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Hannibal Barca of Carthage
Here is a brief time line on Hannibal's life and a brief description of Hannibal the man. For more information on Hannibal, please refer to the books in my Source List, or visit some of the web sites listed at the end of this time line.
Hannibal Barca of Carthage
(b. circa 247BCE - d. circa 182BCE)
247 - Hannibal was born the first son of Hamilcar Barca around 247BCE.
237 - Circa 237 Hannibal, at the age of 9, accompanied his father, and his brother-in-law to Iberia (Spain) on a Carthaginian expedition.
229 - Circa 229, Hannibal's father died, leaving Hannibal's brother-in-law, Hasdrubal the Handsome in charge of building an empire in Iberia.
229-222 - Hannibal, between the ages of 18 and 25, was Hasdrubal's chief agent in extending Carthaginian influence in Iberia and consolidating Carthaginian power.
221 - Hasdrubal the Handsome was assassinated and Hannibal was elected by the troops to lead them.
219 - In the spring of 219, Hannibal attacked Saguntum. By autumn it had fallen and Rome declared war (Second Punic War) on Carthage.
218 - Hannibal crossed the Ebro river, beginning his overland march on Rome. He crossed the Rhone into Gaul in late summer and began his fourteen day crossing of the Alps in the fall. He met and routed the Roman army at the battle of Trabia just before mid winter.
217 - Hannibal made his devastating march through the Arno flood plains. He massacred the Romans a second time at the battle of Tricemene Lake.
216 - With a force of only 30,000, Hannibal met and defeated the combined Roman Consular armies (numbering nearly 90,000) at Cannae, killing nearly 50,000 Romans. At the time, it was the most devastating defeat in recorded history. Roman allies, including Capua changed allegences to Hannibal.
203 - Carthage recalled Hannibal from Rome to meet Scipio on Carthaginian soil.
202 - Scipio defeated Hannibal at the battle of Zama. Carthage surrendered to Rome.
200-196 - Hannibal served as regent of Carthage and restored order to the beleaguered city.
195 - Hannibal was betrayed by his own people and persecuted by his enemies in Rome. He fled Carthage to enter exile. Antiochus III, king of Syria, welcomed him.
190 - Rome defeated Antiochus at the Battle of Magnesia and demanded Hannibal as part of the peace terms. Hannibal fled Syria.
189 - Hannibal possibly sheltered in Armenia.
185 - Hannibal arrived at his final hiding place. Prusias II, king of Bithynia, welcomed Hannibal to his court circa 185.
182 - In 182 or 183BCE, Hannibal took poison, killing himself, avoid surrendering to Rome while at Libyssa.
Hannibal was born a warrior. His family could trace its roots back to the founder of Carthage, Queen Dido. He was born into the wealthy warrior class the son of a celebrated war hero. His father, Hamilcar, earned the surname Barca (meaning Lightning) for his quick, devastating attacks on the Romans during the First Punic War. The Barca clan were wealthy merchants and farmers. As such, they were also leaders and military generals. Hannibal was trained in combat from the time he could hold a sword in his hand and accompanied his father into battle in Iberia at the age of 9. Hamilcar deeply resented Carthage's surrender to Rome in the First Punic War, because, to him, Carthage had given up too easily. He instilled this resentment into his sons and trained Hannibal to lead an invasion force into Rome. Brutally aware that Carthage would cut off support for a war the minute things got too threatening for them, Hamilcar Barca took Hannibal and his son-in-law, Hasdrubal the Handsome, on an invasion of Iberia. His intent was to create a base from which to stage and support an invasion of Rome.
Hamilcar Barca died before Iberia was well enough under control to provide the support he needed. His son-in-law, Hasdrubal the Handsome, used Hannibal's leadership to finish the job, and the quelling of Iberia to train and refine Hannibal's skills as a General. When Hasdrubal was assassinated, the Carthaginian army elected Hannibal to lead them. He was as popular among them, as his father had been, and inspired unquestioning loyalty.
Hannibal crossed the Ebro River, in northern Iberia, in the spring of 218 and began his overland invasion of Rome. Such a thing was audacious in the extreme, not only because of the unit of war elephants that went with him and the fact that he had to pass through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, but because of the time of year he chose to cross them. At the time, an overland attack on Rome was unthinkable, and Rome felt her northern border was well protected by the sheer peaks that bordered it. Hannibal's army moved through southern Europe with a speed that was astonishing. It was that speed that made the crossing, even as close to winter as it was, even possible within the same year as the overland march.
Upon his arrival, Hannibal immediately began inflicting wounds on the Romans. Through guile and careful staging, he won his first two major victories against the RomansThe battles of Trabia and Tricemene Lake. But it was his third victory at Cannae that established him as a general without peer. Not only was his army outnumbered 3 to 1, but he was not able to offset those odds by guile. Only brilliant leadership on the battlefield won that day and the defeat shook Rome to its core.
These defeats were fateful in an unexpected way. A young Roman Patrician by the name of Publius Cornelius Scipio, was present for at least two of these defeats and was wise enough to take away a lesson from each. Himself the son of a celebrated military veteran of the same name, over the course of the 20 year war, he rose to a position of leadership and was responsible for destroying the Carthaginian hold on Iberia.
But Rome didn't surrender. As much as Hannibal's brilliance kept defeating the Romans on the battlefield, Rome's statesmanship and sheer stubbornness kept Hannibal from winning the war. Hannibal was also hampered by the same fickleness within the Carthaginian Senate as his father had been. No matter how much success Hannibal had, his support from his home city was marginal at best. Rome immediately attacked Hannibal's support base in Iberia and eventually took it over, leaving Hannibal to support himself on Roman soil. He was able to accomplish this for a few years, but, with Iberia no longer a threat, Rome, or rather Scipio, turned her attention to Carthage. After Scipio attacked and defeated Carthage's Numidian allies in Africa, the Carthaginian Senate panicked and ordered Hannibal to return and defend his homeland.
Hannibal was defeated by Publius Cornelius Scipio after a long battle at Zama. He fled the battlefield and rushed to Carthage where he encouraged the Senate to surrender to Rome. With Scipio's support, Hannibal was appointed regent of Carthage and was tasked with restoring order to the city and with making sure Carthage paid Rome the enormous war debt they levied on her on time.
Hannibal's statesmanship and brilliance shown during these years, too, and Carthage prospered despite Rome's restrictions on them. At the same time, he made himself many enemies among his own people. Between his enemies in Carthage and his enemies in Rome, Hannibal was accused of secretly supporting one of Rome's enemies and he fled his home just hours before the team sent to capture him arrived.
Not much is known about Hannibal's years in exile. What is known only reinforces the legend of his genius both in military matters and in matters of state. He and Scipio were said to have met face to face only one more time. Sometime between 190 and 189, Scipio is reported to have sought an audience with Hannibal in Ephesus. The account reports them to have talked easily, not as enemies, but as two aging gentleman warriors. In 182 or 183BCE, at the age of 65, he finally chose to commit suicide, rather than continue to flee the Romans or be captured by them.
Hannibal Barca and the Punic Wars