Roman sculpture of Hannibal.
Hannibal's elephant troops crossing the Rhone.
Hannibal Barca was born in Carthage in 247 BCE, the son of Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca and a Spanish wife. He would come to be known throughout the world as one of the greatest military minds of the Classical Age. He is featured as the BotW this week to commemorate the fact that my website received it's first hit from the African continent this week and also because I heard that they were going to release a movie next year starring Vin Diesel as Hannibal. I might as well get him established as a true Classical Age badass before Hollywood starts depicting him running around the desert shooting lasers out of his hands and punching aliens.
Hannibal assumed control of a large Carthaginian army around 216 BCE, as Carthage was reeling from it's defeat in the First Punic War and attempting to accept its place as a declining power in the Mediterranean region. Hannibal set out to re-establish Carthage by campaigning successfully in the Iberian peninsula, conquering what is present-day Spain and Portugal from the native peoples there. Hannibal took a Spanish woman to be his wife, but when he had his first child the High Priest of Carthage demanded that he sacrifice the baby to the gods. Hannibal was like, "Uh... how about I sacrifice thousands of enemy soldiers instead?". The Carthaginian theocracy determined that would also be acceptable.
So at the age of thirty Hannibal set about trying to start a war with Rome. He instigated conflict with Roman-governed cities and finally managed to get Rome to declare open war on Carthage when he faxed Xeroxed copies of his bare ass over to the Roman Consuls with a note reading, "kiss this, you Roman bitches". Hannibal then mobilized his main army in Spain and marched through Gaul, uniting the tribes to his cause. After sweeping through Gaul Hannibal's army, which contained several squadrons of elephant-riding troops, reached the foothills of the Alps. In one of the greatest logistical feats ever recorded, Hannibal and his men crossed the Alps and attacked the Roman Republic from the direction that they were least expecting it. Roman forces had been certain that they were going to be attacked from Sicily or the Mediterranean that they spent their resources fortifying their coastal towns. Hannibal's invasion of Northern Italy caught everyone by surprise.
Roman forces finally mobilized against Hannibal, but he managed to use his outnumbered and outgunned forces to their utmost potential, winning sweeping battles at Trebia and Lake Trasimene. The main Roman Army met Hannibal on the field of Cannae in 216 BCE and in one of the most brilliant tactical maneuvers of all time Hannibal managed to use his force of 60,000 to perform a double envelopment on the Roman force of 80,000, sweeping his troops around both flanks of Roman infantry and utterly decimating several Legions.
After Cannae, Hannibal sent a message to Carthage saying, "OK guys, I'm ready to take Rome. Just send me some more troops". Carthage responded by saying, "Don't worry about it dude. You're doing fine. Just hang in there". Hannibal ended up roaming around Italy trying to drum up support for his cause for fifteen years; his force wasn't strong enough to take the city of Rome but no Roman force could defeat him. Finally the Romans got sick of his bullshit and send their general Scipio to invade Carthage while Hannibal was dicking around in Italy. Once that happened, the Carthaginians were like, "Oh snap! Hannibal, come help us!".
Hannibal, sick of his country's bullshit, went home and his tired and demoralized troops got their asses kicked by Scipio Africanus at the Battle of Zama in 202 BCE. Rome burned the city of Carthage to the ground, pissed on the ashes and salted the Earth so that nothing would ever grow there again. Hannibal was appointed Magistrate of the Carthaginian territories, but eventually the Romans came to fear his influence, so he was exiled to Ephesus. Soon the Romans issued a warrant for his arrest, so Hannibal popped open his special poison ring and ended his life in 182 BCE. He was the biggest threat the Roman Republic ever knew and was hatefully remembered in the annals of Latin history. He was a brilliant tactician, a master of logistics and one of the greatest military minds that the world has ever seen. If he had only received more support from his country, the history of the world would have been completely reshaped.
The Battle of Cannae, 216 BCE
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