Hannibal Barca The Great

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Hannibal Barca The Great

Hannibal Barca was born in 247 BCE as a son of the Empire of Carthage, which encompassed all of North Africa and Southern Spain. Hannibal was the son of the great Carthaginian military leader Hamilcar Barca. Hamilcar lead the Carthaginian army in the First Punic War against Rome. Carthage suffered an embarrassing loss to the Romans which included loss of control the city of Sicily. It is widely stated that as a youth Hannibal’s father instilled within him an unrelenting hatred for Rome. When Hannibal was 17 Carthage was able to conquer Hispania which is now the modern day Iberian Peninsula. During the conquest Hamilcar drowned and Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal the Fair became the commander of the army. This victory was able to expand the Carthaginian Empire which remained a formidable opponent for Rome. Hasdrubal further strengthened the numbers of Carthage by intermarrying the Carthaginians with the conquered Iberians.

In 221 BCE Hasdrubal was murdered and Hannibal was elected to assume command of the army at the age of twenty-six. His first campaign was the capturing of the city of Salamanca in 220 BCE. Carthage’s next conquest was of Saguntum which was a close ally of Rome’s. Hannibal’s attack on Saguntum was considered to be a violation of a peace treaty signed between Hasdrubal and Rome. They demanded that Carthage expel Hannibal from the empire. As Hannibal’s fate was being decided, he continued to conquer territories expanding Carthage as far as he could. Hannibal’s brother was appointed as a military commander on the Iberian Peninsula. This move helped the forces of Carthage conquer the peninsula as a whole. Hannibal was determined to bring war to Rome; he remembered what his father told him about the Romans so he launched a military campaign. His conquest of the Iberian Peninsula was an example of his advancement towards conquering the Roman Empire.

Because Hannibal conquered the Iberian Peninsula the Roman government declared war against Carthage. This declaration was the beginning of the Second Punic War. Hannibal and his forces invaded Italy in a surprise attack on the Romans, who expected an attack at Sicily. His next move was to cross the Pyrenees Mountains. Before he could cross, his army had to defeat the tribes who dwelled along the foothills of the mountains.  His army crossed the Pyrenees and reached the river Rhone. Along the way he managed to pacify the Chiefs of the Gaul’s. This strategic move helped to stall Roman advancement against Carthage. It is said that Hannibal’s army consisted of 50,000 infantry men, 9,000 cavalry and 37 war elephants. Next, Hannibal led his army across the treacherous Alps which took a toll on his army.  He lost a number of his solders and some of his war elephants.

It is said that he led 38,000 soldiers into the town of Turin, Italy. The Romans became aware of the alliance between the Gaul’s and Carthage, and sent troops of 80,000 to defeat Carthage and the Gaul’s. Their plans were spoiled because Hannibal was able to defeat the forces. This victory gave the Gaul’s confidence in Hannibal so they volunteered the join his army. The Gaul’s were able to add the strength to the army that Hannibal lost crossing the Alps. His army was able to defeat the Romans a second time in a battle at the river Trebbia. In 217 BCE Hannibal and his army crossed the Apennines Mountains and conquered modern day Tuscany. During these battles he lost of one of his eyes but not his hatred for Rome. The Romans retaliated with their own attack against Carthage but was defeated once again at the Trasimene Lake. As Hannibal’s army crossed the Apennines for a second time, Roman forces attacked Iberia and cut off his access to his allies and supplies. In the city of Cannae 80,000 Roman solders attacked Hannibal’s army. Despite being outnumbered, Hannibal’s forces were able to once again gain a victory over Rome. This victory caused Roman allies to pledge their allegiance with Hannibal. The Italian city of Capua became Hannibal’s new military base. In 214 BCE the city of Syracuse became a city of Carthage. 215 BCE King Philip V of Macedonia pledged his allegiance with Carthage.

The Romans managed to secure a decisive victory against Carthage. Hannibal was not able to capture the port cities of Cumae and Puteoli. His army was not able to receive reinforcements or supplies. Carthage was losing resources and allies fast. The cities of Syracuse and Capua were regained by the Romans, further weakening Hannibal’s forces. The four year campaign in Italy was taking a toll on his solders. Hannibal sent for his brother located in Iberia to help him fight. Unfortunately Hannibal’s’ brother was defeated crossing the Alps. Rome was able to reclaim Iberia as well as again an ally in the King of Namibia. Aligned with Rome, Namibia attacked Carthage forcing Hannibal to bring his troops home to defend his land. A final battle was fought between Rome and Carthage at Zama in 202 BCE. The Carthaginian forces were weakened from the Punic War and they fell in defeat to Rome. A peace treaty was signed in 201 BCE which forced Carthage to compensate Rome for the damages its forces caused. Also the treaty forced Hannibal to resign as the leader of the Carthaginian army.

The mighty Hannibal was able to instill terror into the Roman empire. Rome was the world power at the time and Carthage was a thorn in their side. The size and arrogance of Rome caused them to underestimate the brilliance of Hannibal. He is considered one of the most brilliant military leaders in history. His crossing of the Alps was a feat many may have envisioned but never attempted. Hannibal was determined to keep his promise to his father and annihilate Rome. Though he did not reach his ultimate goal he accomplished more than many military leaders can only dream of. His Empire covered North Africa, Spain and parts of Italy. Hannibal was a true African warrior and a skilled politician. He will never be forgotten within the pages of history. Hannibal was able to show Rome the full potential of his African might. Hannibal Barca the Great, we proudly stand on your shoulders.

J.A. Ward.

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