Thursday, 14 August 2008

General Hannibal of Carthage

General Hannibal, one of history’s most talented Generals, is well known for his invasion of Rome via Spain and the Alps. Hannibal was a Carthaginian who spent his entire life in a pursuit to destroy Rome. He was the son of a Carthaginian General, Hamilcar Barca. As a 9 year old boy he made an oath “ I swear that so soon as I am old enough, I will pursue the Romans both at sea and on land. I will use both fire and steel to arrest the destiny of Rome”.
Volumes and volumes have been written about Hannibal, and detailed stuff can be obtained from the Internet.
However, a bit about the 2ND Punic War and his trip over the Alps with his elephants.
After Carthage had been defeated during the 1st Punic War by the Romans, he went to Spain with his father to learn the arts of war. He became the commander of the Carthaginian army in Spain after his father’s death in 228BC. Three years later he set off for Rome with and army of 50,000 soldiers, 9,000 horsemen and about 200 elephants. (These figures vary, depending on what you read.)
He went up the East Coast of Spain, over the Pyrenees and across the river Rhone. By the time he got to the Alps autumn had set in and it was bitterly cold. Many soldiers were lost during the crossing due to men slipping into crevasses and over precipices while others were slain by falling boulders, rolled down by locals in an endeavor to halt his progress.
It was bitterly cold with snowstorms; soldiers were almost blinded and suffered many hardships.
When Hannibal reached the plain of Northern Italy his army had been reduced by half. He won a number of minor battles on his way toward Rome, but his progress was severely hampered by delaying tactics employed by Rome and the local population. The use of war elephants was not the first time elephants had been used in warfare, as this tactic had been employed in Asia for a long time, but was unknown by the Romans, and scared them to no end.
A major battle took place at Cannae during the summer of 216BC. A Roman force of between 70,000 and 100,000 men was defeated by a vastly outnumbered Carthaginian force. Hannibal managed, by superb strategy, to surround the Romans, and the army was annihilated.
Many famous Romans died in the battle and legend has it that Hannibal sent home to Carthage a bushel of gold rings worn by Roman nobles as a sign of rank.
Anyhow, Hannibal had a number of problems. Firstly the tribes he had conquered he could not control, and he had to spend a vast amount of time keeping them subdued, as they had all taken sides with the Romans. He received no re-enforcements, or help from Carthage. His brother raised an army to help him, but this army was destroyed at sea by roman ships.
Hannibal was in Italy for 10 years and never lost a major battle, a long time.. He had to return to Carthage when the Romans under Scipio had launched a counter attack on his home city.
Hannibal never achieved his dream of conquering the Romans, but spent the rest of his long life devoted to this cause.
He inspired fear into the Romans as no other person ever had.
“Hannibal became such a figure of terror, that whenever disaster struck, the Roman Senators would exclaim "Hannibal ad portas" (“Hannibal is at the Gates!”)” ( Wikipedia)
A quote attributed to Hannibal is “We will either find a way or make one”
Lots and lots of available stuff on Internet if you surf around
A post on Carthage here

1 comment:

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