Why is Hannibal Revered as so Great?

By josh07dawson, in 'Latin Culture', Mar 1, 2007.

  1. josh07dawson New Member

    In my Latin III high school class we just studied the Second Punic War involving Rome and Carthage. Many things that I have read and comentaries in movies and documentary have claimed Hannibal as one of, if not THE, greatest military commanders of all time. How is that so? Don't get me wrong I realize he was good and all but what specifically maks people say this? Any examples in warfare? History/military buffs help me out so I can fully comprehend this.

    Let the discussion begin!
  2. Andy Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Urbs Panamae
    He took elephants and put them across the Alps. Need I say more?

    Actually, he was able to stalemate the Romans after the latter had lost at Trebia, Trasimene and Cannae. The only reason he couldn't take Rome itself was because he lacked the siege equipment to do so. That's a lot for one man to do.

    Even when little Roman children misbehaved, their moms whispered to them Hannibal ad portas, and the children would quiet down.
    Godmy likes this.
  3. Cato Consularis

    • Consularis
    Chicago, IL
    Militarily Hannibal was shrewd in knowing both his own strengths and the weaknesses of the enemy.

    Tactically, Carthaginian cavalry was superior to the Roman equivalent. Livy makes this point repeatedly, e.g. XX1.46 "This was the first battle with Hannibal, and the result made it quite clear that the Carthaginian was superior in his cavalry, and consequently that the open plains which stretch from the Po to the Alps were not a suitable battlefield for the Romans." Including elephants on his flank only added to that advantage; "Moreover, the elephants, towering aloft at the ends of the line, terrified the horses not only by their appearance but by their unaccustomed smell, and created widespread panic." (XXI.55).

    Strategically, Hannibal depended on good intelligence and worked the Gauls in the north of Italy for allies. His knowledge of Roman battle tactics and the tendencies of Roman commanders led him to fight "dirty". The Roman loss at Trevia, for example, depended on goading the impetuous Roman commander to cross a river past a hidden Carthaginian brigade led by Mago; once the Romans crossed, they were caught in a crossfire from both sides of the river. In another skirmish, when the Carthaginians were forced to retreat, "Hannibal stationed a few men to defend the rampart and the gates (of his camp), the rest he massed in the middle of the camp, and ordered them to be on the alert and wait for the signal to make a sortie. It was now about three o'clock; the Romans were worn out with their fruitless efforts as there was no hope of carrying the camp, and the consul gave the signal to retire. As soon as Hannibal heard it and saw that the fighting had slackened and that the enemy were retiring from the camp, he immediately launched his cavalry against them right and left, and sallied in person with the main strength of his infantry from the middle of the camp."( XXI.60)

    It took a while for the Romans to adjust to Hannibal's tactics. To avoid losing more allies, the Romans made new treaties with their Latin neighbors (if they had swung over to Hannibal, it's likely I'd be writing this on the Carthaginian Forum). They also followed the advice of new consul Fabius and fought a guerilla war against the occupying Hannibal. Finally, the Scipios attacked Hannibal's supply lines from Sicily and Spain, a decisive move that also cost Hannibal his brother (the Romans decapitated him in Spain, brought the head back to Italy, and tossed it into Hannibal's camp).

    Scipio's successul landing in Africa forced Hannibal to leave Italy, but it was touch and go there for quite a while, mainly because of Hannibal's military genius.
    Godmy and scotii like this.
  4. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    There is evidence that only one of the elephants made it across successfully.

    To the poster wondering why Hannibal is so admired militarily.

    Click here

    or Here
  5. Herakleitos New Member

    cause he died in my city, Istanbul :dancing:
  6. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    But Istanbul did not exist then, not even Constantinopolis...Byzantium, then?
  7. Herakleitos New Member

    yeap but the thing is, theyre actually same cities. when byzantium was turning into constantinopolis, the people lived there were the same. just name and the ruler changed. so i think name is not important at all, the thing is the earth which carries the history in it. whenever i go to Troia (its name is Canakkale now), i feel like, i live with the ancient gods and people. the energy and nature charm you immediately.

    finally i have to say that, the place where hannibal died is now in Istanbuls territory but it anciently was in Bithynia, and the name of the city was Libyssa (towns current name is Diliskelesi). Emperor Septimus Severus built magnificent resting place for Hannibal in there.
  8. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    I have tried staying away from this thread, but it is not working.

    Believe it or not, I actually had a teacher who, in response to a student's:
    "Why did Hannibal go all the way over the Alps? This seemed kind of silly to not just cross the water."
    "I don't know, this does seem kind of strange"

    Then they all stared at the map for a while and wondered some more about it. :smack:

    To his excuse, he was an art teacher... but bloody hell! :tridentupgraded:

    The rest of his class was filled with pearls like: "Roman Republic was ruled by Caesars, of whom Julius Caesar was the last"

    Only deus knows what I have suffered sitting through his class. And there were people sitting there taking notes! :freaked:
  9. Perpetuum Mobile New Member

    Tampa, Florida
    Yes, he was a great battle general, and a politician, but he made way too many blunders to be the greatest.
    1. At the start of War #2 Carthago had the better army, the Romans had the better navy. (That is why Hannibal went all around on foot.) If his motive was defensive, building forts etc around Carthago was a better choice. If his motive was to conquer Rome, 1st he should have built a better navy for Carthago and use a shorter route.
    2. He failed to secure a safe supply line for himself while in Italy.
    3. His plan was to take Rome, but he failed to bring the proper siege equipment to do so. After the initial losses, the Romans did not engage him in open battles, Hannibal should have expected that.
    4. After "discovering" his weakness in the siege, he failed to develop any successful siege equipment for 15 years!
    5. After his inability to take Rome was obvious, he still stayed on for many years.
    6. With 15 years of plunder and pillage in Italy he pissed off the Romans enough that they wanted a bloody revenge (War #3).
    7. Hannibal lost way too many resources passing through the Alps twice and on the long road.
    8. Hannibal did not leave sufficient defenses for Carthago. He was simply outplayed and defeated by Scipio.

    Basically, Hannibal started the war with a superior army, but eventually he lost the war. And because of his blunders, his country was soon eliminated. He was absolutely not the greatest general, not even in the top 25.
    Godmy and scotii like this.
  10. Euphorbus New Member

    I notice that generals who lose wars often have great reputations.

    Perhaps it is because both sides in a conflict have a vested interest in praising the losers.

    The winners want to puff up their victory by pointing to the prowess of those they defeated. The losers cling to the idea that they should have won, that their troops and generals were great, but that unfair misfortune robbed them of victory. To do otherwise leads to admitting they lost because of inferiority, an unacceptable option to many.

    A major example of generals who lose but get great reputations is Robert E. Lee. A lot of Germans from WWII fit the same pattern, notably Rommel.
  11. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    Not that I know much about military history, but this is the kind of thing that is difficult to expect, isn't it?
  12. Manius New Member

    Latin Forum
    This is horrible. Does he still teach?
  13. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    Alas, yes.

    He is the official chaperone for the yearly semester in Europe. I don't want to know what he teaches the students there :shock:
  14. Perpetuum Mobile New Member

    Tampa, Florida
    I agree, except for your examples in your last sentence. History seems to forget that both Lee and especially Rommel were greatly outnumbered by their opponents in troops/equipment/supplies, so their praising comes from the fact that they lasted much longer than it was expectable from the underdogs.
    Hawkwood likes this.
  15. Perpetuum Mobile New Member

    Tampa, Florida
    Exactly - for most people, but for a great general it should be natural to foresee and be ready for all the enemy's moves, even the unexpected. Also, a great general should be able to alter his strategy on-the-fly as needed. Hannibal really failed in this perspective.
    Compare war to a chess game. The better the chess player the farther he can foresee the moves of his opponent, and more likely that he will win starting with equal forces.
    Godmy likes this.
  16. Ronolio New Member

    Hasdrubal was defeated by Scipio in Spain, but decapitated after his defeat near the Metaurus River in Italy.

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