Hannibal of Carthage

         Death and Summary of Hannibal 

          Hannibal had labored nearly his entire life for the purpose of checking the Roman advance of power and rendering for the safety of his city. He had been accustomed to the life of the soldier but not so the life of a politician.  When after the treaty between Carthage and Rome had been ratified and the Romans had left, Hannibal finally had returned to Carthage and came upon a crowd in the city. Before the crowd was a nobleman who was demanding that a new army be raised and that war be renewed with Rome instead. Upon hearing this, Hannibal was said to have rushed to the platform where he was speaking and forcefully removed him from the area. This caused a murmur of protest to run through the crowd whereupon Hannibal was said to have replied " I apologize for not knowing the ways of the city, perhaps I have spent too long in the field, of which I know the ways". However, war with Rome at this time was argued against by Hannibal who stated that the future was not entirely lost. They were able to remain free and in control of their African possessions by the terms of the treaty and what would they had offered the Romans had they been victorious? Would it have been the same, better, or worse? Eventually cooler heads prevailed and the treaty was recognized and for the time being, honored. 


          Hannibal at once set about plans to take care of his remaining soldiers by giving them farms that they could live off of. He had irrigation ditches dug to fertile these farms. He also set about ending the corruption that had plagued the Carthage government. He also implemented a universal tax upon the entire population of the city that taxed each individual the same percent. Never before had the rich of Carthage been asked to donate their own personal wealth for the benefit of the city. Carthage could no longer depend upon mines from Spain which were long gone from their sphere. The initial payment to Rome was fast approaching and this is how the money was generated.  One of these noblemen, named "kid" Hasdrubal, openly wept over the surrender of his wealth before the Carthage senate. Hannibal publicly embarrassed him, which caused several members of the senate to shout that he was weeping over the misfortunes that were brought about the city by Hannibal, himself, and that he should hold his tongue. Hannibal replied that he was not holding judgment over him for the fact that he was weeping, but for the reason that he was weeping. He should have wept when our navy was surrendered to the Romans. When we were denied the ability to protect ourselves from our enemies unless Rome gave their permission. Or when the thousands of his Italian soldiers who had fought for their city for so long, were handed over to the Romans. But instead, he weeps over the less of his misfortunes, the surrendering of his private wealth. 

          By implementing these measures, Hannibal was very popular among the majority of the populace, however, among the rich, he made powerful enemies who were able to ally themselves with certain senators who would implement actions to bring about his downfall.  These senators left for Rome in the spring of 195 B.C. with rumors that Hannibal was ready to form an alliance with King Antiochus of Syria and re-new war with Rome. Antiochus had long been a thorn in the side of Rome in the eastern portion of her empire and was rumored to be mobilizing for war.

          Rome responded to the information by declaring Hannibal an outlaw to the Roman state and that whosoever should allow him in their city or kingdom would be an enemy of Rome. Hannibal was informed that Rome had declared such and that they had sent a delegation that was sailing to Carthage to have him arrested and sent back to Rome.  Under cover of darkness, after telling his supporters to await his return at a later date, Hannibal fled with a small group of confidants to a waiting ship that he had loaded with his valuables. They set sail off the African coast and landed upon a small island the next morning for supplies, but before he was able to sail, merchant ships, bound for Carthage, had docked and became aware that Hannibal was on the island, not knowing yet that he had fled Carthage and that Rome had declared him an outlaw. Hannibal, wanting to make sure he was well on his way before these merchants made their way to the Carthage port, asked the captains of the ships to join him in a feast that afternoon and asked that they bring the sails from their ships to shade them from the sun. Plenty of wine was also at the dinner and when the captains awoke the next morning after consuming large amounts of food and wine, they became aware that their sails had been taken by Hannibal. New sails had to be constructed and the delay in their arriving at Carthage because of this allowed Hannibal to be far away before his enemies were told of his escape. To help appease the Romans, Carthage ordered the Barca palace to be burned to the ground. 

          Hannibal for a time took refuge upon the island of Crete which was infested with pirates. It is said that when he arrived he took large clay pots that were filled with stones and covered at the top with gold to the temples for safe keeping. His real treasure he kept hidden in hollow statues that were decorated throughout his house. But Rome's influence would soon even spread to such a vile place as Crete and they were made aware that Hannibal resided there. Hannibal, again was able to escape before the Roman's docked upon the island and took refuge finally with Antiochus of Syria. With Antiochus, the winds of war had gathered upon his empire and his mobilization of only 10,000 men against Rome was ready to be put to the test. First upon his gaze was the Greek city-states which had succumbed to Roman rule.  Antiochus considered the Romans  barbaric and was under the impression that should he enter into their lands and drive the Romans away that large amounts of recruits would flock to his army and that they would see him as their liberator from Roman oppression. Calling a counsel of war with his generals, Antiochus informed them of his plans and asked for opinions. Hannibal, residing as a counsel to Antiochus, argued that the army was far too small to be considered against the Romans and that he could not count upon many recruits to join him in the early going unless he was very successful, using his experience in Italy as an example. The generals in Antiochus' army, however, were eager to voice their support for their king and, over the objections of Hannibal, Antiochus would soon march against  Rome with 10,000 men. 

          Before Antiochus declare war on Rome however, the Roman senate had dispatched a delegation to meet with Antiochus at his capitol to gauge his intentions. One of the men in this delegation was no other than Scipio Africanus. It is said that while in the court of Antiochus he again met with Hannibal and over supper a conversation developed in which Scipio asked Hannibal who he thought the greatest military leader of all- time was. Hannibal responded that he would have to give that honor to Alexander the Great because he had conquered so much of the known world at such a young age. Scipio responded by asking who he thought was second, and Hannibal responed by saying that Pyrrus was in his opinion next in line. When asked by Scipio who he thought was third, Hannibal responded that he would have to bestow that honor upon himself.  And when Scipio responded to Hannibal where he would have ranked himself if he would have defeated him at Zama, Hannibal responded, " then I would have ranked myself above all the rest".

          As Antiochus made his way into Greece, he was soon made aware of Hannibal's prediction as much to his surprise, only a handful of Greeks joined his army. At the historic Thermopylae pass, the Roman legions cut down his tiny army, and only Antiochus and around 900 of his men made their way back to his capitol at Ephesus. Now more content to listen to Hannibal, Antiochus raised large levies (50,000 strong) and met the Roman invasion force at the Battle of Magnesia and was again soundly defeated. It is said that before the battle, after he had positioned his well-armed force, Antiochus, as he was showing his formations to Hannibal, asked if he thought this would be enough against the Roman legions, to which Hannibal replied," quite enough for the Romans, greedy as they are". 

          As Antiochus fled to his capitol, he quickly asked for terms of surrender with Rome and was granted terms. One of the terms was that Hannibal was to be handed over to the Roman army, however, Antiochus made it possible for Hannibal to escape and he found court with King Prusius of Bithynia (modern Turkey). But even in this obscure, far corner of the world, Hannibal could not escape the Romans. Prusius was soon to engage in war with a Roman ally, King Eumenes of Pergamon. Hannibal went on to serve Prusias in this war. During one of the naval victories he gained over Eumenes, Hannibal had large pots filled with poisonous snakes thrown onto Eumenes' ships which caused profound panic and and the victory. Hannibal also visited Tyre, the home of his forefathers. However the Romans were still determined to hunt him down, and they insisted on his surrender when a delegation from Bithynia sent to Rome to explain their aggression against their ally let out the closely guarded secret that Hannibal was in Bithynia. Rome at once demanded that Hannibal be turned over and sent a delegation escorted by soldiers to bring this about.

          When King Prusius was informed of the Roman demand, he was not about to further enrage the Romans and made sure that all exits to Hannibal's large, but simple house was guarded. Even the secret underground passage that Hannibal had constructed was covered. When Hannibal's servants brought word that the Roman soldiers were approaching, he kindly asked them to bring him a goblet of wine, of which he poured poison, from a ring he always wore on his finger. He then said, " I look upon my body and all my scars are on the front, now it is time to end the relentless, unnecessary worry of the Romans, impatient as they are for the death of an old, tired, and hated man".  With this said, Hannibal drank the poisoned wine and quickly died in the sixty-fourth year of his life. (183 B.C.) Rome's greatest enemy and Carthage's only hope for the future was no more. When the Romans burst into his house to find him dead, they were disapointed that they would not be able to bring him back to Rome in chains. But a certain relief must have also been felt to know that their "darkest chapter" was now behind them for good.  In the same year Scipio Africanus also died, having taken a personal exhile from Rome over disagreements with Rome over their quest for world domination. So two of the greatest generals of their era, died far from their ungrateful cities.     


           When taking into account the life of Hannibal, we must not hesitate to remind ourselves that everything that we know of him has been written by his enemies. We do know that he drank wine sparingly and usually ate but once per day. He could withstand the harsh temperatures of the Alps and also the scorching temperatures of Africa. He dressed the same as his soldiers and often slept with his sentries upon the bare ground. His family had obtained an immense amount of wealth and of it he spent to fund his army and to take care of their needs. The Romans say that he had compassion above many others, even their own leaders. The stories which tell of rubbing oil on his men, horses, and elephants to protect them from the harsh Italian winters bode to this. Or maybe his desire to seek out the bodies of fallen Roman generals to be sent to their families, instead of the actions of the Romans, who cut off Hasdrubal's head before throwing it into Hannibal's camp.  Also mentioned by the Romans was the fact that they had never heard of infidelity from Hannibal towards his bride Imilce, whom he was separated from for 16 long years.

          True also was the fact that Hannibal's control over men was in effect singular to all others. How for seventeen years could a single man keep together such an army of men from different nations, backgrounds, beliefs, languages and religions? Kept together far from their homes fighting countless battles without so much as a single defeat? What kind of diplomacy did Hannibal have to put into place to accomplish such? How was he able to feed this army for so long and keep it armed? All these questions point to a man who was held in high regards by all who knew him. A man who held compassion towards his men, made sure that their needs were taken care of, even before his own. The Romans also tell of his sense of humor that was exhibited at various times during the war. The story of Gisco before Cannae bodes to this.

          What possibly stands out the most about Hannibal was that during his sixteen years in Italy he did not have a single mutiny of a body of his troops. They would follow him wherever he would lead with the faith that he was making the correct strategies, decisions, and actions that would give them the best possible chance for victory. Hannibal's ability to organize his men and to play upon their strength and weakness also was unmatched by any other recorded leader of men. Hannibal had to of had a very high level of charisma which attested to his easy ability to gather recruits, especially after his Alpine crossing. He was always thinking and planning his next move and almost always kept his plans to himself until the last possible time.           Hannibal was also a teacher to the enemies that he so despised. The early victories over the Romans came against lesser generals than he. But finally Rome was to put forth generals who closely studied Hannibal's art of warfare and learned from their great enemy. Scipio Africanus and Marcellus were definitely from this mold. Hannibal was also said by the Romans to process a temperment that was very measured and controlled. Very rarely did Hannibal show acts of rage. He was able to hold his army together not by force and brutality, but by showing love and compassion towards his men. The same cannot be said for the Romans. The fact that Hannibal refused to surrender before the Battle of Zama for the sole reason that he could not betray his Italian soldiers to Scipio shows this in effect to the highest degree.

          Hannibal was thoroughly schooled in Greek and Carthage cultures and histories. He was said to have spoken nine different languages fluently. He was by far the admitted favorite son of Hamilcar and along with his brothers the scourge of Rome. Years later, after his death, Roman mothers would threaten their disobedient children by saying " Hannibal is at the gates".

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