Hannibal, a Carthaginian general and one of the greatest generals that ever lived was renown for his strategies and courageousness, such as crossing the Alps and using the “bottleneck strategy” at Lake Trasemene. He used strategies that a lot of generals at this time, especially Roman generals, would never think of and in doing this he almost destroyed the Roman republic.
Hannibal’s first battle took place when he was only nine. He went on an expedition with his father, Hamilcar Barca, to conquer Spain. From the beginning Carthages push into Spain, Hannibal vowed eternal hatred for Rome; Hannibal became Commander in Chief of Carthages army when he was 26 after his father was assassinated. His conquest of the Roman town of Sagunto in Spain led to a new declaration of war by Rome; which started the second Punic War and Hannibals promise to visit Roman injustice back on Rome a hundred fold. For Carthage to take the town of Sagunto was completely within the rights of the Carthage and the treaty but Rome at the time was getting too big and becoming very imperialistic. All Rome could see was that they had to have all of the Mediterranean and the only thing that stood in their way was a single General and his men. The way in which the Romans were unconsciously straying from “mos maiorum” to manipulate the course of events was disturbing. Though these actions were not entirely the “evil” work of Rome. Hannibal from his earliest memories could recall nothing but hatred for Rome. Hannibals Father had instilled a horrifically self-destructive desire within Hannibal to see the fall of Rome.
This desire manifested itself during The Second Punic War, which was the ultimate fight for supremacy in the Ancient World. The victor would have control over the entire Mediterranean Sea and all of the trade routes bringing land, pride, wealth, and dominance over the victors enemies. Hannibal took a 1,000 mile trek from New Carthage, Spain, through the Alps, Northern Italy, and finally to Carthage. Hannibal won most of his battles with Rome, but never got the reinforcement he needed to over take Rome. The men that he had with him at the time were renowned for their loyalty to Hannibal and unconventional fighting tactics. Their “Gorilla” type war fair or wars of “delaying” almost saw the defeat of Rome but Rome finally assimilated these new tactics and used them against Hannibal, the man who had taught them to Rome.
The Second Punic War was a turning point in Roman history, with profound implications for the Republic. The most immediate and obvious effect was the acquisition of territory; in the space of fifty years Rome had acquired most of the western Mediterranean. In doing this, the Romans viewed the war with Hannibal, and Hannibal himself, in nearly mythic terms. Later Romans saw this as Rome’s heroic age, a time when the villains were most villainous and the heroes most heroic. It was an age when “all Romans were virtuous and everything worked.” This being far from the truth did in the end teach the Romans their lesson of humility and if anything that “mos maiorum” needed to be followed more stringently and a conservative revival was needed.
Although Hannibal never again actually threatened Rome, his memory did constantly. He became a monster, a brutal and cunning invader who was stopped only by the “epic courage and perseverance” of Rome. As is common one only hears of the victors side of the story. A different perspective is that Hannibal was fighting for the unwarranted treatment of the Carthaginians and all others that Rome had consumed.
In Livys description of Hannibal as apposed to in “An Enemy of Rome,” Hannibal is not made out to be the spawn of the underworld, hell-bent on Romes destruction, but a great man whom was horrifying but merely misguided. Livy is also very quick to complement Hannibal and tell the reader just how great a leader he was. This is done so that when one looks back at Hannibal they say that if Hannibal was such a great leader Rome must have been far superior to be able to defeat him. This sense of modesty or “mos maiorum” was how the Romans were supposed to treat the Carthaginian General but they did not. It is very interesting to see that all the evil qualities Livy talks about that are in direct contradiction with “mos maiorum” were said to be traits of Hannibal, but for the most part were actually how the Romans themselves had acted. Hannibals actions constituted such a threat to the Roman way of life not because of the physical threat to the Romans but because he did the impossible and made it to the gates of the city of Rome. Hannibal was professed to be evil and all that a Roman was not; and therefore daunting task of slaying Goliath fell in the good hands of Rome.
The name Hannibal conjures up similar images of death and destruction for the Romans that Adolf Hitler would to our Civilization. Hannibals name became synonymous with the stereotype that Rome had of the Carthaginian perfidy. And it was this that Rome never wanted to see again; so to be a good Roman, one had to be taught what it was to be a “Hannibal” and how not to be a “Hannibal.” In the end Rome was taught many valuable lessons and to the victor go the spoils; so it is a measure of the fear Hannibals name instilled, that long after he was dead and gone, parents would scold naughty children with the warning that if they weren’t good, Hannibal would come to get them in the night.
Italy itself suffered cruelly in the war. Hannibal spent fourteen years there, mostly in southern Italy. As the years went by, the steep hillsides began to lose their topsoil. By war’s end, southern Italy was permanently impoverished. In fact, in our own century, in the 1960s, the Italian government began to attempt to recover and reclaim the land from Hannibal, an effort that still goes on intermittently. Hannibal’s legacy outlived Rome itself, Cato the Elder would be turning over in his grave if he knew this.