The purpose of this report is to show how Hannibal Barca became one of the greatest generals in history. To back-up and show how he is fitting for this title, this report will include his motivations, his outstanding achievements and greatest feats during his lifetime and the consequences of his actions after his death.
Hannibal Barca was born in 247 BCE, his birthplace Carthage was about to lose a long and very important war. Carthage had been the Mediterranean’s most prosperous seaport and possessed wealthy provinces, but it had suffered severe losses from the Romans in the first Punic wars (264-241)1. Hamiclar Barca, Hannibal’s father, was the general during the first Punic war. However, at the end of the war, the Carthaginians had failed to take control of Sicily, one of their most important provinces. The Romans now controlled Sicily, and this was a matter Hamiclar did not take lightly. Hamiclar was “driven by his hatred of the Romans”2. Hamiclar truly hated the Romans after they humiliated the Carthaginians at their forced surrender in Sicily. Hannibal Barca had been waiting in Carthage for his moment to rise to power. At a very early age, Hamiclar “made his son swear eternal hatred to Rome”3. Hannibal, at the age of no more than twenty, was sent to Spain to be educated about war under Hasdrubal. Hannibal never did anything in excess; he only ate and drank what was required to survive. Hannibal became a very skilled warrior and very well educated, Arts of politics and tactics of war seemed to come naturally. Hannibal had even learned the language of the enemy, Latin.
After the death of Hasdrubal, Hannibal Barca had risen to power. He did not abide by the conditions set by the Romans. His hatred towards the Romans fueled his ambition. Hannibal had also realized very quickly that “Carthaginian victories in Spain would not break the power of Rome”4. He needed to break the Italian Confederacy to take down Rome. Hannibal Barca didn’t want war in his homeland, to keep battles away from Carthage or Spain; Hannibal decided that the target of invasion should be Italy and force the Romans to defend. From Spain, the best route for Hannibal to take would be across land. The land route to Italy from Spain is a very difficult journey. This would mark as one of Hannibal Barca’s greatest feats, with him and his troops were forced to crossed over the dangerous Alps to invade Italy.5 Crossing the Alps was unheard and deemed impossible during Hannibal’s time. Hannibal’s force contained a rather large amount of troops, about 50,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry to the Alps. The Romans thought that their Northern front was impenetrable because the Alps were a natural wall. It was Hannibal’s deep hatred for the Romans that pushed him to do the seemingly impossible task.
Throughout the difficult journey, it was most likely Hannibal’s leadership that kept the soldiers going. Hannibal Barca’s vast knowledge aided him and his army to survive. He knew when to fight and when not to. Hannibal’s tactics and education served the army well during their journey. It was a harsh journey, Hannibal had lost about 25,000 thousand infantry and 4,000 cavalry in the cold, slippery mountain pass and constant attacks from the local tribes. Yet when he entered Italy, Rome was in shock and the people that were oppressed by Rome were impressed by this man that had done the impossible thing, crossing the Alps with an army. Tribe after tribe broke their alliance to Rome and joined Hannibal.
Hannibal had stayed a long 10 years in Italy facing the Roman army. Eventually, Rome sent the largest army they had ever assembled; Hannibal was greatly outnumbered but using his genius and military tactics, within hours he had almost every roman in that great roman army killed. The battle of Cannae, this was Hannibal Barca’s greatest battle. In the long 10 years of Hannibal Barca’s battle against Rome’s army, one after another without ever losing and the Roman defeat at Cannae stunned much of southern Italy, many of Rome’s allies and colonies defected to the Carthaginian side and other Romans soon began to rally. Hannibal Barca’s military tactics and strategies were so effective that the Roman enemy accepted the brilliance of Hannibal’s tactics.
The Roman generals learned a lot from Hannibal and subsequently the Romans based a lot of their strategy and tactics from Hannibal. The Roman army gathered enough infantry and persuaded the allies of the Carthaginians to betray Carthage. This forced Hannibal Barca to defend back to his homeland in northern Africa. The battle of Zuma would have mark Hannibal’s first defeat and only defeat. This defeat led to the surrender of Carthage to Rome. Even after the war and peace agreement, Rome did not rest until they had obtained Hannibal Barca. Hannibal had fled for years, never wanting to yield to the Romans and when he was unable to flee no longer, he poisoned himself so that no Roman would gain glory to his death.
Hannibal Barca’s brilliance changed the world, his leadership that lead thousands to follow him and military tactics defeating larger armies. No one could argue that Hannibal’s tactics were very effective, even his enemies had accepted it. Even in our modern era, Hannibal’s strategies are still being studied and being applied in warfare.
Works Cited and References:
2 p. 40 Hannibal Crosses the Alps
3 p. 184 A History of the Roman World, 753-146 BC
4 p. 186 A History of the Roman World, 753-146 BC
5 p. 58 Hannibal Crosses the Alps
Prevas, John. Hannibal Crosses the Alps. New York: SARPEDON, 1998. Scullard, Howard. A History of the Roman World 753-146 BC. London: Methuen & Co Ltd., 1970.
Fu, Henry. Hannibal crossing the Alps.pdf