Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hannibal, The Lion of Carthage

By Nael Noman 
When writing about history I aim at several goals
1 – revealing lessons for the future
2 – expanding one's horizon of thinking to what caused civilizations to start and how they ended
3 – it helps you seek the truth and allow the reader to compare the information from several writers
4 – understanding the origins of languages and culture
5 – to preserve the memory of great men and women that changed the course of history or almost have done, and today I write about such person a legend that could have ended the Roman empire in its beginnings, and he was so close.
 Carthage (present day Tunisia) is the Latin name for the Phoenician word 'Karat Hadashet' which means new city, it was established by the Phoenician Princess Alisar Daidon the sister of the Phoenician king Bygalamoun , she settled there after fleeing Sidon because of a misunderstanding with her brother the king in the year 814 B.C. She then expanded her rule to include the Western Mitterrandian including Spain which was later called new Carthage, they also conquered Sicily which a few hundred years later became the boiling point with the Romans.

Hannibal was born in the year 247 B.C, son of Hamilcar Barka the famous military General that fought and lost Sicily during the first Punic war (the word Punic is Latin refers to Phoenicia the origins of Carthage also the Punic wars are the first East-West conflicts recorded in history), from there Hannibal's father became obsessed with defeating the Romans, and after returning to Spain where he ruled, he took an oath from Hannibal whom was at age 9 by dipping his hands in blood (the old Canaanite way) and swearing that he will avenge the honor of Carthage, something that Hannibal could not forget all his life.

Our story begins in the year 219 B.C when Hannibal decided to conquer the independent Spanish city of Saguntum which was an ally to Rome, in an what seems to be a provocation to the Romans whom in turn warned his through an emissary that a war on Saguntum means a war on Rome. Hannibal conquered the Spanish city in the same year and Spain became totally under Carthage rule. Proud with his accomplishment he decided to push his army towards Rome and the centuries of rivalry between Carthage and Rome. 

He prepared 50,000 foot soldiers, 12,000 cavalries ,37 elephants and decided to take a very strange route to Rome !!! across the Alps into Italy a distance of 1,500 miles before winter. 

This route will be least expected by Rome and also because at that time Rome became the master of the Mediterranean and no ships can carry all that army unnoticed to Rome. 

By Autumn 218 B.C his army reached the Rhone valley in Southern France, when a contingent of Roman army tried to intercept them under the leadership of Consul Scipio after they land from the Alps. It took him 7 months to reach Italy and lost some 20,000 men in the process, yet still determined to move forward.

Scipio's army of 5,000 men was trying to get ready for Hannibal's arrival in North Italy when in November 218 B.C were ambushed by Hannibal wounded Scipio whom was saved by his son Publius (later became a Consul and nick named the African), and this was the first victory of Hannibal on Roman soil. 

 Many of the Northern tribes were already unhappy with Rome, and gladly joined Hannibal when they saw his abilities. Providing the resource Hannibal was needed most, fighting men. 

The Romans being humiliated sent a large army to Trebia led by Consul Longus.

Knowing he was out numbered Hannibal kept his brother Mago cavalry out of the sight of the Romans and baited them to push forward when they became surrounded as the map shows they had nowhere to escape. The Romans lost 25,000 of their men that cold day in 218B.C. The Carthaginians up imageuntil that minute where choosing the battle ground, the timing and controlled the terrain. 

Hannibal kept pushing towards Rome knowing that one more battle could end the war and Rome would fall. Realizing the danger, the Romans appointed Fabious Maximus as the head of the council and he had a brilliant idea which is simply do not give Hannibal the battle he sought. Choosing to cut his supply routes and make his army die of hunger. An idea that did not suit the majority members of the Roman Republican council and within 6 months Maximus was out of power and replaced by Gaius Terentius Varro. In 216 B.C he gathered the largest army ever assembled in Roman history and decided to meet Hannibal at a time and place of Hannibal’s choosing. Hannibal chose Cannae in Southern Italy to be the last scene with the Romans, whom in turn followed the same tactics that lost them the first 2 battles, of trying to pierce through the center of Hannibal's army . 

In the 2nd of August 216 B.C Hannibal chose a new formation a half circle or a bow type formation that is strong yet flexible at the same time. 

This time Hannibal started by sending the cavalry first, a move the Romans did not anticipate thus driving the Roman cavalry away from the main battle, the Romans had to march forward full of confidence with the numbers they have and met Hannibal's army which did not give ground easily, and suddenly he attacked the Roman flanks with the African infantry. Half of the cavalry came back to completely surround the Romans. 60,000 Romans perished that day a great loss like no other to Rome, it was a matter of time till the Romans surrender as per old protocols, Hannibal refused to enter Rome with a military campaign as his brothers advised and waited to receive Rome's answer.

To his surprise the Romans did not surrender but quite the opposite, Maximus came back to power, Rome's defenses strengthened and Scorpio junior became the head of the Roman army. Realizing the situation Hannibal asked Carthage for more troops but the council denied him his request and ordered him to go back home because the Romans have organized themselves and were heading towards Spain. 

With Rome not giving way and no troops were coming from home Hannibal started feeling helpless, and headed towards South Italy conquering it city by city in an effort to draw the Roman army out of Rome to the South and try to sneak behind them to Rome but that did not work. Until one day after 14 years in his campaign he received a message that Scipio has landed in Carthage and is waiting for him at Zama 50 miles south of Carthage, he looked one last time at Italy before his ships started the journey home. 

At Zama, it was the last stand, the Romans were determined to end the war, with Scipio a leader that learnt from the best, he arranged his army knowing all of Hannibal's tactics Scipio allowed the elephants to pass through his army as they shifted sideways as shown in the map, he did not allow the cavalry to flank the Roman army and that was done by attacking the cavalry first it was all over to Hannibal, he left the battle to Carthage and told the council to accept any Roman terms. 

He then escaped to Levant and for one last time he fought the Romans with the king of Syria but lost the battle and escaped to Gebze Turkey, but the Romans chased him from place to place until they found his location but Hannibal has decided to drink poison rather than be captured and humiliated, he died at the age of 64 in the year 183 B.C, and that was the end of a legend.

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