Make Roma Great Again
ru | en

Second Punic War

Багерман А.Я.

Attention! The text below was auto-translated from Russian. You can switch the site language to Russian to see the text in its original language or wait until it is fully translated.

The Punic Wars are a series of wars (there were three in total), with interruptions, between Ancient Rome (Roman Republic) and Carthage (a former colony of Phoenicia in North Africa, which later became an independent state). Rome won, capturing the entire Western Mediterranean and destroying Carthage.

The Second Punic War (also called the "War against Hannibal" by the Romans and the Hannibal War, 218-201 BC) was a military conflict between two coalitions led by Rome and Carthage for hegemony in the Mediterranean. At various times, Syracuse, Numidia, the Aetolian League and Pergamum fought on the side of Rome, Macedonia, Numidia, Syracuse and the Achaean Union fought on the side of Carthage.

Punns or Punians (Latin punicus) is the Latin name of the Phoenicians who lived in North Africa, primarily the inhabitants of Carthage (a former Phoenician colony). They were also so called because they sold shellfish, which was processed to produce a purple color.

Military campaigns of the Second Punic War

Alignment of forces before the war

The world of 242 BC was bought at a high price. Not only did all the revenues that the Carthaginians received from Sicily pass to the Romans, but Carthage's near-monopoly trade dominance in the West was significantly weakened. Rome's behavior during the mercenary revolt clearly showed the hostility of its position — it became clear that peaceful coexistence was absolutely impossible.

The most important political act of the general Hasdrubal, by which he continued the efforts of Hamilcar even more than by other actions, was the foundation of a New Carthage on the Iberian coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This city, situated on a convenient bay and surrounded by a chain of impregnable hills, was more fortunate than Acra Levca: if the latter, as far as can be judged, was always a minor city and could not compete with Hades, then New Carthage immediately became the administrative center of the Punic possessions in Spain and one of the most important commercial centers of the entire Western Mediterranean. By the efforts of these men, Carthage not only fully compensated for the losses of the First Punic War, but also acquired new markets, and the silver mines brought in such revenues that the political opponents of Hamilcar and Hasdrubal were completely unable to resist them. The actions of the Barge caused natural concern to the Greek colonies on the Iberian Peninsula. They felt threatened by their independence and turned to Rome for protection, which received a welcome excuse to interfere in Spanish affairs. Already during the lifetime of Hamilcar, negotiations took place between Rome and Carthage, and spheres of influence were divided between them (southern — Punic, northern — Roman), and the Iber River was recognized as their border.

At the time of his father's death, Hannibal was seventeen years old. According to subsequent events, he left Spain with his brothers Mago and Hasdrubal and returned to Carthage. The atmosphere of the military camp, participation in campaigns, and observation of the diplomatic activities of his father and son-in-law undoubtedly had a decisive impact on his formation as a commander and statesman.

It was to his father that Hannibal owed his outstanding education, including knowledge of the Greek language and literature, and the ability to write in Greek. How fundamental was this step of Hamilcar Barca (introducing children to Hellenic culture), it is clear from the fact that it was made contrary to the ancient law prohibiting the study of Greek. By overstepping the long — standing rule that was supposed to insulate Punians from their archenemy, Syracuse, and effectively isolate them from the outside world, Hamilcar was not only trying to prepare his children, especially Hannibal, for active political activity in the future. He wanted to emphasize his desire to introduce Carthage into the Hellenistic world-and not as an alien phenomenon, but as an organic part — and to provide it with the support and sympathy of the Greeks in the upcoming struggle against the Roman "barbarians". Meanwhile, Rome begins to take an interest in the affairs of the western Mediterranean basin and forms an alliance with Saguntum, directed directly against Carthage and aimed at stopping the latter's advance to the north.

And Hannibal returned to Spain, where, thanks to his personal qualities, he became very popular in the army — after the death of Hasdrubal, the soldiers chose him as commander-in-chief.

When Hannibal came to power, he was twenty-five years old. Carthaginian rule in Spain was firmly established, and the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula seemed a safe springboard for an attack on Rome. Hannibal himself developed the traditional Barkid connection to the Iberian world: he was married to an Iberian woman from the Carthaginian-allied city of Castulona. He immediately acted as if the war with Rome had already been decided and entrusted to him, and Italy was assigned to his sphere of activity. Hannibal seems to have made no secret of his intention to attack Saguntum, which was allied to the Romans, and thereby involve Rome in a direct conflict, but at the same time he tried to pretend that the attack on Saguntum would occur naturally, as a result of natural events. To this end, he won a series of victories over the Spanish tribes living on the border of the northern possessions of Carthage and went directly to the borders of the Sagunta region. Despite the fact that Saguntum was a Roman ally, Hannibal could count on the non-intervention of Rome, which was busy fighting Gauls and Illyrian pirates. Having provoked conflicts between Saguntum and the Iberian tribes under Punic rule, he intervened in the conflict and, under a minor pretext, declared war. After a rather heavy 7-month siege, the city was taken, and Rome did not dare to provide military assistance to Saguntum, only the embassy sent to Carthage after the capture of the city directly announced the beginning of the war. Before going to Italy, Hannibal gave the army a rest for the whole winter. He paid serious attention to the defense of Africa and Spain. In Africa, Hannibal left 13,750 infantry and 1,200 horsemen recruited in Spain, and 870 Balearic slingers were sent there. Carthage itself was further reinforced with a 4-thousandth garrison. Hannibal appointed his brother Hasdrubal to command the Punic forces in Spain and placed at his disposal a considerable military force: infantry-11,850 Libyans, 300 Ligurs, 500 Balearics, and horsemen-450 Liviofinikians and Libyans, 300 Ilergetes, 800 Numidians. In addition, Hasdrubal had 21 elephants and a fleet of 50 penters, 2 tetrers and 5 triremes to defend the coast from Roman invasion from the sea.

The invading army consisted of approximately 50,000 infantry, 9,000 horsemen, and 37 elephants. Meanwhile, the Romans were also preparing for war. Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus had 24,000 infantry, 2,400 horsemen, and 160 ships; the Second Consul, Publius Cornelius Scipio, had 22,000 infantry and 2,200 horsemen. Rome's army in Gaul, under the Praetor Lucius Manlius, numbered 18,000 infantry and 1,600 horsemen. In all, the Roman army numbered 64,000 infantry and 6,200 cavalry-slightly more than Hannibal had. A significant advantage of the Romans was that they had to fight at home and for them to mobilize additional military contingents was easier than for a Punic general to receive reinforcements. It is impossible, however, not to see the dispersion of the Roman army, and the lack of a single command, which, of course, made it difficult for the Romans to conduct combat operations. Fortunately for Carthage, Hannibal was a military genius.

Reconstruction of Carthage at the beginning of the Punic Wars

Reasons The Second Punic War on the part of Carthage-the establishment of sovereignty in the Mediterranean Sea. Fight for control of Spain. From Rome: the establishment of the dominion of the Mediterranean. Elimination of the bridgehead of Carthage in Spain.

Armies: Rome did not have a navy at the beginning of the wars, but later they created it from scratch. A national army of Roman citizens – the legions and their allies. Carthage had war elephants, a strong navy, and a mercenary army at its disposal.

Commanders of Carthage in the 2nd Punic war.: Hannibal Barca; Hasdrubal Barca; magon Barca; Hasdrubal Gascon; Maharbal; Gannon, Senior; Gannon (son Amilcare); Hamilton (Admiral); the ruler of the Western Numidia - Sifax (mid war); the ruler of the Eastern Numidia - Masinissa, and later moved to the side of Rome; Philip V of Macedon (king of Macedonia); Philopoemen (strategist Achaean Union).

Roman generals in the Punic War. Quintus Fulvius Flaccus; Gnaeus Centumalus Fulvius; Gaius Terrentius Varro; Appius Claudius Pulcher; Publius Cornelius Scipio; Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus; Tiberius Sempronius Longus; Gaius Flaminius; Gnaeus Servilius Geminus; Marcus Atilius Regulus; Quintus Fabius Maximus Cuntator; Marcus Minucius Rufus; Lucius Aemilius Paulus; Marcus Claudius Marcellus;Gaius Claudius Nero; Marcus Livius Salinator; Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. Allies of Rome: Masinissa (ruler of Eastern Numidia, and after the end of the war became the first king of a united Numidia. At the beginning of the war, he was for Carthage, later went over to the side of Rome);Syphax (king of Western Numidia, later defected to Carthage); Mahanid (tyrant of Sparta).

Bust of Hannibal. National Museum of Naples

Course of the war

Realizing that a new war between Rome and Carthage was inevitable, each side began to look for allies in the future war. Rome's allies at various times were Syracuse, Numidia (a state in North Africa), and the Aetolian Union (a union of cities in central Greece). Carthage's allies at various times were Macedonia, Numidia, Syracuse, and the Achaean Union (a military and political union of Ancient Greek cities located on the Peloponnese Peninsula).

The reason for it was the capture in 219 by the army of Hannibal allied to the Romans of Saguntum in Spain. An embassy sent by the Romans to Carthage demanded the extradition of Hannibal. The refusal of the Carthaginians was used in Rome as a pretext to start a war. The Romans, preparing for a new war, intended to conduct it on the territory of Carthage in Spain and Africa, and Hannibal, preparing for war, immediately planned to conduct it in the territories controlled by Rome, that is, in Italy itself and in the recently captured Roman lands of the Gauls (Cisalpine Gaul). Hannibal also counted on the support of Rome's Italian allies, who were burdened with his power.

In his rear, in Spain, Hannibal left an army of 15 thousand people. under the command of his brother Hasdrubal and with the remaining forces (50 thousand infantry and 9 thousand cavalry and a few war elephants), he moved through the Pyrenees towards the Alps and then intended to cross them and invade Italy. The crossing of the Alps from Spain to Cisalpine Gaul was very difficult for Hannibal, as he lost almost all the war elephants and half the army. Hannibal himself lost an eye during the transition.

At the beginning of the war, Hannibal was successful. He was able to defeat Roman armies in several battles – the battle of Ticinus (defeated the army of Publius Scipio) and Trebia (defeated the army of Tiberius Simpronius) in 218 BC.e. Thanks to these successes, Hannibal's army, which was thinned out due to the transition, was replenished with Celtic and Ligurian tribes.

In 217 BC, Hannibal again defeated the Romans under the Consul Gaius Flaminius at the battle of Lake Trasimene. After that, Hannibal moved to the east of Italy, but his calculation that the Italian allies would fall away from Rome and go over to his side was not justified, most of the allies remained loyal to Rome,and then he devastated the southern regions of Italy. Meanwhile, Rome, in the face of terrible losses, appointed a dictator. He became Fabius Maximus, who began to avoid decisive battles with Hannibal, destroying the supply lines of his army. Because of this tactic, he was nicknamed "Kunctator" ("Slow") and soon the Senate, dissatisfied with his actions, recalled him. Hannibal spent the winter near the city of Geronia, in the spring of 216 BC. e. moved to Apulia and here on August 02, 216 BC. e. the battle of Cannae took place. In this battle, Hannibal was able to defeat and destroy the superior forces of the enemy with a numerical minority. Rome put up approx. 80 thousand people, and Hannibal had about 40 thousand people. Both Roman consuls Lucius Aemilius Paulus and Gaius Terentius Varro were also killed in the battle. And then something happened that Hannibal had been waiting for at the beginning of the war. Many tribes and allied cities (such as Capua) of Rome went over to his side.

Similarly, since 215 BC, Rome had to fight not only with Hannibal in Italy, but also with his allies – Macedonia (Greece) and Syracuse (Sicily). After the defeat at Cannae, the Romans returned to the tactics of waging war with Hannibal, which had previously been carried out by Fabius Maximus, that is, to wage a prolonged war in order to exhaust the enemy's forces. And this brought results, because in Carthage, fearing the increased power of Hannibal, they almost stopped sending him money and people. Rome also launched wars in Sicily and Spain to further weaken Hannibal's Italian army.

In the spring of 217 BC, a naval battle took place at the Ebro (Iber – northeast of Spain) between the Roman and Carthaginian fleets. The Carthaginian fleet was commanded by Himilkon, and the Roman by Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio. Rome won. This victory finally consolidated Rome's control over the Spanish coastal water area.

In 212 BC, Marcus Marcellus took Syracuse, then Acragas, and eventually by 210 BC Rome regained its authority over all of Sicily. In Italy, in 214-213 BC, military operations were conducted with varying success.

In 212 BC, Hannibal was able to capture Tarentum, except for the citadel, which was held by the Romans. The Romans then laid siege to Capua. Hannibal's attempts to save it failed, and the city was eventually captured by the Romans in 211 BC. e. Meanwhile, Carthage's ally, King Gal of Eastern Numidia, and his son Masinissa, were able to eliminate Rome's ally in Africa, King Syphax of Western Numidia.

This allowed Spain to concentrate 3 armies of Carthage under the command of Hasdrubal (Hannibal's brother), Hasdrubal son of Gisgon and Mago. They, seeing that the Roman forces were divided and taking advantage of the betrayal of the local Spaniards to the Romans, were able to individually defeat the Roman troops in Spain in 212 BC, commanded by Publius and Gnaeus Scipio, who died in these battles.

In 209 BC, Quintus Fabius Maximus captured Tarentum. In 209 BC, a new Roman commander, Publius Cornelius Scipio (the Elder Africanus), arrived in Spain and managed to capture the main outpost of Carthage in Spain – the city of New Carthage.

Spring 208 BC battle of Becula (now the city of Bailen in Spain) between Hasdrubal and Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus the Elder. Scipio won. But Hasdrubal, with a large part of the army, was able to break through to his brother in Italy. As a result, the local Spanish Iberian tribes began to go over to the side of Rome. Hasdrubal was unable to link up with his brother in Italy, as on the way to him, he was defeated and killed at the Battle of Metaurus (now the Metauro River in Italy) in Northern Italy in 207 BC.e. The Roman forces in this battle were commanded by the consul Gaius Claudius Nero. As a result, Hannibal's position became very difficult, as Sicily, Sardinia and Spain were restored to Rome. In addition, Macedonia was forced to make peace with Rome.

All this allowed Scipio Africanus, with the permission of the Senate, to prepare an army (205 BC) and with it he landed in Africa, north-west of Carthage, near the city of Utica in 204 BC. Shortly after landing, he defeated the forces of Syphax, King of Western Numidia, who had betrayed Rome. The Carthaginians tried to negotiate peace, but it came to nothing. Then, in 203 BC, the rulers of Carthage recalled Hannibal from Italy to protect it. Hannibal led a poorly trained militia and the remnants of mercenary troops.

In 202 BC, the final battle of Zama took place, which Hannibal lost. The Romans in this battle were commanded by Scipio Africanus.

Artistic drawing of Carthage Army soldiers


In 201 BC, a peace was concluded, under the terms of which: Carthage gave up its possessions in Spain and the islands of the Mediterranean Sea, destroyed its military fleet, pledged not to wage wars outside Africa at all, and not to fight in Africa without the permission of Rome. In addition, the Carthaginians were to pay an annual contribution of 200 talents for 50 years. Thus ended the 2nd Punic War.

Hannibal, because of his loss in the war and the Romans ' demands for Carthage to hand him over to them, forced him to flee Carthage. Hannibal eventually settled in Bithynia, where he chose suicide over rendition to the Romans.

In the period between the 2nd and 3rd Punic Wars, Carthage tried not to quarrel with Rome, dreaming of revenge and gradually recovering through trade. Rome in this period (from 201 to 149 BC) managed to subjugate the whole of Greece, including Macedonia, and seize Syria.

Seeing the Carthaginian merchants as her trade competitors and fearing the restoration of Carthage, Rome began to prepare for a new and decisive war with Carthage. Especially the senator and former Roman ambassador to Carthage, Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder (Marcus Porcius Censor), called for a new war and the destruction of Carthage.

Bust of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. I century AD Bronze. Naples, National Archaeological Museum

Related topics

Roman Republic, The First Punic War, The Third Punic War, Puny People


Ancient authors:

1. Polybius. Universal History.

2. Titus Livy. Roman history from the founding of the city

3. Appian of Alexandria. Roman history

4. Plutarch. Comparative biographies

Contemporary authors:

1. Revyako K. K. Punic wars. Minsk: Universitetskoe Publ., 1988, 272 p. (in Russian)

2. Rodionov E. Punicheskie voyny [Punic Wars]. St. Petersburg: SPBU Publishing House, 2005. (Res militaris)

3. Bagnall, Nigel. The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage and the Struggle for the Mediterranean. — London : Pimlico, 1999

4. Punic Politics, Economy, and Alliances, 218–201 // A Companion to the Punic Wars (неопр.) / Hoyos, Dexter. — Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011 г.

5. Shifman I. I. Carthage. Saint Petersburg: Saint Petersburg University Press. 2006

6. Delbrueck H. The history of military art in the framework of political history. — Translated from German-Vol. 1 "The Ancient world". - Moscow, 1936.

7. Eliseev M. B. The Second Punic War. - Moscow: Veche, 2018. - 480 p.: ill. - Series "Antique world".

8. Mashkin N. A. The last century of Punic Carthage / / VDI. - 1949. - No. 2.

9. Herbert William Park. Greek mercenaries. Dogs of War of ancient Greece / Translated from English by L. A. Igorevsky. - Moscow: ZAO "Tsentrpoligraf", 2013. - 288 p.

10. Warmington B.-H. Carthage. — L., 1960.

11. Mayak I. L. Sotsial'no-politicheskaya borba italiyskikh obshchestvov v period Gannibalovoy voyny [Socio-political struggle of Italian communities during the Hannibal War].

12. Shifman I. S. Vozrozhdenie karfagenskoi derzhavy [The Emergence of the Carthaginian Power].

13. Elnitsky L. A. The emergence and development of slavery in Rome in the VIII-III centuries BC-Moscow, 1964.