Those Punic Wars

As long as we are still self-isolating now would be a good time to learn stuff… can learn from the Old Professor…….

One of my most loyal readers Pete from is a huge fan of the Romans….me I am not so much but my liking is that of Carthage…especially Hannibal.

I became interested in this conflict when I was studying conflicts in history…..this one caught my attention because of the successes Carthage had especially under Hannibal.

But first who was Hannibal Barca?

Carthage was a super power of the Mediterranean even to the point of clashing with Rome on her way to world domination……these clashes became known as the Punic Wars (that Punic not pubic) …..

Prior to the conflict, Carthage had grown from a small port-of-call to the richest and most powerful city in the Mediterranean region before 260 BCE. She had a powerful navy, a mercenary army and, through tribute, tariffs, and trade, enough wealth to do as she pleased. Through a treaty with the small city of Rome, she barred Roman trade in the Western Mediterranean and, as Rome had no navy, was able to easily enforce the treaty. Roman traders caught in Carthaginian waters were drowned and their ships taken.

And then the inevitable…the clash of titans……

To make it a little easier…..

The Punic Wars began basically over the control of Sicily…..

First Punic War was fought between Carthage and Rome between 264 and 241 BCE, largely over control of Sicily. The longest continuous war in history up to that time was fought on the island, at sea, and in north Africa with both sides enjoying victories and suffering near-catastrophic defeats. The Romans, with seemingly inexhaustible resources, adapted to the necessities of naval warfare and eventually prevailed. Sicily became their first foreign province. Carthage was not finished, though, and once it had sorted out its internal problems and gained new finances the conflict would resume with the Second Punic War within a generation.

Then after a generation of back and forth…..Hannibal Barca decided to honor his father’s dying wish and he would make Rome pay…..

Enter the Second Punic War……

Following the terms of surrender in 241 BCE, Carthage, having lost the longest war in ancient history up to that point, agreed to withdraw from Sicily and pay reparations to Rome of 3,200 talents. The First Punic War had been tremendously costly to both sides but Rome’s seemingly inexhaustible resources, especially its capacity to renew large naval fleets meant that, ultimately, Carthage could not compete with the Mediterranean’s newest superpower.

We all know the story…..that is we paid attention in high history class…..about Hannibal’s trek across the alps with elephants to attack the Romans and make them pay for the embarrassing treaty Carthage had to sign.

But the one story that gets little in-depth coverage  is the defeat of the Romans at Cannae…..the destruction of the Roman army in Southeast Italy……

The Battle of Cannae (2 August 216 BCE) was the decisive victory of the Carthaginian army over Roman forces at Cannae, southeast Italy, during the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE). The Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca (l. 247-183 BCE), who was already known for his unorthodox tactics against Rome, counted on the Romans relying on the traditional tactics and formations which had worked so well for them in the past and used their very strengths to defeat them.

And for further analysis of the battle…..

A little over a decade after Hannibal’s victory in Cannae….he was to face Rome again at the battle Zama…..which was to become the final battle of the 2nd Punic War and the defeat of Carthage…..

The Battle of Zama (202 BCE) was the final engagement of the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE) at which Hannibal Barca of Carthage (l. 247-183 BCE) was defeated by Scipio Africanus of Rome (l. 236-183 BCE) ending the conflict in Rome’s favor. The Second Punic War had begun when Hannibal attacked the city of Saguntum, a Roman ally, in Spain and continued with a number of stunning victories by Hannibal in Northern Italy, most notably the Battle of Cannae in 216 BCE.

Hannibal seemed unstoppable until Scipio took command of the Roman forces after Cannae, defeated Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal Barca (l. c. 244-207 BCE) in Spain, driving him into Italy, and then drawing Hannibal back to North Africa by threatening the city of Carthage. Hannibal met Scipio at Zama in defense of his home city but Scipio, using Hannibal’s same tactics from Cannae, won the day and Carthage fell to the Romans.—the-beginning-of-roman-conque/

Was it a superior general that led to the defeat?

There are many reasons….one that he was naive…..

The accomplishments of Hannibal from his departure from Spain, his crossing of the Alps, and his battles on the Italian peninsula, climaxing with his great victory at Cannae, were enough to permanently etch his name among the greatest military leaders of history. This great record of accomplishment cannot but have buoyed him psychologically to the point where he felt he could proceed on his own terms, no matter what the prospects for the Roman Republic might be. Therefore, he chose a soft, politically motivated policy after his great victory, when all indications were that Rome was at least vulnerable to a coup de grâce. This underestimation of the resiliency of his enemy proved to be his undoing.

Hannibal of Carthage: Scourge of Rome

No it was the government of Carthage that screwed Hannibal and in the end screwed themselves.

Hannibal Barca (l. 247-183 BCE), the brilliant Carthaginian general of the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE), had the military talent, expertise, and skill to have won the conflict but was denied the resources by his government. The Carthaginian senate repeatedly refused Hannibal’s requests for aid and supplies even as they were relying on him to win the war for them.

This kind of selfish behavior should have come as no surprise to the general since the Carthaginian government had responded in the same way to his father, Hamilcar Barca (l. 275-228 BCE) during the First Punic War (264-241 BCE). Hamilcar had also repeatedly sent word that he required greater support and these pleas were ignored by the elite of the city who preferred to spend the peoples’ tax money on their own luxuries instead of the good of the populace who supported their way of life.

Hannibal continued to fight for the people of Carthage, in spite of the poor treatment he received, throughout the Second Punic War and yet never received the gratitude he was owed. Even after he was defeated by Scipio Africanus (l. 236-183 BCE) at Zama in 202 BCE, he continued to serve Carthage as best he could, acting as the magistrate who oversaw payment of the war indemnity to Rome, and even then he was accused of impropriety and denounced by the elite who valued their own comfort and luxury over the good of the people.

Hannibal still remains one of my favorite generals/warriors in history…..Carthage had so much potential and the government squandered their advantage away in their betrayal of Hannibal and his loyal forces.

There was also a Third Punic War…..although Hannibal was not the general in this one…but it is still an important….

Just as a side note…what if Carthage had won the Punic Wars?

Here is the thoughts…..

If you prefer to let the video machine tell you about this possibility…..

Just a little history that I have spent years studying…..

Be Smart!

Learn Stuff!

Class Dismissed!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

2 thoughts on “Those Punic Wars

  1. I share your admiration for Hannibal’s skill and bravery. But once Scipio was involved, that famous Roman was always going to win. Undoubtedly one of the best military tacticians of ancient times, Scipio used the Roman army’s well-established tactics to their best effect.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. The Carthage government had a lot to do with his defeat…..I think if the show was on the other foot then Scipio would not be the genius he thought he was. chuq

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