The Second Punic War

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." -Cicero

The Second Punic War (218-201 BC) Click to See MAP

The second Punic War was dominated by one man, Hannibal of Carthage, 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.

Hannibal's Plan

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 Africa.

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 at Zama Regia, 80 miles southwest of Carthage. This was Hannibal's first defeat. He escaped to Greece but for Carthage the war was lost.

Scipio Africanus

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)