(247 B.C. – c. 182 B.C.) A famous general of Carthage who fought the Roman Republic, most notably during the Second Punic War. His tactical brilliance is regarded as among the greatest in history. Hannibal defeated Roman army after Roman army from 218-215 B.C. in a series of campaigns studied to this day, culminating in the Battle of Cannae in 215 B.C., where Hannibal became the first general in recorded history to achieve the double envelopment and isolation of a superior enemy force, allowing him to surround and crush a Roman army twice the size of his own, killing over 50,000 Romans.
Hannibal's father, Hamilcar Barca, commanded Carthaginian land forces in Sicily during the First Punic War. Evacuating from Sicily at the end of the war, Hamilcar led his intact army over north Africa to Iberia, where resources sufficient to allow Carthage to retire its war indemnity were known to exist. Hamilcar's mission was to win over the Celtic tribes in the region to alliance with Carthage by diplomacy, or to subject them by force, so that the wealth of Iberia could be used to pay the indemnity and permit Carthage to rebuild its strength. Hannibal thus spent his adolescence with his father and brother in Iberia, where the Barcid family established the Carthaginian colonies which today are Cartagena and Barcelona (named for the Barcid family).
According to legend, the animating spirit of this enterprise by Hamilcar was hatred of Rome and desire for revenge. Hannibal and his brothers, by this (Roman) legend, were brought as boys to the temple of Moloch to swear eternal enmity towards Rome. When Hamilcar died in battle in 228 B.C., Hannibal was still a young man, and his brother-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair assumed control of operations in Iberia, with Hannibal as a subordinate officer. Hasdrubal the Fair concentrated on diplomatic intitiatives to improve Carthage's position against Rome, beginning the cultivation of the Celtic tribes in Iberia, Gaul, and northern Italy, and the Greek city-states in Sicily and southern Italy as potential allies. Hasdrubal the Fair, though, was assassinated by a Celtic tribesman opposed to Carthaginian rule in 221 B.C., and Hannibal assumed the mantle of command in Iberia.
While the Barcid family was resolved in its commitment to act against Rome, the ruling families of Carthage itself were ambivalent. The Barcids' activities in Iberia brought wealth, but also brought worried attention from Rome. Rome extended patronage to the city of Saguntum, south of the Ebro River which Hasdrubal the Fair had fixed by treaty with Rome as the boundary of Roman and Carthaginian spheres of interest. Hannibal seized the opportunity to provoke Rome, and sacked the city in 219 B.C. The Carthaginian Senate and suffetes--the consuls of Carthage--did not disavow Hanibal, and Rome declared war.
The Second Punic WarEdit
This was precisely what Hannibal wanted and that for which his family had so long planned. Hannibal mobilized an army of approximately 50,000 infantry, mostly mercenaries, approximately 10,000 cavalry, mostly Berbers from Numidia, and 40 elephants. Fighting his way through unconquered northern Iberia and over the Pyrenees Mountains, Hannibal garrisoned his new conquests and entered southern Gaul with approximately 10,000 fewer infantry, but with a well-trained army in excellent morale. Negotiating with or defeating the Gallic tribes he encountered, Hannibal crossed the Rhône River and eluded an intercepting Roman army. Rather than proceeding along the Mediterranean coast as anticipated, Hannibal turned north and led his entire army, elephants and all, over the Alps to enter northern Italy and enter the territory of the Gallic tribes of Cisalpine Gaul, whom Hannibal and Hasdrubal the Fair had been courting diplomatically for nearly a decade. Many of the Gallic tribes joined the army of Hannibal, and, thus reinforced, Hannibal proceeded to invade central Italy. In three great battles between 218 B.C. and 215 B.C., at Trebia in 218 B.C., Lake Trasimene in 217 B.C., and Cannae in 215 B.C., Hannibal outmanoeuvred and defeated larger Roman armies, leading the cities of southern Italy and Sicily to rise in revolt against Rome and ally with Hannibal.
After Hannibal's crushing victory at Cannae, Rome lay without an army. But Hannibal had lost what siege equipment he had brought from Iberia crossing the Alps. Hannibal temporized by campaigning through southern Italy, cementing his alliances with the old Greek colonies now allied to him. The watchword "Hannibal ad portas!"--"Hannibal is at the gates!"--spurred the preparations for siege and the recruitment and drilling of yet another Roman army. By the close of 215 B.C., the crisis passed; a new army was trained and Hannibal had not attacked the city.
Rome set upon a strategy of indirect confrontation, dividing its forces into separate columns, each avoiding Hannibal himself, but attacking isolated Carthaginian foraging parties and recapturing the rebel cities one by one. Rather than confronting Hannibal, Rome sent troops to Iberia to eliminate Carthage's ability to reinforce Hannibal in Italy, challenging the forces left there under the command of Hannibal's younger brother, Hasdrubal Barca. Rome dispatched money and ambassadors to Numidia to encourage the tribal chieftains to switch sides, leading ultimately to the complete defection of Numidia from its alliance with Carthage and its alliance with Rome. After Hasdrubal Barca's attempt to join up with his brother in Italy for a renewed offensive was detected and defeated, resulting in Hasdrubal's death in the Battle of the Metaurus in 207 B.C., the initiative shifted decisively to Rome. The Roman commander in Iberia, Publius Cornelius Scipio, crushed the remaining Carthaginian army there in 206 B.C. at the Battle of Ilipa. Numidia broke decisively against Carthage the next year.
Scipio, now elected consul, raised an army in Sicily to cross over and invade the Carthaginian homeland, to which the Roman Senate assented in 204 B.C. In Africa, Scipio defeated the Carthaginian home armies in 203 B.C., leading the Carthaginian Senate to recall Hannibal from Italy to defend Carthage itself. Hannibal was forced to abandon the remnants of his army in Italy to take command of the new army levied in Africa. Hannibal and Scipio attempted unsuccessfully to negotiate a peace, and Hannibal suffered his only defeat in battle in 202 B.C., and the Battle of Zama, ending the military operations of the war.
Hannibal stood for suffete, the consulship of Carthage, in the aftermath of Carthage's capitulation, and served for five years, reforming Carthage's government to meet to burdens of the peace treaty imposed by Rome. After five years, though, Rome found itself sufficiently alarmed by Hannibal's activity to demand his surrender as hostage. Hannibal instead went into exile, traveling first to Tyre, then into Asia Minor and the service first of the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus III, and then with King Prusias I of Bithynia, who was engaged in a war with Rome's ally Pergamon. Hannibal won victories for Prusias, but attracted the wrath of Rome who still feared Hannibal in command of any army. Approximately 182 B.C., still pursued by Rome, Hannibal committed suicide in the Bithynian city of Libyssa.