Nothing seems to me a nobler ambition than to be able to hold by you eloquence
the minds of men, to captivate their wills, to move them to and fro in
whatever direction you please."
The Second Punic War
(218-201 BC) Click to See MAP
The second Punic War was dominated by one man, Hannibal
, who had dedicated himself at the age of 9 to the total destruction of Rome
(see Hannibal and Hamilcar
). He invented an ingenious plan while Rome was off fighting the Gauls
by land and the Illyrian (Greek) pirates on sea.
Carthage was not going to give up easily. A determined leader of Carthage, Hamilcar
Barca directed his attention to Spain where they could get control over the
mineral resources there and create an army from the people there that would
match the Roman legions. His son Hannibal was committed to ruin Rome and created a
military base in Spain.
Hannibal devised an ingenious plan. His intention was to make a surprise
attack upon Italy herself. He led his new army consisting of 60,000 men, 6,000
horses and 37 war elephants over the River Rhone (with his elephants on rafts), then
across the Pyrenees mountains, then through southern Gaul and they finally
arrived at the Alps after 5 months.
Only 1/2 of his army had survived. The Greek historian Polybius
described the scene. (see Polybius and Hannibal
). Hannibal finally arrived in Italy and went a severe rampage against the
Romans. The Roman historian Livy
describes Hannibal's leadership. (see Livy and Hannibal
Hannibal's Military Genius
Hannibal's military brilliance was unsurpassed and he skillfully maneuvered
his armies along with strategic use of his elephants and he demoralized the
Romans when they came to stop him at Lake Trasimene and Cannae
. Hannibal trapped the Roman legions between the hills and the lake at
Trasimene forcing them back into the water where many of them drowned.
The worst defeat for Rome was at Cannae (216 BC) where Hannibal surrounded the
entire Roman army and killed 50,000 men while only losing 6,000 of his own
soldiers. This proved to be Rome's worst military disaster.
Hannibal's manpower was great, but they were not large enough nor did they
have enough equipment to invade the city of Rome or maintain a long siege.
Hannibal remained undefeated for 12 years and his army went anywhere they wanted in
Italy and ravaged the countryside for 4 more years when he was called back to
Hannibal is Defeated
Rome could not defeat Hannibal in Italy so she retaliated by conquering Spain
and then attacking Carthage. Under the leadership of Cornelius Scipio Africanus
a Roman army sailed to Africa and attacked Carthage. Hannibal was recalled to
Africa in 203 BC to defend his homeland and he was defeated by Scipio in 202 BC
Regia, 80 miles southwest of Carthage. This was Hannibal's first defeat. He
escaped to Greece but for Carthage the war was lost.
Carthage surrendered and gave up her fleet and all her overseas territory,
including the Spanish colonies, and paid another large indemnity.
Now Rome was clearly the master of the Mediterranean Sea. (see Hannibal and Scipio