In today’s post, I’d like to share 10 cool facts about Hannibal Barca.
In 625 the Roman Empire (Imperium Romanum in Latin) started their conquest to rule the world. The Empire was fully controlled by the military, the Roman Army was like an indestructible force to fight with because of their numbers, their weapons, the leadership of their centurions (generals), the might of their legionnaires (soldiers), and the different tactics they used to conquer Asia Minor, Africa, and Western Europe.
The military was one of the key reasons for Rome’s success. The Roman Army was highly trained and disciplined, growing in reputation as the best army in the world. With their success in war, the empire was able to expand its control over 3 separate continents including Asia, Africa, and most of Europe. ~ Vatican City Tours
The most common strategies that the Romans used were, the Testudo (tortoise formation), the Triple Line (an innovation of the Macedonian Phalanx), and the Wedge formation. These tactics were both effective offensively and defensively which is why they seemed invincible. However, one man struck fear in the Roman Army, he was called Rome’s greatest enemy and worst nightmare, Hannibal Barca.
Hannibal who was born in Carthage (modern Tunisia) located north coast of Africa is known to be one of the greatest military commanders of all time. He almost annihilated the Roman Empire with his unusual but effective tactics. Instead of staying and defending his hometown with the Carthaginian Army, he took the fight to the Romans. He won a total of 21 battles until he faced defeat against Roman General Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus in 202 B.C.
Hannibal Barca: 10 Cool Facts
In the paragraphs below, I’d like to share a few cool facts about Hannibal Barca and discuss why he is considered to be Rome’s Achilles heel.
# 10: He Hated Rome Since Birth
Hamilcar Barca was a great Carthaginian general who fought against Rome during the last years of the first Punic war 264–241 BCE. According to some historians, Hamilcar brought his son Hannibal to Spain to swear eternal hostility to Rome. Hannibal’s life was one of almost continual conflict with the Roman Empire from the death of his father in 229/228 BCE until his own death in about 183 BCE.
In expanding his power to the European continent, Hamilcar reinvigorated the Carthaginian empire, regained needed resources, and prepared a base for renewing war against Rome, which his son Hannibal would famously do in the Second Punic War. The seeds of that conflict, called Hannibal’s War even in antiquity, were sown by Hamilcar’s unforgiving and unyielding spirit against Rome and passed on to his sons, Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and Mago. Hamilcar died in battle, most likely drowning in the Jucar River while besieging a place called Helice and trying to escape from a Celtiberian army. ~ Britannica
# 9: He Started His Campaign When He Was 26-Years Old
As a son of a well-known general, he was already training for combat at the age of nine. He spent 16-years growing up surrounded by the military, learning how to lead troops and use cunning strategies. He was given the authority to command his father’s cavalry at the age of 23 proving his worth by aiding his father in his Spanish conquest. When Hamilcar died and his brother Hasdrubal was assassinated, he applied to command the Carthaginian army and then started his very own campaign against his sworn enemy, the Roman Empire.
Hasdrubal was assassinated, and the army unanimously chose the 26-year-old Hannibal to command Carthage’s empire in Spain. Hannibal swiftly consolidated control in the region from the seaport base of Cartagena (New Carthage); he also married a Spanish princess. ~ History
# 8: A Good Political Planner
The Carthaginian Army cannot fight the Roman army alone, so Hannibal gathered some allies in his campaign to finally defeat Rome. Around that time, the Roman Empire already invaded most of the nearby areas and made alliances with the armies of the places they had conquered. How did Hannibal persuade the other troops to abandon Rome and join forces with him? Here’s a list of how he convinced neighboring armies to join him:
- Courageously crossing the alps
- Showing his military might by winning battles against Rome and its allies
- Offered his services to Roman’s rivals
- Intimidating Roman allies into defecting away from Rome and forging an allegiance with him
- Formed treaties mostly with people from North Italy who ultimately hated the Romans
- Being a charismatic and reliable commander
- Declaring himself as the liberator of Rome’s allies
Hannibal marched across the treaty line in Spain and takes a Roman ally city, and he begins his march on Rome itself – he travels up the coast. However, Hannibal makes a grave mistake to cross the Alps into Northern Italy – he loses many of his men and war elephants, and is thus militarily crippled as he proceeds into Italy. Hannibal relied upon getting Northern Italy allies to join his cause (Umbrians, Gauls, and Estrucans). ~ Wikibooks
# 7: Using Elephants as His Ultimate Weapon
Hannibal used war elephants as part of his cavalry. With their large size and thick skin, these pachyderms put fear into the hearts of those who engage them in battle. Hannibal used Surus and the other elephants to trample their enemies leaving them defenseless. Hannibal took 37 elephants to journey with him from his base in Spain to Italy. Due to harsh weather conditions, some of the elephants died along the way. Some of them survived to fight his early battles against Rome. It was believed that he mounted the bravest elephant named Surus.
Hannibal would armor up his elephants, give alcohol with them to get them drunk, and then antagonize them by poking their ankles with spears. Animal cruelty aside, it was an excellent strategy. The elephants, completely drunk and worked up into a fury were easy to work with at that point. All Hannibal had to do was set them loose on the opposing army, and they’d go crashing through the enemy lines, wreaking havoc. It was the easiest way to force an enemy to break their lines and retreat known to mankind. ~ History Things
# 6: He Removed One of His Eyes
During his Italian campaign, he rode his elephant through a huge swamp off the Arno river, and in the process, he got a bad eye infection. He crossed the swamp that was impassable by the Romans in just four days, but it cost him a lot of casualties and he got ophthalmia that blinded his right eye. Due to the pain caused by ophthalmia, he removed his right eye to prevent the infection from spreading.
In the spring of 217 BCE, shortly after Hannibal’s famous elephant borne crossing of the Alps, the general was afflicted by an acute, painful eye condition that has never been adequately explained and that led to permanent unilateral loss of vision in 1 eye. ~ Smithsonian Magazine
# 5: He Invented Biological Warfare (Snake Bombs)
The Carthaginian General was a master of scare tactics, he loved to put fear into the eyes of his enemies. If you think the elephants are the only wild animals he used for battle, think again. In his battle against King Eumenes II of Pergamon and his navy, Hannibal knew he was outnumbered. If he would force a naval battle against King Eumenes II, Hannibal and his army wouldn’t stand a chance. What he did was put venomous snakes into the clay pots and forced fired them on Pergamon’s navy!
Hannibal sent a few swift ships straight at Eumenes’ ship with the snake pots. The clay pots were thrown and shattered all over the deck of the commanding ship. The guards of Eumenes at first laughed at the harmless projectiles but soon panicked as they had nowhere to run from the very angry snakes. Eumenes and his ship were soon overrun, and it was captured or sunk very soon after. ~ War History Online
# 4: He Used Environmental Elements to Gain an Advantage
One major factor in winning a war is the terrain. Hannibal carefully planned where to set his army so they could take advantage of the sunlight, the hills, the water, the wind, and the fog. In the battle of Cannae, he made use of the rising sun and the dusty hilly terrain to lure the Romans into their demise. The battle of Cannae was a major victory for Hannibal and his army, they killed 76,000 and captured 10,000 Romans while only suffering around 5,700 casualties.
Trapping the vastly superior Roman legions in a valley where their enormous numbers became, no longer an advantage, but a handicap. Many Roman soldiers would accomplish little more that day than stand in the blazing sun for hours, awaiting the moment of their struggle and death. ~ Military History Now
# 3: Provoke and Ambush!
In one of his major battles, the battle of Trebia, Hannibal’s provocative nature comes into play as he taunted the opposing general named Tiberius Sempronius Longus so that he would engage Hannibal in battle without proper preparation. His plan was a success as he was able to lure out Longus and then ambush his army on the Trebia river.
Hannibal took advantage of the impetuous nature of the Roman consul Longus and drew him into a battle he had little chance to win. At first light, the Carthaginian general sent his Numidian cavalry into action to harass the Roman camp and lure them out. Longus eagerly complied and sent his men across the swollen and freezing river towards the Carthaginian army. ~ History Hit
# 2: The Battlefield is His Chess Board
His incredible victories against Rome were due to his carefully laid out plans and his innovative strategies. He used the enemies’ formation against them. He formed or lined up his army similar to Rome, but he made modifications to his cavalry making them more mobile when it comes to skirmishes. He mainly used rushes and ambushes, to defeat his enemies in quick succession.
Hannibal also tricked his opponents by feigning retreat, he first showed his military genius against the Iberian tribes in Targus river. Instead of engaging the Iberian forces head-on, he decided to set up camp nearby. Hannibal and his army patiently waited in the wee hours of the night to sneak behind the opposing army, making it look like they were trying to flee so the Iberians would chase them just to fall into his trap.
When the Carthaginian army fled to the opposite side of the Tagus, the Iberians followed in hot pursuit, no doubt thinking they had the smaller army on the run. In actuality, Hannibal had led them into a trap that neutralized their superior numbers. ~ Smithsonian Magazine
# 1: He Got a Taste of His Own Medicine
His long-time rival, Scipio learned about Hannibal’s unpredictable strategies and used them against him in the battle of Zama. Using the same tactics, the battle went to a stalemate, it was like a waiting game for both of the armies then suddenly the Roman cavalry attacked Hannibal’s infantry from the rear giving Scipio a huge advantage in military numbers. Scipio and his army continued their rally forcing Hannibal and his remaining forces to retreat. He went back to Carthage but was exiled, he took his own life upon learning that he was betrayed when he was in Bithynia 183 BCE.
Scipio was able to rally his men. The battle finally turned in the Romans’ favor when the Roman cavalry returned to the battlefield and attacked the Carthaginian line from behind. The Carthaginian infantry was encircled and annihilated. Thousands of Carthaginians, including Hannibal, managed to escape the slaughter. Hannibal experienced a major defeat that put an end to all resistance on the part of Carthage. In total, as many as 20,000 of Hannibal’s troops were killed at Zama, while 20,000 more were taken, prisoner. The Romans suffered 2,500 dead. ~ Wikipedia
Though he was finally defeated in 202 BCE, he was still considered to be one of the best military strategists in history. What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with me? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.
Watch the video below to get a glimpse of Hannibal’s campaign versus the Roman Empire.
Other posts you may enjoy:
- The Top 20 Military Strategists Of All Time
- Alexander the Great: Facts, Quotes, & History
- Top 10 Biggest Military Battles in History
- The Top 10 Deadliest Battles in Military History
- Types of Military Orders
Here’s a great book about Hannibal Barca you might enjoy.
About the Author
Johndel Callora is a freelance writer who offers blog writing services. He works closely with website owners providing his all-around services to increase their search engine visibility.