Father and sons: three from Carthage; Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal & Hasdrubal

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Father and sons: three from Carthage; Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal & Hasdrubal

Historians are not sure of the date of birth of Hamilcar Barca, general from Carthage, and father of Hannibal and Hasdrubal. We know that he commanded the Carthaginian armies in the ultimate part of the First Punic Wars, and that it was Hamilcar Barca who negotiated the peace of 241 B.C.

Three Punic wars were fought between Rome and Carthage in the third and second centuries B.C. The name ‘Carthage’ derives from ‘darkskinned’ or ‘phoenician’. Phoenicians founded this near-mythical North African city well before even the ‘dark ages’ began. Carthage and Rome were fighting for control of the Mediterranean Sea, and it as well to remember that Rome was victorious in each war. The First Punic War (264-241 B.C.) took place almost entirely at sea. Rome had expended her navy (galleys) and seized Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia.

Hamilcar Barca faced the mostly mercenary army of the Phoenicians when they rebelled, and beat them, ironically helped by his chief rival, Hanno. We also know that in 237 Hamilcar went to Iberia, where he brought the southern and eastern parts of what is now Spain under his control.

HANNIBAL, a son of Hamilcar Barca (247 – 183?) was also a Carthaginian general. He was not only that but also an outstanding military tactician, and he was followed by armies totally devoted to him. He was one of the first real leaders of men the world had seen.

Hannibal went to Spain with his father when he was only ten years old, took an appropriate part in the fighting, and helped to establish a Phoenician province. Later he was given supreme command in Spain at the age of twenty-six. What he learned in Spain gave him an aggressive and to a certain extent vengeful attitude towards Rome.

Hannibal laid siege to Saguntum for eight months of 219 B.C. This siege started the Second Punic War. He marched over the Alps with both armies and elephants and appeared in Northern Italy, much to the horrified surprise of the Italians. But he had lost many soldiers and animals during the frightful crossing of the Alps. This did not seem to matter to Hannibal, who proceeded to smash the Roman forces in three crushing defeats, at Trebia (218), Lake Trasimene (217) and the most famous, Cannae in 216. He headed south to establish base in Sicily.

In spite of winning many southern Italian provinces and communities, much of central and northern Italy stayed loyal to Rome. Dogged resistance was the name of the Roman game and it was this determination not to give in to the Carthaginian that finally turned the tide against him. In 203 he and his army were recalled to Africa.

In the following year he was attacked by Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio, known by some as Africanus. At the battle of Zama Hannibal’s soldiers were trounced by the superior Roman army and he found himself reduced to a mere governorship. Later his programme of essential reforms in Carthage provoked his native enemies to denounce him to Rome, and he had to escape abroad for his life. Shortly afterwards, after spending time at the courts of Antiochus the Great and Prusias of Bithynia, he decided enough failure was enough, and killed himself.

HASDRUBAL was a younger brother of Hannibal, left behind in Spain when Hannibal crossed the Alps into Italy. Successful in Spain, Hasdrubal established Carthaginian power as far north as the River Ebro, but he fell foul of the implacable Scipio at the Battle of Baecula in 208, though able to extricate most of his troops and leave for Italy to rejoin his brother Hannibal. Unfortunately for him he was intercepted by two Roman armies, and defeated and killed at Metaurus in 207. The Third Punic War came about because Cato the Elder insisted on Rome’s intervention in a purely African dispute between Carthage and Numidia. In 149 B.C. Rome had reached its peak of territorial expansion. The son of the Scipio mentioned twice above – Scipio the Younger – besieged Carthage successfully. Having defeated the Carthaginians, he sacked and destroyed the city, killing thousands in the customary Roman fashion. He then sowed the site of with symbolic salt, and declared Africa a Roman province.


By | 2011-08-18T09:10:27+00:00 August 18th, 2011|History of Rome, World History|0 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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