Unit 5: Hannibal's war / Second Punic War
on images or on the links below the images to enlarge them.
Hannibal, after defeating the Gauls on the east bank of the Rhone,
ferried his baggage and elephants across the river. The
panicked and ended up swimming the second half of the crossing.
http://www.mmdtkw.org/CNAf0502HannibalSeesAlps.jpg After crossing the Rhone, Hannibal continued north along the
bank and then turned eastward. Most recent research
Polybius compared to "ground truth") indicates that he went up the
Isere River valley into the Graian (Western) Alps. The image
shows the part of the Alps he entered, but later in the year than
Hannibal started his trek.
A map shows the passes of the Graian Alps. The coastal route
would have been easiest, but that was forclosed by the
of a Roman Consular army. Hannibal used Gallic guides that
serve him well. They led him astray and also, ultimately,
ambush. In the event, he probably followed the Isere River
the Clapier up to the Clapier Pass.
http://www.mmdtkw.org/CNAf0505HannibalRouteResearch2.jpg Polybius interviewed at least one literate survivor of
march through the Alps, and described the route in detail.
historians wish that he had given the names of geographic features
along the route, but there is no guarantee that we would be able
correlate the ancient Gallic names to modern names.
A satellite photomontage of the Graian Alps (from the south) at
the time of year tha Hannibal went through the alps. It's
probable that he went through in October, but it may have been as
as early November -- much later in the year than he would have
http://www.mmdtkw.org/CNAf0509AmbushDefile.jpg One of the more gripping sections of the Polybius
of Hannibal's Alpine adventure was the ambush that Hannibal was
by the guides. Polybius describes a narrow defile with Gauls
sides shooting and flinging rocks down on the Barcid force.
Hannibal realized that the Gauls abandoned their positions and
to their villages at night and was able to get some of his troops
the sides to commanding positions above the defile before the
returned in the morning. The Gauls were then caught between
parts of Hannibal's army. Hannibal fought his way through,
but with heavy casualties. (Full English translations of the
Polybius and Livy descriptions of the ambush with links to
imagery of the site are at http://www.livius.org/ha-hd/hannibal/alps_text.html.)
http://www.mmdtkw.org/CNAf0510WrongChoice.jpg After the ambush, Hannibal either didn't have or didnt trust
took a wrong turn and once again was taking a more difficult routh
he needed to. It was almost inevitable -- the
he took was easier on the upslope, and he couldn't know how steep
descent was on the other side of the Clapier Pass
From the top of the Clapier Pass you can look down onto
northern Italian plain. This, along with a narrow defile
matches the description by Polybius of the ambush site, is what
distinguishes this route from other routes proposed over the
Hannibal, according to Polybius, stopped for a day at the top of
pass (and Clapier is the only pass that has room to bivouac an
and then showed his troops their first view of Italy.
The downward slope was slick and dangerous, and at a point just
the pass there had been a landslide that completely blocked the
path. Hannibal's sappers had to dig through it all to keep
convoy moving. One huge rock had to be heated and then
pouring "vinegar" (cheap sour wine) over it. They cleared a
narrow path for the men and horses and then widened it for the
Polybius's source told him new snow was falling at and beyond the
and that it fell on top of snow left over from the previous
Passage of thousands of men and animals turned it to slush over
The downward path was much steeper than the path up to the
Clapier Pass -- in
some places the slope was 70%, i.e., there was a 7 meter drop for
10 meters forward. Men and horses can pass down such a slope
dry, but snow was falling and there was old ice on the
fell to their death. Elephants would find such a slope
impossible -- only seven survived the Alpine march.
This switchback road gives you some idea of the slope on the
side of the Graian Alps. The Alps are one of the newest
ranges in the world, and therefore they are among the most rugged.
Joseph Mallord William Taylor's 1812 painting evokes the terror of
Hannibal's passage through the Alps. He entered the Alps
army of 50,000 men, and fifteen days later only 20,000 were
They rushed out onto the plain to search for food for themselves
So where did
Hannibal really cross the Alps? New evidence
announced in April 2016:
Scientists may be closer to revealing the route
taken by Hannibal as he crossed the Alps to attack
ancient Rome. A team says they have found a
churned up layer of soil at an Alpine pass near the
French-Italian border that dates to the time of
Hannibal's invasion. In Archaeometry
journal, they say the disturbed sediment
was rich in microbes that are common in horse manure.
Hannibal's third century BC campaign is seen as one
of the greatest military endeavours in antiquity. He
was commander-in-chief of the Carthaginian army during
its second war with Rome (218-201 BC). Carthage was
located in present-day Tunisia and was Rome's main
military rival at the time. In an audacious
manoeuvre, Hannibal led about 30,000 troops, 15,000
horses and 37 elephants across the Alps to challenge
Roman power on home soil. It was very nearly a
masterstroke: in a series of battles, the
Carthaginians brought the Roman military to its knees.
But Hannibal was ultimately defeated at the battle of
Zama in 202 BC.
Historians, statesmen and academics have long argued
about the route Hannibal took across the Alps. Firm
archaeological evidence has been difficult to
But an international team has now argued that
the military commander led his troops across the
Col de Traversette mountain pass at an altitude of
3,000m. The results may not yet be a smoking
gun, but the researchers are hopeful of finding
other evidence from the deposit, such as tapeworm
eggs from horses - or even elephants. They
found a churned-up mass of sediment in a 1m-thick
mire at Col de Traversette that could be directly
dated to the time of the invasion. Dr Chris
Allen, from Queen's University Belfast, said the
layer had been produced by "the constant movement
of thousands of animals and humans". "Over
70% of the microbes in horse manure are from a
group known as the Clostridia, that are very
stable in soil - surviving for thousands of
years," he said. "We found scientifically
significant evidence of these same bugs in a
genetic microbial signature precisely dating to
the time of the Punic invasion."
This crossing point was first proposed over a
half century ago by the British biologist Sir
Gavin de Beer, but it has not been widely accepted
by the academic community.
People had been going through the Alpine passes for centuries, but
nobody had tried to squeeze through with a large army. Even
all the losses, Hannibal came down into the Italian plain with
men, many horses and seven elephants. There he met with the
Taurini Gauls who overcame their initial misgivings and allied
themselves with Hannibal. The Taurini and other Cis-Alpine
had been fighting Rome for years, trying to prevent Rome from
colonizing their region.
Publius Cornelius Scipio left his army at Massilia and rushed back
northern Italy top raise a new army to intercept Hannibal.
first contact was in Novenber of 218 BC, just weeks after
arrival, along the banks of the Ticinus River, a tributary of the
Po. Scipio had marched out with light infantry and cavalry
was met by a larger force of Carthaginian cavalry. The
lost badly and Scipio was wounded -- saved from death or capture,
according to legend, by his young warrior son who later was to
Scipio Africanus the Elder. This early small victory brought
formerly hesitant Gauls to Hannibal's banner.
Before another month had passed, and while Scipio was still
from his wound, Hannibal lured Scipio's impetuous co-Consul,
Sempronius Longus, into battle. Hannibal had hidden a strong
detachment of cavalry behind a hill south of the battlefield, and
was decisive. Shortly after the battle, another Roman
unit was chopped up in the area by a Carthaginian (Numidian)
A 15th century miniature showing the first Roman defeat.
the Trebia River battle, there were small and cautious engagements
Italy. In Spain, Scipio's brother, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio,
had been left in command of the army that Scipio had left at
defeated the 10,000 man force that Hannibal had left south of the
Pyrenees. Spain north of the Ebro river was now under
Flaminius had been pursuing Hannibal around the north since the
beginning of the 217 campaign season. Hannibal let him catch
on the northern shore of Lake Trasimene. Flaminius was
between the lake shore and Hannibal's troops hidden in the hills
of the lake. According to Polybius, Flaminius and many of
were killed by Punic cavalry as they tried to swim to
Meanwhile, near the mouth of the Ebro River in Spain, a Roman
destroyed the Barcid Spanish fleet.
According to all the precedents of Mediterranean war, Rome should
surrendered, but the Romans didn't respect those precedents.
Instead they reformed their armies, put more and more legions in
field, and "delayed". (Fabius "Cunctator")
http://www.mmdtkw.org/CNAf0534HanibalDelayed.jpg Hannibal tried to lure the Romans into large-scale set-piece
battles, but there wasn't another for nine years after
Instead, Roman legions -- up to 28 at one point -- operated
independently against Hannibal's allies, freeing his captured
fast as Hannibal could take them. Roman armies punished
that allied themselves with Hannibal, and presently there were not
nearly so many defecting cities. Rome's manpower advantage
becoming, ever more clearly, the deciding factor. In Spain,
Roman armies under Scipio (who had recovered from his wound) and
Scipio's brother had Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal on the run
were preventing him from reinforcing Hannibal in Italy. (The
Scipio brothers eventually let over-confidence lead to their
demise. It remained, several years later, to the son of
Cornelius Scipio -- the son who earlier had saved his father's
the Ticinus River and who was later awarded the agnomen
to completely subdue the Iberian Peninsula and drive out the
Hannibal even menaced Rome in an attempt to provoke a big battle,
the Romans refused to take the bait. Hannibal (who never got
close as the image shows to the walls of Rome) backed off:
knew he could not besiege the city. Hannibal had no source
supplies other than foraging, and, if he sat in one place for too
-- outside the walls of Rome, for example -- his army would be
before the city would.
By 208 BC both of the Scipio brothers in Spain were dead, and that
Scipio warrior, who had legendarily saved his father at Ticinus,
been elected leader by the Roman army in Spain and ratified by the
Senate in Rome. He had briliant victories, but Hasdrubal
managed to slip out of his grasp and take another Barcid army
the Alps into Italy.
Hasdrubal was quickly intercepted at the Metaurus River by Marcus
Livius Salinator, but Hasdrubal had the numerical advantage.
During the night before the battle, the situation dramatically
when Gaius Claudius Nero arrived with more light infantry and
to reinforce Salinator. During the battle, Nero, who had
against a natural barrier, took the bulk of his troops across
Salinator's rear and rolled up Hasdrubal's opposite flank.
Hasdrubal was killed, and his head was thrown into Hannibal's camp
announce the Roman victory to the Carthaginian forces.
then knew that there would be no reinforcements, and he lapsed
same kind of guerilla rear action that his father, Hamilcar, had
Sicily during the first Punic war. Young Scipio, meanwhile,
to aggitate for an invasion of the Carthaginian homeland in North
http://www.mmdtkw.org/CNAf0540Africanus.jpg In 203, the reluctant Roman Senate sent Scipio to Sicily
full well that he planned to launch a North
African expedition, but they stipulated that he could only take
volunteers. They probably thought there would not be
But Scipio's record as a successful general was such that
rolls were soon oversubscribed. The survivors of Cannae, who
been sent to Sicily in disgrace, were particularly anxious to
participate. Scipio's North African campaign was so
that Carthage soon recalled Hannibal to face him.
After 16 years in Italy, the last 13 of which must have been very
frustrating, Hannibal had to evacuate through Calabria. The
show a fairly simple route, but there were many side-trips and
backtrackings. Hannibal had not had a really decisive battle
13 years. Meanwhile, intrigue among Carthage's Numidian
and an argument about a Carthaginian "princess", Sophonisba
(Saphanba'al = Punic, "protected by Baal") was about to bring the
of the famous Numidian
cavalry over to the Roman side. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masinissa
for the story)
Massinissa had previously been in contact with Scipio while
rival for Numidian leadership, was being courted by
With Roman help Massinissa won a battle against Syphax and
camp, including his wife, the beautiful Carthaginian
Saphanba'al. She quickly changed sides and married
Massinissa. Scipio, fearing she would influence Massinissa
support Carthage, expressed his disaproval of the match.
Massinissa offered her poison, and she drank it as a sign of her
for Massinissa. Massinissa stayed loyal to Scipio.
story, which has more than a tinge of mythology -- like Dido, a
self-sacrificing Punic princess -- is from Polybius, who got it
an unnamed Carthaginian
informant. All we really know is that Massinissa, who had
wooed by Scipio's envoys for some time, fought on the
side of the Romans at Zama. As his reward, he became the
king of all Numidia under Roman suzerainty.)
At Zama, roles were reversed. Hannibal, for the first time,
an advantage in
infantry numbers, but they were inexperienced. Scipio had
infantry, but they were veterans of his Spanish victories and from
Sicilian garrison. Hannibal's great and unaccustomed deficit
six thousand Numidian
cavalrymen under Masinissa, who might otherwise be at his side,
riding on the
right flank of Scipio's army and fighting against Hannibal.
had also, by this time, figured out how to neutralize Hanibal's
elephants. An animation of the battle is on the internet at http://www.sharemation.com/piermin/Romani/Zama_en.html.
http://www.mmdtkw.org/CNAF0547HannibalDefeated.jpg Hannibal survived the battle, and Scipio allowed him to be
in politics in Roman-occupied Carthage. But public opinion
in Rome objected to this leniency, and Hannibal eventually fled to
eastern Mediterranean where he found employ in a Syrian war
Rome. When the Syrians lost their war, he fled again to
Bythnia. Between Syria and Bythnia, he fought against Rome
another 20 years -- his last battle was a naval victory over a
fleet. When Bythnia succumbed to Roman might, the Romans
that he be sent to Rome.
http://www.mmdtkw.org/CNAf0549ScipioTriumph.jpg Scipio was awarded a formal triumph in Rome and became the
Roman to be awarded an agnomen, Africanus, related to a
He later got another agnomen, Numantius, for his pacification of a
revolt in Roman Spain. Eventually, he was brought low by
-- Cato the Elder accused him and his family of bribery.
won the case, but left Rome in disgust. He died at his
estate the next year (183 BC) and had stipulated that his body
not be buried