Second Punic War
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and (by the Romans) the War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218 to 201 BC and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. This was the second major war between Carthage and the Roman Republic and its allied Italic socii, with the crucial participation of Numidian-Berber armies and tribes on both sides. The two states fought three major wars with each other over the course of their existence. They are called the "Punic Wars" because Rome's name for Carthaginians was Poeni, derived from Poenici (earlier form of Punici), a reference to the founding of Carthage by Phoenician settlers.
The war was to a considerable extent initiated by Carthage at Saguntum in Spain and is marked by Hannibal's surprising overland journey and his costly crossing of the Alps, followed by his reinforcement by Gallic allies and crushing victories over Roman armies in the Battle of the Trebia and the ambush at Trasimene. In the following year (216), Hannibal's army defeated the Romans again, this time in southern Italy at Cannae. In consequence of these defeats, many Roman allies went over to Carthage, prolonging the war in Italy for over a decade. Against Hannibal's skill on the battlefield, the Romans deployed the Fabian strategy. Roman forces were more capable in siege warfare than the Carthaginians and recaptured all of the major cities that had joined the enemy, as well as defeating a Carthaginian attempt to reinforce Hannibal at the Battle of the Metaurus. In the meantime, in Iberia, which served as the main source of manpower for the Carthaginian army, a second Roman expedition under Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major took Carthago Nova by assault and ended Carthaginian rule over Iberia in the Battle of Ilipa. The final engagement was the Battle of Zama in Africa between Scipio Africanus and Hannibal, resulting in the latter's defeat and the imposition of harsh peace conditions on Carthage (Carthaginian peace), which ceased to be a major power and became a Roman client-state.
All battles mentioned in the introduction are ranked among the most costly traditional battles of human history; in addition, there were a few successful ambushes of armies that also ended in their annihilation.
The Second Punic War was fought between Carthage and Rome and was ignited by the dispute over the hegemony of Saguntum, a Hellenized Iberian coastal city with diplomatic contacts with Rome. After great tension within the city government, culminating in the assassination of the supporters of Carthage, Hannibal laid siege to the city of Saguntum in 219 BC. The city called for Roman aid, but the pleas fell on deaf ears. Following a prolonged siege and a bloody struggle, in which Hannibal himself was wounded and the army practically destroyed, the Carthaginians finally took control of the city. Many of the Saguntians chose to commit suicide rather than face subjugation by the Carthaginians.
Before the war, Rome and Hasdrubal the Fair had made a treaty. Livy reports that it was agreed that the Iber should be the boundary between the two empires and that the liberty of the Saguntines should be preserved.:21.13
Hannibal takes the initiative (218–213 BC)
Western Mediterranean (218–213 BC)
Hannibal's Overland Journey
The Carthaginian army in Iberia, excluding the forces in Africa, totaled, according to Polybius, 90,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry and 37 war elephants: it was thus one of the largest in the Hellenistic world and equal in numbers to any that the Romans had yet fielded. Hannibal departed with this army from New Carthage (Cartagena, Spain) northwards along the coast in late spring of 218 BC. At the Ebro, he split the army into three columns and subdued the tribes from there to the Pyrenees within weeks, but with severe losses. At the Pyrenees, he left a detachment of 11,000 Iberian troops, who showed reluctance to leave their homeland, as a garrison for the newly conquered region. Hannibal reportedly entered Gaul with 50,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry. He took his army by an inland route, avoiding the Roman allies along the coast. In Gaul, negotiations helped him to move unmolested except for the Battle of Rhone Crossing, where a force of the Allobroges unsuccessfully tried to oppose his 38,000 infantry (this number may exclude light infantry), 8,000 cavalry, and 37 war elephants.
In the meantime, a Roman fleet with an invasion force was underway to northern Iberia. Its commanders, the brothers Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus and Publius Cornelius Scipio, knew that Hannibal had crossed the Ebro, but were surprised by the Carthaginian army's presence at the Rhone upstream of their ally Massalia, where they had landed. A scouting party of 300 cavalry was sent to discover the whereabouts of the enemy. These eventually defeated a Carthaginian scouting troop of 500 mounted Numidians and chased them back to their main camp. Thus, with knowledge of the location of the enemy, the Romans marched upstream, ready for battle. Hannibal evaded this force and by an unknown route reached (the Isère or the Durance) at the foot of the Alps in autumn. He also received messengers from his Gallic allies in Italy that urged him to come to their aid and offered to guide him over the Alps. Before setting out to cross the Alps, he was re-supplied by a native tribe, some of whose hereditary disputes he had helped solve.
First Roman expedition to Iberia
The first Roman expedition to Iberia was unable to bring the Carthaginian troops in the hinterland of Massalia to a pitched battle, so it continued on its way to northern Iberia under Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, a move which proved decisive for the outcome of the war. Their other commander, Publius Cornelius Scipio, returned to Rome, realizing the danger of an invasion of Italy where the tribes of the Boii and Insubres were already in revolt. After 217 BC, he moved to Iberia.
In Iberia, Carthaginian rule was not popular, but Roman inaction during the Siege of Saguntum had made the natives cautious about an alliance against their masters. Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus established his headquarters at Cissa, in the midst of Hannibal's latest acquisition, the area between Ebro and Pyrenees. Despite initial setbacks, he won increasing support among the natives. This convinced the Carthaginian commander Hanno, the nephew of Hannibal, of the necessity to accept pitched battle before his troops had been united with the army under Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, despite being outnumbered 2 to 1. The result was a Roman victory in the Battle of Cissa in 218 BC. When Hasdrubal finally made it to the scene, he was in no position to fight the Roman army and merely caught their navy personnel off-guard, killing some in the process.
The combined Roman and Massalian fleet and army posed a threat to the Carthaginians. Hasdrubal intended to first defeat the fleet. However, his naval forces had a history of failure against the Romans. They had lost all but one major naval engagement in the First Punic War and in 218 BC a naval engagement in the waters of Lilybaeum had been lost despite numerical superiority. For this reason, he moved the army and fleet in unison. The fleet is described as being very disorganized prior to the battle. The army, in the meantime, provided loud moral support and a safe harbour for the ensuing naval Battle of Ebro River. The 40 Carthaginian and Iberian vessels were severely defeated by the 55 Roman and Massalian ships in the second naval engagement of the war, with about three quarters of the Carthaginian fleet captured or sunk and the rest beaching their ships. In the aftermath, the Carthaginian forces retreated, but the Romans were still confined to the area between Ebro and Pyrenees.
This blocking force of Romans prevented the Carthaginians from sending reinforcements from Iberia to Hannibal or to the insurgent Gauls in northern Italy during critical stages of the war. Hasdrubal acted by marching into Roman territory in 215 BC and offered battle at Dertosa. In this battle, he used his cavalry superiority to clear the field and to envelop the enemy on both sides with his infantry, a tactic that had been very successfully employed in Italy. However, the Romans broke through the thinned out line in the centre and defeated both wings separately, inflicting severe losses; but, not without taking heavy losses themselves.
While the Romans made little progress in the Iberian theatre, the Scipios were able to negotiate a new front in Africa by allying themselves with Syphax, a powerful Numidian king in North Africa. In 213 BC, he received Roman advisers to train his heavy infantry soldiers that had not yet been able to stand up to their Carthaginian counterparts. With this support, he waged war against the Carthaginian ally Gala. According to Appian, in 213 BC Hasdrubal left Iberia and fought Syphax, though history may have confused him with Hasdrubal Gisco, however, it did use Carthaginian resources. Hasdrubal Gisco is the son of the Gesco who had served together with Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal's father, in Sicily during the First Punic War and son-in-law of Hanno the Elder who was one of Hannibal's lieutenants in Italy.
Central Mediterranean (218–213 BC)
Naval raids and expeditions
In 218 BC, the Carthaginian navy was scouting Sicilian waters and preparing for a surprise attack on their former key stronghold of Lilybaeum on the western tip of the island. Twenty quinqueremes, loaded with 1,000 soldiers, raided the Aegadian Islands west of Sicily and eight ships intended to attack the Aeolian Islands, but were blown off-course in a storm towards the Straits of Messina. The Syracusan navy, then at Messina, captured three of those without resistance. Learning from their crews that a Carthaginian fleet was to attack Lilybaeum, Hiero II warned the Roman praetor Marcus Amellius there. As a result, the Romans prepared 20 quinqueremes to intercept, and defeated the 35 Carthaginian quinqueremes in the Battle of Lilybaeum.
In 218 BC, preparations were made to launch a Roman expedition from Lilybaeum against Africa. Hannibal had anticipated the move and reinforced the defending army in Africa with 13,850 Iberian heavy infantry, 870 Balearic slingers and 1,200 Iberian cavalry. In addition, some 4,000 Iberian men "of good family were called up who were under orders to be conveyed to Carthage to strengthen its defence, and also to serve as hostages for the loyalty of their people.":21.21 In return, 11,850 Libyan infantry, 300 Ligurians, and 500 Balearic slingers were sent to Iberia to strengthen the local defence against the other anticipated Roman invasion.:21.22
The Carthaginian navy had been defeated by the Romans in two major encounters, but neither side was usually able to stop the other from raiding each other's coasts. An exception was in 217 BC, when a Carthaginian fleet of 70 quinqueremes was intercepted off the coast of Etruria by a Roman fleet of 120 quinqueremes and retreated without giving battle.
The first Carthaginian expedition to Sardinia, in 215 BC, was under the command of Hasdrubal The Bald with his subordinate Hampsicora. A previous pro-Carthaginian uprising had been defeated, while a storm had blown the Carthaginian fleet to the Balearic Islands.:23.24 When they finally arrived at Sardinia, the Romans were aware of their intentions and had reinforced the unpopular garrison under Titus Manlius Torquatus to 20,000 infantry and 1,200 cavalry. These engaged and defeated the Carthaginians' 15,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry (plus an unknown number of elephants) and the remaining insurgent Sardinians at the Battle of Cornus. In the aftermath, the defeated expedition of 60 quinqueremes and several transports encountered a Roman raiding party from Africa with 100 quinqueremes. The Carthaginian fleet scattered and escaped save for seven ships. As a result, Sardinia, an important grain exporter, remained under Roman occupation.
The Romans simultaneously received news of Hannibal's crossing of the Ebro and of an uprising in northern Italy of the Gallic tribes Boii and Insubres.:21.25 These had established diplomatic contact with the Carthaginians and joined them as allies against their common enemy, Rome. The first objective of the insurgents were the Roman colonies of Placentia and Cremona, causing the Romans to flee to Mutina (modern Modena), which the Gauls then besieged. In response, Praetor L. Manlius Vulso marched with two legions and allies, for a total of 1,600 cavalry and 20,000 infantry, to Cisalpine Gaul. This army was ambushed twice on the way from Ariminium, losing 1,200 men; although the siege of Mutina was raised, the army itself fell under a loose siege a few kilometers from Mutina. This event prompted the Roman Senate to send one of Scipio's legions and 5,000 allied troops to aid Vulso. Scipio had to raise fresh troops to replace these and thus could not set out for Iberia until September 218 BC, giving Hannibal time to march from the Ebro to the Rhone.
After evading a pitched battle at the Rhone, Hannibal came to the aid of his Gallic allies, who were hard pressed by the Roman reinforcements. He crossed the Alps, surmounting the difficulties of climate and terrain, and the guerrilla tactics of the native tribes. His exact route is disputed. Hannibal arrived with at least 28,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and 30 elephants in the territory of the Taurini, in what is now Piedmont, northern Italy. While this crossing was expected by the Romans, they had not anticipated such an early arrival and their forces were still in their winter quarters.:21.32–38 Hannibal's crossing of the alps, is considered one of the greatest achievements in military logistics, as he did so through hostile territory in late autumn with no supply line. His surprise entry into the Italian peninsula led to the termination of Rome's main intended thrust, an invasion of Africa.
The Gauls of the lower Po Valley, Hannibal's allies, were still far away. Hannibal was first obliged to fight with his currently reduced force to reach them and incite the rest of Gallia Cisalpina to revolt. His first action was to take the chief city of the hostile Taurini (in the area of modern day Turin). Afterwards, the Carthaginians were intercepted by a newly raised Roman force under Publius Cornelius Scipio. Hannibal had evaded earlier him in the Rhone Valley. In the ensuing Battle of Ticinus, the cavalry forces of Hannibal's army defeated the cavalry and light infantry of the Romans in a minor engagement. Scipio, severely injured in the battle, retreated across the River Trebia with his heavy infantry still intact, and encamped at the town of Placentia to await reinforcements. As a result of Rome's defeat at the Ticinus, all the Gauls except the Cenomani were induced to join the Carthaginian cause. Soon, the entire north of Italy was unofficially insurgent, with both Gallic and Ligurian troops bolstering Hannibal's army to at least 40,000 men.
Even before news of the defeat at the Ticinus River had reached Rome, the Senate had ordered the consul Sempronius Longus to bring his army back from Sicily, where it had been preparing for the invasion of Africa, to join Scipio and face Hannibal. Hanibal was blocking Sempronius' way to Scipio's army. However, the Carthaginian capture of the supply depot at Clastidium, through the treachery of the local Latin commander, served as a diversion and allowed Sempronius' army to slip through to Scipio, who was still too seriously injured to take the field. After some minor successes, the united and numerically equal Roman force under the command of Sempronius Longus was lured into combat by Hannibal at the battle of the Trebia. The Roman troops were drawn into the engagement without breakfast and first had to cross a cold river, preventing many from putting up much of a fight. Furthermore, a hidden detachment led by Hannibal's younger brother Mago attacked them from the rear. All in all, the Romans suffered heavy losses with only 20,000 men out of 40,000 able to retreat to safety. They left Cisalpine Gaul in the aftermath. Having secured his position in northern Italy by this victory, Hannibal quartered his troops for the winter amongst the Gauls. The latter joined his army in large numbers, bringing it up to 60,000 men; their enthusiasm was somewhat reduced due to the Carthaginians living on their land.
The Roman Senate resolved to raise new armies against Hannibal under the recently elected consuls of 217 BC, Gnaeus Servilius Geminus and Gaius Flaminius Nepos. The latter had long distrusted his fellow senators and feared that they would try to sabotage his command by finding excuses to delay his departure. So he quietly left Rome to take over his army at Ariminum without performing the lengthy religious rituals required of an incoming consul.:21.63 The Senate voted unanimously to recall him, but he ignored its orders. This caused widespread dismay among the Romans, who feared that Flaminius' disrespect for the gods would bring disaster on Rome. As it was expected that Hannibal would advance into central Italy, Flaminius moved his army from Ariminum to Arretium, to cover the Apennine mountain passes into Etruria. His colleague Servilius, who had performed the proper rituals and was therefore well behind Flaminius, replaced him with his freshly raised army at Ariminum to cover the route along the Adriatic coast. A third force, containing the survivors of previous engagements, was also stationed in Etruria under Scipio. Thus both the eastern and western routes to Rome appeared guarded.
In early spring 217 BC, Hannibal decided to advance, leaving his wavering Gallic allies in the Po Valley and crossed the Apennines unopposed. He avoided the Roman positions and took the only unguarded route into Etruria at the mouth of the Arno. This route was through a huge marsh, which happened to be more flooded than usual for spring. Hannibal's army marched for several days without finding convenient places to rest, suffering terribly from fatigue and lack of sleep. This led to the loss of part of the force, including, it seems, the few remaining elephants.
Arriving in Etruria, still in the spring of 217 BC, Hannibal tried without success to draw the main Roman army under Flaminius into a pitched battle by devastating the area the latter had been sent to protect. Hannibal then employed a new stratagem, when he marched around his opponent’s left flank and effectively cut him off from Rome. Advancing through the uplands of Etruria, the Carthaginian now provoked Flaminius into a hasty pursuit without proper reconnaissance. Then, in a defile on the shore of Lake Trasimenus, Hannibal lay in ambush with his army. The ambush was a complete success: in the battle of Lake Trasimene Hannibal destroyed most of the Roman army and killed Flaminius with little loss to his own army. 6,000 Romans had been able to escape, but were caught and forced to surrender by Maharbal's Numidians. Furthermore, Scipio, aware of the fighting, sent his cavalry in support but it was also caught and annihilated. As a result of this victory, the heterogeneous force of insurgent Gauls, Africans, Iberians and Numidians had more military equipment than they could use themselves and sold the surplus via Egyptian traders to the Romans. Like after all previous engagements, the captured enemies were sorted according to whether they were Romans, who were held captive, or non-Romans, who were released to spread the propaganda that the Carthaginian army was in Italy to fight for their freedom against the Romans. Strategically, Hannibal had now disposed of the only field force that could check his advance on Rome; but, despite the urgings of his generals, he did not proceed to attack Rome. Instead, he marched to the south in the hope of winning over allies amongst the Greek and Italic population there.
The defeat at Lake Trasimene put the Romans in an immense state of panic, fearing for the very existence of their city. The Senate decided to resort to the traditional emergency measure of appointing a dictator, a temporary commander-in-chief who would unite military authority, which was normally divided between the two consuls, for six months. The usual procedure required the presence of a consul to appoint the dictator. Since one consul (Flaminius) was dead and the other (Servilius) away with the only army left in Italy, the Senate resolved to elect a dictator itself. As this was unconstitutional, the person appointed, Quintus Fabius Maximus, was given the title of prodictator (acting dictator) although he held the same powers as a dictator. The Senate also appointed his magister equitum ("master of cavalry", who acted as his second-in-command) instead of allowing the dictator to choose one himself as was the normal rule: M. Minucius Rufus.:22.8
Departing from the Roman military tradition of engaging the enemy in pitched battle as soon as possible, Fabius invented the Fabian strategy: refusing open battle with his opponent, but constantly skirmishing with small detachments of the enemy. This course was not popular among the soldiers, earning Fabius the nickname Cunctator ("delayer"), since he seemed to avoid battle while Italy was being ravaged by the enemy. Moreover, it was widely feared that, if Hannibal continued to plunder Italy unopposed, the terrified allies, believing that Rome was incapable of protecting them, might defect and pledge their allegiance to the Carthaginians. As a countermeasure, residents of villages were encouraged to post lookouts, so that they could gather their livestock and possessions in time and take refuge in fortified towns that the enemy could not yet take. Fabius' policy was to shadow Hannibal by moving on the heights parallel to the Carthaginian movements on the plains, to avoid Hannibal's cavalry which was supreme on flat terrain. This demanded great care, since the Carthaginian tried with all his skill to ambush the Romans. For this reason, a new marching formation, with three parallel columns of infantry, was developed instead of the single column that had been in use at Lake Trasimene.
Fabius' constant harassment of Hannibal's force handicapped the latter's command abilities and gained many prisoners. Both commanders decided that they would exchange prisoners under the same conditions as in the First Punic War. Although the Carthaginians returned to the Romans several hundred more prisoners than they received and were thus expecting monetary compensation, the Senate was reluctant to pay. However, the estates of Fabius had not been touched by the Carthaginian pillage parties in order to incite distrust against him. Fabius now sold these estates to pay the enemy army for the received surplus of prisoners.
Having ravaged Apulia without provoking Fabius into a battle, Hannibal decided to march through Samnium to Campania, one of the richest and most fertile provinces of Italy, hoping that the devastation would draw Fabius into battle. The latter was aware that there were excellent opportunities to trap the Carthaginian force on the Campanian plain and to force Hannibal to fight in the surrounding mountains on ground of his own choice. As the year wore on, Hannibal decided that it would be unwise to winter in the already devastated plains of Campania but Fabius had ensured that all the mountain passes offering an exit were blocked. This situation led to the night battle of Ager Falernus in which the Carthaginians made good their escape by tricking the Romans into believing that they were heading to the heights above them. The Romans were thus decoyed and the Carthaginians slipped through the undefended pass with all their baggage train. This was a severe blow to Fabius’ prestige.
Minucius, the magister equitum, was one of the leading voices in the army against the adoption of the Fabian Strategy. As soon as he scored a minor success, by winning a skirmish with the Carthaginians, the Senate promoted Minucius to the same imperium (power of command) as Fabius, whom he accused of cowardice. In consequence, the two men decided to split the army between them. Minucius' division was swiftly lured into an ambush by Hannibal in the flat country of Geronium. Fabius Maximus rushed to his co-commander's assistance and Hannibal's forces immediately retreated. Subsequently, Minucius accepted Fabius' authority and ended their political conflict.
Seeking a decisive engagement
Fabius became unpopular in Rome, since his tactics did not lead to a quick end to the war. The Roman populace derided the Cunctator, and at the elections of 216 BC elected as consuls Gaius Terentius Varro who advocated pursuing a more aggressive war strategy and Lucius Aemilius Paullus, who advocated a strategy in the middle between the Fabian tactics and the tactics suggested by Varro.
In the campaign of 217 BC, Hannibal had failed to obtain a following among the Italics. In the spring of 216 BC, he took the initiative and seized the large supply depot at Cannae in the Apulian plain. Thus, by seizing Cannae, Hannibal had placed himself between the Romans and their crucial source of supply. The Roman Senate authorised the raising of double-sized armies by the consuls Varro and Aemilius Paullus. By some estimates, the Romans raised a force as large as 100,000 men, though this figure cannot be completely validated.
The consuls Aemilius Paullus and Varro resolved to confront Hannibal and marched southward to Apulia. After a two-day march, they found him on the left bank of the Aufidus River, and encamped 10 km (6.2 mi) away. Hannibal capitalized on Varro's eagerness and drew him into a trap by using an envelopment tactic that eliminated the Roman numerical advantage by shrinking the surface area where combat could occur. Hannibal drew up his least reliable infantry in the centre of a semicircle, with the wings composed of the Gallic and Numidian horse. The Roman legions forced their way through Hannibal's weak centre, but the Libyan Mercenaries on the wings swung around their advance, menacing their flanks. The onslaught of Hannibal's cavalry was irresistible, and the cavalry commander Hasdrubal:22.45 (not to be confused with Hannibal's brother who was campaigning in Iberia:23.26), routed the Roman cavalry on the Roman right wing and then swept around the rear of the Roman line and attacked Varro's cavalry on the Roman left, and then the legions, from behind. As a result, the Roman army was surrounded with no means of escape. Due to these brilliant tactics, Hannibal, with much inferior numbers, managed to destroy all but a small remnant of this force. Depending on the source, it is estimated that 50,000–70,000 Romans were killed or captured at Cannae.
As Livy notes, "How much more serious was the defeat of Cannae, than those which preceded it can be seen by the behaviour of Rome’s allies; before that fateful day, their loyalty remained unshaken, now it began to waver for the simple reason that they despaired of Roman power.":22.61 During that same year, the Greek cities in Sicily were induced to revolt against Roman political control, while the Macedonian king, Philip V pledged his support to Hannibal – thus initiating the First Macedonian War against Rome. Hannibal also secured an alliance with newly appointed King Hieronymous of Syracuse, and Tarentum also came over to him around that time. Hannibal now had the resources and personnel needed to launch a successful attack on the City of Rome. However, he was uncertain of the feasibility of such an attack and spent a great deal of time pondering it. While he hesitated, the Romans were able to regroup, and the opportunity was lost. The Romans looked back on Hannibal's indecision as what saved Rome from certain defeat. The only other notable event of 216 BC was the defection of Capua, the second largest city of Italy, which Hannibal made his new base. Yet, even this defection failed to satisfy him as only a few of the Italian city-states that he had expected to gain as allies agreed to join him. Furthermore, the Macedonian navy was no match for the Roman navy, so they were unable to help him directly.
Hannibal sent a delegation to Rome to negotiate a peace and another one offering to release his Roman prisoners of war for ransom, but Rome rejected all offers.
Establishing a Carthaginian alliance in Italy
- For a detailed analysis of Hannibal's relations with Roman allies, see: Socii
After Cannae, several south Italian cities allied themselves to Hannibal: the Apulian towns of Salapia, Arpi and Herdonia and many of the Lucanians. Mago marched south with a Carthaginian army detachment and, some weeks later, the Bruttians joined him. Simultaneously, Hannibal marched north with part of his forces and was joined by the Hirpini and the Caudini, two of the three Samnite cantons. The greatest gain was the second largest city of Italy, Capua, when Hannibal's army marched into Campania in 216 BC. The inhabitants of Capua held limited Roman citizenship and the aristocracy was linked to the Romans via marriage and friendship, but the possibility of becoming the supreme city of Italy after the evident Roman disasters proved too strong a temptation. The treaty between them and Hannibal can be described as an agreement of friendship, since the Capuans had no obligations, but provided the harbour through which Hannibal was reinforced.
By 215 BC, Hannibal's alliance system covered the bulk of southern Italy, save for the Greek cities along the coast (except Croton that was conquered by his allies), Rhegium, and the Latin colonies Beneventum, Luceria in Samnium, Venusia in Apulia, Brundisium and Paestum. The independent Gaul he had established in northern Italy was still out of Roman control.
Hannibal had been able to win over a major allied base by his tremendous military success. He also regarded it as essential to take the city of Nola, a Roman fortress in Campania, a region that linked his various allies geographically and contained his most important harbour for supply. Prior to his first attempt, the pro-Carthage faction in the city had been eliminated by the Romans, so there was no chance of the city being betrayed. Hannibal tried three times, by assault or siege, to take this city, which was defended by Marcus Claudius Marcellus in the Battle of Nola (216 BC), Battle of Nola (215 BC) and Battle of Nola (214 BC), but failed each time. By 215 Hannibal was able to take Casilinum, the other important site for controlling Campania.
Syracuse on Sicily as it was on the sea routs Hannibal needed to secure supply, and Lilybaeum on Sicily remained in Roman hands. Hannibal was aided by the fact that Hiero II, the old tyrant of Syracuse and a staunch Roman ally, had died and his successor Hieronymus was discontented with his position in the Roman alliance. Hannibal dispatched two of his lieutenants, who were of Syracusian origin to negotiate with Hieromynus. They succeeded in winning Syracuse over, at the price, however, of making the whole of Sicily a Syracusan possession. The Syracusans' ambitions were great, but the army they fielded was no match for the arriving Roman force, leading to the Siege of Syracuse from 214 BC onwards. During this siege, the ingenuity of Archimedes' machines defeated all Roman attacks.
The essence of Hannibal's campaign in Italy was to fight the Romans by using local resources and raising recruits from among the local population. His subordinate Hanno was able to raise troops in Samnium, but the Romans intercepted these new levies in the Battle of Beneventum (214 BC) and eliminated them before they came under the feared leadership of Hannibal. Hannibal could win allies, but defending them against the Romans was a new and difficult problem, as the Romans could still field multiple armies greatly outnumbering his own forces. Thus Fabius was able to take the Carthagenian ally Arpi in 213 BC.
Eastern Mediterranean and Ionian Sea (218–213 BC)
- 217 BC – letter from Hannibal after Battle of Lake Trasimene leading to war preparations
- 217–216 BC – Philip V of Macedon building a fleet of 100 lembi
- 216 BC – ambassadors to Hannibal after Battle of Cannae
- 214 BC – First Macedonian War officially starts
- 214 BC – naval expeditions from Macedonia
- 213 BC – land expedition to Lissus
Rome takes key cities (212–207 BC)
Western Mediterranean (212–207 BC)
Defeat of the first expedition
In Iberia, the Scipio brothers hired 20,000 Celtiberian mercenaries to reinforce their army of 30,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry. Observing that the Carthaginian armies were deployed separately from each other, with Hasdrubal Barca and 15,000 troops near Amtorgis, and Mago Barca and Hasdrubal Gisco, both with 10,000 troops, further to the west of Hasdrubal, the Scipio brothers planned to split their forces. Publius Scipio moved 20,000 Roman and allied soldiers to attack Mago Barca near Castulo, while Gnaeus Scipio took one double legion (10,000 troops) and the mercenaries to attack Hasdrubal Barca. This stratagem resulted in 2 battles, the Battle of Castulo and the Battle of Ilorca, which occurred within a few days of each other, usually combined as the Battle of the Upper Baetis (211 BC). Both battles ended in clear defeats for the Romans as Hasdrubal had bribed the Roman mercenaries to desert and return home without a fight.
As a result of the battle, the Romans were forced to retreat to their stronghold of Northern Iberia, from which the Carthaginians could not expel them. It is notable that the Roman soldiers decided to elect a new leader, since both commanders had been killed, a practice hitherto known only in Carthagenian or Hellenistic armies.
Second Roman expedition to Iberia
In 210 BC, Scipio Africanus arrived in Iberia on the Senate's orders to avenge his father and uncle.
In a brilliant assault in 209 BC, Scipio succeeded in capturing Cartago Nova, which was the centre of Carthagenian power in Iberia. He defeated Hasdrubal in the Battle of Baecula (208 BC), but was not able to prevent him from continuing his march to Italy in order to reinforce his brother Hannibal.
Central Mediterranean (212–207 BC)
Climax and fall of Hannibal's alliance
The climax of Carthaginian expansion was reached when the largest Greek city in Italy, Tarentum, switched sides in 212 BC. The Battle of Tarentum (212 BC) was a carefully planned coup by Hannibal and members of the city's democratic faction. There were two separate successful assaults on the gates of the city. This enabled the Carthaginian army, which had approached unobserved behind a screen of marauding Numidian horsemen, to enter the city by surprise and take all but the citadel where the Romans and their supporting faction were able to rally. The Carthaginians failed to take the citadel, but subsequent fortifications around this Roman stronghold put the city under Carthaginian control. However, the harbour was blocked and warships had to be transported overland to be launched at sea.
The Battle of Capua (212 BC) was a stalemate. The Romans decided to end the siege of Capua. As a result, the Capuan cavalry was reinforced with half of the available Numidian cavalry of 2,000.
In the Battle of Beneventum (212 BC), Hanno the Elder was again defeated, this time by Quintus Fulvius Flaccus, who also captured his camp. In the following Battle of the Silarus, in the same year, the Romans under Marcus Centenius were ambushed and lost all but 1,000 of their 16,000 effectives. Also, in 212 BC, the Battle of Herdonia resulted in another Roman defeat, with only 2,000 Romans out of a force of 18,000 surviving a direct attack by Hannibal's numerically superior forces, combined with an ambush that cut off the Roman line of retreat.
This phase of the war was marked by the fall of major and minor cities to the Romans, although Hannibal was still able to prevail on the battlefield and thus lift some sieges. The Siege of Syracuse, from 214 BC onwards, was marked by Archimedes' ingenuity in inventing war machines that made it impossible for the Romans to make any gains with traditional methods of siege warfare. A Carthaginian army of 20,000 had been sent to relieve the city, but suffered more heavily than the Romans from pestilence and was thus forced to retreat to Agrigentum. The fall of Syracuse was finally achieved by the treachery of a Syracusan pro-Roman faction, that allowed the Romans to enter the city, resulting in the death of Archimedes.
In a second Battle of Capua (211 BC), Hannibal again tried to regain use of his main harbour as in the previous year, by luring the Romans into a pitched battle. He was unsuccessful, and was also unable to lift the siege by assaulting the besiegers' defences. So he tried a strategem of staging a march towards Rome, hoping in this way to compel the enemy to abandon the siege and rush to defend their home city. However, only part of the besieging force left for Rome and, under continued siege, Capua fell to Rome soon afterwards. Near Rome he fought another pitched battle.
The first Battle of Herdonia (210 BC) was fought to lift the Roman siege of that allied city. Hannibal caught the proconsul Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus off guard during his siege of Herdonia and destroyed his army in a pitched battle with up to 13,000 Romans dead of 20,000. The defection of the allied city of Salapia in Apulia in 210 BC was achieved by treachery: the inhabitants massacred the Numidian garrison and went over to the Romans.
In 210 BC, the Battle of Numistro between Marcellus and Hannibal was inconclusive, but the Romans stayed on his heels until the also inconclusive Battle of Canusium in 209 BC. In the meantime, this battle enabled another Roman army under Fabius to approach Tarentum and take it by treachery in the second Battle of Tarentum (209 BC). Hannibal, at that time, had been able to disengage from Marcellus and was only 8.0 km (5 mi) away when the city, under the command of Carthalo, who was bound to Fabius by an agreement of hospitality, fell.
Hasdrubal's failed reinforcement
The Battle of Grumentum was an inconclusive fight in 207 BC between Gaius Claudius Nero and Hannibal. In the aftermath of the battle, Nero was able to trick Hannibal into believing that the whole Roman army was still in camp. In the meantime, Nero marched with a selected corps north and reinforced the Romans there to win the Battle of the Metaurus, killing Hasdrubal and scattering the survivors of his army. The Carthaginian force under Hasdrubal had left Iberia a year before, after the defeat at the Battle of Baecula and had been reinforced by Gallic and Ligurian mercenaries and allies. It is notable that they took the same route as Hannibal 10 years previously, but suffered fewer casualties, being better supported by mercenaries from the mountain tribes.
Naval raids and expeditions
- 210 BC – second expedition to Sardinia
- 210 BC – naval expedition to Tarentum
- 210 BC – Roman raids on Africa
Eastern Mediterranean and Ionian Sea (212–207 BC)
In 211 BC, Rome countered the Macedonian threat with a Greek alliance of the Aetolians, Elis, Sparta, Messenia and Attalus I of Pergamon, as well as two Roman clients, the Illyrians Pleuratus and Scerdilaidas.
- 209 BC – Illyrian attack on Macedonia
- 209 BC – Carthaginian naval expedition to Corcyra
- 209 BC – First Battle of Lamia
- 209 BC – Second Battle of Lamia
- 208 BC – Roman and Pergamese attack on Lemnos
Seeking peace (206–202 BC)
Western Mediterranean (206–202 BC)
Carthage's last stand in Iberia
At the Battle of Ilipa, large numbers of Celtiberian mercenaries in Carthaginian service confronted a mixed army of Romans and Iberians. Scipio Africanus Major employed a clever ruse. Every day for several days, he drew up his army for battle with the Romans stationed in the centre of the line and the Iberians on the wings. But when the enemy offered battle, he would eventually decline it. By this stratagem, he convinced the Carthaginian commanders Mago and Hasdrubal Gisco that they could expect the Romans to hold the centre of their line. On the day of the battle, the Roman force deployed earlier in the day and with the Romans posted on the wings of the line. In the rush to respond, the Carthaginians placed their best forces in the centre as usual, failing to spot the unusual Roman deployment. Thus the inferior Carthaginian mercenaries on the wings were severely beaten by the Romans. The Celtiberians deserted the Carthaginian camp that night. This catastrophic defeat sealed the fate of the Carthaginian presence in Iberia. It was followed by the Roman capture of Gades in 206 BC after the city had already rebelled against Carthaginian rule. The Tribal leaders Indibilis and Mandonius (of the Ausetani) thought that, after the expulsion of the Carthaginians, the Romans would leave and they would gain control of Spain again. This didn't happen, however, so they participated with the mutineers at the Sucro camp against the Romans. This mutiny was ultimately squelched by Scipio Africanus.:28.24
In 205 BC, a last attempt was made by Mago to recapture New Carthage when the Roman occupiers were shaken by a mutiny and an Iberian uprising against their new overlords; the attack was repulsed. So, in the same year, Mago left Iberia, setting sail from the Balearic islands to Italy with his remaining forces.
The Numidian struggle
In 206 BC, there was a quick succession of kings in Eastern Numidia that temporarily ended with the division of the land between Carthage and the Western Numidian king Syphax, a former Roman ally. For this bargain, Syphax was to marry Sophonisba, daughter of Hasdrubal Gisco. Massinissa, who had thus lost his fiancee, went over to the Romans with whom he had already established contact during his military service in Iberia.
Central Mediterranean (206–202 BC)
Carrying the war to Africa
In 205, Mago landed in Genua by sea the remnants of his Spanish army. This was the third Carthaginian force invading Italy. It soon received Gallic and Ligurian reinforcements. Mago's arrival in the north of the Italian peninsula was followed by Hannibal's Battle of Crotona in 204 in the south of the peninsula. Mago marched his reinforced army towards the lands of the Boii and Insubres, Carthage's main Gallic allies and a place of retreat for Hasdrubal's defeated remnants. His move was checked by the Romans in the Po Valley Raid in 203. This hindered the third attempted invasion of Italy early, from uniting with Hannibal's army in the south. The split Carthaginian armies were less dangerous, allowing for Roman manpower to be directed to the invasion of Africa, despite the Damocles sword of the enemy troops on and around Roman lands.
At the same time, Scipio Africanus Major was given command of the legions in Sicily and was allowed to levy volunteers for his plan to end the war by an invasion of Africa. The legions in Sicily were mainly the survivors of Cannae, who were not allowed home until the war was finished. Scipio was also one of the survivors but, unlike the ordinary soldiers, had been allowed to return to Rome along with the other surviving tribunes, and had run successfully for public office and had been given command of the troops in Iberia.
Within a year of his landing in Africa, Scipio twice routed the regular Carthaginian forces, under Hasdrubal Gisco, and his Numidian allies. The main native supporter of the Carthaginians, king Syphax of the Massaesylians (western Numidians), was defeated and taken prisoner. Masinissa, a Numidian rival of Syphax and, at that time, an ally of the Romans, seized a large part of his kingdom with their help. These setbacks persuaded some of the Carthaginians that it was time to sue for peace. Others pleaded for the recall of the sons of Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal and Mago, who were still fighting the Romans in Bruttium and Cisalpine Gaul respectively.
In 203 BC, while Scipio was carrying all before him in Africa and the Carthaginian peace party were arranging an armistice, Hannibal was recalled from Italy by the war party at Carthage. After leaving a record of his expedition engraved in Punic and Greek upon bronze tablets in the temple of Juno at Crotone, he sailed back to Africa. These records were later quoted by Polybius. Hannibal's arrival immediately restored the predominance of the war party, who placed him in command of a combined force of African levies and his mercenaries from Italy. But Hannibal was opposed to this policy and tried to convince them not to send the untrained African levies into battle. In 202 BC, Hannibal met Scipio in a peace conference. Despite the two generals' mutual admiration, negotiations foundered, according to the Romans due to "Punic faith", meaning bad faith. This Roman expression referred to the alleged breach of protocols which ended the First Punic War by the Carthaginian attack on Saguntum, Hannibal's perceived breaches of what the Romans perceived as military etiquette (i.e. Hannibal's numerous ambuscades), as well as the armistice violated by the Carthaginians in the period before Hannibal's return.
Broken armistice and final peace treaty
The decisive battle soon followed. Unlike most battles of the Second Punic War, the Romans had superiority in cavalry and the Carthaginians had superiority in infantry. The Roman army was generally better armed and trained than the Carthaginians. Hannibal had refused to lead this army into battle, because he did not expect them to be able to perform. There had been very bitter arguments between him and the oligarchy. His co-general, Hasdrubal Gisco, was forced to commit suicide by a violent mob after he spoke in support of Hannibal's view that such troops should not be led into battle. Before the battle, Hannibal gave no speech to his new troops, only to his veterans.
Scipio countered an expected Carthaginian elephant charge, which caused some of Hannibal's elephants to turn back into his own ranks, throwing his cavalry into disarray. The Roman cavalry was able to capitalize on this and drive the Carthaginian cavalry from the field. The battle remained closely fought and, at one point, it seemed that Hannibal was on the verge of victory. However, Scipio was able to rally his men, and his cavalry returned from chasing the Carthaginian cavalry and attacked Hannibal's rear. This two-pronged attack caused the Carthaginian formation to disintegrate and collapse. After their defeat, Hannibal convinced the Carthaginians to accept peace. Notably, he broke the rules of the assembly by forcibly removing a speaker who supported continued resistance. Afterwards, he was obliged to apologize for his behaviour.
Eastern Mediterranean and Ionian Sea (218–201 BC)
- 206 BC – the Aetolians make peace with Macedonia
- 205 BC – Rome lands with 11,000 men and 35 ships in Durrës but achieve no military objective
- 205 BC – the First Macedonian war ends with the peace Treaty of Phoenice
Carthage lost Hispania forever, and Rome firmly established her power there over large areas. Rome imposed a war indemnity of 10,000 talents (300 tonnes/660,000 pounds), limited the Carthaginian navy to 10 ships (to ward off pirates), and forbade Carthage from raising an army without Roman permission. The Numidians took the opportunity to capture and plunder Carthaginian territory. Half a century later, when Carthage raised an army to defend itself from these incursions, Rome destroyed her in the Third Punic War (149–146 BC). Rome, on the other hand, by her victory, had taken a key step towards what ultimately became her domination of the Mediterranean world.
The end of the war did not meet with a universal welcome in Rome. When the Senate decreed upon a peace treaty with Carthage, Quintus Caecilius Metellus, a former consul, said he did not look upon the termination of the war as a blessing to Rome, since he feared that the Roman people would now sink back again into its former slumbers, from which it had been roused by the presence of Hannibal. Others, most notably Cato the Elder, feared that if Carthage was not completely destroyed it would soon regain its power and pose new threats to Rome; he pressed for harsher peace-conditions. Even after the peace, Cato insisted on the destruction of Carthage, ending all his speeches with "Carthage must be destroyed", even if they had nothing to do with Carthage.
Archaeology has discovered that the famous circular military harbour at Carthage, the Cothon, received a significant buildup during or after this war. Though shielded from external sight, it could house and quickly deploy about 200 triremes. This appears a surprising development as, after the war, one of the terms of surrender restricted the Carthaginian fleet to only ten triremes. One possible explanation: as has been pointed out for other Phoenician cities, privateers with warships played a significant role besides trade, even when the Roman Empire was fully established and officially controlled all coasts. In this case it is not clear whether the treaty included private warships. The only reference to Carthaginian privateers comes from the First Punic War: one such privateer, Hanno the Rhodian, owned a quinquereme (faster than the serial production models that the Romans had copied), manned with about 500 men and then among the heaviest warships in use. Later pirates in Roman waters are all reported with much smaller vessels, which could outrun naval vessels, but operated with lower personnel costs. Thus piracy was probably highly developed in Carthage and the state did not have a monopoly of military forces. Pirates probably played an important role in capturing slaves, one of the most profitable trade-goods, but merchant ships with tradeable goods and a crew were also their targets. No surviving source reports the fate of Carthaginian privateers in the periods between and after the Punic Wars.
Hannibal became a businessman for several years and later enjoyed a leadership role in Carthage. However, the Carthaginian nobility, upset by his policy of democratisation and his struggle against corruption, persuaded the Romans to force him into exile in Asia Minor, where he again led armies against the Romans and their allies on the battlefield. He eventually committed suicide (ca 182 BC) to avoid capture.
Carthage and Numidia after the war
Constant low-level warfare persisted between Carthage and Numidia, but, by the time of the Third Punic War (149–146 BC), Carthage had lost most of her African territories and the Numidians traded independently with the Greeks.
In this conflict intelligence played an important role on both sides. Hannibal mastered an intelligence service that enabled him to achieve outstanding victories. Likewise, Scipio Africanus Major's victories depended on information. In 217 BC a Carthaginian resident spy in Rome—probably a Roman citizen—was caught and had his hands cut off as a punishment.:22.33.1
Opinions on the war
According to Livy it was "the most memorable of all wars that were ever waged: the war which the Carthaginians, under the conduct of Hannibal, maintained with the Roman people. For never did any states and nations more efficient in their resources engage in contest; nor had they themselves at any other period so great a degree of power and energy. They brought into action too no arts of war unknown to each other, but those which had been tried in the first Punic war; and so various was the fortune of the conflict, and so doubtful the victory, that they who conquered were more exposed to danger. The hatred with which they fought also was almost greater than their resources".:21.1
In popular culture
- G. A. Henty's 1887 historical novel The Young Carthaginian tells the story of Hannibal and the Second Punic War from the perspective of the fictional character Malchus, a cousin of Hannibal.
- Hannibal's exploits, as well as Archimedes and the Siege of Syracuse, are dramatically reenacted in the classic early Italian silent film Cabiria (1914).
- In the novel The Sword of Hannibal by Terry McCarthy you can read about Hannibal from the view of one of his soldiers.
- In the BBC TV Series On Hannibal's Trail (2009)
- Equestrian order
- Carthaginian peace
- Scipio Africanus Major
- War elephant
- List of battles of the Second Punic War
- Polybius wrote a detailed history, showing contemporary insight into the political process of this time.
- Silius Italicus, who dramatised the war in his poem Punica
- Petrarch, who wrote an epic on the war entitled Africa
- Plutarch's Lives for lives of two of the Roman generals, Fabius Maximus and Gaius Flaminius. Plutarch's life of Scipio Africanus is lost.
- Bagnell, p. vii.
- Phoenicians: Carthage & Hannibal at phoenician.org
- Sidwell, Keith C; Peter V. Jones (1997). The World of Rome: an introduction to Roman culture. Cambridge University Press. p. 16. ISBN 0-521-38600-4.
- Mahaney, W.C., 2008, Hannibal's Odyssey: Environmental Background to the Alpine Invasion of Italia. Gorgias Press, Piscataway, N.J., 221 pp. ISBN 978-1-59333-951-7.
- Livy. The History of Rome by Titus Livius: Books Nine to Twenty-Six, trans. D. Spillan and Cyrus Edmonds. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1868.
- Polybius. The Histories, 3.35.1
- Polybius, 3.35.4–5
- Lazenby 41
- Hoyos 139
- Goldsworthy, Adrian. The Fall of Carthage. p. 151. ISBN 0-304-36642-0.
- Liddell Hart, B. H., Strategy, New York City, New York, Penguin Group, 1967
- Goldsworthy (2000) 49, 52
- Polybius, 3.114
- Dodge, Theodore Ayrault (1891). Hannibal. Cambridge, Mass., Da Capo Press. p. 242. ISBN 0-306-81362-9
- Polybius, 3.95
- Dodge, Theodore Ayrault (1891). Hannibal. Cambridge, Mass., Da Capo Press. p. 403. ISBN 0-306-81362-9
- Healy, Mark, Cannae: Hannibal Smashes Rome's Army, Steerling Heights, Missouri, Osprey
- Hoyos 122f
- Hoyos 132
- Livy, XXVI.40. According to F. W. Walbank, p. 84, note 2, "Livy accidentally omits Messenia and erroneously describes Pleuratus as king of Thrace."
- Livy. The History of Rome by Titus Livius: Books Twenty-Seven to Thirty-Six, trans. Cyrus Edmonds. London: 1850.
- Valerius Maximus vii. 2. §3.
- Plutarch, Life of Cato
- Zlattner 1997
- Austin&Rankov 1995, p. 93
- Bagnall, Nigel (1990). The Punic Wars. ISBN 0-312-34214-4.
- Goldsworthy, Adrian (2006). The Fall of Carthage. ISBN 978-03043-6642-2.
- Lazenby, John Francis (1978). Hannibal's War. ISBN 978-0-8061-3004-0.
- Lancel, Serge (1995). Hannibal (in French).
- Polybius, Histories, Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (translator); London, New York. Macmillan (1889); Reprint Bloomington (1962).
- Palmer, Robert E. A. (1997). Rome and Carthage at Peace. Stuttgart.
- Barceló, Pedro A. (1988). Karthago und die iberische Halbinsel vor den Barkiden: Studien zur karthagischen Präsenz im westlichen Mittelmeerraum von der Gründung von Ebusus bis zum Übergang Hamilkars nach Hispanien (in German). Bonn. ISBN 3-7749-2354-X.
- Ameling, Walter (1993). Karthago: Studien zu Militär, Staat und Gesellschaft (in German). Munich. ISBN 3-406-37490-5.
- Zlattner, Max (1997). Hannibals Geheimdienst im Zweiten Punischen Krieg (in German). Konstanz. ISBN 3-87940-546-8.
- Mahaney, W.C, 2008. "Hannibal's Odyssey, Environmental Background to the Alpine Invasion of Italia," Gorgias Press, Piscataway, N.J, 221 pp.
- Dodge, Theodore Ayrault (1891). Hannibal. Reprinted by Da Capo Press, Cambridge, Mass. ISBN 0-306-81362-9
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