In 219 BC Hannibal Barca, perhaps the best known personality in Carthaginian history, seized Saguntum in Spain. Polybius, the Roman historian, reported that this breached an existing treaty and was interpreted by the Romans as a declaration of war. A year later the second Punic War commenced. In May of that year, Hannibal raised an armed force of 90,000 men on foot and 12,000 men on horseback. By the summer, they reached Rhône. However, they were now a much-reduced force of 50,000 soldiers, 9,000 horsemen, and 37 elephants. Celts and Gauls flocked to his standard, however, and increased their numbers. They hated Roman imperial rule and saw the Carthaginian campaign as a way of getting back at the Romans. Hannibal's forces crossed the Alpine passes at the end of the year. Being in winter, it was a difficult and costly crossing. Many people and animals, unfamilliar with such cold, died. From the north they marched on Italy, however. Penetrating deep into Italian territory, they seized Cannæ in 216 BC, killing 70,000 Roman soldiers. Carthage, on the other hand, lost 5,500 soldiers and 200 horsemen in the same campaign. Next they marched on Rome but were unable to breach the walls. They camped there for years. Sir James Frazer, the author of The Golden Bough wrote, Hannibal "hung with his dusky army like a storm-cloud about to break, within sight of the sentinels of Rome". In 215 BC he sent two officers to Sicily to seduce the local rulers to break their loyalties to Rome.
The Romans, however, made inroads. By 210 BC they destroyed Carthage's new allies in Sicily and the following year, Scipio, the Roman general, commanded an invasion of Spain. A year later the Roman army seized the gold and silver mines of that land which was the basis of Carthage's wealth. In around 206 BC a King of Numidia, an African state to the west of Carthage, changed alliances as Carthage began to lose. Allying himself with Rome, he persuaded Scipio to bring the war to Africa. In 204 Scipio invaded Africa causing Hannibal and Mago, his brother, to leave Italy and return home. The Romans engaged them at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. Assisted by 10,000 horsemen, supplied by Numidia, the Romans triumphed. Scipio had planned for and frustrated Hannibal's secret weapon - the use of elephants.
The terms of the peace treaty of 201 BC were harsh. Carthage was compelled to return lands that once belonged to Numidia. They were forbidden to make war on any people without the consent of Rome. They must hand over elephants and must not acquire others. They must abandon all ships except ten. Finally, they must pay a huge reparation of 10,000 talents over fifty years. Following the treaty, Scipio had the Carthaginian fleet burned.
Carthage made some sort of recovery during this period with Hannibal still at the helm. "The business of that city was again as flourishing as it had ever been," says Mr Reade, a British historian. "Again ships sailed to the coasts of Cornwall and Guinea; again the streets were lined with the workshops of industrious artisans". The archaeological finds support the notion that the city recovered. Carthage even proposed to pay off the reparation due to Rome in 10 years. The Romans, however, refused. Eventually, the Romans demanded that the Carthaginians hand over Hannibal. Instead, he fled into exile in 196 BC.
|All of this information is extracted from When We Ruled. To find out more about this book CLICK HERE |