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Hannibal

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Hannibal

Twenty-two centuries ago there lived a man named Hannibal, the son of

Hamilcar Barca a Carthaginian. Hamilcar was a general in the Carthaginian

military in the first Punic War. After the defeat of Carthage in the first

Punic War, Hamilcar made Hannibal swear "eternal enmity" to Rome.

In 228 b.c. Hasdrubal, Hannibal`s brother-in-law, succeeded Hamilcar and

became commander. This meant that not only was the leader of the military

but also the political leader as well. In 221 b.c. Hasdrubal was assassinated

and Hannibal became commander in Spain. Hannibal was only 25 years old

when he was put in command of the Carthaginian armies and the Carthaginian

government in Spain. Even at a young age he knew his responsibilities,

so he kept his father's plan of military conquest and his brother-in-law`s

policy of strengthening Carthaginian power by democracy. He married a Spanish

princess and took hostages from the surrounding tribes to ensure their

loyalty to him. As a result of this he expanded the Carthaginian power

toward the Ebro river, which was the written northern boundary of Carthage

by the Rome treaty of 226. Rome attacked Saguntum, a city close to but

clearly on the Carthaginian side of the border. This provoked Hannibal

to take back Saguntum. The romans considered this an act of war. So in

218 b.c. Rome declared war on Carthage. This begins the second Punic War.

After hearing the declaration of war Hannibal immediately starts off towards

Rome. The problem was he had to go by land because Rome controlled the

seas. Hannibal takes an army of thirty-five to forty thousand men, some

on foot and others on horse, along with fifty war elephants across the

Pyrenees and the Alps in August of 218. Bad luck falls into Hannibal's

lap as early snows and landslides kill many of his men and almost all of

his war elephants. While traveling through the Alps he fights battles at

Arausio and Genua, easily defeating the Roman warriors, although his troops

are in horrible shape. He enters Italy with only twenty-six thousand men

and five or six war elephants in September 218. Hannibal and his troops

spent the winter in Po Valley. In the spring of 217 b.c. Hannibal was joined

by the Gauls, northern Italians who were subdued into fighting the Romans.

Now Hannibal had a sufficient army of infantry and cavalry. The hardened

Carthaginian troops easily crushed the Roman armies in their way, but without

siege equipment the Carthaginians could not destroy the Roman cities. So

instead of trying to siege the city they simple killed the Roman soldiers

and moved on.
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