247–182 BC

Hannibal of Carthage was the most formidable and ingenious enemy that Rome ever faced. He was the driving force and mastermind behind the Second Punic War, which was a drawn out, disastrous, and nearly fatal struggle for Rome. Although at the time the war broke out, Rome was a very established power, and seemed to have the decided advantage, Hannibal's military genius, and propensity for brilliantly exploiting Rome's internal divisions and weaknesses nearly destroyed the city. Hannibal's brilliant military stratagems, as well as the missteps and defensive strategies of the Roman generals are still studied in military history today.

Hannibal's father was Hamilcar, a Carthaginian general in the First Punic War. Although he died before the Second Punic War began, Hamilcar deserves credit along with his son for laying the groundwork for Carthage's invasion of Italy, and for instilling in his son both great military genius and an implacable hostility towards Rome. Soon after Hannibal came of age he was given command of his father's empire in Spain, and promptly set out to provoke Rome into war by besieging the Roman town of Saguntum in 219 B.C. Once hostilities had commenced he swiftly gathered a great Carthaginian army from Spain, and set forth across the Rhone River, and then proceeded to cross the Alps into northern Italy. These were both extremely difficult and dangerous undertakings, and Hannibal lost a large part of his host on the passage, but once in northern Italy he immediately regrouped, allying himself with some Gallic tribes and prevailing against Romans led by Cornelius Scipio at the battles of Ticinus River, and Trebia. The next year, 217 B.C., after consolidating his power in northern Italy, he began to move south, and won another great victory at Lake Trasimenus. Fabius was then appointed dictator, and managed to keep Hannibal at bay, until the following year, when the Romans decided to make a great stand against Hannibal at Cannae. This proved to be the worst military disaster in Roman history in terms of loss of life, but it proved to be a turning point, because although Rome's losses were worse, the battle weakened Hannibal's forces to the point that he was unable to make significantly greater gains in Italy without re-enforcements from Carthage.

Hannibal remained in Italy for thirteen more years. Rome was unable to drive him out, but he, also, was unable to get enough support from Carthage to make any progress against Rome. During this period, most of the major battles of the Second Punic War were fought in Sicily or Spain. Finally, in 207 B.C., his brother Hasdrubal crossed the Alps with a large re-enforcement, but they were defeated at the Metaurus River, and Hasdrubal was killed. From this point on, Hannibal's campaign in Italy was hopeless. He was not drawn out of his stronghold in southern Italy however, until Scipio Africanus landed a great force in Africa, and, allied with Masinissa of Numidia, began to march on Carthage. Hannibal then returned to Africa and fought his final battle, at Zama, resulting in his only major defeat against a Roman general.

After peace was declared, Hannibal returned to Carthage, and did much to try to reform the city, and help it to recover its lost influence. He was a high ranking magistrate until he was driven from the city by political intrigue. He took refuge with Antiochus III in Syria, until the Romans insisted that Antiochus hand him over. He took poison rather than surrender himself to the Roman authorities.

Key events during the life of Hannibal:

237 BC
Hannibal, at age ten, is lead by Hamilcar to swear before the gods of Carthage eternal enmity towards Rome.
219 BC
Hannibal takes command of Spanish empire and besieges Saguntum, an ally of Rome. War is declared.
218 BC
Hannibal crosses the Alps with large detachment, leaving Hasdrubal in charge of Spain. Won battles at Ticinus River and Trebia
217 BC
After subduing northern Italy, Hannibal's army moves south. Won Battle of Lake Trasimenus.
216 BC
Prevails at Cannae, biggest military disaster in Roman history. Retires to Capua.
211 BC
Hannibal's stronghold in Capua was retaken by the Romans; his re-enforcements were delayed by campaigns against Carthage in Spain.
207 BC
Hasdrubal crosses Alps with re-enforcements, but is killed at Metaurus River. Last chance for Carthaginian re-enforcements is lost.
203 BC
Scipio lands in Africa with Roman forces; Hannibal is recalled to Carthage.
202 BC
Hannibal's forces are decisively beaten at Zama, by Scipio and his Numidian ally, Masinissa; Carthage surrenders.
201 BC
Hannibal becomes a chief magistrate of Carthage, reforms government, and organizes recovery.
195 BC
Due to political intrigue in Carthage, Hannibal is forced to take refuge with Antiochus III in Syria.
183 BC
Hannibal kills himself rather than be turned over the the Roman authorities.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Early History of Spain  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Hannibal, the Hero of Carthage  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Sons of Lightning  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
Of Hannibal  in  Stories from Roman History  by  Lena Dalkeith
Of Hannibal (cont)  in  Stories from Roman History  by  Lena Dalkeith
Hannibal Crosses the Alps  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Hannibal  in  Back Matter  by  books/horne/soldiers/_back.html
Beginnings of Spain  in  Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain  by  Charles F. Horne
Hannibal  in  Red Book of Heroes  by  Mrs. Andrew Lang
Boy Hannibal  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Hannibal Leaves Italy  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Death of Hannibal  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Hannibal Crosses the Alps  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris
How Hannibal Fought and Died  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris
Hannibal's Vow  in  On the Shores of the Great Sea  by  M. B. Synge
Hannibal, Who Fought Against Rome  in  Old World Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan
Trasemenus  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

Book Links
Hannibal  by  Jacob Abbott

Image Links

The Battle in the River
 in Hannibal

The Elephants crossing the Rhone
 in Hannibal

Hannibal on the Alps
 in Hannibal

Crossing the Marshes
 in Hannibal

Hannibal crossing the Alps
 in Thirty More Famous Stories Retold

Bust of Hannibal
 in Stories from Ancient Rome

The passage of the Alps was effected under many difficulties
 in Stories from Ancient Rome

Hannibal and Marcellus
 in Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch

Hannibal Crossing the Alps
 in Famous Men of Rome

Hannibal's Strategem
 in Famous Men of Rome

Hannibal's Stratagem in Campania
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

 in Back Matter

Hannibal Crossing the Rhone
 in Back Matter

All three were apt pupils.
 in Red Book of Heroes

Hannibal was determined not to stir until the elphants were safely over.
 in Red Book of Heroes

He found right in front of him a huge precipice.
 in Red Book of Heroes

Under the eyes of the army the combat began.
 in Red Book of Heroes

Let me release the Romans from their anxiety,' he said.
 in Red Book of Heroes

Hannibal Crossing the Alps
 in Historical Tales: Roman

Hannibal Crossing the Rhone.
 in Old World Hero Stories

Hannibal Crossing the Alps.
 in Old World Hero Stories

Short Biography
Cornelius Scipio Tried to intercept Hannibal in Gaul, but was defeated at Ticino River and Trebbia.
Scipio Africanus Roman hero of second Punic War. Led armies in Spain and Africa. Defeated Hannibal at Zama.
Hasdrubal Barca Fought against Scipios in Spain; killed after he crossed the Alps to aid Hannibal.
Fabius Cunctator Elected dictator to resist Hannibal; counseled delay, not direct assault.
Marcellus Besieged Syracuse during the second Punic War, but the ingenious war weapons of Archimedes frustrated the Romans.
Varro Led Rome to disastrous defeat at Cannae. Survived and tried to rally the troops.
Masinissa King of Numidia, allied with Rome against Carthage; fought at Zama.