain. Another Scipio, afterward named Africanus for his victory over Hannibal in Africa, led an army back to Spain and re-conquered that country. After Hannibal's great victory at Canne, his fortune began to decline. It is true that he afterward won a number of victories, captured many cities and ravaged the country even up to the walls of Rome, once pitching his camp within three miles of the city. But the Romans had learned caution from defeat and industry from failure. They placed six armies in the field and even forced slaves into the service. It became a question of the relative resources of Rome and Carthage and against Carthage the odds were too great.

In the year 212 B. C. Hannibal took the City of Tarentum. He also received from Carthage reenforcements of elephants and cavalry. Two Roman armies besieged Capua so persistently that Hannibal himself was forced to go there to raise the siege. It was only a temporary relief, for two years later the Romans were again before Capua with three armies. Hannibal attempted to draw them away by a feint against Rome but in this instance his strategy failed and Capua was forced to surrender. During the same year, Hannibal defeated Fulvius at Herdonea in Apulia, but the next year he lost Tarentum, In the following year, however, the consuls Crispenus and Marcellus, the latter probably the ablest Roman General of the second Punic war with the exception of Scipio Africanus, were killed by the Numidian cavalry and a Roman army was destroyed near Locri.

In 207 B. C. was fought the battle of Metaurus in which Hannibal took no part, but which practically decided the war. Claudius Nero and Marcus Livius were the Roman consuls for that year. In the autumn of the year 208 B. C. word reached Rome that Hannibal's brother, Hasdrubal, was leading an army from Spain to the assistance of Hannibal. Livius was to, oppose Hasdrubal in Cisalpine Gaul, while Nero remained to watch Hannibal in Apulia, but Livius retreated before the invader and when Hasdrubal reached the Metaurus he sent dispatches to Hannibal arranging for the junction of the two armies at Narnia sixty miles from Rome. The dispatches fell into Nero's hands and the consul made forced marches for two hundred miles with part of his army to join his colleague and crush Hasdrubal.

The stroke succeeded. The Carthaginians were completely defeated and Hasdrubal was slain. Nero hastened back to Apulia, and Hannibal received his first information of the catastrophe which had overtaken his brother when the bloody head of Hasdrubal was tossed into his camp by the directions of Nero. This ended the last hope of the cause of Carthage in Italy. Hannibal retreated to Bruttium in the far southern part of Italy and there for four years bravely and successfully defended himself against army after army sent out to crush him.

Scipio had long desired to "carry the war into Africa," and at last his wish was gratified. He landed near the city of Utica which he unsuccessfully besieged. But though Utica held out, Carthage, which was also threatened, began negotiations for peace. Hannibal was recalled. The return of the leader inspired the Carthaginians with new hope and courage and they broke off the peace negotiations. Hannibal was supplied with fresh mercenaries and he advanced against Scipio at Zarna. Although he commanded his indifferent army with his old skill and valor he was nearly annihilated in the conflict. Carthage was conquered and Hannibal himself advised the State to abandon the war. Carthage agreed to surrender all prisoners and deserters, relinquish her claims on Spain and on the islands between Africa and Italy, deliver up all her ships of war, except twenty, pay 250 talents to Rome annually for fifty years and bound herself not to wage war anywhere without the consent of Rome. Carthage was, in fact, completely subjugated and humiliated.

The second Punk war ended in 201 B. C. Then Hannibal, the warrior, now but 46 years old, became a states-man. He had waged one of the greatest wars of history during which he had demonstrated his ability as a commander. His personal courage and daring and his skill as a tactician have never been surpassed for brilliancy of conception and execution, and although he failed in the ultimate achievement of his original purpose, his name must forever remain emblazoned on history's page as one of the greatest among the world's great warriors.

As chief magistrate of Carthage he brought order into Carthaginian financial affairs, so that the war tribute could be paid without extra taxation. Carthage prospered under his rule until the Romans again became alarmed and demanded, seven years after the battle of Zama, the surrender of Hannibal. To save his country the choice between the shame of giving him up to his enemies and suffering punishment for refusing to do so, he left his native land and became an exile and an unhappy wanderer, a condition which continued until his tragic death. His wanderings took him to Tyre and then to Ephesus, where the King of Syria, Antiochus, was preparing for war with Rome. Hannibal was received with joy. He advised the King against engaging in war with Rome but Antiochus, conceited and arrogant, pointed to his army assembled at Ephesus, and asked the old warrior if .he did not think those forces would be enough for the Romans. "Yes," replied Hannibal, "enough for the Romans, however greedy they may be."

Antiochus' army was easily defeated by the Romans who now demanded Hannibal's surrender from him. The wretched warrior fled to Crete and thence to Bithynia, whose King, Prusias, weakly agreed to give him up to his enemies. Hannibal then fled to Libyssa on the eastern shore of the Sea of Marmora, where, broken in spirit and unwilling to bring further misfortune on his friends he took poison, which, according to narrators of that time, he had long carried about him in a ring. Some doubt exists as to the exact year of his death but it is generally believed to have been in 183 B. C.

Out of the long struggles between Carthage and Rome for the mastery of the Mediterranean and the world, there arose no grander figure than this celebrated military commander, whose savage patriotism and thirst for vengeance so nearly led to the imposing of Carthaginian in-stead of Roman-Greek civilization upon the world.

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