The Mastermind behind the Second Punic Warby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Alexander the Greek was the greatest general of all time, according to Hannibal. Hannibal believed he had nearly grasped that title himself.
The Punic wars began in 264 BC, near the middle of the four hundred years of God’s silence between the old and new testaments. The dispute began over the island of Sicily. The Carthaginians and Romans fought for control over the small island. Hannibal’s father, Hamiclar, fought the First of the Punic wars. Hannibal grew up in an atmosphere of war and he was taught to hate the Romans. Thus by the time Hannibal was in charge of the army he was convinced he was a freedom fighter, he was going to liberate the peoples held captive by Rome.
Hannibal’s father died before Hannibal was old enough to take command. Therefore, Hannibal’s brother-in-law, Hasdrubal, commanded the Carthaginian army in Spain. Hasdrubal was not a violent man, he preferred to make allies by diplomatic discussion rather than force. While Hasdrubal was a good leader, there were some who were not pleased with Hasdrubal and a native of Spain assassinated him. Hannibal was elected leader of the Carthaginian army almost unanimously despite his relative young age. Hannibal began to quickly mass his army. He did not tell his troops that they were going to cross the Alps and march into Rome until the last minute. This demonstrated his ability as a military-minded man.
Once on the march Hannibal bulked up his army with recruits from Gaul and other countries that disliked the spread of Rome. The crossing of the Alps was the most dangerous feat Hannibal had to face on his way to Rome. The mountain itself was dangerous enough but the wild people living in the Alps were scared of the great army and rolled stones onto them. When Hannibal and his army arrived on the other side of the mountains with elephants, the Romans were surprised. Hannibal’s aggressive movement had been the last thing they had expected.
Hannibal was a tactic genius. His army of many different races and nationalities obeyed his commands to the letter and this helped him to halt or destroy most of the forces sent against him. Unfortunately it did not last. Though Hannibal’s forces suffered minimal casualties compared to the Roman forces, they were still depleted enough that once they were near the gates of Rome, Hannibal did not have enough men to attack the city. He conquered the countryside around Rome while waiting for forces from Spain and Cartage.
These reinforcements never came. Hannibal’s enemies in Carthrage prevented troops from transferring to Hannibal’s aid. The new Roman counsels were more military minded than the ones before. Thus, Hannibal had a harder time of defeating the Romans. Then Rome found a hero that could fight Hannibal.
A young man later to be called Scipio Africanus had the brilliant plan to march into Africa and draw Hannibal home. Hannibal followed. Scipio had the advantage of numbers and won the final battle, defeating Hannibal and halting Rome’s greatest threat.
What would have happened if Hannibal had received his reinforcements and taken Rome? If Hannibal had stopped the spread of the Roman Empire, he would have made an impact on all history, especially church history. Nero persecuted Christians and forced them to flee to the farthest reaches of the known world. Constantine became a Christian and halted the persecutions. The Roman Empire had a huge role in the growth of the early church. If Hannibal had destroyed Rome, the history of Christianity might have been greatly changed.
Capps, Robert S. Hannibal’s Lieutenant. Manor House Publications Alexandria, Virginia. © 1994
"Hannibal." Encyclopedia Britannica. 1994 ed. W. Cu.
“The Second Punic War” Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Punic_war 12-01-03