Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hannibal’s Roman Holiday

The map below documents Hannibal’s time in the Italian Peninsula during the second Punic War. Year numbers are written over the location of his winter quarters for each year of the conflict. Most of you know that Hannibal traveled through the Alps over the winter of 218 B.C. and spent the rest of that winter near Torino (Turin).

The next winter found him in the Ampulia district on the opposite side of the Apennine Mountains from Rome. Following his victory at Cannae, Hannibal adopted a strategy of attacking Campania, hoping to get Rome’s allies to revolt and join him. This effort was largely unsuccessful and he was eventually forced to retreat south into the Bruttium district.

The Romans, after their defeat an Cannae, adopted a plan of avoiding large scale battles against Hannibal and only attacked him on a small scale when they were sure they could win. They put a great deal of effort into preventing reinforcements, which proved to be an important factor in their ultimate success. The most serious attempt at reinforcement occurred in 207 when Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal tried to move an army down the west side of the Apennines and link up with him. Hasdrubal was trapped by the Romans and killed. It must have been disheartening for Hannibal, after waiting eleven years for reinforcements, to have his brother’s head tossed into his camp as a signal that no help would be coming.

Reinforcements were critical because, as time went by, Hannibal had fewer and fewer of his original troops and more local mercenaries. He found himself trapped in Bruttium because his army was Bruttian and they refused to fight outside their district. Then, in 203, with the Romans attacking Carthage directly, Hannibal left Italy to help in the defense of his homeland.

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