Hannibal was born in 247 BC. He was the oldest son of the great Carthaginian general Hamlicar Barca. He was brought up in the city of Carthage which was in its worst period of the First Punic War. To remain in Carthage meant devastation, so Hamlicar took his army and made his own personal empire in Spain and prepared Hannibal for a second round.
Hannibal was born in 247 B.C. in North Africa and was given the name meaning the grace of Baal. Polybius and Livy, whose histories of Rome are the main Latin sources regarding his life, claimed that Hannibal’s father, the great Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, brought his oldest son to Spain (a region he had begun to conquer around 237 B.C.) at a young age.
Hamilcar died in 229 B.C. and was succeeded by his son-in-law Hasdrubal, who made the young Hannibal an officer in the Carthaginian army. In 221 B.C., Hasdrubal was assassinated, and the army unanimously chose the 26-year-old Hannibal to command Carthage’s empire in Spain. Hannibal swiftly consolidated control in the region from the seaport base of Cartagena (New Carthage); he also married a Spanish princess.
In antiquity, ‘war’ was more of a means of survival, than an establishment of supremacy. War was made because people could lose their livelihood, their wellbeing, and their sole existence if they could not defend what was rightly theirs, not for control over a certain ideal or commodity. During the Roman era there were people that felt threatened by this and felt they needed to do something about it. These people, the Carthaginians, had been defeated during the First Punic War and were looking to save face with a second. The outcome was of equal stature but this time newfound respect was established for their people. A new hero was born during this period that changed the outlook on their people as a whole. Hannibal Barca was his name and despite losing the Second Punic War the Carthaginian general was a military genius.
In 219 B.C., Hannibal led a Carthaginian attack on Saguntum, an independent city in the middle of the eastern Spanish coast that had shown aggression against nearby Carthaginian towns. According to the treaty that ended the First Punic War, the Ebro River was the northernmost border of Carthage’s influence in Spain; though Saguntum was south of the Ebro, it was allied with Rome, which saw Hannibal’s attack as an act of war. Carthaginian forces besieged Saguntum for eight months before the city fell. Although Rome demanded Hannibal’s surrender, he refused, instead, he made plans for the invasion of Italy that marked the beginning of the Second Punic War. He then marched his massive army across the Pyrenees and Alps into central Italy in what is remembered as one of the most famous campaigns in history. After a string of victories, the most notable coming at Cannae in 216 B.C., Hannibal had gained a foothold in southern Italy but declined to mount an attack on Rome itself. The Romans rebounded, however, driving the Carthaginians out of Spain and launching an invasion of North Africa. In 203 B.C., Hannibal abandoned the struggle in Italy to defend North Africa, and he suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Publius Cornelius Scipio at Zama the following year. Though the treaty concluding the Second Punic War put an end to Carthage’s status as an imperial power, Hannibal continued to pursue his lifelong dream of destroying Rome up until his death in 183 B.C.
In the peace agreement that ended the Second Punic War, Carthage was allowed to keep only its territory in North Africa but lost its overseas empire permanently. It was also forced to surrender its fleet and pay a large indemnity in silver, and to agree never again to re-arm or declare war without permission from Rome. Hannibal, who escaped with his life from the crushing defeat at Zama and still harboured a desire to defeat Rome, retained his military title despite accusations that he had botched the conduct of the war. In addition, he was made a civil magistrate in the government of Carthage.
According to Livy, Hannibal fled to the Syrian court at Ephesus after his opponents within the Carthaginian nobility denounced him to the Romans for encouraging Antiochus III of Syria to take up arms against Rome. When Rome later defeated Antiochus, one of the peace terms called for the surrender of Hannibal; to avoid this fate, he may have fled to Crete or taken up arms with rebel forces in Armenia. He later served King Prusias of Bithynia in another unsuccessful war against the Roman ally King Eumenes II of Pergamum. At some point during this conflict, the Romans again demanded the surrender of Hannibal. Finding himself unable to escape, he killed himself by taking poison in the Bithynian village of Libyssa, probably around 183 B.C.
Did you know? According to Polybius and Livy, Hannibal’s father Hamilcar Barca made the 9-year-old Hannibal dip his hand in blood and swear an oath of hatred against Rome.
legends says the city named Barcelona was named by Carthaginians and the name arose from the Carthaginian surname Barca.
The antics and adroitness of Hannibal Barca is still being taught in western schools up until this day