Ancient History & Civilisation




Causes of the Second Punic War

THERE WERE CERTAINLY moments of tension after the First Punic War, but relations between Rome and Carthage were not entirely unfriendly. Trade was renewed, and Punic merchants were as familiar a sight in Rome as Italians seem to have been in Carthage. It may well have been during these years that the ties of guest friendship, so common a feature of international relations in the ancient world, linking Roman and Punic aristocratic families were created or perhaps ones from before 265 revived. The peace concluded in 241 lasted twenty-three years, assuming that we ignore the Roman threat to reopen hostilities over Sardinia in 238, and ended when Hannibal Barca, the Carthaginian commander in Spain, attacked the Iberian city of Saguntum, which was under Roman protection. Neither side showed much reluctance to go to war, in spite of the memory of the earlier hard-fought and costly struggle. Why they did so has been the subject of intense debate ever since, more often than not concerned with apportioning blame to one side or the other. Equally often historians have fallen into the trap of judging events by modern standards, forgetting that even the most politically advanced ancient states went to war frequently and with enthusiasm, especially when they expected to win and eagerly anticipated the benefits victory would bring. Before discussing these issues it is helpful to review the chain of events which led to the declaration of open war by Rome.1

Probably in 226 Hasdrubal had accepted the demands of the Roman envoys and agreed that the Carthaginians would not cross the River Ebro. The idea of setting a physical boundary to a nation's power was a familiar concept to both cultures.2 In this case it was no great restriction, since at that time the heartland of the Punic province still lay a long way from the river. Attempts to suggest that the treaty in fact involved a boundary much further south have been unconvincing. Similarly, there is even less foundation for the common assumption that the Romans bound themselves not to intervene south of the Ebro. In fact, at this date the Roman State had no direct connection with Spain, save in the sense that her ally, Massilia, had dependent communities there at Emporion and Rhode.

At some point after 226, Rome formed an association with the city of Saguntum (modern Sagunto, not far from Valencia). Polybius tells us that this was 'some years' before Hannibal's time, but it seems plausible that it would have been mentioned in the Ebro treaty had the link existed at that time, since the city stood a long way south of the river. The debate over whether or not there was a formal treaty granting Saguntum allied status, or whether the city simply requested Rome's protection, as Utica had tried to do during the Mercenary War, does not matter for our present purpose. At some point the Roman Senate was asked to arbitrate in an internal dispute at the city, quite possibly between rival factions favouring Rome and Carthage respectively, and the representatives sent ordered the execution of several Saguntine noblemen. The attractions of a Roman alliance to the Spanish town seem obvious. A city state of local importance, Saguntum can only have watched nervously as the Carthaginian province expanded towards them. Roman support offered the greatest possible security against their stronger neighbour. Why the Romans accepted the alliance is less clear and intimately bound up with the cause of the war, so will be discussed below.3

In 221 the 26-year-old Hannibal succeeded his brother-in-law and continued the aggressive Carthaginian policy in Spain, ranging far more widely than his predecessors. He led his army against the tribes of central Spain, reaching as far north as modern-day Salamanca. Around 220-219 a dispute broke out between Saguntum and a neighbouring tribe accused of raiding its territory. Details are obscure and even the name of the people involved is uncertain, but the tribe was allied to Carthage and received Hannibal's support. Over the winter, a Roman embassy went to Hannibal at New Carthage and reminded him of the earlier Ebro treaty, as well as warning him not to attack Saguntum. The embassy received a frosty reception and proceeded to Carthage to repeat the demands. The young general also referred to Carthage for instructions and in the spring led his army against the city. Saguntum lay on a strong hilltop position, about a mile from the sea. (In the autumn of AD 1811, the Spanish defenders of a fortress improvised amongst its Iberian, Roman, and Moorish ruins would repulse several attacks launched by one of Napoleon's ablest subordinates, Suchet.) It took Hannibal eight months to capture the town, but from the beginning it was clear that his intention was to take it by storm, rather than starve it into submission. His tactics were far more openly aggressive than those adopted by the Carthaginians in any of the sieges of the First War, and as a result his casualties were higher. Livy even claims that Hannibal himself was wounded whilst directing an attack from very close to the fighting.4

The Romans did nothing to aid the Saguntines once the siege had begun. Livy claims that they sent another embassy to Hannibal, but his chronology at this point is hopelessly confused and, since Polybius does not mention such a move, it is probably best to reject this. Saguntum fell at the end of 219 or in the first weeks of 218, and news of this may have arrived in Rome within a month. An embassy was sent to Carthage in the latter part of the winter, including both of the outgoing consuls of 219, Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Marcus Livius Salinator. Livy tells us that it was headed by Quintus Fabius Maximus, thus completing the trio of men who would play prominent roles in the approaching war, but it seems more likely that the leader was the experienced former censor, Marcus Fabius Buteo, who had fought in Sicily as consul in 245. The embassy protested Hannibal's actions and demanded to know whether he had been acting with the approval of the Carthaginian Senate. The Carthaginians were faced with the choice of condemning Hannibal and handing him and his senior officers over to the Romans for punishment, or going to war with Rome. The style of diplomacy practised by Roman embassies seems seldom to have been very subtle, but in this case they were clearly obliged to seek revenge for an attack on an ally. In one tradition which depicted a strong party opposed to the Barcids, a certain Hanno is supposed to have condemned Hannibal's actions, but on the whole the Carthaginians responded angrily to the brusque Roman demands. They refused to recognize the Ebro treaty, saying that they had never ratified it and citing Catulus' referral of the peace terms in 241 to Rome, and disputed their need to recognize any relationship between Rome and Saguntum. Fabius is supposed to have stood in the middle of the chamber and announced that he carried in the folds of his toga both peace and war, and could let fall from it whichever the Carthaginians chose. Tempers ran high amongst the assembled Punic senators and the presiding suffete shouted out for him to choose. When Fabius responded by declaring that he let fall war, a great shout of 'We accept it!' filled the hall. In this way war was declared, although it may have become inevitable earlier than this. Hannibal certainly began preparations for his invasion of Italy once he returned to winter quarters after the fall of Saguntum. It is also quite possible that the Comitia Centuriata had already voted for war if the ambassadors failed to gain a satisfactory response at Carthage.5

Polybius discussed the underlying causes of the renewal of hostilities in some detail and concluded that there were three main factors. The first was the bitterness or anger of Hamilcar Barca at the end of the First War when he was forced to surrender despite remaining undefeated in Sicily. The second, and most important, factor was the unprincipled Roman seizure of Sardinia in 238, whilst Carthage was still reeling from the turmoil of the

Mercenary Rebellion. Not only did this humiliation increase Hamilcar's resentment, but it spread a similar hatred of Rome throughout the Punic population. It was with the aim of building up a power base to use against Rome that Hamilcar went to Spain, throwing himself wholeheartedly into a programme of expansion. The successes of his family in the Spanish Peninsula formed the third cause, since the growth in Carthaginian power encouraged them to believe that they were now strong enough to defeat their old rival.6

Polybius supported his view of Hamilcar's motivation by recounting an anecdote which Hannibal had told whilst he was at the court of the Seleucid King Antiochus III in the 190s. Just before leaving to take up his new command in Spain Hamilcar Barca had sacrificed at the altar of a deity, who is called Zeus by Polybius and Jupiter by Livy, but was probably Ba'al Shamin. Receiving favourable omens, he called his 9-year-old son Hannibal to his side and asked the boy whether he would like to accompany him on the expedition. The lad, who had probably seen little of his father during his early life, responded enthusiastically, begging permission to go. Hamilcar placed the boy's hand on the sacrificial victim and made him swear a solemn oath 'never to be a friend to the Romans'.7 Hannibal told this story to convince Antiochus that he was not consorting with the king's Roman enemies, and as Polybius received it at best third-hand, its accuracy is now impossible to assess. In the later Roman tradition the oath's wording becomes stronger, the child swearing to be always an enemy of Rome.8

In Polybius' version of events Hannibal inherited the war with Rome from his father, in much the same way that Alexander the Great would actually undertake the Persian expedition planned by his father Philip II. For a long time many modern historians accepted this interpretation, and a few went further, claiming that the plan to invade Italy across the Alps and even Hannibal's battle tactics may have been first devised by his father. More recently the idea that the war was the premeditated project of the Barcid family has fallen from favour, in part because historians are generally reluctant to attribute important events to the moods and actions of individual leaders, preferring to seek explanation in more general trends. Most often the argument has revolved around the precise details and chronology of the events leading up to the war, since Polybius is vague about much of this, whilst our other sources are of questionable reliability.9

Of fundamental importance is the question of what the Carthaginians led by the Barcid family were hoping to achieve in Spain, and once again we must lament the absence of sources from the Punic perspective. It has often been assumed that the loss of profitable territories in Sicily and Sardinia forced Carthage to seek revenue from elsewhere, and frequently the Spanish silver mines are cited in this context. Certainly, Hamilcar did bring many of these directly under Punic rule, and although it took several years to begin their effective exploitation, this did allow his family to mint several series of coins with an especially high silver content. In other respects it is difficult to see that expansion in Spain allowed any more profitable exploitation of its resources than had been possible through the Punic communities already there. In the short term there was certainly considerable income from the booty of successful campaigns, at least some of which may have come into State hands. Thus Hamilcar's reply to the Roman embassy's demand to know why he was fighting so many wars of conquest was that he needed to annex land to make a profit and so be able to pay off the Punic war debt to Rome. Much of the profit from successful campaigns went to pay for and expand the army in Spain. Punic recruiting officers had long been hiring Spanish soldiers, but the Barcid province brought a large part of this massive pool of military manpower directly under their control. The communities of Spain produced an excess of young males who could not be supported off the land and so frequently turned bandit or mercenary. On at least one occasion Hamilcar recruited captured enemy warriors directly into his own army, since removing this element from society made any conquest more secure. The armies of the First War had been predominantiy African, but whilst large numbers of these soldiers still served, they were to be far outnumbered by Spaniards in the Second War. Most of these Spanish warriors would now serve not as mercenaries for pay, but as allied soldiers.10

Spain gave the Barcids and, depending on the view taken of the independence of their power, Carthage a formidable military force and the wealth to support it. Though it was this resource that would allow Hannibal to prosecute the war so effectively, this does not necessarily mean that this was the reason for its creation. It could be argued that the increase of Punic military might was essentially defensive, giving her some protection against such arbitrary Roman actions as the theft of Sardinia. Clearly the loss of the war with Rome and its aftermath had been a major blow to the pride of a strong Empire. The Spanish enterprise might simply have been an attempt to reassert her independence. Yet to maintain this view it would be necessary to believe that Hannibal's attack on Saguntum was merely a statement of the revival of Punic power, not expected to provoke war with Rome. The rapidity with which Hannibal began the colossal preparations for the Italian expedition make this extremely unlikely. The Romans seem always to have been nervous about the Barcids' activity in Spain, as evidenced by the number of embassies sent there.

The Second War was clearly a legacy of the First, which had ended suddenly with both sides almost equally exhausted. The Romans expected their wars to end in their own complete victory, the former enemy ceasing to present any threat usually through being absorbed as a subordinate ally. Whatever internal autonomy they preserved, they were not allowed an independent foreign policy, still less one which did not agree with Rome's interests. In 241 Carthage was too large and too distant to be absorbed by Rome in the same way that she had taken much of Italy, but even so the Romans refused to treat her as anything like an equal in the decades after the war. Sardinia was a blatant example of this attitude, forcing the Carthaginians to back down to an unjust demand, but the repeated interventions in Spain were another symptom. Whilst the Ebro treaty may not have imposed a major limit on Carthaginian expansion in Spain, it nevertheless made it clear that the Romans felt at liberty to impose such restrictions on Punic activity far from their own territory. The acceptance of some form of alliance with Saguntum reminded the Carthaginians that the Romans placed no such limits on themselves. The annual payment of the indemnity served as a continual reminder of Carthage's defeat, but this was probably completed by the mid 220s and it may have been at this time that Rome began to take an even closer interest in the Spanish Peninsula. A former enemy who appeared to be becoming an independent, rival power once again would have been perceived as a clear threat by the Romans, whatever the reality of the military situation. The interventions of Roman embassies served as a reminder to Carthage of her proper status. Until 219 the Carthaginians had always backed down in the face of Roman demands. It is highly probable that the Senate expected them to do so once again when the legation told Hannibal not to attack Saguntum, and their surprise that he disregarded this prohibition partly explains the failure of the Romans to send any aid to the city.

From the Carthaginian perspective, there was no reason for them to behave as a subordinate ally to Rome. Their military culture was different to Rome's and did not expect the results of wars to be so final. Added to this, their actual power had not been as seriously weakened by their defeat in 241 as the Roman attitude suggested, especially once it had had time to recover from the cost of the war and the disturbances of the Mercenary Rebellion. Carthage was still a large and wealthy state, with extensive territories in Africa and a growing realm in Spain. There was no good reason for Punic citizens to think of their city as anything less than Rome's equal, and their resentment at the Romans' refusal to acknowledge this is understandable. Both states had ample resources for making war and were mutually suspicious. In those circumstances the renewal of hostilities seems less surprising.

The Carthaginians' desire to reassert themselves as an independent power was as natural to them as it seemed threatening to the Romans. Some individuals may have consciously desired and planned for war. Hannibal was a young nobleman at the head of a powerful army and already assured of his own ability to command it. Ancient authors continually explain major wars as inspired by the lust for glory of kings, emperors and princes, and we would be rash wholly to ignore this view. It is possible that Hannibal had sought a war, and certain that he accepted it readily and prosecuted it with considerable enthusiasm. There may well have been some at Carthage who opposed the young general and who hoped for peace, but there was certainly a majority amongst the elite who saw no reason for the renewed Punic state to submit to such arrogant Roman demands. Whether or not they had acquiesced in, or had even ordered, Hannibal's activity which had provoked the crisis is impossible now to answer.11

Preparations and Plans

The Romans reacted very slowly to the attack on Saguntum, probably, as we have seen, in part because they expected the Carthaginians to submit to diplomatic pressure. Roman war-making was also still tied very closely to the consular year. By the time that the Senate heard that Saguntum was under siege, both of the consuls of that year were already abroad, commanding the fleet and army campaigning in Illyria. That war was as yet incomplete and even if one consul had been recalled, it would have taken some time for him to recruit a new army. It would therefore have been very late in the campaigning season before a Roman army arrived in Spain and difficult for it to achieve anything before winter halted operations. It was both more sensible and, by Roman standards, proper for the Senate to wait and allocate the major war with Carthage as the special responsibility of the consuls of 218, who would take up office in March. This was of course little comfort to the Saguntines who were left to fight to the end against an overwhelming enemy, but it is doubtful that any effective aid could have been sent.12

The Senate's plan for the conduct of the war was simple and direct in a characteristically Roman way. The consuls were to operate separately, one going to Spain to face Hannibal, whilst the other went to Sicily from where he would launch an invasion of North Africa. In this way the enemy commander who had provoked the war was to be defeated in battle, whilst the

Carthaginian authorities which had supported him were faced with a direct attack on their city. Direct confrontation of the enemy at their strongest points brought heavy pressure to bear on the mainstays of their opposition. Carthage had come close to folding under such pressure in 256-255 and there was no reason to believe that she would not do so again. Indeed, given the willingness of Carthage to give in to Roman threats in the decades between the wars, the Romans may even have expected her to be less resilient to actual war.

Of the two consuls of 218, Publius Cornelius Scipio was given Spain as his province and Tiberius Sempronius Longus received Sicily and Africa. Six Roman legions were raised for the year, each consisting of 4,000 infantry and 300 cavalry. Both consuls were given the standard consular army of two of these legions supported by two Latin alae. In total Scipio received 14,000 allied foot and 1,600 horse, whilst Longus had 16,000 and 1,800 respectively. The remaining legions along with 10,000 allied infantry and 1,000 cavalry were sent to Cisalpine Gaul under the command of a praetor, Lucius Manlius Vulso. The willingness to alter the size of allied contingents to cope with the scale of the problem once again emphasizes that the Roman military system was not as rigid as is sometimes assumed. The Senate's appreciation of the task in hand was also reflected in the allocation of naval resources. Longus, who was to mount an invasion of Africa possibly in the face of opposition from a large Punic fleet, received 160 quinqueremes and twenty lighter ships. Scipio was far less likely to encounter a powerful enemy fleet whilst moving his army to Spain, and so was given command of sixty 'fives'. The recent war in Illyria will have ensured that the Roman navy was in good condition.13

Before any move could be made against Carthage, a rebellion broke out in Cisalpine Gaul, provoked once again by the tribes' resentment of the incursions of Roman colonists. The Boii and Insubres drove the settlers from the as yet unfortified colonies of Placentia and Cremona, chasing them to the city of Mutina. The Gauls then sat down outside the city walls and began a blockade. Three Senatorial commissioners sent to organize the distribution of land in the new colonies were taken prisoner when they attempted to negotiate. A relief column set out under the command of the praetor Manlius Vulso, marching rapidly and taking little care to reconnoitre. It was ambushed when moving along a narrow path in heavily wooded country and suffered heavily, Livy claiming that 500 men were lost in one ambush and 700 along with six standards in a second. The battered army managed to reach a small town called Tannetum, where it too found itself under a loose siege.14

The situation was serious and the trouble in Cisalpine Gaul was too close to Rome for the Senate to ignore until the Carthaginian war had been completed. Scipio's army had been mustering in northern Italy, preparatory to sailing to Spain, so the Senate ordered another praetor, Caius Atilius Serranus, to take one of the legions and 5,000 allied troops and relieve Manlius, an objective he achieved quickly and without opposition. Scipio was instructed to levy a new legion and fresh allied troops to replace these, but it is not altogether clear whether or not Livy's total of six legions for the year includes this unit. The resultant delay meant the postponement of the move to Spain. In the meantime, Longus had gone ahead to Lilybaeum where he threw himself into major preparations for the African expedition.15 However, the war was not to be fought in the manner the Senate had anticipated.

In the First War the Carthaginians had invariably responded to Roman moves rather than attempting to dictate the course of the war themselves. It had always been their opponents who escalated the conflict and pushed for a decisive result. From the beginning the Second War was to be very different and the main reason for this was the influence of one man, Hannibal Barca. In our sources Hannibal is represented as making all the key decisions to organize the initial Punic war effort in 219-218, not only in Spain but also in Africa. The Carthaginians habitually interfered very little with commanders once they had been appointed to a task, indeed often to the extent of failing to support them in subsequent operations, but the resources at the young general's immediate disposal were huge. It is at this time more than any other that Hannibal appears most like the ruler of the semi-independent principality in Spain depicted by some scholars.

The war had begun with a local dispute in Spain, the Carthaginians refusing to acknowledge any longer the restrictions the Romans had imposed upon their power there. The Romans clearly expected them to remain there and fight a defensive war to protect their territory, much like the one they had fought in Sicily. With the forces at his disposal Hannibal was in a strong position to meet any invasion. He would in fact have greatly outnumbered the single consular army which Scipio was to lead into the Peninsula and ought easily to have defeated it if it could be forced into a battle. Yet the experience of the First War had shown that destroying a Roman fleet or army simply meant that another was raised to replace it. The dogged persistence which Rome had shown in the face of horrendous losses made it unlikely that they would quickly give up. The longer that a war continued in Spain the less solid the Barcid conquests would seem. Many of the tribes had been overawed by Punic military might, but their loyalty might not last when another army remained in the area, its leaders doubtless making every effort to seduce the Spanish chieftains. The more traditional Carthaginian mode of war-making, enduring an enemy's onslaught till its power began to dissipate, offered at best the prospect of a prolonged stalemate and at worst defeat when the opponent was Rome. Hannibal rejected the defensive option from the beginning and resolved that every effort should be made actively to defeat Rome. Since heavy losses abroad had in the past done little to weaken her power, Rome must be confronted and beaten on her own territory, in Italy.

In many ways, the invasion of Italy was a markedly 'Roman' enterprise, bringing heavy force to bear directly against an enemy's strength. In that sense the Romans perhaps should have been less surprised than they were when Hannibal chose this option, but the past record of Punic war-making did not suggest such a bold venture likely, especially in view of the practical difficulties involved. A seaborne invasion was scarcely feasible in 218. Without bases in Sicily, even southern Italy was at the very limit of operational range for a fleet of galleys operating from North Africa, and Punic naval power in Spain was not great. In either case a landing on a hostile shore, probably in the face of opposition from the powerful Roman navy, was a highly risky venture and it is doubtful that a large enough army could have been landed to operate with any effectiveness.16 This left the option of a land invasion from Spain, but the difficulties were formidable. Such an expedition involved a march of hundreds of miles through tribes which were at best neutral and potentially hostile, and the crossing of the major obstacle formed by the Alps. Once in Italy the Punic army would have no base, no supplies and be faced by steadily increasing numbers of enemies. It was a bold venture and our familiarity with the story should not blind us to the shock which the Romans must have received when they learned that this was precisely what Hannibal had done.

After the fall of Saguntum Hannibal withdrew to New Carthage for the winter, lavishly rewarding his soldiers with a proportion of the spoils from the city. His Spanish troops were allowed to disperse to their homes and families, having orders to reassemble by the beginning of spring. Correctly anticipating the Romans' course of action, Hannibal took measures to bolster the defences of both Africa and Spain. The figures for the forces involved are unusually precise by ancient standards and Polybius tells us that they came from an inscription erected by order of Hannibal himself during his time in Italy. Africa received a force of 1,200 Iberian horse and 13,850 foot, supported by 870 of the wild slingers from the Balearic Islands. A small detachment of these troops were stationed in Carthage itself, along with 4,000 Libyan foot, who in addition provided hostages for the good behaviour of their home communities. The bulk of the force was garrisoned in the area of Libya known as Metagonia. Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal was given command of the Spanish province, continuing the tradition of government by the Barcid family. Hasdrubal seems to have been an able man and certainly held the trust of his brother, but the personal nature of loyalty amongst the Spanish tribes may well have been another reason for this decision. In addition to the allies which could be levied in the province, Hasdrubal received a strong force of African soldiers. Altogether he had twenty-one elephants, 2,550 cavalry (consisting of 450 Liby-Phoenicians and Libyans, 300 Spanish Ilergetes, and 1,800 Numidians from four different tribes), and 12,650 infantry, mostly Libyans, but including 300 Ligurians and 500 Balearic slingers. Naval support was provided by a small fleet of fifty 'fives', two 'fours' and five 'threes', but only a proportion of these, thirty-two quinqueremes and all the triremes, were properly manned and ready. The exchange of soldiers levied in Spain and Africa was considered a good way of ensuring their loyalty, making it harder for them to desert and return to their homes.17

The bulk of preparations were concerned with the Italian expedition, massing a huge total of 12,000 cavalry and 90,000 infantry according to Polybius. Sadly he does not go into any detail about their composition, although it is likely that most of the nationalities and troop types in the other forces were represented. The bulk were evidently from the Spanish Peninsula and later events make it clear that they included representatives from all the main peoples of the region, Iberians, Lusitanians and Celtiberians. These tribal peoples provided good close order cavalry and both close order and open order foot. Then there was a strong contingent of African regular infantry, well drilled and disciplined, Numidian light horse and perhaps some foot, and a corps of war elephants, thirty-seven in number according to Appian.18 This army was far larger than any force recorded for the Carthaginians during the century and it is likely that many of the soldiers, and particularly the Spanish, had been raised relatively recently. The core of the army were the troops who had won the many wars of conquest in Spain under Hannibal, his father and his brother-in-law. They were led by a staff of senior officers whom they knew and trusted. Together these men had welded the warriors of many disparate races into a highly efficient fighting force which, for its numbers, was probably better than anything else in existence in the Mediterranean world at that time.

This huge force of troops by the standards of the day required massive logistic support to feed, clothe and equip itself. This must have occupied

Hannibal and his officers throughout the winter and probably for many months or even years before. It has been suggested that Hannibal's Spanish campaigns from 221 had as one of their main aims the capture of some of the more fertile regions of the Peninsula to ensure a grain supply for his planned Italian expedition.19 There were many other arrangements which also could not have been completed swiftly. Men were sent to gather as much information as possible about the proposed route for the march to Italy and in particular such major obstacles as the Alps. Representatives went amongst the tribes along the route and especially those of Cisalpine Gaul, seeking their support against Rome once the army arrived in Italy. The recent memory of heavy defeats inflicted by the Romans since 225 ensured that such approaches met a with warm reception. Having allies beyond the Alps, Hannibal could anticipate securing supplies of food as well as adding many warriors to his army. Polybius tells us that the emissaries had returned by the end of the winter assuring him of the welcome he would receive. This means that at the very latest these must have left as soon as Saguntum fell and it is distinctly possible that they went before. All of these arrangements suggest that the Italian expedition, and thus the war with Rome, had long been pondered and perhaps actively prepared by the young Punic general. The expectation of Gallic assistance as part of the plan has been seen by some as proving that the concept cannot have been devised before 225 and therefore at the earliest was created by Hasdrubal rather than Hamilcar. However, perhaps all this meant was that an earlier plan became more practical from that date. Once again without accounts from the Carthaginian perspective we can only speculate about all of this. Hannibal undertook one other preparation during the winter, perhaps as important by ancient, if not modern, standards as all the others: travelling to Gades to sacrifice at the Temple of Melquart - Herakles, a deity associated with his family and depicted on some of the coins they issued.20 There he fulfilled vows taken earlier and made fresh ones for the success of his expedition.

What was Hannibal's objective in invading Italy? This topic has long been the subject of fierce debate, often revolving around his decision not to march on the city of Rome itself when he apparently had the opportunity in 217 and 216. The most commonly held view now is that Hannibal's plan was never to capture the city of Rome itself, but to weaken her power by persuading as many of her Italian and Latin allies as possible to defect. Therefore, when Hannibal negotiated an alliance against Rome with Philip II of Macedon, the terms clearly anticipated that Rome would still exist in a weakened state after their joint victory. Similarly, Livy tells us that after Cannae in 216, Hannibal addressed his Roman prisoners and claimed that he was not fighting to destroy them, but 'for honour and power'.21 The answer is a good deal simpler than the controversy over this would suggest. Hannibal attacked Italy to win the war. It was rarely possible in this period for one side to destroy its enemy utterly in war, unless the states involved were very small and one had an overwhelmingly advantage. Later, in 146, Rome possessed such an advantage over Carthage and was able after a hard struggle to destroy her as a political entity. Normally wars, particularly wars between states as large as Carthage or Rome, ended when one side lost the willingness to fight on, not the ability to do so. Then, as Carthage had nearly done in 255 and had actually done in 241, they acknowledged defeat and accepted peace terms which reflected this. The objective of any war was to force the enemy into a position where they would give in. The method was perhaps to win one or several pitched battles, to capture enemy cities, ravage their fields and burn their villages, or most often a combination of all these things. All the more powerful states had absorbed many smaller communities as subordinate allies of varying willingness. A demonstration of the weakness of their masters at the hands of an invader was likely to prompt defections, each group hoping to side with the eventual winners in any conflict. Most city states and tribes were riven by factional divides, who were often willing to side with an external power willing to give them control of their own people. In this way the Sicilian cities had flocked to join Rome after her initial successes in 264, whilst in 240 the Libyans had rapidly sided with the rebellious mercenaries. During the course of this war the tribes of Spain proved ever ready to abandon their alliance and join the side which appeared to be winning. A state seeing its allies and subjects breaking away would be under even more pressure to compromise and accept defeat. Therefore, it was not unreasonable to believe that, if Hannibal could reach Italy and begin winning victories there, Rome's allies would begin to waver. Hannibal was not adopting a novel strategy, and there is no need to claim that he appreciated that Rome's real strength lay in her network of allies. He was simply fighting a war in the normal way. What was unusual about his plans, at least in comparison to recent Carthaginian warfare, was the willingness to act so aggressively and attempt to force a decision in the war.22

Before following the Carthaginian army on their epic march to Italy, it is worth pausing to consider what sort of man their commander was. Hannibal was about 28-years-old when he left New Carthage in the spring of 218. It is not clear whether he had remained in Spain since his father took him there at the age of 9,23 but he certainly had served on many campaigns there and was already an experienced soldier. His education seems to have included a strong Greek element and he was to take Greek historians with him on his expedition. Our sources are unanimous in admiring his military virtues. For Polybius he personified in every respect the ideal of Hellenistic generalship, planning operations carefully and acting with caution, but willing to be very bold when the situation required it. Livy depicts him more in accordance with literary cliches of his day. Therefore, like the best Roman commanders he was as proficient with his personal weapons as he was in directing the movements of an entire army. On campaign he shared the physical hardships of his men, sleeping in the open wrapped only in a military cloak, and wearing the same clothes as the ordinary soldiers, although Livy does note that his equipment and horses were of such high quality as to make him conspicuous. Physically brave and inclined to lead from close to the fighting, he had the moral courage to take decisions and adhere to them.24

Even his enemies acknowledged his military genius, though they were inclined to accuse him of Punic perfidiousness, perhaps because he had so often outwitted them. They also believed him to be cruel, although a similar charge could be laid against most of the 'Great Captains' of antiquity and Polybius suggested that some of the more brutal acts attributed to him may in fact have been committed by one of his subordinates, another Hannibal, nicknamed Monomachus, which means 'fighter of single combats' or 'duellist'. This man is supposed to have shocked a meeting of senior officers called by Hannibal to plan the invasion of Italy by suggesting that they solve their supply problems by training the soldiers to eat human flesh. Polybius also believed that men may be forced to commit acts of great cruelty in spite of an otherwise good nature, if a difficult military or political situation made such actions necessary. Polybius seemed to accept the charge repeated by most of our sources that Hannibal was overly avaricious. However, the sources he gives for this, namely a conversation with King Masinissa, the Numidian leader who defected to the Romans later in the war and had little love for his former Punic masters, and the opinion of Hannibal's political rivals who forced him into exile from Carthage in the years after the war, do not inspire confidence. Hannibal's apparent thirst for money may well have been necessary throughout the Italian campaign to support his army and pay his soldiers.25

The true character of Hannibal eludes us. None of our sources provide the equivalent of the anecdotes told about the childhood and family life of the important Greek and Roman politicians of the era, many of whom were the subject of detailed biographies. We can say a good deal about what

Hannibal did during his career, and often understand how he did it, but we can say virtually nothing with any certainty about what sort of man he was. As with so much else about Carthage and its leaders, there are so many things that we simply do not know, that even our sources probably did not understand. Was Hannibal for instance a Hellenized aristocrat who dreamed of copying and surpassing the great expeditions of Alexander or Pyrrhus, or did he remain very much the Punic nobleman with a very different set of beliefs and ambitions? Much as we try to understand Hannibal, he will always remain an enigma.

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