Second Punic War
Overview
 
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and (by the Romans) The War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218
218 BC
Year 218 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Scipio and Longus...

 to 201 BC
201 BC
Year 201 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Lentulus and Paetus...

 and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. This was the second major war between Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 and the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, with the participation of the Berbers
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 on Carthage's side. The two states had three major conflicts against each other over the courses of their existences.
Encyclopedia
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and (by the Romans) The War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218
218 BC
Year 218 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Scipio and Longus...

 to 201 BC
201 BC
Year 201 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Lentulus and Paetus...

 and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. This was the second major war between Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 and the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, with the participation of the Berbers
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 on Carthage's side. The two states had three major conflicts against each other over the courses of their existences. They are called the "Punic Wars
Punic Wars
The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 B.C.E. to 146 B.C.E. At the time, they were probably the largest wars that had ever taken place...

" because Rome's name for Carthaginians was Punici, due to their Phoenician ancestry.

The war is marked by Hannibal's surprising overland journey and his costly crossing of the Alps, followed by his reinforcement by Gaulish allies and crushing victories over Roman armies in the battle of the Trebia
Battle of the Trebia
The Battle of the Trebia was the first major battle of the Second Punic War, fought between the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and the Roman Republic in December of 218 BC, on or around the winter solstice...

 and the giant ambush at Trasimene
Battle of Lake Trasimene
The Battle of Lake Trasimene was a Roman defeat in the Second Punic War between the Carthaginians under Hannibal and the Romans under the consul Gaius Flaminius...

. Against his skill on the battlefield the Romans deployed the Fabian strategy
Fabian strategy
The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employing this strategy harasses its enemy through skirmishes to cause...

. But because of the increasing unpopularity of this approach, the Romans resorted to a further major field battle. The result was the Roman defeat at Cannae
Battle of Cannae
The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War, which took place on August 2, 216 BC near the town of Cannae in Apulia in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage under Hannibal decisively defeated a numerically superior army of the Roman Republic under command of the consuls Lucius...

. In consequence many Roman allies went over to Carthage, prolonging the war in Italy for over a decade, during which more Roman armies were destroyed on the battlefield. Despite these setbacks, the Roman forces were more capable in siegecraft than the Carthaginians and recaptured all the major cities that had joined the enemy, as well as defeating a Carthaginian attempt to reinforce Hannibal at the battle of the Metaurus
Battle of the Metaurus
The Battle of the Metaurus was a pivotal battle in the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage, fought in 207 BC near the Metauro River in present-day Italy. The battle gets a chapter in the classic The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World by Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy...

. In the meantime in Iberia, which served as the main source of manpower for the Carthaginian army, a second Roman expedition under Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major
Scipio Africanus
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus , also known as Scipio Africanus and Scipio the Elder, was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic...

 took New Carthage
Cartagena, Spain
Cartagena is a Spanish city and a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain. As of January 2011, it has a population of 218,210 inhabitants being the Region’s second largest municipality and the country’s 6th non-Province capital...

 by assault and ended Carthaginian rule over Iberia in the battle of Ilipa
Battle of Ilipa
The Battle of Ilipa in 206 BC was considered Scipio Africanus’s most brilliant victory in his military career during the Second Punic War. Though it may not seem to be as original as Hannibal’s tactic at Cannae, Scipio’s pre-battle maneuver and his Reverse Cannae formation was still a culmination...

. The final showdown was the battle of Zama
Battle of Zama
The Battle of Zama, fought around October 19, 202 BC, marked the final and decisive end of the Second Punic War. A Roman army led by Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus defeated a Carthaginian force led by the legendary commander Hannibal...

 in Africa between Scipio Africanus and Hannibal, resulting in the latter's defeat and the imposition of harsh peace conditions on Carthage, which ceased to be a major power and became a Roman client-state.

A sideshow of this war was the indecisive first Macedonian War
First Macedonian War
The First Macedonian War was fought by Rome, allied with the Aetolian League and Attalus I of Pergamon, against Philip V of Macedon, contemporaneously with the Second Punic War against Carthage...

 in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Ionian Sea.

All battles mentioned in the introduction are ranked among the most costly traditional battles of human history; in addition there were a few successful ambushes of armies that also ended in their annihilation.

Background

  • For analysis of the strength and organisation of Roman forces on the eve of the war, see Socii#Military organisation of the Roman alliance


The Second Punic War between Carthage and Rome was ignited by the dispute over the hegemony of Saguntum, a Hellenized Iberian coastal city with diplomatic contacts with Rome. After great tension within the city government, culminating in the assassination of the supporters of Carthage, Hannibal laid siege to the city of Saguntum in 219 BC
219 BC
Year 219 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Paullus and Salinator...

. The city called for Roman aid, but the pleas fell on deaf ears. Following a prolonged siege and a bloody struggle, in which Hannibal himself was wounded and the army practically destroyed, the Carthaginians finally took control of the city. Many of the Saguntians chose to commit suicide rather than face the subjugation by the Carthaginians.

Before the war Rome and Hasdrubal the Fair had made a treaty. Livy reports that it was agreed that the Iber should be the boundary between both empires and that the liberty of the Saguntines should be preserved.

Hannibal's overland journey

The Carthaginian army in Iberia, excluding the forces in Africa, totaled, according to Polybius, 90,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry and an unknown number of war elephants: it was thus one of the largest in the Hellenistic world and equal in numbers to any that the Romans had yet fielded. Hannibal departed with this army from New Carthage (Cartagena, Spain
Cartagena, Spain
Cartagena is a Spanish city and a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain. As of January 2011, it has a population of 218,210 inhabitants being the Region’s second largest municipality and the country’s 6th non-Province capital...

) northwards along the coast in late spring of 218 B.C. At the Ebro
Ebro
The Ebro or Ebre is one of the most important rivers in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the biggest river by discharge volume in Spain.The Ebro flows through the following cities:*Reinosa in Cantabria.*Miranda de Ebro in Castile and León....

 he split the army into three columns and subdued the tribes from there to the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 within weeks, but with severe losses. At the Pyrenees, he left a detachment of 11,000 Iberian troops, who showed reluctance to leave their homeland, to garrison the newly conquered region. Hannibal reportedly entered Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 with 50,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry. He took his army by an inland route, avoiding the Roman allies along the coast. In Gaul negotiations helped him to move unmolested except for the Battle of Rhone Crossing
Battle of Rhone Crossing
The Battle of Rhone Crossing took place during the Second Punic War. The Carthaginian army under Hannibal Barca, while marching to Italy in the autumn of 218 BC, fought an army of the Gaulish tribe of Volcae on the east bank of the Rhone River possibly near Aurasio...

 where a force of the Allobroges
Allobroges
The Allobroges were a Celtic tribe of ancient Gaul, located between the Rhône River and the Lake of Geneva in what later became Savoy, Dauphiné, and Vivarais. Their cities were in the areas of modern-day Annecy, Chambéry and Grenoble, the modern of Isère, and modern Switzerland...

 unsuccessfully tried to oppose his 38,000 infantry (that number may exclude light infantry), 8,000 cavalry, and 37 war elephant
War elephant
A war elephant was an elephant trained and guided by humans for combat. Their main use was to charge the enemy, trampling them and breaking their ranks. A division of war elephants is known as elephantry....

s from the other shore.

In the meantime, a Roman fleet with an invasion force was underway to northern Iberia. Its commanders, the brothers Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus
Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus
Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus was a Roman general and statesman.His father was Lucius Cornelius Scipio, son of the patrician censor of 280, Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus. His younger brother was Publius Cornelius Scipio, father of the most famous Scipio – Scipio Africanus...

 and Publius Cornelius Scipio
Publius Cornelius Scipio
Publius Cornelius Scipio was a general and statesman of the Roman Republic.A member of the Corneliagens, Scipio served as consul in 218 BC, the first year of the Second Punic War, and sailed with an army from Pisa to Massilia , with the intention of arresting Hannibal's advance on Italy...

, knew that Hannibal had crossed the Ebro, but were surprised by the Carthaginian army's presence at the Rhone
Rhône
Rhone can refer to:* Rhone, one of the major rivers of Europe, running through Switzerland and France* Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

 upstream of their ally Massalia, where they had landed. A scouting party of 300 cavalry was sent to discover the whereabouts of the enemy . These eventually defeated a Carthaginian scouting troop of 500 mounted Numidians and chased them back to their main camp. Thus, with knowledge of the location of the enemy, the Romans marched upstream, ready for battle. Hannibal evaded this force and by an unknown route reached (the Isère
Isère River
The Isère is a 286 km long river in southeastern France, in the Rhône-Alpes région. Its source is in the Alps on the border with Italy, near the ski resort Val d'Isère. It flows into the Rhône River in Pont-de-l'Isère, a few km north of Valence...

 or the Durance) the foot of the Alps in autumn. He also received messengers from his Gallic allies in Italy that urged him to come to their aid and offered to guide him over the Alps. Before setting out to cross the Alps, he was re-supplied by a native tribe, some of whose hereditary disputes he had helped solve.

First Roman expedition to Iberia

The first Roman expedition to Iberia was unable to bring the Carthaginian troops in the hinterland of Massalia to a pitched battle, so it continued on its way to northern Iberia under Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus
Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus
Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus was a Roman general and statesman.His father was Lucius Cornelius Scipio, son of the patrician censor of 280, Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus. His younger brother was Publius Cornelius Scipio, father of the most famous Scipio – Scipio Africanus...

, a move which proved decisive for the outcome of the war. Their other commander, Publius Cornelius Scipio
Publius Cornelius Scipio
Publius Cornelius Scipio was a general and statesman of the Roman Republic.A member of the Corneliagens, Scipio served as consul in 218 BC, the first year of the Second Punic War, and sailed with an army from Pisa to Massilia , with the intention of arresting Hannibal's advance on Italy...

, returned to Rome, realizing the danger of an invasion of Italy where the tribes of the Boii
Boii
The Boii were one of the most prominent ancient Celtic tribes of the later Iron Age, attested at various times in Cisalpine Gaul , Pannonia , in and around Bohemia, and Transalpine Gaul...

 and Insubres
Insubres
The Insubres were a Gaulish population settled in Insubria, in what is now Lombardy . They were the founders of Milan . Though ethnically Celtic at the time of Roman conquest , they were most likely the result of the fusion of pre-existing Ligurian, Celtic and "Italic" population strata with Gaulish...

 were already in revolt. After 217 BC, he also traveled to Iberia.

In Iberia, Carthaginian rule was not popular, but Roman inaction during the siege of Saguntum had made the natives cautious about an alliance against their masters. Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus established his headquarters at Cissa
Cissa
Cissa is a genus of relatively short-tailed magpies, though sometimes known as hunting cissas, that reside in the forests of tropical and subtropical southeast Asia and adjacent regions. The three species are quite similar with bright red bills, a mainly green plumage, black mask, and rufous wings...

, in the midst of Hannibal's latest acquisition, the area between Ebro and Pyrenees. Despite initial setbacks, he won increasing support among the natives. This convinced the Carthaginian commander Hanno, the nephew of Hannibal, to accept pitched battle before his troops had been united with the army under Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, despite being outnumbered 2 to 1. The result was a Roman victory in the battle of Cissa
Battle of Cissa
The Battle of Cissa was part of the Second Punic War. It was fought in the fall of 218 BC south of the Greek town of Tarraco in north-eastern Iberia...

 in 218 BC. When Hasdrubal finally made it to the scene, he was in no position to fight the Roman army and merely caught their navy personnel off-guard, killing some of them in the process.

The combined Roman and Massalian fleet and army posed a threat to the Carthaginians. Hasdrubal intended to first defeat the fleet. However, his naval forces had a history of failure against the Romans. They had lost all but one major naval engagement in the First Punic War
First Punic War
The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. For 23 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy in the western Mediterranean Sea, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters but also to a lesser extent in...

 and in 218 BC a naval engagement in the waters of Lilybaeum had been lost despite numerical superiority. For this reason he moved the army and fleet together. The fleet is described as being very disorganized prior to the battle. The army in the meantime provided loud moral support and a safe harbour for the ensuing naval Battle of Ebro River
Battle of Ebro River
Battle of Ebro River was a naval battle fought between a Carthaginian fleet of approximately 40 quinqueremes under the command of Himilco and a Roman fleet of 55 ships under Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus near the mouth of Ebro River in the spring of 217 BC...

. The 40 Carthaginian and Iberian vessels were severely defeated by the 55 Roman and Massalian ships in the second naval engagement of the war with about 3/4 of the fleet captured or sunk and the rest beaching their ships with the army on the shore. In the aftermath the Carthaginian forces retreated, but the Romans were still confined to the area between Ebro and Pyrenees.

This position prevented the Carthaginians from sending reinforcements from Iberia to Hannibal or to the insurgent Gauls in northern Italy during critical stages of the war. To deal with this problem, in 215 BC Hasdrubal marched into Roman territory and offered battle at Dertosa
Battle of Dertosa
The Battle of Dertosa, also known as the Battle of Ibera, was fought in the spring of 215 BC on the south bank of the Ebro River across from the town of Dertosa. A Roman army, under the command of Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus and Publius Cornelius Scipio defeated a similarly sized Carthaginian...

. In this battle he used his cavalry superiority to clear the field and to envelop the enemy on both sides with his infantry, a tactic that had been very successfully employed in Italy. But the Romans broke through the thinned out line in the centre and defeated both wings separately, inflicting severe losses; not without, however, taking heavy losses themselves.

While little progress was made in the Iberian theatre, the Scipios were able to negotiate a new front in Africa by allying themselves with Syphax
Syphax
Syphax was a king of the ancient Algerian tribe Masaesyli of western Numidia during the last quarter of the 3rd century BC. His story is told in Livy's Ab Urbe Condita .-Biography:...

, a powerful Numidian king in North Africa. In 213 BC he received Roman advisers to train his heavy infantry soldiers that had not yet been able to stand up to their Carthaginian counterparts. With this support he waged war against the Carthaginian ally Gala. According to Appian, in 213 BC Hasdrubal left Iberia and fought Syphax, though he may be confused with Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco or Hasdrubal son of Gisco was a Carthaginian general who fought against Rome in Iberia and North Africa during the Second Punic War. He should not be confused with Hasdrubal Barca, the brother of Hannibal....

, however, it did bind Carthaginian resources. Hasdrubal Gisco is the son of the Gesco who had served together with Hamilcar Barca
Hamilcar Barca
Hamilcar Barca or Barcas was a Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. He was also father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair....

, Hannibal's father, in Sicily during the First Punic War and son-in-law of Hanno the Elder
Hanno the Elder
Hanno the Elder was a Carthaginian general who served under Hannibal during the Second Punic War. According to the historian Livy, his track record was terrible: in 215 BC he was defeated by Tiberius Sempronius Longus at Grumentum, in 214 BC he was defeated by Gracchus at Beneventum, two years...

 who was one of Hannibal's lieutenants in Italy.

Naval raids and expeditions

In 218 BC, the Carthaginian navy was busy scouting the Sicilian
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 waters and preparing for a surprise attack on their former key stronghold Lilybaeum on the western tip of the island. Twenty quinquereme
Quinquereme
From the 4th century BC on, new types of oared warships appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, superseding the trireme and transforming naval warfare. Ships became increasingly bigger and heavier, including some of the largest wooden ships ever constructed...

s, loaded with 1,000 soldiers, raided the Aegadian Islands
Aegadian Islands
The Aegadian Islands , are a group of small mountainous islands in the Mediterranean Sea off the northwest coast of Sicily, Italy, near the city of Trapani, with a total area of ....

 west of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and eight ships intended to attack the Vulcan islands, but were blown off-course in a storm towards the Straits of Messina. The Syracusan navy, then at Messina, managed to capture three of these ships without resistance. Learning from their crews that a Carthaginian fleet was to attack Lilybaeum, Hiero II
Hiero II of Syracuse
Hieron II , king of Syracuse from 270 to 215 BC, was the illegitimate son of a Syracusan noble, Hierocles, who claimed descent from Gelon. He was a former general of Pyrrhus of Epirus and an important figure of the First Punic War....

 warned the Roman praetor
Praetor
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

 Marcus Amellius there. As a result the Romans prepared 20 quinqueremes to intercept, and defeated the 35 Carthaginian quinqueremes in the battle of Lilybaeum
Battle of Lilybaeum
The Battle of Lilybaeum was the first naval clash between the navies of Carthage and Rome during the Second Punic War. The Carthaginians had sent 35 quinqueremes to raid Sicily, starting with Lilybaeum...

.

In 218 BC preparations were made to launch a Roman expedition from the same Lilybaeum against Africa. Hannibal had anticipated the move and reinforced the defending army in Africa with 13,850 Iberian heavy infantry, 870 Balearic slingers and 1200 Iberian cavalry. In addition, some 4000 Iberian men "of good family were called up who were under orders to be conveyed to Carthage to strengthen its defence, and also to serve as hostages for the loyalty of their people." In return, 11,850 Libyan infantry, 300 Ligurians, and 500 Balearics were sent to Iberia to strengthen the local defence against the other anticipated Roman invasion.

The Carthaginian navy had been defeated in two major encounters by the Romans, but neither side was usually able to interdict the other from raiding each other's coasts. An exception was in 217 BC, when a Carthaginian fleet of 70 quinqueremes was intercepted off the coast of Etruria
Etruria
Etruria—usually referred to in Greek and Latin source texts as Tyrrhenia—was a region of Central Italy, an area that covered part of what now are Tuscany, Latium, Emilia-Romagna, and Umbria. A particularly noteworthy work dealing with Etruscan locations is D. H...

 by a Roman fleet of 120 quinqueremes and retreated without giving battle.

The first Carthaginian expedition to Sardinia, in 215 BC, was under the command of Hasdrubal The Bald with his subordinate Hampsicora. A previous pro-Carthaginian uprising had been defeated while a storm had blown the Carthaginian fleet to the Balearic Islands
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

. When they finally made it to Sardinia, the Romans were aware of their intentions and had reinforced the unpopular garrison under Titus Manlius Torquatus
Titus Manlius Torquatus
Titus Manlius Torquatus may refer to three Roman Republic consuls of the gens Manlia:* Titus Manlius Torquatus , son of Lucius, consul in 347, 344, and 340 BC...

 to 20,000 infantry and 1,200 cavalry. These engaged and defeated the Carthaginians' 15,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry (plus an unknown number of elephants) and the remaining insurgent Sardinians at the Battle of Cornus
Battle of Cornus
The Battle of Cornus, or Caralis took place when a Carthaginian army sailed to Sardinia in support of a Sardinian revolt against Roman rule. The army, led by Hasdrubal the Bald, fought a similar size Roman army under Praetor Titus Manlius Torquatus in the Fall of 215 BC somewhere between Cornus and...

. In the aftermath the defeated expedition of 60 quinqueremes and several transports encountered a Roman raiding party from Africa with 100 quinqueremes. The Carthaginian fleet scattered and escaped save for seven ships. As a result Sardinia, an important grain exporter, remained under Roman occupation.

Gallic uprising

The Romans simultaneously received news of Hannibal's crossing of the Ebro and of an uprising in northern Italy of the Gallic tribes Boii
Boii
The Boii were one of the most prominent ancient Celtic tribes of the later Iron Age, attested at various times in Cisalpine Gaul , Pannonia , in and around Bohemia, and Transalpine Gaul...

 and Insubres
Insubres
The Insubres were a Gaulish population settled in Insubria, in what is now Lombardy . They were the founders of Milan . Though ethnically Celtic at the time of Roman conquest , they were most likely the result of the fusion of pre-existing Ligurian, Celtic and "Italic" population strata with Gaulish...

. These had established diplomatic contact with the Carthaginians and joined them as allies against their common enemy, Rome. The first objective of the insurgents were the Roman colonies of Placentia
Placentia
Placentia may refer to:* Palace of Placentia, an English Royal Palace* Placentia, California, United States* Placentia, Italy* Placentia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada* Battle of Placentia* Placentia Bay, the name of two ships of the Royal Navy...

 and Cremona
Cremona
Cremona is a city and comune in northern Italy, situated in Lombardy, on the left bank of the Po River in the middle of the Pianura Padana . It is the capital of the province of Cremona and the seat of the local City and Province governments...

, causing the Romans to flee to Mutina (modern Modena), which the Gauls then besieged. In response, Praetor
Praetor
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

 L. Manlius Vulso marched with two legions and allies, for a total of 1,600 cavalry and 20,000 infantry, to Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul, in Latin: Gallia Cisalpina or Citerior, also called Gallia Togata, was a Roman province until 41 BC when it was merged into Roman Italy.It bore the name Gallia, because the great body of its inhabitants, after the expulsion of the Etruscans, consisted of Gauls or Celts...

. This army was ambushed twice on the way from Ariminium
Rimini
Rimini is a medium-sized city of 142,579 inhabitants in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and capital city of the Province of Rimini. It is located on the Adriatic Sea, on the coast between the rivers Marecchia and Ausa...

, lost 1,200 men; although the siege of Mutina was raised, the army itself fell under a loose siege a few kilometers from Mutina. This event prompted the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

 to send one of Scipio's legions and 5,000 allied troops to aid Vulso. Scipio had to raise troops to replace these and thus could not set out for Iberia until September of 218 BC, giving Hannibal time to march from the Ebro to the Rhone.

After evading a pitched battle at the Rhone, Hannibal came to the aid of his Gallic allies, who were hard pressed by the Roman reinforcements. He crossed the Alps, surmounting the difficulties of climate and terrain , and the guerrilla tactics
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 of the native tribes. His exact route is disputed. Hannibal arrived with at least 28,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry and 30 elephants in the territory of the Taurini
Taurini
The Taurini were an ancient Celto-Ligurian Alpine people, who occupied the upper valley of the river Po, in the centre of modern Piedmont.In 218 BC, they were attacked by Hannibal since his allies were the Insubres. The Taurini and the Insubres had a long-standing feud. Their chief town was...

, in what is now Piedmont
Piedmont
Piedmont is one of the 20 regions of Italy. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres and a population of about 4.4 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin. The main local language is Piedmontese. Occitan is also spoken by a minority in the Occitan Valleys situated in the Provinces of...

, northern Italy. His crossing was expected by the enemy, but not such an early arrival, while the Roman forces were still in their winter quarters. This crossing is usually credited as a great achievement since no army before had crossed the Alps in winter with elephants and it led to the termination of Rome's main intended thrust, an invasion of Africa.

The Gauls of the lower Po Valley
Po River
The Po |Ligurian]]: Bodincus or Bodencus) is a river that flows either or – considering the length of the Maira, a right bank tributary – eastward across northern Italy, from a spring seeping from a stony hillside at Pian del Re, a flat place at the head of the Val Po under the northwest face...

, Hannibal's allies, were still far away. Hannibal was first obliged to fight with his currently reduced force to be able to reach them and to incite the rest of Gallia Cisalpina to revolt. His first action was to take the chief city of the hostile Taurini
Taurini
The Taurini were an ancient Celto-Ligurian Alpine people, who occupied the upper valley of the river Po, in the centre of modern Piedmont.In 218 BC, they were attacked by Hannibal since his allies were the Insubres. The Taurini and the Insubres had a long-standing feud. Their chief town was...

. Afterwards the Carthaginians were intercepted by a newly raised Roman force under Publius Cornelius Scipio
Publius Cornelius Scipio
Publius Cornelius Scipio was a general and statesman of the Roman Republic.A member of the Corneliagens, Scipio served as consul in 218 BC, the first year of the Second Punic War, and sailed with an army from Pisa to Massilia , with the intention of arresting Hannibal's advance on Italy...

, whom Hannibal had evaded earlier in the Rhone
Rhône
Rhone can refer to:* Rhone, one of the major rivers of Europe, running through Switzerland and France* Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

 Valley, and who had not anticipated such an early arrival on the other side of the Alps. In the ensuing Battle of Ticinus
Battle of Ticinus
The Battle of Ticinus was a battle of the Second Punic War fought between the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and the Romans under Publius Cornelius Scipio in November 218 BC. The battle took place in the flat country of Pavia county on the right bank of the Ticino River not far north from its...

 the cavalry forces of Hannibal's army defeated the cavalry and light infantry of the Romans in a minor engagement. Scipio, severely injured in the battle, retreated across the River Trebia
Trebbia
The Trebbia is a river predominantly of Liguria and Emilia Romagna in northern Italy. It is one of the four main right-bank tributaries of the river Po, the other three being the Tanaro, the Secchia and the Panaro...

 with his heavy infantry still intact, and encamped at the town of Placentia
Piacenza
Piacenza is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Piacenza...

 to await reinforcements. As a result of Rome's defeat at the Ticinus, all the Gauls except the Cenomani
Cenomani
The Cenomani or Aulerci Cenomani were a Gallic people, a branch of the Aulerci in Gallia Celtica, whose territory corresponded generally to Maine in the modern départment of Sarthe, west of the Carnutes between the Seine and the Loire...

 were induced to join the Carthaginian cause. Soon the entire north of Italy was unofficially insurgent, with both Gallic and Ligurian troops bolstering Hannibal's army back to at least 40,000 men.

Even before news of the defeat at the Ticinus River
Ticino River
The river Ticino is a left-bank tributary of the Po River. It has given its name to the Swiss canton through which its upper portion flows.-The course:...

 reached Rome, the Senate had ordered the consul Sempronius Longus to bring his army back from Sicily, where it had been preparing for the invasion of Africa, to join Scipio and face Hannibal. The latter was blocking Sempronius' way to Scipio's army. But the Carthaginian capture of the supply depot at Clastidium
Clastidium
Clastidium , was a village of the Anamares, in Gallia Cispadana, on the Via Postumia, 5 miles east of Iria and 31 miles west of Placentia....

, through the treachery of the local Latin
Latins
"Latins" refers to different groups of people and the meaning of the word changes for where and when it is used.The original Latins were an Italian tribe inhabiting central and south-central Italy. Through conquest by their most populous city-state, Rome, the original Latins culturally "Romanized"...

 commander, served as a diversion and allowed Sempronius' army to slip through to Scipio, who was still too seriously injured to take the field. After some minor successes, the united and numerically equal Roman force under the command of Sempronius Longus was lured by Hannibal into combat at the battle of the Trebia
Battle of the Trebia
The Battle of the Trebia was the first major battle of the Second Punic War, fought between the Carthaginian forces of Hannibal and the Roman Republic in December of 218 BC, on or around the winter solstice...

. The Roman troops were drawn into the engagement without breakfast and had to first cross a cold river, preventing many from putting up much of a fight. Furthermore, a hidden detachment led by Hannibal's younger brother Mago attacked them from the rear. All in all, the Romans suffered heavy losses with only 20,000 men out of 40,000 able to retreat to safety. They left Cisalpine Gaul in the aftermath. Having secured his position in northern Italy by this victory, Hannibal quartered his troops for the winter amongst the Gauls. The latter joined his army in large numbers, bringing it up to 60,000 men, but the Carthaginians living on their land reduced their enthusiasm.

The Roman Senate resolved to raise new armies against Hannibal under the recently elected consuls of 217 BC, Gnaeus Servilius Geminus
Gnaeus Servilius Geminus
Gnaeus Servilius Geminus was a Roman consul, serving as both general and admiral of Roman forces, during the Second Punic War....

 and Gaius Flaminius
Gaius Flaminius
Gaius Flaminius Nepos was a politician and consul of the Roman Republic in the 3rd century BC. He was the greatest popular leader to challenge the authority of the Senate before the Gracchi a century later....

. The latter had long distrusted his fellow senators and feared they would try to sabotage his command by finding excuses to delay his departure. So he quietly left Rome to take over his army at Ariminum without performing the lengthy religious rituals required of an incoming consul. The Senate voted unanimously to recall him but he ignored its orders. This caused widespread dismay among the Romans, who feared that Flaminius' disrespect for the gods would bring disaster on Rome. As it was expected that Hannibal would advance into central Italy, Flaminius moved his army from Ariminum to Arretium, to cover the Apennine
Apennine
-Other places on Earth:*The Apennine or Italian peninsula*Apennins, a department of the first French Empire-Plants and animals:*The Apennine , a modern breed of domestic sheep.*Apennine Shrew, an insectivore endemic to Italy...

 mountain passes into Etruria. His colleague Servilius, who had performed the proper rituals and was therefore well behind Flaminius, replaced him with his freshly raised army at Ariminum to cover the route along the Adriatic coast. A third force, containing the survivors of previous engagements, was also stationed in Etruria under Scipio. Thus both the eastern and western routes to Rome appeared guarded.

In early spring 217 BC Hannibal decided to advance, leaving his wavering Gallic allies in the Po Valley and crossing the Apennines
Apennine mountains
The Apennines or Apennine Mountains or Greek oros but just as often used alone as a noun. The ancient Greeks and Romans typically but not always used "mountain" in the singular to mean one or a range; thus, "the Apennine mountain" refers to the entire chain and is translated "the Apennine...

 unopposed. Afterwards he avoided the Roman positions and took the only unguarded route into Etruria
Etruria
Etruria—usually referred to in Greek and Latin source texts as Tyrrhenia—was a region of Central Italy, an area that covered part of what now are Tuscany, Latium, Emilia-Romagna, and Umbria. A particularly noteworthy work dealing with Etruscan locations is D. H...

 at the mouth of the Arno
Arno
The Arno is a river in the Tuscany region of Italy. It is the most important river of central Italy after the Tiber.- Source and route :The river originates on Mount Falterona in the Casentino area of the Apennines, and initially takes a southward curve...

. This route was through a huge marsh which happened to be more flooded than usual for spring. Hannibal's army marched for several days without finding convenient places to rest, suffering terribly from fatigue and lack of sleep. This led to the loss of part of the force, including, it seems, the few remaining elephants.

Arriving in Etruria still in the spring of 217 BC, Hannibal tried without success to draw the main Roman army under Flaminius into a pitched battle
Pitched battle
A pitched battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges....

 by devastating the area the latter had been sent to protect. Then a new stratagem
Stratagem
Stratagem may refer to:* Confidence trick, an attempt to swindle a person which involves gaining his or her confidence* Ruse of war, an action taken to fool the enemy.* HMS Stratagem , an S class submarine...

 was employed by Hannibal who marched around his opponent’s left flank and effectively cut him off from Rome. Advancing through the uplands of Etruria, the Carthaginian now provoked Flaminius into a hasty pursuit without proper reconnaissance. Then, in a defile
Defile (geography)
Defile is a geographic term for a narrow pass or gorge between mountains or hills. It has its origins as a military description of a pass through which troops can march only in a narrow column or with a narrow front...

 on the shore of Lake Trasimenus
Lake Trasimeno
Lake Trasimeno , also referred to as Trasimene or Thrasimene in English, is the largest lake on the Italian peninsula south of the Po River with a surface area of 128 km2, slightly less than Lake Como...

, Hannibal lay in ambush with his army. The ambush was a complete success: in the battle of Lake Trasimene
Battle of Lake Trasimene
The Battle of Lake Trasimene was a Roman defeat in the Second Punic War between the Carthaginians under Hannibal and the Romans under the consul Gaius Flaminius...

 Hannibal destroyed most of the Roman army and killed Flaminius with little loss to his own army. 6,000 Romans had been able to escape, but were caught and forced to surrender by Maharbal
Maharbal
Maharbal was Hannibal's cavalry commander during the Second Punic War. He was often critical to the success of the side of Carthage over Rome...

's Numidians. Furthermore, Scipio, aware of the fighting, sent his cavalry in support but it was also caught and annihilated. As a result of this victory, the heterogeneous force of insurgent Gauls, Africans, Iberians and Numidians had more military equipment than they could use themselves and sold the surplus via Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian traders to the Romans. As after all previous engagements the captured enemies were sorted according to whether they were Romans, who were held captive, or non-Romans, who were released to spread the propaganda that the Carthaginian army was in Italy to fight for their freedom against the Romans. Strategically, Hannibal had now disposed of the only field force which could check his advance upon Rome, but despite the urgings of his generals, did not proceed to attack Rome. Instead he marched to the south in the hope of winning over allies amongst the Greek
Magna Graecia
Magna Græcia is the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively colonized by Greek settlers; particularly the Achaean colonies of Tarentum, Crotone, and Sybaris, but also, more loosely, the cities of Cumae and Neapolis to the north...

 and Italic population there.

Fabian Strategy

The defeat at Lake Trasimene put the Romans in an immense state of panic, fearing for the very existence of their city. The Senate decided to resort to the traditional emergency measure of appointing a dictator
Roman dictator
In the Roman Republic, the dictator , was an extraordinary magistrate with the absolute authority to perform tasks beyond the authority of the ordinary magistrate . The office of dictator was a legal innovation originally named Magister Populi , i.e...

, a temporary commander-in-chief who would unite military authority, which was normally divided between the two consuls, under one head for six months. The usual procedure required the presence of a consul to appoint the dictator. Since one consul (Flaminius) was dead and the other (Servilius) away with the only army left in Italy, the Senate resolved to elect a dictator itself. As this was unconstitutional, the person appointed, Quintus Fabius Maximus
Fabius Maximus
Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator was a Roman politician and general, born in Rome around 280 BC and died in Rome in 203 BC. He was Roman Consul five times and was twice Dictator in 221 and again in 217 BC. He reached the office of Roman Censor in 230 BC...

, was given the title of prodictator (acting dictator) although he held the same powers as a dictator. The Senate also appointed his magister equitum ("master of cavalry", who acted as his second-in-command) instead of allowing the dictator to choose one himself as was the normal rule: M. Minucius Rufus
Marcus Minucius Rufus (consul 221 BC)
Marcus Minucius Rufus was a Roman consul in 221 BC. He was also Magister Equitum during dictatorship of Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus known as Cunctator....

.

Departing from the Roman military tradition of engaging the enemy in pitched battle as soon as possible, Fabius invented the Fabian strategy
Fabian strategy
The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employing this strategy harasses its enemy through skirmishes to cause...

: refusing open battle with his opponent, but constantly skirmishing with small detachments of the enemy. This course was not popular among the soldiers, earning Fabius the nickname Cunctator ("delayer"), since he seemed to avoid battle while Italy was being ravaged by the enemy. Moreover, it was widely feared that, if Hannibal continued to plunder Italy unopposed, the terrified allies, believing that Rome was incapable of protecting them, might defect and pledge their allegiance to the Carthaginians. As a countermeasure, residents of villages were encouraged to post lookouts, so that they could gather their livestock and possessions in time and take refuge in fortified towns which the enemy could not yet take. Fabius' policy was to shadow Hannibal by moving on the heights parallel to the Carthaginian movements on the plains, to avoid Hannibal's cavalry which was supreme on flat terrain. This demanded great care since the Carthaginian tried with all his skill to ambush the Romans. For this reason a new marching formation with three parallel columns of infantry was developed instead of the single column that had been in use at Lake Trasimene.

Fabius' constant harassment of Hannibal's force handicapped the latter's command abilities and gained many prisoners. Both commanders decided that they would exchange prisoners under the same conditions as in the First Punic War
First Punic War
The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. For 23 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy in the western Mediterranean Sea, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters but also to a lesser extent in...

. Although the Carthaginians returned to the Romans several hundred more prisoners than they received and were thus expecting monetary compensation, the Senate was reluctant to pay. However, the estates of Fabius had not been touched by the Carthaginian pillage parties in order to incite distrust against him. Fabius now sold these estates to pay the enemy army for the received surplus of prisoners.

Having ravaged Apulia without provoking Fabius into a battle, Hannibal decided to march through Samnium
Samnium
Samnium is a Latin exonym for a region of south or south and central Italy in Roman times. The name survives in Italian today, but today's territory comprising it is only a small portion of what it once was. The populations of Samnium were called Samnites by the Romans...

 to Campania
Campania
Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...

, one of the richest and most fertile provinces of Italy, hoping that the devastation would draw Fabius into battle. The latter was aware that there were excellent opportunities to trap the Carthaginian force on the Campanian plain and to force Hannibal to fight in the surrounding mountains on ground of his own choice. As the year wore on, Hannibal decided that it would be unwise to winter in the already devastated plains of Campania but Fabius had ensured that all the mountain passes offering an exit were blocked. This situation led to the night battle of Ager Falernus
Battle of Ager Falernus
The Battle of Ager Falernus was a skirmish during the Second Punic War between the armies of Rome and Carthage. After winning the Battle of Lake Trasimene in Italy in 217 BC, the army commanded by Hannibal Barca marched south and reached Campania...

 in which the Carthaginians made good their escape by tricking the Romans into believing that they were heading to the heights above them. The Romans were thus decoyed and the Carthaginians slipped through the undefended pass with all their baggage train. This was a severe blow to Fabius’ prestige.

Minucius, the magister equitum, was one of the leading voices in the army against the adoption of the Fabian Strategy. As soon as he scored a minor success by winning a skirmish with the Carthaginians, the Senate promoted Minucius to the same imperium (power of command) as Fabius, whom he accused of cowardice. In consequence the two men decided to split the army between them. Minucius with his division was swiftly lured by Hannibal into an ambush in the flat country of Geronium
Battle of Geronium
The Battle of Geronium or Gerunium is part of the Second Punic War, where a large skirmish and an ambush took place in the summer and autumn of 217 BC respectively. After winning the Battle of Ager Falernus, the army of Hannibal, marched north then east towards Molise through Samnium...

. Fabius Maximus rushed to his co-commander's assistance and Hannibal's forces immediately retreated. Subsequently Minucius accepted Fabius' authority and ended their political conflict.

Seeking a decisive engagement

Fabius became unpopular in Rome, since his tactics did not lead to a quick end to the war. The Roman populace derided the Cunctator, and at the elections of 216 BC elected as consuls Gaius Terentius Varro
Gaius Terentius Varro
Gaius Terentius Varro was a Roman consul and commander. Along with his colleague, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, he commanded at the Battle of Cannae during the Second Punic War, in 216 BC, against the Carthaginian general Hannibal. The battle resulted in a decisive Roman defeat.Varro had been a praetor...

 and Lucius Aemilius Paullus
Lucius Aemilius Paullus
Lucius Aemilius Paullus was the name of several ancient Romans of the patrician gens Aemilia.Notable men with this name include:* Lucius Aemilius Paullus * Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus, his son...

, both of whom advocated pursuing a much more aggressive war strategy.

In the campaign of 217 BC, Hannibal had failed to obtain a following among the Italics
Ancient Italic peoples
Ancient people of Italy are all those people that lived in Italy before the Roman domination.Not all of these various people are linguistically or ethnically closely related...

. In the spring of 216 BC, he took the initiative and seized the large supply depot at Cannae in the Apulian plain. Thus, by seizing Cannae, Hannibal had placed himself between the Romans and their crucial source of supply. The Roman Senate authorised the raising of double-sized armies by consuls Varro and Aemilius Paullus. By some estimates, the Romans raised a force as large as 100,000 men, though this figure cannot be completely validated.
Consuls Aemilius Paullus and Varro resolved to confront Hannibal and marched southward to Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

. After a two-day march, they found him on the left bank of the Aufidus River, and encamped six miles (10 km) away. Hannibal capitalized on Varro's eagerness and drew him into a trap by using an envelopment tactic which eliminated the Roman numerical advantage by shrinking the surface area where combat could occur. Hannibal drew up his least reliable infantry in the centre of a semicircle with the wings composed of the Gallic and Numidian horse. The Roman legions forced their way through Hannibal's weak centre but the Libyan Mercenaries on the wings swung around their advance, menacing their flanks. The onslaught of Hannibal's cavalry was irresistible, and Hasdrubal, his brother, who commanded the left, routed the Roman cavalry on the Roman right wing and then swept around the rear of the Roman line and attacked Varro's cavalry on the Roman left, and then the legions, from behind. As a result, the Roman army was surrounded with no means of escape. Due to these brilliant tactics, Hannibal, with much inferior numbers, managed to destroy all but a small remnant of this force. Depending on the source, it is estimated that 50,000–70,000 Romans were killed or captured at Cannae.

As Polybius notes, "How much more serious was the defeat of Cannae, than those which preceded it can be seen by the behaviour of Rome’s allies; before that fateful day, their loyalty remained unshaken, now it began to waver for the simple reason that they despaired of Roman power." During that same year, the Greek cities in Sicily were induced to revolt against Roman political control, while the Macedonian king, Philip V
Philip V of Macedon
Philip V was King of Macedon from 221 BC to 179 BC. Philip's reign was principally marked by an unsuccessful struggle with the emerging power of Rome. Philip was attractive and charismatic as a young man...

 pledged his support to Hannibal – thus initiating the First Macedonian War
First Macedonian War
The First Macedonian War was fought by Rome, allied with the Aetolian League and Attalus I of Pergamon, against Philip V of Macedon, contemporaneously with the Second Punic War against Carthage...

 against Rome. Hannibal also secured an alliance with newly appointed King Hieronymous of Syracuse
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

, and Tarentum
Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

 also came over to him around that time. Hannibal now had the resources and personnel needed to launch a successful attack on the City of Rome. However, he was uncertain of the feasibility of such an attack and spent a great deal of time pondering it. While he hesitated, the Romans were able to regroup, and the opportunity was lost. The Romans looked back on Hannibal's indecision as what saved Rome from certain defeat. The only other notable event of 216 BC
216 BC
Year 216 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Varro and Paullus...

 was the defection of Capua
Capua
Capua is a city and comune in the province of Caserta, Campania, southern Italy, situated 25 km north of Naples, on the northeastern edge of the Campanian plain. Ancient Capua was situated where Santa Maria Capua Vetere is now...

, the second largest city of Italy, which Hannibal made his new base. Yet even this defection failed to satisfy him as only a few of the Italian city-states which he had expected to gain as allies agreed to join him. Furthermore, the Macedonian navy was no match for the Roman navy, so they were unable to help him directly.

Hannibal sent a delegation to Rome to negotiate a peace and another one offering to release his Roman prisoners of war for ransom, but Rome rejected all offers.

Establishing an allied base

For detailed analysis of Hannibal's relations with Roman allies, see: Socii


After Cannae several south Italian allies went over to Hannibal at once: the Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

n towns of Salapia, Arpi
Arpi
Arpi was an ancient city of Apulia, Italy, 20 mi. W. of the sea coast, and 5 mi. N. of the modern Foggia. The legend attributes its foundation to Diomedes, and the figure of a horse, which appears on its coins, shows the importance of horse-breeding in early times in the district...

 and Herdonia and many of the Lucania
Lucania
Lucania was an ancient district of southern Italy, extending from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Gulf of Taranto. To the north it adjoined Campania, Samnium and Apulia, and to the south it was separated by a narrow isthmus from the district of Bruttium...

ns. Mago marched south with an army detachment and some weeks later the Bruttians joined him. Simultaneously, Hannibal marched north with part of his forces and was joined by the Hirpini
Hirpini
The Hirpini , were an ancient Samnite people of central Italy. While general regarded as having been Samnites, sometimes they are treated as a distinct and independent nation...

 and the Caudini
Caudini
The Caudini were a Samnite tribe that lived among the mountains ringing Campania and in the valleys of the Isclero and Volturnus rivers. Their capital was at Caudium, but it seems certain that the appellation was not confined to the citizens of Caudium and its immediate territory...

, two of the three Samnite
Samnium
Samnium is a Latin exonym for a region of south or south and central Italy in Roman times. The name survives in Italian today, but today's territory comprising it is only a small portion of what it once was. The populations of Samnium were called Samnites by the Romans...

 cantons. The greatest gain was the second largest city of Italy, Capua
Capua
Capua is a city and comune in the province of Caserta, Campania, southern Italy, situated 25 km north of Naples, on the northeastern edge of the Campanian plain. Ancient Capua was situated where Santa Maria Capua Vetere is now...

, when Hannibal's army marched into Campania
Campania
Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...

 in 216 BC. The inhabitants of Capua held limited Roman citizenship and the aristocracy was linked to the Romans via marriage and friendship, but the possibility of becoming the supreme city of Italy after the evident Roman disasters proved too strong a temptation. The treaty between them and Hannibal can be described as an agreement of friendship since the Capuans had no obligations, but provided the harbour through which Hannibal was reinforced.
By 215 BC Hannibal's alliance system covered the bulk of southern Italy, save for the Greek cities along the coast (except Croton that was conquered by his allies), Rhegium, and the Latin colonies Beneventum, Luceria in Samnium, Venusia in Apulia, Brundisium and Paestum. The independent Gaul he had established in northern Italy was still out of Roman control.

Hannibal had been able to win over a major allied base by his tremendous military success. He also regarded it as essential to take the city of Nola
Nola
Nola is a city and comune of Campania, southern Italy, in the province of Naples, situated in the plain between Mount Vesuvius and the Apennines...

, a Roman fortress in Campania, a region that linked his various allies geographically and contained his most important harbour for supply. Prior to his first attempt the pro-Punic faction in the city had been eliminated by the Romans, so there was no chance of the city being betrayed. Hannibal tried three times, by assault or siege, to take this city, which was defended by Marcus Claudius Marcellus
Marcus Claudius Marcellus
Marcus Claudius Marcellus , five times elected as consul of the Roman Republic, was an important Roman military leader during the Gallic War of 225 BC and the Second Punic War...

 in the battle of Nola (216 BC)
Battle of Nola (216 BC)
The First Battle of Nola was fought in 216 BC between the forces of Hannibal and a Roman force led by Marcus Claudius Marcellus. Hannibal was attempting to seize the town of Nola: He failed, and would make two more unsuccessful attempts on the city in the next two years....

, Battle of Nola (215 BC)
Battle of Nola (215 BC)
The Second Battle of Nola was fought in 215 BC between Hannibal's army and a Roman Army under Marcus Claudius Marcellus. It was Hannibal's second attempt to seize Nola after a failure the year before. He was again repelled, and made one more, also unsuccessful attempt the next year....

 and battle of Nola (214 BC)
Battle of Nola (214 BC)
The Third Battle of Nola was fought in 214 BC between Hannibal and a Roman army led by Marcus Claudius Marcellus. It was Hannibal's third attempt to take the town of Nola. Once again, Marcellus successfully prevented the town's capture....

, but failed each time. At least in 215 Hannibal was able to take Casilinum
Casilinum
Casilinum , an ancient city of Campania, Italy, 3 m. NW of the ancient Capua. Its position at the point of junction of the Via Appia and Via Latina, and at their crossing of the river Volturnus by a three-arched bridge, which still exists, gave it considerable importance under the Roman republic;...

, the other important site for controlling Campania.

While it was not directly connected with the Italian peninsula, Syracuse
Syracuse, Italy
Syracuse is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in...

 on Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 was important for securing the searoutes for supply, since Lilybaeum remained in Roman hands. Hannibal was aided by the fact that Hiero II
Hiero II of Syracuse
Hieron II , king of Syracuse from 270 to 215 BC, was the illegitimate son of a Syracusan noble, Hierocles, who claimed descent from Gelon. He was a former general of Pyrrhus of Epirus and an important figure of the First Punic War....

, the old tyrant of Syracuse and a staunch Roman ally, had died and his successor Hieronymus
Hieronymus of Syracuse
Hieronymus was a tyrant of Syracuse. He succeeded his grandfather, Hiero II, in 215 BC. He was at this time only fifteen years old, and he ascended the throne at a crisis full of peril, for the battle of Cannae had given a shock to the Roman power, the influence of which had been felt in Sicily;...

 was discontented with his position in the Roman alliance. Hannibal dispatched two of his lieutenants, who were of Syracusian origin; they succeeded in winning Syracuse over, at the price, however, of making the whole of Sicily a Syracusan possession. The Syracusans' ambitions were great, but the army they fielded was no match for the arriving Roman force, leading to the siege of Syracuse from 214 BC onwards. During this siege the ingenuity of Archimedes
Archimedes
Archimedes of Syracuse was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Among his advances in physics are the foundations of hydrostatics, statics and an...

' machines defeated all Roman attacks.

The essence of Hannibal's campaign in Italy was to fight the Romans by using local resources and raising recruits from among the local population. His subordinate Hanno was able to raise troops in Samnium
Samnium
Samnium is a Latin exonym for a region of south or south and central Italy in Roman times. The name survives in Italian today, but today's territory comprising it is only a small portion of what it once was. The populations of Samnium were called Samnites by the Romans...

, but the Romans intercepted these new levies in the Battle of Beneventum (214 BC)
Battle of Beneventum (214 BC)
The Battle of Beneventum was fought in 214 BC near modern Benevento during the Second Punic War. Roman legions under Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus defeated Hanno's Carthaginian forces, denying Hannibal reinforcements...

 and eliminated them before they came under the feared leadership of Hannibal. Hannibal could win allies, but defending them against the Romans was a new and difficult problem, as the Romans could still field multiple armies greatly outnumbering his own forces. Thus Fabius was able to take the Punic ally Arpi in 213 BC.

Eastern Mediterranean and Ionian Sea (218–213 BC)

  • 217 BC – letter from Hannibal after Battle of Lake Trasimene
    Battle of Lake Trasimene
    The Battle of Lake Trasimene was a Roman defeat in the Second Punic War between the Carthaginians under Hannibal and the Romans under the consul Gaius Flaminius...

     leading to war preparations
  • 217–216 BC – Philip V of Macedon
    Philip V of Macedon
    Philip V was King of Macedon from 221 BC to 179 BC. Philip's reign was principally marked by an unsuccessful struggle with the emerging power of Rome. Philip was attractive and charismatic as a young man...

     building a fleet of 100 lembi
    Lembus
    A lembus was an ancient Illyrian galley, with a single bank of oars and no sails. It was small and light, with a low freeboard. It was a fast and maneuverable warship, capable of carrying 50 men in addition to the rowers...

  • 216 BC – ambassadors to Hannibal after Battle of Cannae
    Battle of Cannae
    The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War, which took place on August 2, 216 BC near the town of Cannae in Apulia in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage under Hannibal decisively defeated a numerically superior army of the Roman Republic under command of the consuls Lucius...

  • 214 BC – First Macedonian War
    First Macedonian War
    The First Macedonian War was fought by Rome, allied with the Aetolian League and Attalus I of Pergamon, against Philip V of Macedon, contemporaneously with the Second Punic War against Carthage...

     officially starts
  • 214 BC – naval expeditions from Macedonia
  • 213 BC – land expedition to Lissus

Defeat of the first expedition

In Iberia, the Scipio brothers had hired 20,000 Celtiberian mercenaries to reinforce their army of 30,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry. Observing that the Carthaginian armies were deployed separately from each other, with Hasdrubal Barca and 15,000 troops near Amtorgis, and Mago Barca, Hasdrubal Gisco with 10,000 troops each further to the West of Hasdrubal, the Scipio brothers planned to split their forces. Publius Scipio decided to take 20,000 Roman and allied soldiers and attack Mago Barca near Castulo, while Gnaeus Scipio took one double legion (10,000 troops) and the mercenaries to attack Hasdrubal Barca. This stratagem resulted in 2 battles, the Battle of Castulo and the Battle of Ilorca, which occurred within a few days of each other, usually combined as Battle of the Upper Baetis
Battle of the Upper Baetis
The Battle of the Upper Baetis was fought in 211 BC between a Carthaginian force led by Hasdrubal Barca and a Roman force led by Publius Cornelius Scipio and his brother Gnaeus. The immediate result was a Carthaginian victory in which both Roman brothers were killed...

 (211 BC). Both battles ended in clear defeats for the Romans because Hasdrubal bribed the Roman mercenaries to desert and return home without a fight.

As a result of the battle the Romans were forced to retreat to their stronghold of Northern Iberia from which the Carthaginians could not expel them. It is notable that the Roman soldiers decided to elect a new leader since both commanders had been killed, a practice hitherto known only in Punic or Hellenistic armies.

Second Roman expedition to Iberia

In 210 BC Scipio Africanus arrived in Iberia on the Senate's orders to avenge his father and uncle.

In a brilliant assault Scipio succeeded in capturing the centre of Punic power in Iberia, Cartagena, in 209 BC. Battle of Cartagena (209 BC)
In the Battle of Baecula
Battle of Baecula
The Battle of Baecula was Scipio Africanus’s first major field battle after he had taken command of Roman interests in Iberia during the Second Punic War, in which he routed the Carthaginian army under the command of Hasdrubal Barca.-Prelude:...

 (208 BC) he defeated Hasdrubal, but was not able to prevent him from continuing his march to Italy in order to reinforce his brother Hannibal.

In the Battle of Ilipa
Battle of Ilipa
The Battle of Ilipa in 206 BC was considered Scipio Africanus’s most brilliant victory in his military career during the Second Punic War. Though it may not seem to be as original as Hannibal’s tactic at Cannae, Scipio’s pre-battle maneuver and his Reverse Cannae formation was still a culmination...

 (206 BC), Scipio defeated a combined army under the command of Mago Barca
Mago Barca
Mago, son of Hamilcar Barca, also spelled Magon, Phoenician MGN, "God sent" , was a member of the Barcid family, and played an important role in the Second Punic War, leading forces of Carthage against the Roman Republic in Hispania, Gallia Cisalpina and Italy...

, Hasdrubal Gisgo and Masinissa
Masinissa
Masinissa — also spelled Massinissa and Massena — was the first King of Numidia, an ancient North African nation of ancient Libyan tribes. As a successful general, Masinissa fought in the Second Punic War , first against the Romans as an ally of Carthage an later switching sides when he saw which...

, thus bringing to an end the Carthaginian hold in Iberia.

Climax and fall of Hannibal's alliance

The climax of Carthaginian expansion was reached when the biggest Greek city in Italy, Tarentum
Taranto
Taranto is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base....

, switched sides in 212 BC. The Battle of Tarentum (212 BC)
Battle of Tarentum (212 BC)
The Battle of Tarentum of 212 BC was a battle in the Second Punic War.-Prelude:The Romans had been waiting for a chance to strike at Capua, the capital of Campania in Southern Italy, after it revolted against them following their defeat by the Carthaginian Hannibal at Cannae in 216 BC. Hannibal had...

 was a carefully planned coup by Hannibal and members of the city's democratic faction. There were two separate successful assaults on the gates of the city. This enabled the Punic army, which had approached unobserved behind a screen of marauding Numidian horsemen, to enter the city by surprise and take all but the citadel where the Romans and their supporting faction were able to rally. The Carthaginians failed to take the citadel, but subsequent fortifications around this enemy stronghold enabled the city to remain under Punic control. However, the harbour was blocked and warships had to be transported overland to be launched at sea.

The Battle of Capua (212 BC)
Battle of Capua (212 BC)
The First Battle of Capua was fought in 212 BC between Hannibal and two Roman consular armies. The Roman force was led by two consuls, Quintus Fulvius Flaccus and Appius Claudius Pulcher. The Roman force was defeated, but managed to escape. Hannibal temporarily managed to raise the siege of Capua...

 was a stalemate since neither side could defeat the other. The Romans decided to withdraw and break off the siege of Capua. As a result the cavalry of Capua was reinforced with half of the available Numidian cavalry, 2,000 riders.

In the Battle of Beneventum (212 BC)
Battle of Beneventum (212 BC)
Battle of Beneventum was fought between Carthage and Roman republic in 212 B.C in which Hanno the Elder was defeated by Quintus Fulvius Flaccus. Livy gives a short account of this battle at 25.13-14....

 Hanno the Elder was again defeated, this time by Quintus Fulvius Flaccus
Quintus Fulvius Flaccus
Quintus Fulvius Flaccus, son of Marcus Fulvius Flaccus , Quintus was consul in 237 BC, fighting the Gauls in northern Italy. He was censor in 231 BC, again consul in 224 BC, when he subdued the Boii...

 who also captured his camp. The following battle was the of the Silarus
Battle of the Silarus
The Battle of the Silarus was fought in 212 BC between Hannibal's army and a Roman force led by praetor Marcus Centenius Penula. The Carthaginians were victorious, destroying the entire Roman army...

, in the same year, where the Romans under Marcus Centenius were ambushed and lost all but 1,000 of their 16,000 effectives. Also in 212 BC was the Battle of Herdonia
Battle of Herdonia (212 BC)
The first Battle of Herdonia was fought in 212 BC during the Second Punic War between Hannibal's Carthaginian army and Roman forces led by Preator Gnaeus Fulvius Flaccus, brother of the consul...

, another Roman defeat when only 2,000 Romans out of force of 18,000 survived a direct attack by Hannibal's numerically superior forces combined with an ambush cutting off the Roman line of retreat.

This phase of the war was marked by the fall of major and minor cities to the Romans, although Hannibal was still able to prevail on the battlefield and thus lift some sieges. The Siege of Syracuse from 214 BC onwards was marked by Archimedes' ingenuity in inventing war machines that made it impossible for the Romans to make any gains with traditional methods of siege warfare. A Carthaginian army of 20,000 had been sent to relieve the city, but suffered more heavily than the Romans from pestilence and was thus forced to retreat to Agrigentum. The fall of Syracuse was finally achieved by a Roman attack that was treacherously helped to enter the city by a Syracusan pro-Roman faction and resulted in the death of Archimedes.

In the Battle of Capua (211 BC)
Battle of Capua (211 BC)
The Second Battle of Capua was fought in 211 BC when the Romans besieged Capua. It is described by Polybius at 9.4-7, and by Livy at 26.4-6.Hannibal tried to break the siege of Capua by marching on Rome. He had hoped that this threat would force the Romans to break off the siege and march back to...

 Hannibal again tried to relieve his main harbour as in the previous year, by luring the Romans into a pitched battle. He was unsuccessful, and was also unable to lift the siege by assaulting the besiegers' defences. So he tried a strategem of staging a march towards Rome, hoping in this way to compel the enemy to abandon the siege and rush to defend their home city. However, only part of the besieging force left for Rome and under continued siege Capua fell soon afterwards. Near Rome he fought another pitched battle.

The Battle of Herdonia (210 BC)
Battle of Herdonia (210 BC)
The second battle of Herdonia took place in 210 BC during the so called Second Punic War. Hannibal, leader of the Carthaginians, who had invaded Italy eight years ago, encircled and destroyed a Roman army which was operating against his allies in Apulia...

 was another battle to lift the Roman siege of an allied city. Hannibal caught the proconsul Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus
Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus Maximus
Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus Maximus was a consul of the Roman Republic in 211 BC. As consul, Fulvius defended Rome against Hannibal with his colleague Publius Sulpicius Galba Maximus during the Second Punic War....

 off guard during his siege of Herdonia and destroyed his army in a pitched battle with up to 13,000 Romans dead out of less than 20,000. The defection of Salapia in Apulia in 210 BC was achieved by treachery: the inhabitants massacred the Numidian garrison and went over to the Romans.

In 210 BC the Battle of Numistro
Battle of Numistro
The Battle of Numistro was fought in 210 BC between Hannibal's army and a Roman army led by consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus. The battle was inconclusive, since the long battle ended with Hannibal retreating, and Marcellus hunting him until Asculum the following year....

 between Marcellus and Hannibal was inconclusive, but the Romans stayed on his heels until the also inconclusive Battle of Canusium
Battle of Canusium
The Battle of Canusium was a three-day engagement between the forces of Rome and Carthage. It took place in Apulia during the summer of 209 BC, the tenth year of the Second Punic War...

 in 209 BC. In the meantime, this battle enabled another Roman army under Fabius to approach Tarentum and take it by treachery in the Battle of Tarentum (209 BC)
Battle of Tarentum (209 BC)
The Battle of Tarentum of 209 BC was a battle in the Second Punic War. The Romans led by Quintus Fabius Maximus recaptured the city of Tarentum, that had betrayed them in the first Battle of Tarentum in 212 BC. This time the city turned against the Carthaginians, and supported the Romans....

. Hannibal at that time had been able to disengage from Marcellus and was only 5 miles (8 km) away when the city, under the command of Carthalo (who was bound to Fabius by an agreement of hospitality), fell.

Hasdrubal's failed reinforcement

The Battle of Grumentum
Battle of Grumentum
The Battle of Grumentum was fought in 207 BC between Romans led by Gaius Claudius Nero, and Hannibal's Carthaginian army. The battle was a minor Roman victory, and Nero marched north where he defeated and killed Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal at Metaurus. The battle is described by Livy at 27.41-42....

 was an inconclusive fight in 207 BC between Gaius Claudius Nero
Gaius Claudius Nero
Gaius Claudius Nero was a Roman consul who fought in the Battle of the Metaurus . He was member of the gens Claudia. He is not to be confused with the Roman Emperor Nero.In 207 BC, the thirteenth year of the war, he was elected consul with Marcus Livius Salinator, and with his colleague he led the...

 and Hannibal. In the aftermath of the battle Nero was able to trick Hannibal into believing that the whole Roman army was still in camp. In the meantime Nero marched with a selected corps north and reinforced the Romans there to fight the Battle of the Metaurus
Battle of the Metaurus
The Battle of the Metaurus was a pivotal battle in the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage, fought in 207 BC near the Metauro River in present-day Italy. The battle gets a chapter in the classic The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World by Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy...

 against Hasdrubal. The Carthaginian force under Hasdrubal had left Iberia a year ago after the defeat at the Battle of Baecula
Battle of Baecula
The Battle of Baecula was Scipio Africanus’s first major field battle after he had taken command of Roman interests in Iberia during the Second Punic War, in which he routed the Carthaginian army under the command of Hasdrubal Barca.-Prelude:...

 and had been reinforced by Gallic and Ligurian mercenaries and allies. It is notable that they took the same route as Hannibal 10 years previously, but suffered fewer casualties, being rather better supported by mercenaries from the mountain tribes.

Naval raids and expeditions

  • 210 BC – second expedition to Sardinia
  • 210 BC – naval expedition to Tarentum
  • 210 BC – Roman raids on Africa

Eastern Mediterranean and Ionian Sea (212–207 BC)

In 211 BC Rome countered the Macedonian threat with a Greek alliance of the Aetolian
Aetolian League
The Aetolian League was a confederation of tribal communities and cities in ancient Greece centered on Aetolia in central Greece. It was established, probably during the early Hellenistic era, in opposition to Macedon and the Achaean League. Two annual meetings were held in Thermika and Panaetolika...

s, Elis
Elis
Elis, or Eleia is an ancient district that corresponds with the modern Elis peripheral unit...

, Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

, Messenia
Messenia
Messenia is a regional unit in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese region, one of 13 regions into which Greece has been divided by the Kallikratis plan, implemented 1 January 2011...

 and Attalus I
Attalus I
Attalus I , surnamed Soter ruled Pergamon, an Ionian Greek polis , first as dynast, later as king, from 241 BC to 197 BC. He was the second cousin and the adoptive son of Eumenes I, whom he succeeded, and was the first of the Attalid dynasty to assume the title of king in 238 BC...

 of Pergamon
Pergamon
Pergamon , or Pergamum, was an ancient Greek city in modern-day Turkey, in Mysia, today located from the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus , that became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid dynasty, 281–133 BC...

, as well as two Roman clients, the Illyrians Pleuratus
Pleuratus
Pleuratus I was an Illyrian king of the Taulantii State. Pleuratus was the father of Glaucias...

 and Scerdilaidas
Scerdilaidas
Scerdilaidas was an Illyrian king of the Ardiaean Kingdom. Before taking the throne Scerdilaidas was commander of the Illyrian armies and played a major role in the Illyrian Wars against the Romans....

.
  • 209 BC – Illyrian attack on Macedonia
  • 209 BC – Punic naval expedition to Corcyra
  • 209 BC – First Battle of Lamia
    First Battle of Lamia
    The First Battle of Lamia was fought in 209 BC between the forces of Philip V of Macedon and the Aetolians led by Pyrrhias. Phyrrhias was aided by Romans and by a small contingent from Pergamum. The Macedonians were victorious. Another battle was fought at Lamia within the year....

  • 209 BC – Second Battle of Lamia
    Second Battle of Lamia
    The Second Battle of Lamia was fought in 209 BC between the forces of Philip V of Macedon and Pyrrhias, a general from Aetolia. Phyrrhias was once again aided by Roman and Pergamese forces, but again he was defeated. His side suffered heavy casualties....

  • 208 BC – Roman and Pergamese attack on Lemnos

Carthage's last stand in Iberia

At the Battle of Ilipa
Battle of Ilipa
The Battle of Ilipa in 206 BC was considered Scipio Africanus’s most brilliant victory in his military career during the Second Punic War. Though it may not seem to be as original as Hannibal’s tactic at Cannae, Scipio’s pre-battle maneuver and his Reverse Cannae formation was still a culmination...

 large numbers of Celtiberian mercenaries in Carthaginian service confronted a mixed army of Romans and Iberians. Scipio Africanus Major employed a clever ruse. Every day for several days, he drew up his army for battle with the Romans stationed in the centre of the line and their Iberian on the wings. But when the enemy offered battle, he would eventually decline it. By this stratagem he convinced the Punic commanders Mago and Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco or Hasdrubal son of Gisco was a Carthaginian general who fought against Rome in Iberia and North Africa during the Second Punic War. He should not be confused with Hasdrubal Barca, the brother of Hannibal....

 that they could expect the Romans to hold the centre of their line. On the day of the battle the Roman force deployed earlier in the day and with the Romans posted on the wings of the line. In the rush to respond, the Carthaginians placed their best forces in the centre as usual, failing to spot the unusual Roman deployment. Thus the inferior Carthaginian mercenaries on the wings were severely beaten by the Romans. The Celtiberians deserted the Carthaginian camp that night. This catastrophic defeat sealed the fate of the Carthaginian presence in Iberia. It was followed by the Roman capture of Gades in 206 BC after the city had already rebelled against Carthaginian rule. Tribeleaders Indibilis and Mandonius (of the Ausetani
Ausetani
The Ausetani were an ancient Iberian people of the Iberian peninsula . They are believed to be of Iberian language...

) thought that after the expulsion of the Carthaginians the Romans would leave and they would get control of Spain again. This didn't happen however, so they participated with the mutineers at the Sucro camp
Mutiny at Sucro
The Roman army's mutiny at Sucro, a no longer existing ancient fort in Spain, took place in early 206 BC, during the Roman conquest of Hispania in the Second Punic War against Carthage. The mutineers had several grievances, including not having received the pay due to them and being under-supplied...

 against the Romans. This mutiny was ultimately squelched by Scipio Africanus however.

A last attempt was made by Mago in 205 BC to recapture New Carthage
Cartagena, Spain
Cartagena is a Spanish city and a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain. As of January 2011, it has a population of 218,210 inhabitants being the Region’s second largest municipality and the country’s 6th non-Province capital...

 while the Roman presence was shaken by a mutiny and an Iberian uprising against their new overlords. But the attack was repulsed. So in the same year he left Iberia, setting sail from the Balearic islands to Italy with his remaining forces.

The Numidian struggle

In 206 BC there was a quick succession of kings in Eastern Numidia that temporarily ended with the division of the land between Carthage and the Western Numidian king Syphax, a former Roman ally. For this bargain Syphax was to marry Sophonisba
Sophonisba
Sophonisba was a Carthaginian noblewoman who lived during the Second Punic War, and the daughter of Hasdrubal Gisco Gisgonis...

, daughter of Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco or Hasdrubal son of Gisco was a Carthaginian general who fought against Rome in Iberia and North Africa during the Second Punic War. He should not be confused with Hasdrubal Barca, the brother of Hannibal....

. Massinissa, who had thus lost his fiancee, went over to the Romans with whom he had already established contact during his military service in Iberia.

Carrying the war to Africa

In 205 Mago landed in Italy. His arrival was followed by the Battle of Crotona
Battle of Crotona
The battle or, more precisely, the battles of Croton in 204 and 203 BC were, as well as the raid in Cisalpine Gaul, the last larger scale engagements between the Romans and the Carthaginians in Italy during the Second Punic War...

 (modern Crotone, 204), until he was defeated in the Po Valley Raid
Po Valley Raid
The raid of the Po Valley in 203 BC was the culmination of a major diversion, carried out by the Carthaginian commander Mago, son of Hamilcar Barca, at the end of the Second Punic war between Rome and Carthage in what is now northwestern Italy...

 in 203.

At the same time, Scipio Africanus Major was given command of the legions in Sicily and was allowed to levy volunteers for his plan to end the war by an invasion of Africa. The legions in Sicily were mainly the survivors of Cannae who were not allowed home until the war was finished. Scipio was also one of the survivors and had served during the siege of Syracuse with them, but unlike the ordinary soldiers he then had been allowed home, had run successfully for public office and had been given command of the troops in Iberia.

Within a year of his landing in Africa, Scipio twice routed the regular Carthaginian forces under Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco or Hasdrubal son of Gisco was a Carthaginian general who fought against Rome in Iberia and North Africa during the Second Punic War. He should not be confused with Hasdrubal Barca, the brother of Hannibal....

 and his Numidian allies. The main native supporter of the Carthaginians, king Syphax
Syphax
Syphax was a king of the ancient Algerian tribe Masaesyli of western Numidia during the last quarter of the 3rd century BC. His story is told in Livy's Ab Urbe Condita .-Biography:...

 of the Massaesylians
Masaesyli
The Masaesyli were a North African tribe of western Numidia and the main antagonists of the Massylii in eastern Numidia.During the Second Punic War the Masaesyli initially supported the Roman Republic and were led by Syphax against the Massyllii, who were led by Massinissa...

 (western Numidians), was defeated and taken prisoner. Masinissa, a Numidian rival of Syphax and at that time an ally of the Romans, seized a large part of his kingdom with their help. These setbacks persuaded some of the Carthaginians that it was time to sue for peace. Others pleaded for the recall of the sons of Hamilcar Barca
Hamilcar Barca
Hamilcar Barca or Barcas was a Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. He was also father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair....

, Hannibal and Mago, who were still fighting the Romans in Bruttium and Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul, in Latin: Gallia Cisalpina or Citerior, also called Gallia Togata, was a Roman province until 41 BC when it was merged into Roman Italy.It bore the name Gallia, because the great body of its inhabitants, after the expulsion of the Etruscans, consisted of Gauls or Celts...

 respectively.

In 203 BC, while Scipio
Scipio Africanus
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus , also known as Scipio Africanus and Scipio the Elder, was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic...

 was carrying all before him in Africa and the Carthaginian peace party were arranging an armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

, Hannibal was recalled from Italy by the war party at Carthage. After leaving a record of his expedition engraved in Punic
Punic language
The Punic language or Carthagian language is an extinct Semitic language formerly spoken in the Mediterranean region of North Africa and several Mediterranean islands, by people of the Punic culture.- Description :...

 and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 upon bronze tablets in the temple of Juno
Juno (mythology)
Juno is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is a daughter of Saturn and sister of the chief god Jupiter and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Juno also looked after the women of Rome. Her Greek equivalent is Hera...

 at Crotone
Crotone
Crotone is a city and comune in Calabria, southern Italy, on the Ionian Sea. Founded circa 710 BC as the Achaean colony of Croton , it was known as Cotrone from the Middle Ages until 1928, when its name was changed to the current one. In 1994 it became the capital of the newly established...

, he sailed back to Africa. These records were later quoted by Polybius
Polybius
Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

. Hannibal's arrival immediately restored the predominance of the war party, who placed him in command of a combined force of Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n levies and his mercenaries from Italy. But Hannibal was opposed to this policy and tried to convince them not to send the untrained African levies into battle. In 202 BC, Hannibal met Scipio in a peace conference. Despite the two generals' mutual admiration, negotiations floundered, according to the Romans due to "Punic faith", meaning bad faith. This Roman expression referred to the alleged breach of protocols which ended the First Punic War by the Carthaginian attack on Saguntum, Hannibal's perceived breaches of the idealised Roman military etiquette (i.e. Hannibal's numerous ambuscades), as well as the armistice violated by the Carthaginians in the period before Hannibal's return.

Broken armistice and final peace treaty


The decisive battle soon followed. Unlike most battles of the Second Punic War, the Romans had superiority in cavalry and the Carthaginians had superiority in infantry. The Roman army was generally better armed and a head taller than the Carthaginian. Hannibal had refused to lead this army into battle because he did not expect them to be able to stand their ground. There had been very bitter arguments between him and the oligarchy. His co-general Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco
Hasdrubal Gisco or Hasdrubal son of Gisco was a Carthaginian general who fought against Rome in Iberia and North Africa during the Second Punic War. He should not be confused with Hasdrubal Barca, the brother of Hannibal....

 was forced to commit suicide by a violent mob after he spoke in support of Hannibal's view that such troops should not be led into battle. Before the battle Hannibal gave no speech to his new troops, only to his veterans.

Scipio countered an expected Carthaginian elephant charge, which caused some of Hannibal's elephants to turn back into his own ranks, throwing his cavalry into disarray, the Roman cavalry was able to capitalize on this and drive the Carthaginian cavalry from the field.
However, the battle remained closely fought, and at one point it seemed that Hannibal was on the verge of victory. However, Scipio was able to rally his men, and his cavalry returned from chasing the Carthaginian cavalry and attacked Hannibal's rear. This two-pronged attack caused the Carthaginian formation to disintegrate and collapse. After their defeat, Hannibal convinced the Carthaginians to accept peace. Notably, he broke the rules of the assembly by forcibly removing a speaker who supported continued resistance. Afterwards he was obliged to apologize for his behaviour.

Eastern Mediterranean and Ionian Sea (218–201 BC)

  • 206 BC – the Aetolians make peace with Macedonia
  • 205 BC – Rome lands with 11,000 men and 35 ships in Durrës
    Durrës
    Durrës is the second largest city of Albania located on the central Albanian coast, about west of the capital Tirana. It is one of the most ancient and economically important cities of Albania. Durres is situated at one of the narrower points of the Adriatic Sea, opposite the Italian ports of Bari...

     but achieve no military objective
  • 205 BC – the First Macedonian war
    First Macedonian War
    The First Macedonian War was fought by Rome, allied with the Aetolian League and Attalus I of Pergamon, against Philip V of Macedon, contemporaneously with the Second Punic War against Carthage...

     ends with the peace Treaty of Phoenice
    Treaty of Phoenice
    The Treaty of Phoenice, also known as the Peace of Phoenice, was a treaty ending the First Macedonian War. It was drawn up at Phoenice in 205 BC....


Aftermath

Carthage lost Hispania forever, and it was reduced to a client state. A war indemnity of 10,000 talents
Talent (weight)
The "talent" was one of several ancient units of mass, as well as corresponding units of value equivalent to these masses of a precious metal. It was approximately the mass of water required to fill an amphora. A Greek, or Attic talent, was , a Roman talent was , an Egyptian talent was , and a...

 was imposed, her navy was limited to 10 ships to ward off pirates, and she was forbidden from raising an army without Rome's permission. The Numidians took the opportunity to capture and plunder Carthaginian territory. Half a century later, when Carthage raised an army to defend itself from these incursions, it was destroyed by Rome in the Third Punic War
Third Punic War
The Third Punic War was the third and last of the Punic Wars fought between the former Phoenician colony of Carthage, and the Roman Republic...

. Rome, on the other hand, by her victory, had taken a key step towards domination of the Mediterranean world.

The end of the war was not universally welcomed in Rome, for reasons of both politics and morale. When the Senate decreed upon a peace treaty with Carthage, Quintus Caecilius Metellus
Quintus Caecilius Metellus (died 175 BC)
Quintus Caecilius Metellus was a son of Lucius Caecilius Metellus. He was Pontiff in 216 BC, Aedile of the Plebeians in 209 BC and 208 BC, Consul in 205 BC, Dictator in 203 BC and Ambassador at the Court of Philip V of Macedon in 185 BC.He served as a Legate in the army of Gaius Claudius Nero and...

, a former consul, said he did not look upon the termination of the war as a blessing to Rome, since he feared that the Roman people would now sink back again into its former slumbers, from which it had been roused by the presence of Hannibal. Others, most notably Cato the Elder
Cato the Elder
Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, commonly referred to as Censorius , Sapiens , Priscus , or Major, Cato the Elder, or Cato the Censor, to distinguish him from his great-grandson, Cato the Younger.He came of an ancient Plebeian family who all were noted for some...

, feared that if Carthage was not completely destroyed it would soon regain its power and pose new threats to Rome, and pressed for harsher peace conditions. Even after the peace, Cato insisted on the destruction of Carthage, ending his speeches with "Furthermore, I think Carthage must be destroyed"
Carthago delenda est
"Carthago delenda est" or the fuller "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" or "Ceterum autem censeo, Carthaginem esse delendam" are Latin political phrases which were popular in the Roman Republic during the latter years of the Punic Wars against Carthage...

, even if they had nothing to do with Carthage.

Archeology has discovered that the famous circular military harbour at Carthage, the Cothon
Cothon
A cothon is an artificial, protected inner harbor such as that in Carthage during the Punic Wars c.200 BC.Cothons were generally found in the Phoenician world...

, received a significant buildup after this war. It could house and quickly deploy about 200 triremes, and was shielded from external sight. This is a surprising development, as after the war, the Carthaginian fleet was restricted to only ten triremes as one of the terms of surrender. One possible explanation: as has been pointed out for other Phoenician cities, privateers with warships played a significant role besides trade, even when the Roman Empire was fully established and officially controlled all coasts. In this case it is not clear whether the treaty included private warships. The only reference to Punic privateers is from the First Punic War: one of them, Hanno the Rhodian, owned a quinquereme
Quinquereme
From the 4th century BC on, new types of oared warships appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, superseding the trireme and transforming naval warfare. Ships became increasingly bigger and heavier, including some of the largest wooden ships ever constructed...

 (faster than the serial production models which the Romans had copied), manned with about 500 men and then among the heaviest warships in use. Later pirates in Roman waters are all reported with much smaller vessels, that could outrun naval vessels, but operated with lower personnel costs. Thus, piracy was probably highly developed in Carthage and the state did not have a monopoly of military forces. Pirates probably played an important role in capturing slaves, one of the most profitable trade goods, but merchant ships with tradeable goods and a crew were also their targets. There is no source about the fate of Punic privateers in the periods between the Punic Wars.

Hannibal became a businessman for several years and later enjoyed a leadership role in Carthage. However, the Carthaginian nobility was upset by his policy of democratisation and struggle against corruption. They persuaded the Romans to force him into exile in Asia Minor, where he again led armies against the Romans and their allies on the battlefield. He eventually committed suicide to avoid capture.

Carthage and Numidia after the war

Between Carthage and Numidia there was constant low-level warfare, but by the time of the Third Punic War, most of Carthage's African territories had been lost and the Numidians traded independently with Greeks.

Intelligence

In this conflict intelligence played an important role on both sides. Hannibal mastered an intelligence service that enabled him to achieve outstanding victories. Likewise Scipio Africanus major's victories were dependant on information.
In 217 BC a Carthaginian resident spy in Rome, who was probably a Roman citizen, was caught and had his hands cut off as a punishment.

Opinions on the war

According to Livy
Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

 it was "the most memorable of all wars that were ever waged: the war which the Carthaginians, under the conduct of Hannibal, maintained with the Roman people. For never did any states and nations more efficient in their resources engage in contest; nor had they themselves at any other period so great a degree of power and energy. They brought into action too no arts of war unknown to each other, but those which had been tried in the first Punic war
First Punic War
The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. For 23 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy in the western Mediterranean Sea, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters but also to a lesser extent in...

; and so various was the fortune of the conflict, and so doubtful the victory, that they who conquered were more exposed to danger. The hatred with which they fought also was almost greater than their resources".

In modern popular culture

  • Hannibal's exploits, as well as Archimedes and the Siege of Syracuse, are dramatically reenacted in the classic early Italian silent film Cabiria
    Cabiria
    Cabiria is a silent movie from the early years of Italy's movie industry, directed by Giovanni Pastrone . The movie is set in ancient Sicily, Carthage, and Cirta during the period of the Second Punic War . It follows a melodramatic main plot about an abducted little girl, Cabiria, and features...

    (1914).
  • In the novel "The Sword of Hannibal" by Terry McCarthy you can read about Hannibal from the view of one of his soldiers.

See also

  • Socii
  • Equestrian order
  • Carthaginian peace
    Carthaginian peace
    Carthaginian Peace can refer to two things: either the peace imposed on Carthage by Rome in 146 BC, whereby the Romans systematically burned Carthage to the ground, or the imposition of a very brutal 'peace' in general.-Origin:...

  • Hannibal
  • Scipio Africanus Major
  • War elephants
  • Barcid
    Barcid
    The Barcid family was a notable family in the ancient city of Carthage; many of its members were fierce enemies of the Roman Republic. "Barcid" is an adjectival form coined by historians ; the actual byname was Barca or Barcas, which means lightning...

  • List of battles of the Second Punic War
  • Polybius
    Polybius
    Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

     wrote a detailed history, showing contemporary insight into the political process of this time.
  • Silius Italicus
    Silius Italicus
    Silius Italicus, in full Tiberius Catius Asconius Silius Italicus , was a Roman consul, orator, and Latin epic poet of the 1st century CE,...

    , who dramatised the war in his poem Punica
  • Petrarch
    Petrarch
    Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

    , who wrote an epic on the war entitled Africa
    Africa (Petrarch)
    Africa is an epic poem in Latin hexameters by the 14th century Italian poet Petrarch . It tells the story of the Second Punic War, in which the Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy, but Roman forces were eventually victorious after an invasion of north Africa led by Publius Cornelius Scipio...

  • Plutarch's Lives for lives of two of the Roman generals, Fabius Maximus
    Fabius Maximus
    Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator was a Roman politician and general, born in Rome around 280 BC and died in Rome in 203 BC. He was Roman Consul five times and was twice Dictator in 221 and again in 217 BC. He reached the office of Roman Censor in 230 BC...

     and Gaius Flaminius
    Gaius Flaminius
    Gaius Flaminius Nepos was a politician and consul of the Roman Republic in the 3rd century BC. He was the greatest popular leader to challenge the authority of the Senate before the Gracchi a century later....

    . Plutarch's life of Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus
    Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus , also known as Scipio Africanus and Scipio the Elder, was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic...

     is lost.

Secondary sources

  • Polybius
    Polybius
    Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

    , Histories, Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (translator); London, New York. Macmillan (1889); Reprint Bloomington (1962).
  • Mahaney, W.C., 2008. "Hannibal's Odyssey, Environmental Background to the Alpine Invasion of Italia," Gorgias Press
    Gorgias Press
    Gorgias Press is an academic publisher of books and journals covering a range of religious and language studies that include Syriac language, Eastern Christianity, Ancient Near East, Arabic and Islam, Early Christianity, Judaism, and more. Gorgias Press was founded in 2001 by George Kiraz, and is...

    , Piscataway, N.J., 221 pp.

External links

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