Since his meteoric life and tragic death, Hannibal Barca comes across the centuries as the military commander with few, if any equals. A courageous leader, brilliant tactician, and steadfast soldier in the service of his beloved Carthage, Hannibal existed for one sole purpose: to defeat and, if possible, to eliminate the power of Rome(Livy p.207).
Hannibalís destiny was already chosen for him before his own birth. The only thing that couldnít have been foretold was the outcome of his struggles. His father Hamilcar Barca, another fearless commander from Carthage, was in charge during the first Punic War. Hannibal was taken to Spain at the young age of only nine. There he was forced to swear hostility to Rome. From his fathers death to his own death Hannibal was constantly involved in a struggle between Carthage and Rome.
Hannibal was placed in the army as soon as his father felt he was old enough to start his vigorous training. He learned to handle arms as skillfully as any soldier does, and he never asked his soldiers to do something that he himself could not do. In 221 BC, Hasdrubal was assassinated, and Hamilcar died in battle in 229 BC. The young Hannibal was given his first command, at the age of twenty-six. Hannibal was now the commander-in-chief, and the Carthaginian government ratified his position. He was a brilliant well-liked leader form the start. ďThe veterans thought that in Hannibal, Hamilcar had returned to life. They noted the same energy in Hannibalís face, the same keen glance. He was absolutely fearless in going into danger, very prudent when it was on hand. No amount of labor fatigued him, physically or mentally. He endured heat and cold very well. What time remained over when his tasks were done he gave to rest. Many times the soldiers saw him lying on the ground amid the outposts and the guards, wrapped in a military cloakĒ(Miller et al Livy p.41).
Before the death of Hasdrubal, Carthage had negotiated a treaty with Rome to establish a line of Demarcation on the Ebro River. This treaty led to Hannibalís first military action. Saguntum, which was located well south of the line, became the center of Roman ambitions. Saguntumís leaders began attacking nearby Cartheginian allies and expelling supporters. The city of Saguntum was well inside the Carthaginian influence, but the Romans demanded that Carthage not take action at Sanguntum. Hannibal ignored Roman demands and decided to take action on the city. Hannibal organized his armies and threw a siege on Saguntum. The city was greatly reduced and Hannibal began his amazing trip over the Alps.
According to H.L. Oerter of Miami University, Hannibalís journey, including 40 elephants, over and through the Alps into Italy has never been denied. But, there has been no generalized agreement on the route that he followed. It is known that two Greek scholars accompanied Hannibalís forces, but their accounts have never been found.
A Roman army under the command of General Publius Cornelius Scipio was sent to meet and dispose of Hannibal, but failed to come across the great leader. Scipio did finally meet Hannibal at the Ticinus River. The meeting was accidental. Forces from both sides met, and the Carthaginians came out of the battle victorious. Scipio was badly wounded and nearly lost his life. The Romans retreated to Placentia, where Longus would reinforce them. Fighting on the left bank of the Trebia River the Romans were again soundly defeated. Hannibal advanced to the Arno River by spring.
In 217 BC, Hannibal moved on to Perugia and forced the Roman Flaminius into open combat, at the battle of Lake Trasimene. The Carthaginians nearly annihilated Flaminius, killing thousands and forcing others to drown in the lake. Rome sent reinforcements to Flaminius but Carthage intercepted and destroyed them also. That same year Rome elected Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctatorís dictator who adopted the Fabian tactic of delay. This tactic only allowed small skirmishes between the two armies.
In 216, Hannibal made his move south and seized the army supply depot at Cannae on the Aufidus River. Here, in August, The Battle of Cannae was fought. While the Guals and Iberian infantry of Hannibalís center line yielded before the drive of the numerically superior Roman infantry, the Libyan infantry and cavalry