Hannibal: Second Punic War and Hannibal Essay

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Hannibal Barca

Hannibal was the son of Hamilcar Barca, and is arguable one of the greatest military leaders of all time.
Birth and Early life
Born in 247 BCE, Carthage to the great Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal grew very much in a military environment. Hannibal would see little of his father as he would be fighting the Romans over islands between Italy and Carthage (Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia). These battles were known as ‘The Punic wars’, Hamilcar fought in the first one. In 241 BC the Carthaginians lost the islands to Rome. Hamilcar, one of the generals, moved to Spain to build a new empire to use to overthrow the Romans. At the time, Hannibal was only nine years old. Eager to learn and follow in his father’s footsteps, Hannibal asked his father to accompany him to Spain. Before leaving, Hamilcar made Hannibal swear an oath, stating that as long as he lived, he would be an enemy of the Romans.
Crossing the Rhône
In 218 BCE, when Hannibal was around the age of 29, he decided that it was time to try and conquer Rome itself. This was during the time of the second Punic War. Hannibal’s initial idea was, from Spain, to sail across the Mediterranean and go straight to Rome. But Hannibal quickly dismissed the idea, understanding that he would be taking the route that the Romans would be expecting him. Thus, Hannibal decided that he would follow Spanish coastline until he got to Rome. Bringing with him an army of at least 50,000 infantry, 9,000 cavalry and, notoriously, 37 African elephants, Hannibal marched towards Rome. But with such a vast army, came great challenges, such as the river Rhône. This was a very big river that ran through the south east of Modern France. Hannibal had no time to go around it, and so decided to cross it. But his elephants did not take kindly to travelling on water; they would not climb aboard the wooden rafts that had been made to take them across to the other side of the river. Hannibal cleverly disguised the rafts with dirt and plants, so that the unsuspecting beasts would take them as dry land. They boarded the rafts with ease.
Crossing the Alps
As Hannibal’s army was marching towards the Alps, their original plan was to keep to the coast and march straight past the mighty Alps, but as they drew near they discovered a small Roman army waiting for them Hannibal, not wanting to waste his time on such a small battle, changed his route, and what he did next is supposedly one of the biggest feats of ancient history-Hannibal crossed the Alps.
But crossing this harsh landscape came many trials and tribulations. There was always a chance that they would run into local tribesmen ambushes, narrow paths that would be almost impossible for Hannibal’s large army, with elephants, t cross. Also the fact that Hannibal used African elephants meant that the beasts were not accustomed to the bleak conditions of the mountains. Hannibal lost many men and elephants crossing the Alps, but he was a man whom strongly believed in equality, and so when any one of his soldiers was made to be in the look out during the night, Hannibal would stay up with them and accompany them through the long hours of the night, rather than sleep in great comfort in hi war tent. These acts of selflessness slowly restored the moral of the army, yet still Hannibal faced challenges such as huge boulders that would block the army’s way. As usual, Hannibal would use his intellect and would come up with a solution. He ordered a fire to be made at the foot of the boulder. It quickly became very hot and began to contract Hannibal then ordered his men to through their cold wine over the boulder. The boulder then split, making a path way to pass through. At last, all obstacles were overcome, and Hannibal led his army into Northern Italy. But in the terrible journey across the Alps he had been left with 20,000 men, 6,000 cavalry and only 1 elephant. Upon entering Italy’s borders, Hannibal rounded up what was left of his army and gave an uplifting