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Hannibal Essay

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Submitted By wildypker19
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Put Hannibal in the scales: how many pounds will that peerless General mark up today? [ Juvenal, Satire X, lines 147-8 ]. A man of cunning intelligence and power sets out in late spring in 218 which would defeat four Roman consular armies and put the great power Rome at its last breath, but ends up losing the war? This brings up many questions that we can't answer becasue of the lost ancient sources, but through investigation of the surviving sources we are able to justify how and why Hannibal lost the 2nd Punic war. Four major contributions to the loss of the war; the troop ratio between Rome and carthage, the obstacles Hannibals army had to go through to arrive in italy, his desicion after Cannae not to attack Rome and what each army was fighting for. A historian must first trace every battle and what led to the end result in order to answer the question, how did Hannibal lose the 2nd Punic war?
Ancient sources like Polybius tells us that Hannibal sets out from New Carthage in 218 late spring, with a total of 90,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry and 37 elephants, not only but to treck across the mighty alps and end up in Italy with 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry. Hannibals loss of men was enormous and could of been a great factor to the loss of the war. Romes power was mainly from its allies and neighbouring cities which were a huge support in numbers compared to the Carthaginians who were scavanging help along the way on Italian soil, that also created language issues in ordering them what to do. As a historian one must think and question what if, what if Hannibal didnt lose that many troops crossing to Italy, would he have defeated rome? anyone would say that 60,000 men and 6,000 cavalry would have benefited Hannibal in his battles. Hannibals army decreased by 20,000 men by strugglers and deserters [page 159- lines 25-27 Goldsworthy]. Many of Hannibals loss along the way were from desereters which created a great deal to the loss of troops and the war.
Some would say that the obstacles that Hannibals army had to face is near impossible today and that this issue contributed to loss of thousands of men and time. "Hannibal set out from New Carthage in late spring, 218 and moved towards the river Ebro, a distance of 325miles" [page 158- lines 24-25 Goldsworthy], marching an army of 90,000 men in late spring has its own dangers like the humidity with barely enough food or water. Hannibal knew that when he has crossed the alps that he would be attacked by hostile territories and that the food supply would be scarce. "Hannibal knew such an expedition involved a march of hundreds of miles through tribes which were at best neutral and potentyially hostile, and the crossing of the major obstacle formed by the apls. Ounce in Italy the Punic army would have no base, no supplies and be faced by steadily increasing numbers of enemies" [page 153- lines 21-26 Goldsworthy]. In my opinion if Hannibal had taken a more relaxed approach to Italy he would not of have had a large casualty rate and that could have enhanced is chances of winning. "Having allies beyond the Alps, Hannibal could anticipate securing supplies of food as well as adding warriors to his army" [page 155- lines 13-14 Goldsworthy]. Having allies beyond the Alps would of secured food and protection, but Hannibal had the duty to make allies before he marched to Rome so that he could ensure food, safety and a native tribe who could lead him out of the mountains. "Hannibal did not fully trust these approaches, but considered that it was better to appear to accept them and recieve guides and livestock offered by the tribesman. His suspision appeared to have been proved right when two days later a force of warriors made a strong attack on the rear of his column as it was travelling through a difficult and narrow pass" [page 164-lines 37-40 and page 165 lines 1-2 Goldsworthy]. Many of the encountered tribes were hostile and possed a threat to Hannibals army by luring them into traps and spreading confusion and chaos when attacked. "In some places they rolled boulders down onto to the narrow path, crushing man and beast and spreading confusion [page 165 -lines 9-10 Goldsworthy].
The battle of Cannae was the greatest victory the world has ever seen, slaughtering close to 75,000 Romans and only losing 8,000 carthaginian troops. One would say how could the Romans still stand on there feet? should have Hannibal marched on to Rome after Cannae? Livy argues that if Hannibal had marched on to Rome after Cannae, then that would of put Rome on the line of surrendering or settling a peace treaty, which would have ended the war. Thats where the famous quote between Hannibal and Marharbal takes place "no one man has been blessed with all God's gifts. You know, Hannibal, how to win a fight; you do not know how to use that victory". Goldsworthy states that Hannibal was "fighting the war for honour and power, not to destroy them" [page 156- lines 1-2 Goldsworthy], this makes Hannibal sound weak, instead of listening to his brother and attacking Rome at its most vulnerable time he chooses to wait, he says to Maharbal; 'but I need time to weigh the plan which you propose". Hannibals approach to the situation gave Rome more time to recruit more allies or atleast get ready for an attack on the city.
The end of the war is near and Hannibal is suprised to see Rome still standing, why is it that after all the defeats Rome manages to fight back? The difference between Rome and Carthage and what they're both fighting for is completely different, Carthage is fighting for victory, honour and pride while Rome is fighting for its country, its land, the people. If you were to put your self in that sitiuation Rome is fighting for something greater more valuable and so thats why the last battle in Africa was a victory, it was there last chance of hope and revival, there last chance to protect there families back at home and they were to kill them selves to protect what was left standing at Rome.
Many questions have been asked and many answered, in conclusion the reason why Carthage could not achieve ultimate over Rome was because Rome had twice as many allies and troops compared to Carthage, with more men power comes more force, more defence and attack, secondly the route and obstacles Hannibals army had to encounter was overwhelming and reduced the number of Carthaginain troops by over 60%, if only Hannibal had control over the seas he would of had a better advantage and route to Rome. Thirdly Hannibals unwise decision after the battle of Cannae where he gave Rome to much time to recover not only gave them time to attack back at Spain and lastly the inner strenth of both armies, what they were fighting for should of had a great impact on the final outcome. Hannibal had a chance and was so close if only we could say what if we could change the course of history.

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