Hannibal of Carthage

            Hannibal Takes Command 

         Picture Depicting Hannibal with his Father,  Proclaiming to Always be an Enemy of Rome.

          The conquered mistress, Carthage, lay sprawled upon the bloody sands of  North Africa. Far to the north the new champion of the arena, Rome, raised his arms in absolute triumph. His galleys sailed, unmolested, upon the seas, his soldiers would lay down their arms and return home to see their wives and loved ones, cities were rebuilt and peace was welcomed everywhere. The beautiful, mistress was unconscious, but not dead. Slowly she stirred and began to raise herself upon her elbows and then.... onto her knees. As she struggled to her feet, a man named Hannibal would lead her and ensure that Carthage would never be forgotten throughout the passages of time.



             Upon the Carthage victory over the mercenaries, she was faced with the harsh reality that they were financially unable to meet the new Roman demands of indemnities that was imposed upon them. Carthage, battered, bruised, and humiliated, began to look for new sources of revenue to re-build her city and pay Rome. With Sicily, Sardinia,and Corsica gone, Carthage turned to Spain. As mentioned before, Carthage possessed trading posts on the Spanish peninsula and already was aware of the rich natural resources that Spain possessed. Also the much older Phoenician city of Gades, which was on friendly relations with Carthage, would be an excellent area to establish as their early base of operations.  Hamilcar also was fully aware of the manpower that Spain possessed and  asked the Carthage senate for funding to lead an army to Spain to gather recruits and to bolster their treasury. First, however, Hamilcar would have to re-secure Carthage domains in Africa.

          After his success over the mercenaries, Hamilcar enjoyed such influence among the popular and patriotic party that his opponents could not prevent him being raised to a virtual dictatorship. Hamilcar allied with Hasdrubal the Fair, his future son in law, to restrict the power of the aristocracy led by Hanno the Great. Hamilcar obtained permission from the Carthaginian senate for recruiting and training a new army, with the immediate goal of securing the African domain of Carthage. Training for the army was obtained in some Numidian forays, then Hamilcar, after reducing the Libyans who had rebelled, marched his army West, along the northern coast of Africa,  to the straits of Gibraltar. Hasdrubal the Fair commanded the fleet carrying supplies and elephants along the coast, keeping pace with the army. Hamilcar on his own responsibility ferried the army across to Gades to start an expedition into Hispania (236 BC), where he hoped to gain a new empire to compensate Carthage for the loss of Sicily and Sardinia, and to serve as a base for military operations against any future conflicts against the Romans.

          The senate agreed to fund Hamilcar's expedition, but gave him an army much smaller than he had requested. They were, however, happy to have him leave with the mercenary army that he commanded, based upon what they had just gone through. They also feared that he may try to overthrow their authority and proclaim himself absolute dictator, based upon his enormous popularity after his victory over the mercenaries.  Before leaving Carthage, Hamilcar took his oldest son, Hannibal, who was a mere nine years old, to the holy temple of Tanit upon the Byrsa and sacrificed a lamb. He placed the lamb upon the alter and asked Hannibal to place his hand upon it and repeat what he was about to say. Hannibal looked at his father and repeated, "I, Hannibal Barca, promise that as soon as age permits, I will follow the Romans, both on land and at sea, and I will use fire and steel to arrest the destiny of Rome"." I promise to always be an enemy of Rome".  

          Once Hamilcar had established his primary base at Gades, he began courting tribes and cities throughout the Iberian peninsula to establish alliances and friendly relations. He began recruiting these men into his army and established a strong influence among the natives. The process which Hamilcar put in place was to create a powerful army, not by force and subjugation, but one through friendships and alliances, however, he would not hesitate to destroy those opposed to him and his allies. He also would use the army to protect the vast new silver and gold mines that Carthage engineers had begun mining, which were very productive.  Large amounts of this wealth were distributed among Hamilcar's family and his army, while an even larger amount was shipped back to Carthage to rebuild the cities treasury.

          As Hamilcar worked to consolidate the Carthage hold over southern Iberia, Hannibal was learning the way of the soldier with one of his younger brother's, Hasdubal, both of whom had arrived with their father at the same time. The youngest, Mago, was left behind in Carthage as he was much younger. It wasn't until several years later that he was also sent to Spain to be with his father and brothers. Hamilcar would affectionately call his three sons his "Lions Brood".  The symbol of the lion was the mark of the Barca family in Carthage. Their weapons and shields were engraved with these beasts. The Barca palace in Carthage was adorned with statues and mosaics as well.  During this time, Hannibal spent much time with the soldiers of his fathers army, learning their culture and customs, as well as absorbing their languages. Hamilcar also saw to it that Hannibal was educated in Spain by one of the best Greek teachers from the city of Sparta. His name was Selenus and he taught Hannibal the ways of the Greeks, their language, as well as the Latin language. He read the works of Homer, and other Greek literature and poetry. He was thoroughly schooled in politics, mathematics, history, science, and geography. He would forever leave a great impression upon Hannibal and was with his pupil when Hannibal crossed the Alps to invade Italy.

          It was during this early time in Hannibal's life that his older sister became married to Hasdrubal the Splendid, which strengthened the alliance of the two families. During this time, Hasdrubal had returned to Carthage and Hamilcar operated alone for several years, before Hasdubal re-entered the Iberian campaign around 234 B.C..  For the next 5 years Hamilcar and Hasdrubal worked feverishly to strengthen their hold over southern Spain.  The Carthage army grew into a well-trained fighting force and caught the attention of  the city of Massilia, in northern Spain, who was on friendly relations with Rome. Massilia sent an envoy to Rome with concerns over the Carthage army and requested Rome to investigate Hamilcar's intentions. Rome thought enough of Massilia's suspicious concerns of Hamilcar to send a delegation to meet with Hamilcar in early 229 B.C. upon the Iberian peninsula. Rome asked Hamilcar to explain his intentions. Hamilcar simply stated that he was in Spain to bolster the Carthage treasury and the army was for protection for the silver and gold mines that Carthage was mining to pay Rome the indemnity that they demanded as part of the treaty following the first war. Rome, not too worried over once-defeated Carthage, and facing a Gallic uprising in the north of Italy, believed his answer to their concerns and left him alone.

          It was later the same year after the Roman delegation left (229B.C.), that Hamilcar marched his army and laid siege to the Spanish city of Helixe which had attacked a Spanish city that was allied with Carthage. Helixe was heavily fortified and was expecting the Carthage reply to their attack and had requested aid from their allies from the north, outside of Hamilcar's sphere of influence. Hamilcar was driven back with heavy losses, and having lost the chance of an easy victory due to the lack of surprise, which he was counting upon, ordered his army to retreat to his stronghold that he had built called Barcino, (modern Barcelona).  Hamilcar had always practiced the first to enter, last to leave policy when entering upon military engagements and upon facilitating the departure of his army, was the last to leave. Accompanied by a handful of cavalry, of which it was said included two of his son's, Hannibal and Hasdrubal, Hamilcar was ambushed by a large force from Helixe and the group fled to a nearby river to escape. The river was swollen from previous heavy rains and Hamilcar was swept from his horse and was drowned. Hannibal and Hasdrubal however, were able to escape to Barcino and rejoined the Carthage army.

           With the death of their commander-in-chief, Carthage was faced with the important decision of who to appoint to lead her armies in Spain and the senate agreed upon the logical choice of Hasdrubal the Splendid, who had been Hamilcars second-in-command.  Hasdrubal would follow Hamilcars success and continued to enlarge the Carthage army. He also built Cartegena (New Carthage) in Spain as his Spanish capitol city. The city upon the southwestern coast of Spain exists today as Spain's largest port-city. It was here that he would conduct most of his operations. He followed Hamilcars policies, however, was one to utilized politics over force to gain alliances on a more consistent level than what Hamilcar had done. His foreign policy was highly successful and the Carthage empire expanded two-fold in Spain. For the next 8 years the great diplomat honed the Carthage fighting force in Spain and Massilia, once again, concerned of the huge force to her south, sent a delegation to Rome asking her to intervene. Rome again responded and sent a delegation to meet with Hasdrubal in Cartegena and insisted he come to Rome to meet with the senate and answer concerns that they had. Hasdrubal agreed and sailed to Rome whereupon Hasdrubal, acting on his own, and Rome agreed to a treaty involving both cities sphere of influence in Spain. The treaty called for Carthage to not enter upon the northern side of the River Ebro, and for Rome to not cross the river to the south. The River Ebro ran from east to west upon the northern third of Spain. The diplomatic skills that Hasdrubal displayed while creating the treaty with the Roman senate would parlay into continued Carthage success in Spain. Massilia was now content to show disregard for the Carthage operations due to the fact that she was in the Roman sphere and any Carthage activities on the northern side of the River Ebro would constitute an act of war towards Rome. Carthage could now concentrate upon her sphere in Spain without having to worry about any harassment from Rome.  Rome also was still responding to Gallic uprisings on both sides of the Alps during this time. Years earlier, a large Gallic force numbering 70,000 marched from northern Italy and slowly marched south, capturing Roman towns and laying waste to the countryside. Rome responded and defeated the Gauls at the Battle of Telamon (229B.C.)  with an army of 80,000 strong. Gallic losses were 40,000 killed and 10,000 captured, while Roman losses numbered around 10,000 dead. The operations against the Gauls were a strong concern for Rome and despite the earlier victory at Telamon, Gallic opposition to Rome continued and again Rome was content to place their concerns about Carthage upon delay.

          Hasdrubal, as his slain father-in-law, was a catalyst in the resurgence of Carthage.  In just 15 years, Carthage had risen from the crushing defeat of the First Punic War, followed by the Mercenary War, to the supreme power of the Mediterranean world, save Rome. They had re-filled their treasury, paid Rome the indemnity, rebuilt her commercial fleet, and possessed a strong mercenary army of around 100,000 strong. Her economy was flourishing, gold and silver continued to flow into the city from Spain, and her commercial harbor was the destination of many cities and nations. The loss of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica to the Romans were more than made up for by her conquests in Spain. Carthage trading ships at the time frequented Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, Macedonia, Spain, Gaul(France), and Great Britain. Her holdings in Africa were solid, the revolts of the Libyans and the Numidians had been quelled. Carthage punishment directed to the Libyans as a result of their uprising was a 50% tax upon their net worth each year.

          Hasdubal returned to Spain and in (221 B.C.), was slain by a Celtic slave at the bequest of a Spanish chieftain with whom he had quarreled with. The Carthage army at once brought Hannibal to their headquarters and proclaimed Hasdrubal's second-in-command as their new leader. The army sent a representative to Carthage with the armies request and the Senate mulled over their choice. At just 26 years old he was by far too young according to their law to lead their armies, however, as mentioned before, all was going well in  Carthage. The anti- Barca contingent in the senate requested that Hannibal be summoned to Carthage where he could be observed for several months before being given the command of her army. After all they had not seen Hannibal since he left at the age of nine, and did not know anything about him. The members of the pro-Barca senate however, being more in number, overruled and Hannibal was appointed the leader of the Spanish army. It would have been unlikely that the senate would have been successful of stopping his appointment had they so chosen. The Barcid's had established their holdings in Spain and ruled there as sort of their own personal empire, making choices that they saw fit in their own regards, often leaving Carthage out of the picture. Instead, preferring to act on their own regard (meetings and treaties with the Romans as an example). Also when Hannibal took command of the army, men flocked to him as they saw in his face, Hamilcar in his youth. They were also aware of his bravery and skills in battle, fully aware as to the extent of his leadership abilities.  Like his father, Hannibal was always the first to enter the battle, and the last to leave. While serving under Hasdrubal, it seems that he was the officer whom was entrusted to the important engagements.  He also displayed extreme control over many indulgences that consumed many men of that era. He only ate and drank what was needed to maintain his bodies strength. He could endure extreme heat and cold with the same regard. He was also associated with only one woman, his wife Imilce, a Spanish princess, of whom very little is known about. It was said that she bore Hannibal a son before he left for Italy and was said to have begged Hannibal to take them with him, however, he refused.  Hannibal, also mindful of the early deaths of his father and brother-in-law, wanted to waste no time in his endevours.

                                                                                                       Painting depicting Imilce 

                                                    Roman Statue Portraying Hannibal 

          After assuming command of the Carthage army in Spain (221 B.C.), Hannnibal put into work his efforts to punish the Romans for what they had done to Carthage and to stop Rome's military expansion, before they should appear at the very gates of Carthage. There can be no doubt that the plan Hannibal was to put into place was an extension of some sort of his father's plans. He first consolidated his hold over the lands south of the River Ebro. Through an array of military and diplomatic events, he was able to solidify Carthage influence. Recruits continued to enlist in his army with funding from the gold and silver mines. He relentlessly trained his forces. Day and night the process repeated itself.  This lasted for two years until Saguntum, a large fortress city in Spain, south of the River Ebro, and inside of the Carthage sphere of influence, attacked a rival tribe that was an ally of Hannibal called the Turdetani, despite Carthage demands that they refrain from doing so. 

          Hannibal at once marched to the walls of Saguntum and lay siege to her massive walls. Saguntum immediately sent an envoy to Rome requesting assistance against Hannibal and asking them to enter upon an alliance with them. The Roman Senate put forth several proposals of which they might approach this situation. One that some senators requested was to immediately declare war and send two armies, one to Spain, and the other to Carthage. Others suggested that their focus should be just against Hannibal in Spain, and that no army should be sent to Carthage. Another which was suggested was that an envoy being sent to Spain, demanding that Hannibal leave Saguntum unmolested and refrain from entering upon their lands again. It was upon this last, more cautious approach, that was resolved. The envoy set sail and the Saguntum envoy was promised full Roman support against the Carthaginians.

          Meanwhile Hannibal was fully engaged upon the siege, unknown to Carthage. As said before, Carthage influence in Spain was limited to the Barca's activities, so long as the profits kept pouring into her coffers. Besides, there were numerous battles and sieges over the past 15 years that was meant to consolidate her hold over Spain, and this was no different, besides Saguntum was south of the Ebro River, and Hannibal probably did not expect Roman interference.

 Ruins of Saguntum, Showing the Difficulty of Terrain that Hannibal's Army Encountered During the Siege 

                                                               Spanish Statue Depicting the Fall of Saguntum to Hannibal

                                                                       Saguntine Coin Found Under the Ruins of the City

          The siege of Saguntum would last for 8 months and would be fought desperately by the city, during which time Hannibal was severely wounded in the thigh from a javelin that was thrown from the cities walls. The operations against the city was suspended for several days as Hannibal's life hung in the balance due to infection. After his fever had broke and it was evident that he was on his way to recovery, the siege continued with Maharbol, son of Himilco, leading the operations while Hannibal recovered. Maharbol was a close friend and military adviser of Hannibal and was the commander of the cavalry wing of Hannibal's army. Aside from his brothers, Hannibal would trust nobody more.  

          The main portion of the town was situated upon a tall, fortified hill and the slope of the hill made for extreme difficulty bringing the battering rams to the walls. Large amounts of dirt were brought to the walls to create a level field where the rams could be utilized. All the while this took place, the Saguntine  archers inflicted heavy casualties on the Carthage army. Finally the rams were in place and the walls were breached after several weeks. Carthage troops stormed through the rubble of the breach and were met by the defenders of the city. The battle that ensued was hotly contested and eventually, due to the battle being limited to just the single breach, the Carthage forces retreated at nightfall, without taking the city.  During the evening the population hastily fortified the breach and the next morning, much to the relief of the city, news was heard that the Roman delegation had reached the Iberian coast just one mile from the city and had demanded that Hannibal meet them upon the shore. When Hannibal was met by the delegations envoy and told that the Romans demanded the meeting, Hannibal declined. He told the Roman envoy that they should tell the Roman delegation not to step foot off their ships as the danger due to the hostilities at Saguntum would be dangerous for them. He also replied that he was too heavily involved in the operations against the city to have time to meet with them.  Hannibal then quickly sent a messenger to Carthage to inform the pro-Barcid members of the senate about the Roman delegation and to forewarn them of the possibility of the Romans sailing to Carthage after they left his shores. He also asked the messenger to relay to his allies in the senate that they should stand firm against the Roman delegation and support his operations.

          True to Hannibal's convictions, the Roman delegation landed at Carthage and was granted stage in the Carthage senate. They demanded that Carthage order Hannibal to leave Saguntum as the city was an ally of Rome. Failure to follow this demand would result in dire conditions between Carthage and Rome. The delegation then set sail and returned to Rome. During which time the Carthage senate mulled over the Roman demands and only Hanno the Great, the enemy of the Barca family, demanded that Hannibal be sent word that he was to stop the siege and withdraw his forces. All others agreed to not interfere with Hannibal's operations as they determined that Rome had no authority to make such demands.

          Despite upon entering into an alliance with Saguntum, Rome did nothing to relieve the city. No army was sent for her aid, no fleet for supplies. Rome had merely entered into the alliance to give themselves a reason to declare war upon Carthage, to place the blame on Carthage and Hannibal instead of themselves. 

          During these negotiations, Hannibal pressed upon the siege with renewed vigor until the walls were breached again. He then gave the city a chance to surrender and met with the resistance leader, an Iberian named Alco. He offered the population the chance to leave, unmolested with what personal property they could take with them, minus any gold and silver. Alco, confident that the city would fall, and fearing crucification by the city should he return with Hannibal's demands, refused to re-enter the city and sent one from his delegation to bring Hannibal's demand. He then surrendered to Hannibal to save himself. When the city was made aware of the demand and realizing that attempts to hold Hannibal behind the breaches would be met with extreme difficulty, the senate of Saguntum met to discuss their reply, with most of the population in attendance. The senators had brought with them all their personal wealth that they had gathered over the coarse of their life and piled in into the middle of the city, setting it on fire,and asked the rest of the population to do the same with their wealth to keep it out of Hannibal's reach. The senators then jumped into the fire and died. The city then crucified the messenger from their city who had brought the Carthage demands and gathered in force at the breaches. When the time had passed to respond to the surrender had passed, Hannibal advanced through the breaches and the city was captured after fierce hand-to-hand combat. The city was razed and the survivors sold into slavery (217 B.C.). Winter had now set in and Hannibal retired to Cartegena for the winter and dispersed his native recruits to go home to their families, asking them to return to Cartegena at the first spring thaw.

          When news of the fall of Saguntum reached Rome, the city sent a delegation to Carthage with harsh demands. Upon the floors of the Carthage senate, the leader of the Roman delegation, Fabius, demanded that Carthage surrender Hannibal, Hasdrubal, Mago, Maharbol, and Hanno to Roman authorities. Failure to abide by their demands would renew war. Fabius followed this demand by telling the Carthage senate, " Within the folds of my toga, I offer you war or peace, which, Carthage, do you choose"?. The Carthage senate withdrew and discussed the ultimatum and returned to inform the Roman delegation that they would not surrender their generals to them and that the decision for war or peace should be left to the Romans. Fabius responded "then it shall be war". The Carthage senators responded, "then yes, it shall be".

          Quickly news spread throughout the Mediterranean Sea that the two super-powers were renewing war. Truly this would not be a war for commercial advantage or territorial gains, but a war for survival.

          The Roman delegation returned to Rome and brought word to the senate what the Carthage response had been. The city on the Tiber, undefeated in war, slowly began to deliver her response. All told, Rome could field an army of over 700,000 strong from herself and her allies. One army would be assembled to attack Hannibal in Spain and a second would be sent to invade the Carthage homeland. They were not too overly concerned about the man they only knew as the son of Hamilcar and once- defeated Carthage. The city of Rome expected a much easier victory than what was won in the first war. They were totally wrong.

          The timing for the start of the second war could not have arrived at a better time for Carthage to rival Rome. Rome was expanding their empire quickly and the military strength that Rome possessed was second to none. No other city or nation could hope to oppose the city on the Tiber. Only Carthage, reborn, could hope to muster up the strength to defeat Rome with Hannibal leading her armies. The longer they remained at peace, the stronger Rome would become, and the chance that they could defeat Rome would fade day by day. As news spread throughout the Mediterranean sea that Carthage and Rome was again mobilizing for war, every city and nation braced for the grim reality that they knew would soon follow.

                                                                                                               The fall of Saguntum

                           Fabius Demanding to the Carthage Senate the Surrender of Hannibal and his Generals

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