The Battle of Zama
On October 19th in the year 202 BC a big battle commenced that finished a great war. The battle in question is the Battle of Zama and the war that finished because of the outcome of this battle is the Second Punic War.
The Second Punic War was a battle between the Roman Republic and Carthage. The army of Carthage was commanded by the infamous ancient commander Hannibal.
Prior to the Battle of Zama
Before the battle commenced there had been many battles and much bloodshed at the hands of both armies. 16 years before the battle, the Carthaginians marched across the Alps under the leadership of Hannibal and started winning important battles against the Romans.
The Romans decided they wished to remedy the situation and find a way round the formidable Hannibal so tactics were changed and a new direction was taken. This new direction came in the form of Roman commander Scipio Africanus who had an interesting idea which was to form the backbone of the battle.
Scipio Africanus decided that while Hannibal was in the southern peninsula of Italy, to let him stay there while the Roman army headed to Africa to invade the Carthaginian homeland. This would then finish the war without battle with Hannibal.
In 203 BC Scipio Africanus landed in Africa while Hannibal was still in Italy. Once in Africa Scipio won some landmark victories, most notably the huge victory at the Battle of the Great Plains. This manoeuvre by Scipio and the big victories he achieved caused the Carthaginians to call Hannibal back to the homeland for commanding their army in a defensive capacity.
The Battle of Zama
After Hannibal managed to make his way back with his army to Carthage, he collected local citizens along with his veteran force from Italy and made on his way to face the Romans commanded by Scipio.
Hannibal was the first to reach the battle point, a place called Zama Minor not far from Carthage. The battle was to take place on the plains as it gave Hannibal a great vantage point for using his cavalry, unfortunately he never thought about the prospect of the Romans having a stronger cavalry force.
Hannibal had 51,000 men, of which 45,000 were infantry and 6,000 cavalry (including 80 war elephants). Scipio had 43,000 men of which 34,000 were infantry and 9,000 were cavalry.
Both armies faced one another in three straight lines and cavalry on the flanks.
Hannibal was the first to engage in battle, this was done by sending his war elephants along with a skirmishing group. The Romans retaliated with their skirmishers and by blowing their horns as loud as possible to scare the elephants. This move with the horns actually partially worked as a group of the war elephants turned back and completely disrupted Hannibal’s left flank.
A group of Roman cavalry made up of Numidian cavalry was sent to mop up the left flank of Hannibal’s army, which also happened to be made up of Numidian cavalry. In the end there was no left flank of the Carthage army left as the flank simply left the field (for reasons unknown).
While all this was occurring the other war elephants had simply been lured to the back of the Roman lines and despatched of.
The left flank of the Roman lines was made up of cavalry this cavalry was then sent against the right flank cavalry of the Hannibal line. Hannibal made his cavalry leave the battle field with the Roman cavalry in pursuit, literally rendering them ineffective.
The Romans now marched their central lines on to the Carthage forces. Hannibal in response sent his first two lines forward, the first line of which was pushed back and the second line charged forward causing big losses of the Roman lines.
The Romans reinforced their second line to stop the rout of Hannibal’s army on the Roman forces, this move caused Hannibal’s second line to get annihilated and the third line to push out to the wings.
The cavalry chasing the Carthage cavalry came under attack off the field as the Carthage cavalry turned back to do battle, but this ploy didn’t work as the Romans slaughtered the Carthage cavalry.
The Romans now formed one large line and engaged in battle, a fierce battle that was carrying on for some time. This was until the Roman cavalry returned and encircled the rear of Hannibal’s men and started tearing through them.
A large portion of the Carthage army, along with Hannibal, fled the battlefield.
The outcome of the battle was a resounding victory for the Romans. The Romans lost 5,500 men while the Carthage army lost 20,000 and also had 20,000 captured as prisoners.
The Battle of Actium
At the Battle of Actium, off the western coast of Greece, Roman leader Octavian wins a decisive victory against the forces of Roman Mark Antony and Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. Before their forces suffered final defeat, Antony and Cleopatra broke though the enemy lines and fled to Egypt, where they would commit suicide the following year.
With the assassination of Roman dictator Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., Rome fell into civil war. To end the fighting, a coalition—the Second Triumvirate—was formed by three of the strongest belligerents. The triumvirate was made up of Octavian, Caesar’s great-nephew and chosen heir Mark Antony, a powerful general and Lepidus, a Roman statesman. The empire was divided among the three, and Antony took up the administration of the eastern provinces. Upon arriving in Asia Minor, he summoned Queen Cleopatra to answer charges that she had aided his enemies. Cleopatra, ruler of Egypt since 51 B.C., had once been Julius Caesar’s lover and had borne him a child, who she named Caesarion, meaning “little Caesar.”
Cleopatra sought to seduce Antony as she had Caesar before him, and in 41 B.C. arrived at Tarsus on a magnificent river barge, dressed as Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Successful in her efforts, Antony returned with her to Alexandria, where they spent the winter in debauchery. In 40 B.C., Antony returned to Rome and married Octavian’s sister Octavia in an effort to mend his increasingly strained relationship with Octavian. The triumvirate, however, continued to deteriorate. In 37 B.C. Antony separated from Octavia and traveled to the East, arranging for Cleopatra to join him in Syria. In their time apart, Cleopatra had borne him twins, a son and a daughter. According to Octavian’s propagandists, the lovers were then married, which violated the Roman law restricting Romans from marrying foreigners.
Antony’s disastrous military campaign against Parthia in 36 B.C. further reduced his prestige, but in 34 B.C. he was more successful against Armenia. To celebrate the victory, he staged a triumphal procession through the streets of Alexandria, in which Antony and Cleopatra sat on golden thrones, and their children were given imposing royal titles. Many in Rome, spurred on by Octavian, interpreted the spectacle as a sign that Antony intended to deliver the Roman Empire into alien hands.
After several more years of tension and propaganda attacks, Octavian declared war against Cleopatra, and therefore Antony, in 31 B.C. Enemies of Octavian rallied to Antony’s side, but Octavian’s brilliant military commanders gained early successes against his forces. On September 2, 31 B.C., their fleets clashed at Actium in Greece. After heavy fighting, Cleopatra broke from the engagement and set course for Egypt with 60 of her ships. Antony then broke through the enemy line and followed her. The disheartened fleet that remained surrendered to Octavian. One week later, Antony’s land forces surrendered.
Although they had suffered a decisive defeat, it was nearly a year before Octavian reached Alexandria and again defeated Antony. In the aftermath of the battle, Cleopatra took refuge in the mausoleum she had had built for herself. Antony, informed that Cleopatra was dead, stabbed himself with his sword. Before he died, another messenger arrived, saying Cleopatra still lived. Antony was carried to Cleopatra’s retreat, where he died after bidding her to make her peace with Octavian. When the triumphant Roman arrived, she attempted to seduce him, but he resisted her charms. Rather than fall under Octavian’s domination, Cleopatra committed suicide, possibly by means of an asp, a poisonous Egyptian serpent and symbol of divine royalty.
The Battle of Zama, By An Unknown 16th-century Artist
This curious painting was created by an unidentified 16th-century artist from the Netherlands. The anonymous artist either copied this scene from a work by the Italian painter, Giulio Romano (d. 1546), or instead referenced a print of Romano’s work that was created by the Dutch printmaker, Cornelis Cort (c. 1533-1578). Whatever the case, all of the artworks (be them originals, prints, or hand-painted copies) drew inspiration from the Battle of Zama, which was fought between Rome and Carthage in the year 202 BCE.
Leading the Roman forces at that time was a man named Publius Cornelius Scipio. He landed tens-of-thousands of Roman warriors in North Africa around 204 BCE to take the fight directly to Carthage in the closing years of the Second Punic War. Meanwhile, Hannibal Barca—Carthage’s brilliant general—was still menacing the Italian countryside, as he had been doing since 218 BCE. Hannibal’s sojourn in Italy, however, came to a close in 203 BCE, when he was called back to Africa to defend the heartland of Carthage against Scipio’s campaigns. Unfortunately for Hannibal, his recall put him on a reactive footing, allowing for Scipio and the Romans to position themselves on favorable terrain and to steer the course of the warfare to come. Additionally, the Romans and their Numidian allies at that time had a steep cavalry advantage over the Carthaginians—a weakness that Hannibal attempted to sure up with unruly war elephants. Despite the different numbers of horses and elephants, the Roman and Carthaginian forces were said to have been quite equal in manpower when they eventually met face to face at the Battle of Zama in 202 BCE.
A Roman historian named Livy (59 BCE-17 CE) dramatically described the scale and consequential nature of the battle: “[T]o decide this great issue, the two most famous generals and the two mightiest armies of the two wealthiest nations in the world advanced to battle, doomed either to crown or to destroy the many triumphs each had won in the past” (Livy, Roman History, 30.32). In the ensuing showdown, Scipio’s cavalry advantage proved vital, whereas Hannibal’s elephants apparently did less harm to the Romans than they did to his own army. The Greek historian, Polybius (c. 200-118 BCE), described the battle:
“Since they were equally matched not only in numbers but also in courage, in warlike spirit and in weapons, the issue hung for a long while in the balance. Many fell on both sides, fighting with fierce determination where they stood, but at length the [Roman aligned] squadrons of Masinissa and Laelius returned from their pursuit of the Carthaginian cavalry and arrived by a stroke of fortune at the crucial moment. When they charged Hannibal’s troops from the rear, the greater number of his men were cut down in their ranks, while of those who took to flight only a few escaped…” (Polybius, The Histories, 15.14).
Hannibal was one of the Carthaginians who lived to fight another day. Yet, after Zama, Carthage was compelled to sue for peace with Rome. In the ensuing negotiations, Carthage was forced to dismantle its navy, pay hefty quantities of war reparations, and formally cede Carthaginian territory in Spain to the control of the Romans. Such is the history behind the artwork featured above.
Battles That Changed History
Some battles were turning points, not only in war, but in history itself, and we still talk about them today. You may have heard of marathons, Gettysburg, or someone who has ?met his or her Waterloo.? Like these, the battles below changed the course of history.
|Zama||Zama, an ancient town in N. Africa southwest of Carthage / 202 B.C.||Romans/Carthaginians|
This battle marked the downfall of Hannibal, one of history's most famous and daring generals. For more than 60 years, the Carthaginians and the Romans fought for world power. For 16 of those years Hannibal, the Carthaginian leader, was able to hold off the Romans?until the battle of Zama. Though the Carthaginians had 15,000 fewer warriors, Hannibal thought he had solved the problem. He had 80 elephants, which he would use to send the Roman army fleeing in terror and confusion. But when Hannibal set the elephants free in the Roman ranks, the animals took the easier route and ran the other way! Hannibal and his army lost 11 elephants, the battle, and the war.
The battle of Marathon is famous, not only because the underdog won, but also because of a legend of courage and sacrifice. Darius, the leader of Persia, Egypt, Babylon, and India, decided to become the ruler of Greece as well. But the Greeks, armed only with javelins and swords, defeated the much larger and better armed Persian army. What we remember today is the story of the messenger who brought the good news to Athens, the capital of Greece. Upon completing his 26-mile run, legend says he delivered his message, collapsed, and died. Today, the word marathon means a footrace of exactly 26 miles, 385 yards.
This battle resulted in the Norman conquest of England. Edward the Confessor, the king of England, had no sons and promised that when he died his throne would go to his cousin William, duke of Normandy. On his deathbed, however, the king chose Harold, the powerful earl of Wessex, as king. An enraged William rushed into battle to claim the English throne. At the battle's height, the Normans pretended to flee. When the English ran after them, the Normans turned and attacked them again. Harold was shot in the face with an arrow and died on the battlefield, leaving the throne to William. To this day, the English royal family can be traced back to William the Conqueror.
This famous battle was part of the Hundred Years' War between the French and the English. English archers with their longbows were able to keep the French with their crossbows too far away to shoot. The French decided to charge. The ground was wet and muddy, causing the heavily armored troops to slip and fall. The French lost at least 5,000 men another 1,000 were captured. The English losses totaled only 140.
The Hundred Years' War between England and France lasted from 1337 to 1453, more than 100 years. It ended when the English were driven out of France.
This was the opening battle of the American Revolution. British troops led by General Thomas Gage were moving from Boston toward Lexington and Concord to capture the rebel leaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock and destroy their military supplies. The colonists were warned when Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride, shouting, ?The British are coming!? At Lexington and Concord, armed colonists called Minutemen resisted the British. Ralph Waldo Emerson later wrote a poem describing this conflict as ?the shot heard round the world.? The fighting ended almost a year later, when the British evacuated Boston. On July 4, 1776, representatives from the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence to gain their freedom from Great Britain.
This battle ended not only Napoleon's Hundred Days' War but also 23 years of almost constant war between France and the rest of Europe. France and England had been enemies for hundreds of years. The battle of Waterloo was fought by the English forces and their allies, some 68,000 men under Arthur Wellesley (later the duke of Wellington), with 45,000 Prussians under Gebhard von Blcher against the French emperor Napoleon, with almost 72,000 men. Casualties of 25,000 men destroyed the French army. Soon after this crushing defeat, Napoleon was exiled on the island of Saint Helena, where he died six years later. Waterloo has since come to mean a disastrous defeat of any nature.
The greatest battle of the American Civil War, Gettysburg marked the northernmost advance of the Confederate forces and is considered the war's turning point. Three bloody days of fighting ended in the failure of the Confederate army, led by General Robert E. Lee, to invade the North. Though his army outnumbered the Union forces under Major General George G. Meade, the North expected the Confederates to charge and try to break the center of its line. Cut down by enemy fire, the Confederates were quickly overwhelmed only 150 out of 15,000 Southerners reached the Union lines. This decisive victory for the North was the beginning of the end of the Confederacy.
The battle of Britain was a series of air battles fought between the German air force, or Luftwaffe, and the British Royal Air Force, or RAF. It was the first time during World War II that Adolf Hitler's Nazi forces were thwarted. Following the fall of France, only Great Britain held out against Germany. With ground forces stopped by the English Channel, Hitler launched a heavy air attack on England. When several daytime attacks proved unsuccessful, the Germans executed a nighttime Blitzkrieg, or ?lightning war,? on London, England. This attack, begun on September 7, continued for 57 nights. During this time an average of 200 planes each night blasted the city with high-explosive bombs. The relentless raids killed more than 43,000 British and wounded five times that number. Only the outstanding performance of the RAF kept the Germans from forcing Britain to surrender. As a result, Germany abandoned its plan for invasion.
Battle of Zama (OC)
This doesn't make sense. Zama was a decisive Roman victory.
Yeah if it was at the start of the Second Punic War it would have made more sense
To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand Rick and Morty. The humour is extremely subtle, and without a solid grasp of theoretical physics most of the jokes will go over a typical viewer's head. There's also Rick's nihilistic outlook, which is deftly woven into his characterisation- his personal philosophy draws heavily from Narodnaya Volya literature, for instance. The fans understand this stuff they have the intellectual capacity to truly appreciate the depths of these jokes, to realise that they're not just funny- they say something deep about LIFE. As a consequence people who dislike Rick & Morty truly ARE idiots- of course they wouldn't appreciate, for instance, the humour in Rick's existential catchphrase "Wubba Lubba Dub Dub," which itself is a cryptic reference to Turgenev's Russian epic Fathers and Sons. I'm smirking right now just imagining one of those addlepated simpletons scratching their heads in confusion as Dan Harmon's genius wit unfolds itself on their television screens. What fools.. how I pity them.
The Battle of Zama – Hannibal meets his nemesis
Our long cycling journey following Hannibal’s trail has come to an end, appropriately where the Carthaginian general met his first and last major defeat – at the Battle of Zama.
Hannibal had been recalled to Africa to defend his homeland against an invasion by the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio. For nearly 20 years Hannibal had waged war from Spain to Italy without seeing his native land. Coming home must have been an unusual experience for him after spending most of his adult life – 15 years – fighting Romans in Italy.
His native land probably looked as foreign to him as it did to us as we rode from the capital of modern day Tunisia, the port city of Tunis, about 150 kilometres south-west to the town of Siliana and then to the village of Jama, thought to be right in the middle of the battlefield.
Jama overlooks a wide and rolling landscape of olive groves and brown farming land, surrounded by hills. When we arrived the local villagers were walking or riding donkeys down to their local fountain to collect water – ruined, empty Roman water cisterns in the village attest to a once far more convenient water supply.
Their simple, whitewashed, dusty homes were more like huts than houses, with empty spaces in the walls instead of windows and surrounded by marauding chickens and sheep. Life here appears to have changed little since Hannibal’s day. And yet in 202 BC a battle that changed the course of history was fought here between two of the greatest generals of antiquity.
Unlike at the battles of Cannae, Trasimene and Trebbia, for the first time, Hannibal was outnumbered in the cavalry department. Most of his valuable Numidian allies had defected and with them his crack horsemen. But he had about 80 war elephants and according to Polybius had assembled an army of 50,000 men, against Scipio’s 45,000.
On the eve of the battle Hannibal requested a meeting with Scipio and the two men met face to face. Perhaps unusually, Hannibal was not very keen to fight and tried to negotiate peace terms but they were flatly refused by the Roman general.
According to Livy, Hannibal was still giving orders to his men when his elephants were surprised by the sudden advance of the Romans and because of the loud trumpet calls and war cries the animals panicked, trampling Hannibal’s own men. Those elephants that did attack the Romans were allowed to harmlessly pass through the Roman ranks thanks to Scipio’s battle formation that left wide alleys between the ranks to allow the beasts to harmlessly go by.
Scipio also used Hannibal’s famous encirclement tactics against him by first defeating the Carthaginian cavalry and then encircling the enemy infantry and attacking them from behind. Nonetheless it was a closely fought contest – Hannibal’s veteran infantry were holding the Romans until the enemy cavalry attacked them from the rear.
It was a conclusive defeat for Hannibal – he escaped the field of battle and returned to Carthage where he encouraged his fellow citizens to sue for peace. The Second Punic War was over.
And after a cycling journey that has taken us from Cartagena in southern Spain, up the Iberian coastline, over the Pyrenees, through southern France, over the Alps, through Italy and finally to Tunisia, our campaign is over too. Rather surprisingly, after Zama, Hannibal was not executed by the Romans. Instead he became a politician in the Carthaginian senate and after a few years fled to Bythinia in modern day Turkey. There he tried and failed to raise an even greater army with the help of local despots that could defeat his old foe.
In the end the Romans got sick of him and many years later when he knew the Romans were about to capture him, rather than give himself up, Hannibal took poison. He was 65 years old.
And after our long days of cycling, we feel about 65 too. We’re safely back in London now, which is a strange feeling after such a long cycling epic. A few days after its end our trip already seems like a dream. Pretty soon, rather like Hannibal’s war, our 10 weeks of adventures on Hannibal’s trail, will no doubt seem like a very long time ago.
Wood Brothers On Hannibal’s Trail is due to air in six half hour episodes on BBC Television in September 2010.
What Happened in the Second Punic War?
In short, the two sides fought a long series of on-land battles — mostly in what is now Spain and Italy — with the Roman army once again besting the Carthaginian army who were led by the world-famous general, Hannibal Barca.
But the story is much more complicated than that.
The Peace Ends
Angered by how they were treated by the Romans after the First Punic War — who evicted thousands of Carthaginians from their colony on Sicily in southern Italy and charged them a heavy fine — and reduced to a secondary power in the Mediterranean, Carthage turned its conquering eye towards the Iberian Peninsula the westernmost patch of land in Europe that is home to the modern-day nations of Spain, Portugal, and Andorra.
The purpose was not only to expand the area of land under Carthaginian control, which was centered on its capital in Iberia, Cartago Nova (modern day Cartagena, Spain), but also to secure control of the vast silver mines found in the hills of the peninsula — a major source of Carthaginian power and wealth.
History repeats itself, and, once again, shiny metals created ambitious men who set the stage for war.
The Carthaginian army in Iberia was led by a general named Hasdrubal, and — so as to not provoke more war with the increasingly powerful and hostile Rome — he agreed not to cross the Ebro River, which runs through Northeast Spain.
However, in 229 B.C., Hasdrubal went and got himself drowned, and the Carthaginian leaders instead sent a man named Hannibal Barca — the son of Hamilcar Barca and a prominent statesman in his own right— to take his place. (Hamilcar Barca was the leader of Carthage’s armies in the first confrontation between Rome and Carthage). Hamilcar Barca rebuilt Carthage after the first Punic War. Lacking the means to rebuild the Carthaginian fleet he built an army in Spain.
And in 219 B.C., after securing large swaths of the Iberian Peninsula for Carthage, Hannibal decided he didn’t much care for honoring the treaty made by a man who was now ten years dead. So, he gathered his troops and defiantly marched across the Ebro River, traveling into Saguntum.
A coastal city-state in Eastern Spain originally settled by the expanding Greeks, Saguntum had been a long-time diplomatic ally with Rome, and it played an important role in Rome’s long-term strategy to conquer Iberia. Again, so they could get their hands on all those shiny metals.
As a result, when word reached Rome of Hannibal’s siege and eventual conquest of Saguntum, the senators’ nostrils flared, and steam could probably be seen billowing from their ears.
In a last ditch effort to prevent all-out war, they sent an envoy to Carthage demanding they be allowed to punish Hannibal for this treachery or else face the consequences. But Carthage told them to take a hike, and just like that, the Second Punic War had begun, ushering in the second of what would become three wars between them and Rome — wars that helped define the ancient age.
Hannibal Marches to Italy
The Second Punic War was often known as Hannibal’s War in Rome. With the war officially underway, the Romans sent a force to Sicily in southern Italy to defend against what they perceived as an inevitable invasion — remember, the Carthaginians had lost Sicily in the First Punic War — and they sent another army to Spain to confront, defeat, and capture Hannibal. But when they got there, all they found were whispers.
Hannibal was nowhere to be found.
This was because, instead of waiting for the Roman armies — and also to prevent the Roman army from bringing the war to Northern Africa, which would have threatened Carthaginian agriculture and its political elite — he had decided to take the fight to Italy itself.
Upon finding Spain without Hannibal, the Romans began to sweat. Where could he be? They knew an attack was imminent, but not from where. And not knowing bred fear.
Had the Romans known what Hannibal’s army was up to, though, they would have been even more afraid. While they were roaming around Spain searching for him, he was on the move, marching into Northern Italy over an inland route across the Alps in Gaul (modern-day France) so as to avoid the Roman allies located along the Mediterranean Coast. All while leading a force of around 60,000 men, 12,000 cavalry, and some 37 war elephants. Hannibal had received supplies that were required for the expedition across the Alps from a Gallic Chieftain called Brancus. In addition, he received Brancus’ diplomatic protection. Up until he got to the Alps proper, he did not have to fend off any tribes.
To win the war, Hannibal in Italy sought to build up a united front of the northern Italian Gallic tribes and south Italian city states to encircle Rome and confine it to Central Italy, where it would pose a lesser threat to Carthage’s power.
These Carthaginian war elephants — which were the tanks of ancient warfare responsible for carrying equipment, supplies, and using their immensity to storm over enemies, crushing them in their tracks — helped make Hannibal the famous figure he is today.
Debates still rage over where these elephants came from, and although nearly all of them died by the end of the Second Punic War, Hannibal’s image is still closely linked to them.
However, even with the elephants helping to carry supplies and men, the trip across the Alps was still excruciatingly difficult for the Carthaginians. Harsh conditions of deep snow, relentless winds, and freezing temperatures — combined with attacks from Gauls living in the area that Hannibal hadn’t been aware existed but that were not happy to see him — cost him nearly half his army.
The elephants, though, all survived. And despite the huge reduction of his force, Hannibal’s army still loomed large. It descended from the Alps, and the thunder of 30,000 footsteps, accompanied by the ancient tanks, echoed down the Italian Peninsula towards the city of Rome. The collective knees of the great city were trembling with fear.
However, its important to mention that in the Second Punic War, Rome had an advantage over Carthage geographically, even though the war was fought on Roman soil, and they had control of the sea around Italy, preventing Carthaginian supplies from arriving. This is because Carthage had lost sovereignty in the Mediterranean.
The Battle of the Ticinus (November, 218 BC.)
The Romans naturally panicked to hear of a Carthaginian army in their territory, and they sent orders to recall their troops from Sicily so that they could come to the defense of Rome.
Roman General, Cornelius Publius Scipio, upon realizing that Hannibal’s army was threatening northern Italy, sent his own army on to Spain, and then returned to Italy and assumed command of Roman troops preparing to stop Hannibal. The other consul, Tiberius Sempronius Longus, was in Sicily preparing to invade Africa. When word of the Carthaginian army’s arrival in northern Italy reached him, he rushed northward.
They first met Hannibal’s army at the Ticino River, near the town of Ticinium, in Northern Italy. Here, Hannibal took advantage of a mistake by Publius Cornelius Scipio, to put his cavalry in the center of his line. Any general worth his salt knows that mounted units are best used on the flanks, where they can use their mobility to their advantage. Placing them in the center blocked them in with other soldiers, turning them into regular infantry and significantly reducing their effectiveness.
The Carthaginian cavalry advanced much more effectively by storming the Roman line head on. In doing so, they negated the Roman javelin throwers and quickly encircled their opponent, leaving the Roman army helpless and resoundingly defeated.
Publius Cornelius Scipio was amongst those surrounded, but his son, a man history knows simply by “Scipio,” or Scipio Africanus, famously rode through the Carthaginian line to rescue him. This act of bravery foreshadowed even more heroism, as Scipio the younger would later play an important role in what would become a Roman victory.
The Battle of Ticinus was an important moment in the Second Punic War as it wasn’t only the first time Rome and Carthage went head to head — it demonstrated the capabilities of Hannibal and his armies in striking fear into the hearts of the Romans, who now saw a full-on Carthaginian invasion as a real possibility.
In addition, this victory allowed Hannibal to win the support of the war-loving, ever-raiding Celtic tribes living in Northern Italy, which grew his force considerably and gave the Carthaginians even more hope for victory.
The Battle of Trebia (December, 218 BC.)
Despite Hannibal’s victory at the Ticinus, most historians consider the battle to be a minor engagement, largely because it was fought with mostly cavalry. Their next confrontation — the Battle of Trebia — further stoked Roman fears and established Hannibal as a highly-skilled commander who just might have had what it took to conquer Rome.
So called for the Trebbia River — a small tributary stream that supplied the mighty Po River to stretch across Northern Italy near the modern-day city of Milan — this was the first major battle fought between the two sides in the Second Punic War.
Historical sources don’t make it clear exactly where the armies were positioned, but the general consensus was that the Carthaginians were on the western bank of the river and the Roman army was on the eastern.
The Romans crossed the freezing cold water, and when they emerged on the other side, they were met with the full force of the Carthaginians. Shortly thereafter, Hannibal sent in his cavalry — 1,000 of which he had instructed to hide off to the side of the battlefield — to swoop in and attack the Roman rear.
This tactic worked wonderfully — if you were Carthaginian — and quickly turned into a massacre. The Romans on the western side of the bank turned and saw what was happening and knew they were running out of time.
Surrounded, the remaining Romans fought their way through the Carthaginian line by forming a hollow square, which is exactly what it sounds like — the soldiers lined up back to back, shields up, spears out, and moved in unison, repelling the Carthaginians just enough to make it to safety.
When they emerged on the other side of the enemy line after inflicting heavy losses, the scene they left behind was a bloody one, with the Carthaginians slaughtering all who remained.
In total, the Roman army lost somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 soldiers, a crippling defeat for an army that would one day be known as the world’s finest.
The Roman commander — Tiberius — although likely tempted to turn around and support his men, knew that doing so would be a lost cause. And so he took what was left of his army and escaped to the nearby town of Placenza.
But the highly-trained soldiers he had been commanding (who would have had to have been very experienced to pull off a maneuver as difficult as the hollow square) inflicted heavy damages on Hannibal’s troops — whose army suffered only around 5,000 casualties — and, throughout the course of the battle, managed to kill the majority of his war elephants.
This, plus the cold snowy weather gracing the battlefield that day, prevented Hannibal from chasing the Roman army and beating them while they were down, a move that would have dealt a nearly-fatal blow.
Tiberius was able to escape, but news soon reached Rome of the battle’s outcome. Nightmares of Carthiginian troops marching into their city and slaughtering enslaving raping pillaging their way to conquest plagued the consuls and citizens.
The Battle of Lake Trasimene (217 B.C.)
The panicked Roman Senate quickly raised two new armies under their new consuls — the annually elected leaders of Rome who often also served as generals in war.
Their task was this: to stop Hannibal and his armies from advancing into Central Italy. To stop Hannibal from burning Rome into a pile of ash and into a mere afterthought in world history.
A simple enough objective. But, as is usually the case, achieving it would be much easier said than done.
Hannibal, on the other hand, after recovering from Trebia, kept moving south towards Rome. He crossed some more mountains — the Apennines this time — and marched into Etruria, a region of central Italy that includes parts of modern day Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria.
It was during this journey that his forces came across a large marsh that drastically slowed them down, making every inch forward seem like an impossible task.
It also quickly became clear that the journey was going to be just as hazardous for the Carthaginian war elephants — the ones that had survived the arduous mountain crossings and battles were lost to the swamps. This was a great loss, but in truth, marching with the elephants was a logistical nightmare. Without them, the army was lighter and better able to adapt to the changing and difficult terrain.
He was being pursued by his enemy, but Hannibal, always the trickster, changed his route and got between the Roman army and its home city, potentially giving him a free pass to Rome if he could only move quickly enough.
The treacherous terrain made this difficult, though, and the Roman army caught Hannibal and his army near Lake Trasimene. Here, Hannibal made yet another brilliant move — he set up a fake camp on a hill that his enemy could clearly see. Then, he placed his heavy infantry below the camp, and he hid his cavalry in the woods.
The Romans, now led by one of the new consuls, Flaminius, fell for Hannibal’s trickery and started to advance on the Carthaginian camp.
When it came into their view, Hannibal ordered his hidden troops to rush the Roman army, and they were ambushed so quickly that they were quickly divided into three parts. In a matter of a few hours, one part had been pushed into the lake, another had been destroyed, and the last was stopped and defeated as it tried to retreat.
Only a small group of Roman cavalry managed to escape, turning this battle into one of the biggest ambushes in all of history and further entrenching Hannibal as a true military genius.In the battle of Lake Trasimene Hannibal destroyed most of the Roman army and killed Flaminius with little loss to his own army. 6,000 Romans had been able to escape, but were caught and forced to surrender by Maharbal’s Numidian cavalry. Maharbal was a Numidian army commander in charge of the cavalry under Hannibal and his second-in-command during the Second Punic War.
The Numidian cavalry’s horses, ancestors of the Berber horse, were small compared to other horses of the era, and were well adapted for faster movement over long distances.Numidian horsemen rode without saddles or bridles, controlling their mounts with a simple rope around their horse’s neck and a small riding stick. They had no form of bodily protection except for a round leather shield or a leopard skin, and their main weapon were javelins in addition to a short sword
Of the 30,000 Roman soldiers that had been sent into battle, about 10,000 made it back to Rome. All while Hannibal only lost around 1,500 men, and, according to sources, after taking around just four hours to inflict such carnage.
A New Roman Strategy
Panic gripped the Roman Senate and they turned to yet another consul — Quintus Fabius Maximus — to try and save the day.
He decided to implement his new strategy: avoid fighting Hannibal.
It had become clear that Roman commanders were no match for the man’s military prowess. So they simply decided enough was enough, and instead chose to keep skirmishes small by staying on the run and by not turning to face Hannibal and his army in a traditional pitched battle.
This soon became known as the “Fabian Strategy” or attrition warfare and was widely unpopular with the Roman troops who wanted to fight Hannibal to defend their homeland. Ironically, Hannibal’s father, Hamilcar Barca is said to have used near similar tactics in Sicily against the Romans. The difference was that Fabius commanded an exponentially superior army to his opponent, had no supply problems, and had room to manoeuvre, while Hamilcar Barca was mostly stationary, had a far smaller army than the Romans and was dependent on seaborne supplies from Carthage.
To show their displeasure, Roman troops gave Fabius the nickname “Cunctator” — meaning Delayer. In ancient Rome, where social status and prestige was closely linked to success on the battlefield, a label like that would have been a (real burn) true insult. Roman armies slowly recaptured most of the cities that had joined Carthage and defeated a Carthaginian attempt to reinforce Hannibal at Metaurus in 207. Southern Italy was devastated by the combatants, with hundreds of thousands of civilians killed or enslaved.
However, although unpopular, it was an effective strategy in that it stopped the Romans’ unceasing bleeding brought on by the repeated routs, and although Hannibal worked hard to goad Fabius into battle by burning all of Aquila — a small town in Central Italy northeast of Rome — he managed to resist the urge to engage.
Hannibal then marched around Rome and through Samnium and Campania, wealthy and fertile provinces of Southern Italy, thinking this would finally lure the Romans into battle.
Unfortunately, by doing so, he was led straight into a trap.
Winter was coming, Hannibal had destroyed all the food around him, and Fabius had cleverly blocked all the viable passes out of the mountain region.
Hannibal Maneuvers Again
But Hannibal had one more trick up his sleeve. He selected a corps of around 2,000 men and sent them off with a similar number of oxen, ordering them to tie wood to their horns — wood that was to be lit on fire when they were close to the Romans.
The animals, of course terrified by the fire raging atop their heads, fled for their lives. From afar, it looked as though thousands of torches were moving on the mountainside.
This attracted the attention of Fabius and his army, and he ordered his men to stand down. But the force guarding the mountain pass abandoned their position to protect the army’s flank, opening a path for Hannibal and his troops to safely escape.
The force sent with the oxen waited and when the Romans showed up, they ambushed them, inflicting heavy damages in a skirmish known as the Battle of Ager Falernus.
Hope For the Romans
After escaping, Hannibal marched north towards Geronium — an area in the region of Molise, halfway between Rome and Naples in Southern Italy — to make camp for the winter, followed closely by the battle-shy Fabius.
Soon, though, Fabius — whose tactic of delaying was becoming increasingly unpopular in Rome — was forced to leave the battlefield to defend his strategy in the Roman Senate.
While he was gone, his second in command, Marcus Minucius Rufus, decided to break from the Fabian “fight but don’t fight” approach. He engaged the Carthaginians, hoping that attacking them while they were retreating towards their winter camp would finally draw Hannibal into a battle fought on Roman terms.
However, Hannibal once again proved to be too smart for this. He withdrew his troops, and allowed Marcus Minucius Rufus and his army to capture the Carthaginian camp, taking loads of supplies they needed to wage war.
Pleased with this and considering it a victory, the Roman Senate decided to promote Marcus Minucius Rufus, giving him and Fabius joint command of the army. This flew in the face of almost every Roman military tradition, which valued order and authority above all it speaks to just how unpopular Fabius’ unwillingness to engage Hannibal in a direct battle was becoming.
Minucius Rufus, although defeated, likely won favor in the Roman court due to his proactive strategy and aggressiveness.
The Senate divided the command, but they did not give the generals orders on how to do it, and the two men — both likely upset over not being granted autonomous control, and likely motivated by those pesky macho egos characteristic of ambitious war generals — chose to split the army in two.
With each man commanding one part instead of keeping the army intact and alternating command, the Roman army was substantially weakened. And Hannibal, sensing this as an opportunity, decided to try and entice Minucius Rufus into battle before Fabius could march to his rescue.
He attacked the man’s forces, and although his army managed to regroup with Fabius, it was too late Hannibal had once again inflicted heavy damages to the Roman army.
But with a weak and weary army — one that had been fighting and marching near non-stop for almost 2 years — Hannibal decided not to pursue any further, retreating once again and quieting the war for the cold winter months.
During this brief reprieve, the Roman Senate, tired of Fabius’ inability to bring the war to a close, elected two new consuls — Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paullus — both of whom promised to pursue a more aggressive strategy.
Hannibal, who had been having success largely thanks to excessive Roman aggression, licked his chops at this change in command and positioned his army for another attack, focusing on the city of Cannae on the Apulian Plain in Southern Italy.
Hannibal and the Carthaginians could almost taste victory. In contrast, the Roman army was backed into a corner they needed something to turn the tables to prevent their enemies from charging down the rest of the Italian Peninsula and sacking the city of Rome itself — circumstances that would set the stage for the most epic battle of the Second Punic War.
The Battle of Cannae (216 B.C.)
Seeing that Hannibal was once again preparing for an attack, Rome gathered the largest force it had ever raised. The normal size of a Roman army at this time was around 40,000 men, but for this attack, more than double that — around 86,000 soldiers — were summoned to fight on behalf of the consuls and the Roman Republic.
Knowing they had a numerical advantage, they decided to attack Hannibal with their overwhelming force. They marched to confront him, hoping to replicate the one success they’d had from the Battle of Trebia — the moment when they were able to break the Carthaginian center and advance through their lines. This success ultimately hadn’t led to victory, but it provided the Romans with what they thought was a roadmap for defeating Hannibal and his army.
Fighting began on the flanks, where the Carthaginian cavalry — made up of Hispanics (troops drawn from the Iberian Peninsula) on the left, and Numidian cavalry (troops gathered from the kingdoms surrounding the Carthaginian territory in Northern Africa) on the right — put a beating on their Roman counterparts, who fought desperately to keep their enemy at bay.
Their defense worked for some time, but eventually the Hispanic cavalry, which had become a more highly-skilled group due to the experience gained campaigning in Italy, managed to break past the Romans.
Their next move was a stroke of true genius.
Instead of chasing the Romans off the field — a move that would have also rendered them ineffective for the rest of the fight — they turned and charged the rear of the Roman right flank, providing a boost to the Numidian cavalry and all but destroying the Roman cavalry.
At this point, though, the Romans weren’t worried. They had loaded most of their troops in the center of their line, hoping to break through the Carthaginian defense. But, Hannibal, who seemed to almost always be a step ahead of his Roman enemies, had predicted this he’d left his center weak.
Hannibal began to recall some of his troops, making it easy for the Romans to advance, and giving the impression the Carthaginians were planning to flee.
But this success was an illusion. This time, it was the Romans that had walked into the trap.
Hannibal began organizing his troops into a crescent shape, which prevented the Romans from being able to advance through the center. With his African troops — which had been left off to the side of the battle — attacking the remainder of the Roman cavalry, they drove them far from the battlefield and thus left their enemy’s flanks hopelessly exposed.
Then, in one swift motion, Hannibal ordered his troops to perform a pincer movement — the troops on the flanks rushed around the Roman line, encircling and trapping it in its tracks.
With that, the battle was over. The massacre began.
The casualties at Cannae are difficult to estimate, but modern historians believe the Romans lost roughly 45,000 men during the battle, and to a force just half their size.
It turns out the largest army ever formed in Rome up until this point in history was still no match for Hannibal’s genius tactics.
This crushing defeat left the Romans more vulnerable than ever, and left open the very real and previously unimaginable possibility that Hannibal and his armies would be able to march into Rome, taking the city and subjecting it to the wills and whims of a victorious Carthage — a reality so harsh that most Romans would have preferred death.
The Romans Reject Peace
After Cannae, Rome was humiliated and immediately in a panic. Having lost thousands of men in multiple devastating defeats, their armies were desolate. And since the political and military strands of Roman life were so intrinsically entwined, the defeats also had a crushing blow on the nobility of Rome. Those who weren’t thrown out of office were either killed or humiliated so deeply that they were never heard from again. Furthermore, almost 40% of Rome’s Italian allies defected to Carthage, giving Carthage control over most of southern Italy.
Seeing his position, Hannibal offered peace terms, but — despite its panic — the Roman Senate refused to give up. They sacrificed men to the gods (one of the last recorded times of human sacrifice in Rome, excluding the execution of fallen enemies) and declared a national day of mourning.
And just as the Carthaginians had done to the Romans after Hannibal’s attack on Saguntum in Spain — the event that started the war — the Romans told him to take a hike.
This was either an amazing show of confidence or completely foolish. The biggest army ever formed in Roman history had been completely destroyed by a force remarkably smaller than its own, and most of its allies in Italy had defected over to the Carthaginian side, leaving them weak and isolated.
To put this in context, Rome had lost one fifth (around 150,000 men) of its entire male population over the age of 17 within just twenty months within just 2 years. Anyone in their right mind would have been on their knees, begging for mercy and peace.
But not the Romans. For them, victory or death were the only two options.
And their defiance was well-timed, though there’s no way the Romans could have known this.
Hannibal, despite his successes, had also seen his force depleted, and the Carthaginian political elites refused to send him reinforcements.
Opposition was growing within Carthage to Hannibal, and there were other territories under threat that needed to be secured. Since Hannibal was deep inside Roman territory, there were also very few routes the Carthaginians could travel to reinforce his army.
The only truly viable way for Hannibal to get help was from his brother Hasdrubal, who was in Spain at the time. But even this would have been a challenge, as it meant sending large armies over the Pirenees, through Gaul (France), over the Alps, and down through Northern Italy — essentially repeating the same grueling march Hannibal had been making over the previous two years, and a feat unlikely to be executed with success another time.
This reality was not hidden from the Romans, and it was likely why they chose to reject peace. They had suffered multiple crushing defeats, but they knew they still held the proverbial higher ground and that they had managed to inflict enough damage on Hannibal’s forces to leave him vulnerable.
Desperate and in fear for their lives, the Romans rallied during this time of chaos and near-defeat, finding the strength to attack their unwanted invaders.
They abandoned the Fabian strategy at a moment when it might have made the most sense to stick with it, a decision that would radically change the course of the Second Punic War.
Hannibal Waits For Help
Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal, was left behind in Spain — charged with keeping the Romans at bay — when his brother, Hannibal, marched across the Alps and into Northern Italy. Hannibal knew full well that his own success, as well as that of Carthage, depended on Hasdrubal’s ability to maintain Carthaginian control in Spain.
However, unlike in Italy against Hannibal, the Romans were far more successful against his brother, winning the smaller but still significant conflicts of the Battle of Cissa in 218 BC. and the Battle of the Ebro River in 217 B.C., thus limiting Carthaginian power in Spain.
But Hasdrubal, knowing how crucial this territory was, did not give up. And when he received word in 216/215 B.C. that his brother needed him in Italy to follow up his victory at Cannae and crush Rome, he launched another expedition.
Shortly after mobilizing his army in 215 B.C., Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal, found the Romans and engaged them at the Battle of Dertosa, which was fought on the banks of the Ebro River in modern-day Catalonia — a region in Northwest Spain, home to Barcelona.
During the same year, Philip V of Macedon entered into a treaty with Hannibal. Their treaty defined spheres of operation and interest, but achieved little of substance or value for either side. Philip V became heavily involved in assisting and protecting his allies from attacks from the Spartans, the Romans and their allies. Philip V was the ‘Basileus’ or King of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia from 221 to 179 BC. Philip’s reign was principally marked by an unsuccessful spar with the emerging power of the Roman Republic. Philip V would lead Macedon against Rome in the First and Second Macedonian Wars, losing the latter but allying with Rome in the Roman-Seleucid War towards the end of his reign.
During the battle, Hasdrubal followed what Hannibal’s strategy at Cannae had been by leaving his center weak and by using cavalry to attack the flanks, hoping this would allow him to surround the Roman forces and crush them. But, unfortunately for him, he left his center a little too weak and this allowed the Romans to break through, destroying the crescent shape he needed his line to keep for the strategy to work.
With his army crushed, the defeat had two immediate effects.
First, it gave Rome a distinct edge in Spain. Hannibal’s brother, Hasdrubal had now been defeated three times, and his army was left weak. This did not bode well for Carthage, which needed a strong presence in Spain to maintain its power.
But, more importantly, this meant that Hasdrubal would be unable to cross into Italy and support his brother, leaving Hannibal with no choice but to try and complete the impossible — defeat the Romans on their own soil without a full-strength army.
Rome Changes Strategy
After their success in Spain, Rome’s chances for victory began to improve. But to win, they needed to drive Hannibal completely out of the Italian Peninsula.
To do this, the Romans decided to return to the Fabian strategy (just a year after labeling it cowardice and abandoning it in favor of the foolish aggressiveness that led to the tragedy of Cannae).
They didn’t want to fight Hannibal, as record had shown that this almost always ended poorly, but they also knew he didn’t have the force he needed to conquer and hold Roman territory.
So, instead of engaging him directly, they danced around Hannibal, making sure to keep the high ground and avoid being drawn into a pitched battle. While they did so, they also picked fights with the allies the Carthaginians had made in Roman territory, expanding the war into North Africa and further into Spain.
To accomplish this in the former, the Romans provided advisors to King Syphax — a powerful Numidian leader in North Africa — and gave him the knowledge he needed to improve the quality of his heavy infantry. With it, he waged war on Carthaginian allies nearby, something the Numidians were always seeking ways to do so as to carve into Carthaginian power and gain influence in the region. This move worked well for the Romans, as it forced Carthage to divert valuable resources to the new front, depleting their strength elsewhere.
In Italy, part of Hannibal’s success had come from his ability to convince city-states on the peninsula that had once been loyal to Rome to support Carthage — something that often wasn’t hard to do given that, for years, the Carthaginians had been ravaging the Roman forces and appeared poised to take control of the entire region.
However, as the Roman forces started turning the tables, beginning with their success at Dertosa and in North Africa, allegiance towards Carthage in Italy began to waver, and many city-states turned on Hannibal, instead giving their loyalty to Rome. This weakened the Carthaginian forces as it made it even more difficult for them to move around and to get the supplies they needed to support their army and wage war.
A major event occurred sometime in 212–211 B.C., with Hannibal and the Carthaginians suffering a major blow that really sent things downhill for the invaders — Tarentum, the largest of the many ethnically-Greek city-states scattered around the Mediterranean, defected back to the Romans.
And following Tarentum’s lead, Syracuse, a large and powerful Greek city-state in Sicily that had been a strong Roman ally before defecting to Carthage only a year previous, fell to a Roman siege in the spring of 212 B.C.
Syracuse provided Carthage with an important sea port between North Africa and Rome, and its fall back into Roman hands limited even more of their ability to wage war in Italy — an effort that was becoming increasingly unsuccessful.
Sensing Carthage’s waning power, more and more cities defected back to Rome in 210 B.C. — a seesaw of alliances that was very common in the unstable ancient world.
And, soon, a young Roman general named Scipio Africanus (remember him?) would land in Spain, determined to make a mark.
The War Turns to Spain
Scipio Africanus arrived in Spain in 209 B.C. with an army that consisted of some 31,000 men and with the aim of exacting revenge — his father had been killed by the Carthaginians in 211 B.C. during fighting that took place near Cartago Nova, Carthage’s capital in Spain.
Before launching his attack, Scipio Africanus set to work organizing and training his army, a decision that paid off when he launched his first offensive against Cartago Nova.
He had received intelligence that the three Carthaginian generals in Iberia (Hasdrubal Barca, Mago Barca, and Hasdrubal Gisco) were geographically scattered, strategically estranged from each other, and he figured this would limit their ability to come together and defend Carthage’s most important settlement in Spain.
After setting up his army to blockade the only land exit from Cartago Nova and after using his fleet to restrict access to the sea, he was able to break his way into the city that had been left to be defended by only 2,000 militia men — the nearest army that could assist them being a ten-day march away.
They fought valiantly, but eventually the Roman forces, who significantly outnumbered them, pushed them back and made their way into the city.
Cartago Nova was the home of important Carthaginian leaders, as it was their capital in Spain. Recognizing it as a source of power, Scipio Africanus and his armies, once inside the city walls, showed no mercy. They ransacked the extravagant homes that had been respites from the war, brutally massacring thousands of people.
The conflict had reached a point where no one was innocent, and both sides were willing to spill the blood of anyone who stood in their way.
Meanwhile… In Italy
Hannibal was still winning battles, despite having been starved of resources. He destroyed a Roman army at the Battle of Herdonia — killing 13,000 Romans — but he was losing the logistical war as well as also losing allies largely because he didn’t have the men to protect from Roman attacks.
Nearing the point of being left fully out to dry, Hannibal desperately needed his brother’s aid the point of no return was rapidly approaching. If help didn’t arrive soon, he was doomed.
Each victory by Scipio Africanus in Spain made this reunion less and less likely, but, by 207 B.C., Hasdrubal managed to fight his way out of Spain, marching across the Alps to reinforce Hannibal with an army of 30,000 men.
A long awaited family reunion.
Hasdrubal, had a much easier time moving acros the Alps and Gaul than his brother had, partly due to the construction — such as bridge building and tree felling along the way — that his brother had built a decade earlier, but also because the Gauls — who had fought Hannibal as he crossed the Alps and inflicted heavy losses — had heard of Hannibal’s successes on the battlefield and now feared the Carthaginians, some even willing to join his army.
As one of the many Celtic tribes spread out across Europe, the Gauls loved war and raiding, and they could always be counted upon to join the side they perceived to be winning.
Despite this, the Roman commander in Italy, Gaius Claudius Nero, intercepted Carthaginian messengers and learned of the two brothers’ plans to meet in Umbria, a region just to the south of modern-day Florence. He then moved his army in secret to intercept Hasdrubal and engage him before he had the chance to reinforce his brother. In southern Italy, Gaius Claudius Nero waged an inconclusive skirmish against Hannibal at the Battle of Grumentum.
Gaius Claudius Nero had been hoping for a sneak attack, but, unfortunately for him, this hope for stealth was thwarted. Some wise-guy sounded a trumpet when Gaius Claudius Nero arrived — as was tradition in Rome when an important figure arrived on the battlefield — alerting Hasdrubal of a nearby army.
Once again, dogmatic tradition drives men into battle.
Hasdrubal was then forced to fight the Romans, who dramatically outnumbered him. For a time, it appeared that it might not matter, but soon the Roman cavalry broke past the Carthaginian flanks and put their enemies on the run.
Hasdrubal entered the fray himself, encouraging his soldiers to keep fighting, which they did, but it soon became apparent that there was nothing they could do. Refusing to be taken prisoner or suffer the humiliation of surrender, Hasdrubal charged straight back into the fighting, throwing all caution to the wind and meeting his end as a general should — fighting beside his men until his very last breath.
This conflict — which is known as the Battle of the Metaurus — decisively turned the tides in Italy in Rome’s favor, as it meant Hannibal would never receive the reinforcements he needed, making victory almost entirely impossible.
After the battle, Claudius Nero had Hannnibal’s brother Hasdrubal’s head severed from his body, stuffed into a sack, and thrown into the Carthaginian camp. It was a hugely insulting move, and showed the intense animosity that existed between the rivaling great powers.
The war was now in its final stages, but the violence only continued to increase — Rome could smell victory and it hungered for revenge.
Scipio Subdues Spain
Around the same time, in Spain, Scipio was making his mark. He continually held up Carthaginian armies, under Mago Barca and Hasdrubal Gisco — who were trying to reinforce the Italian forces — and in 206 B.C. won a stunning victory by all but wiping out the Carthaginian armies in Spain a move that ended Carthaginian dominance in the peninsula.
Uprisings kept things tense for the next two years, but by 204 B.C., Scipio had brought Spain fully under Roman control, wiping out a major source of Carthaginian power and firmly painting the writing onto the wall for the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War.
Adventure in Africa
After this victory, Scipio then sought to take the fight to Carthaginian territory — much as Hannibal had done to Italy — seeking a decisive win that would bring the war to an end.
He had to fight to get permission from the Senate to stage an invasion of Africa, as the heavy losses sustained by Roman forces in Spain and Italy had left Roman leaders reluctant to sanction another attack, but soon he was allowed to do so.
He raised a force of volunteers from the men stationed in southern Italy, Sicily, to be precise, and this he did with ease — given that most of the troops there were survivors from Cannae who weren’t allowed to go home until the war was victorious exiled as a punishment for fleeing the field and not remaining to the bitter end to defend Rome, thus bringing shame on the Republic.
So, when given the opportunity for redemption, most leapt at the chance to enter the fray, joining Scipio on his mission into North Africa.
A Hint of Peace
Scipio landed in North Africa in 204 B.C. and immediately moved to take the city of Utica (in what is now modern day Tunisia). When he got there, however, he soon realized he wouldn’t be fighting only the Carthaginians but, rather, he’d be fighting a coalition force between the Carthaginians and the Numidians, who were led by their king, Syphax.
Back in 213 B.C., Syphax had accepted help from the Romans and had appeared to be on their side. But with the Roman invasion of North Africa, Syphax felt less secure about his position, and when Hasdrubal Gisco offered him his daughter’s hand in marriage, the Numidian king switched sides, joining forces with the Carthaginians in the defense of North Africa.
Recognizing that this alliance put him at a disadvantage, Scipio sought to try and win Syphax back to his side by accepting his overtures for peace having connections with both sides, the Numidan king thought he was in a unique position to bring the two opponents together.
He proposed that both sides withdraw their armies from the other’s territory, which Hasdrubal Gisco accepted. Scipio, though, had not been sent to North Africa to settle for this type of peace, and when he realized that he would be unable to sway Syphax to his side, he began preparing for an attack.
Conveniently for him, during the negotiations, Scipio had learned that the Numidian and Carthaginian camps were made up of mostly wood, reed, and other flammable material, and — rather dubiously — he used this knowledge to his advantage.
He split his army in two and sent half to the Numidian camp, in the middle of the night, to light it on fire and turn them into blazing infernos of carnage. Roman forces then blocked all the exits from the camp, trapping the Numidians inside and leaving them to suffer.
The Carthaginians, who awoke to the terrible sounds of people being burned alive, rushed to their ally’s camp to help, many of them without their weapons. There, they were met by the Romans, who slaughtered them.
Estimates as to how many Carthaginians and Numidians casualties there were range from 90,000 (Polybius) to 30,000 (Livy), but no matter the number, the Carthaginians suffered greatly, versus Roman losses, which were minimal.
Victory at the Battle of Utica put Rome firmly in control in Africa, and Scipio would continue his advance towards Carthaginian territory. This, plus his ruthless tactics, left Carthage’s heart pounding, much like Rome’s had been as Hannibal paraded around Italy just a decade before.
Scipio’s next victories came at the Battle of the Great Plains in 205 B.C. and then again at the Battle of Cirta.
Due to these defeats, Syphax was ousted as the Numidian king and replaced by one of his sons, Masinissa — who was an ally of Rome.
At this point, the Romans reached out to the Carthaginian Senate and offered peace but the terms they dictated were crippling. They allowed the Numidians to take large swaths of Carthaginian territory and stripped Carthage of all their overseas petitions.
With this happening, the Carthaginian Senate was split. Many advocated accepting these terms in the face of complete annihilation, but those who wanted to continue the war played their final card — they called on Hannibal to return home and defend their city.
The Battle of Zama
Scipio’s success in North Africa had made the Numidians his allies, giving the Romans a powerful cavalry to use in confronting Hannibal.
On the flip side of this, Hannibal’s army — which, in the face of this danger in North Africa, had finally abandoned its campaign in Italy and sailed home to defend its homeland — still consisted mainly of veterans from his Italian campaign. In total, he had around 36,000 infantry which was bolstered by 4,000 cavalry and 80 Carthaginian war elephants.
Scipio’s ground troops were outnumbered, but he had about 2,000 more cavalry units — something that gave him a distinct advantage.
The engagement began, and Hannibal sent his elephants — the heavy artillery of the time — towards the Romans. But knowing his enemy, Scipio had trained his troops to deal with the fearsome charge, and this preparation paid off in heaps.
The Roman cavalry blew loud horns to scare the war elephants, and many turned back against the Carthaginian left wing, causing it to fall into disarray.
This was seized upon by Masinissa, who led the Numidian cavalry against that section of Carthaginian forces and pushed them off the battlefield. At the same time, though, the Roman forces on horseback was chased from the scene by the Carthaginians, leaving the infantry more exposed than was safe.
But, as they had been trained, the men on the ground opened up lanes amongst their ranks — allowing the remaining war elephants to move harmlessly through them, before reorganizing for march.
And with the elephants and cavalry out of the way, it was time for a classic pitched battle between the two infrantries.
The battle was hardfought each clang of a sword and smash of a shield shifted the balance between the two great powers.
The stakes were monumental — Carthage was fighting for its life and Rome was fighting for victory. Neither infantry was able to outdo the strength and resolve of their enemy.
Victory, for either side, seemed like a distant dream.
But just when things were at their most desperate, when nearly all hope was lost, the Roman cavalry — previously driven away from the fight — managed to outrun their opponent and turn around, back towards the battlefield.
Their glorious return came as they charged into the unsuspecting Carthaginian rear, crushing their line and breaking the stalemate between the two sides.
At last, the Romans had gotten the best of Hannibal — the man who had haunted them with years of battle and left thousands of their best young men dead. The man who had been on the brink of conquering the city that would soon rule the world. The man who seemed like he could not be defeated.
Good things come to those who wait, and now Hannibal’s army was destroyed some 20,000 men were dead and 20,000 captured. Hannibal himself had managed to escape, but Carthage stood with no more armies to summon and with no allies left for assistance, meaning the city had no choice but to sue for peace. This conclusively marks the end Second Punic War with a decisive Roman victory, the Battle of Zama must be considered one of the most important battles in ancient history.
The Battle of Zama was Hannibal’s only major loss during the entire war — but it proved to be the decisive battle the Romans needed to bring the Second Punic War (Second Carthaginian War) to a close.
The Second Punic War Ends (202-201 BC)
In 202 BC, after the Battle of Zama, Hannibal met Scipio in a peace conference. Despite the two generals’ mutual admiration, negotiations went south, according to the Romans, due to “Punic faith”, meaning bad faith. This Roman expression referred to the alleged breach of protocols which ended the First Punic War by the Carthaginian attack on Saguntum, Hannibal’s perceived breaches of what the Romans perceived as military etiquette (i.e., Hannibal’s numerous ambushes), as well as the armistice violated by the Carthaginians in the period before Hannibal’s return.
The Battle of Zama left Carthage helpless, and the city accepted Scipio’s peace terms whereby it ceded Spain to Rome, surrendered most of its warships, and began paying a 50-year indemnity to Rome.
The treaty signed between Rome and Carthage imposed a tremendous war indemnity on the latter city, limiting the size of its navy to just ten ships and forbidding it from raising any army without first getting permission from Rome. This crippled Carthaginian power and all but eliminated it as a threat to the Romans in the Mediterranean. Not long before, Hannibal’s success in Italy had given promise to a much more ambitious hope — Carthage, poised to conquer Rome and remove it as a threat.
In 203 BC Hannibal sailed his remaining army of some 15,000 men back home and the war in Italy was over. The fate of Carthage rested in Hannibal’s defense against Scipio Africanus. In the end, it was Rome’s might that was too great. Carthage struggled to overcome the logistical challenges of fighting a long campaign in enemy territory, and this reversed the advances made by Hannibal and led to the great city’s ultimate defeat. Although the Carthaginians would eventually lose the Second Punic War, for 17 (218 BC – 201 BC) years Hannibal’s army in Italy seemed invincible. His movement across the Alps, which so demoralized the Romans at the start of the war, would also capture the imagination of generations to come.
Hannibal remained a constant source of fear for Rome. Despite the treaty enacted in 201 BC, Hannibal was allowed to remain free in Carthage. By 196 BC he was made a ‘Shophet’, or chief magistrate of the Carthaginian Senate.
Hooray! You've discovered a title that's missing from our library. Can you help donate a copy?
- If you own this book, you can mail it to our address below.
- You can also purchase this book from a vendor and ship it to our address:
When you buy books using these links the Internet Archive may earn a small commission.
How the 1973 Battle of Versailles Changed the Course of Fashion History
The show hosted some of the most well-known designers in the world and boasted guests like Grace Kelly, Jane Birkin, and Josephine Baker. Here's the story of what went down when the fashion industry elite took over Versailles for a night.
Donna Karan called her &ldquothe mother of the industry.&rdquo Mussolini once reportedly called her &ldquoa bitch,&rdquo but that's neither here nor there. If there's one title fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert earned, it's &ldquolegend.&rdquo She created New York Fashion Week, the Met Gala, the International Best Dressed List, and the Coty Awards over the course of her iconic 75-year career.
But, arguably, Lambert's pièce de résistance was the Battle of Versailles fashion show, the day that American designers made the rest of the world feel their presence, arguably for the very first time.
The November 1973 event was made possible by the meeting of Lambert and Palace of Versailles curator Gerald Van der Kemp, who was seeking opportunities to fundraise for palace renovations. The once-immaculate compound of Louis XIV had seen better days and needed restorative work. Eleanor proposed a dinner and fashion show that would feature both French­ and American designers. At the time, the French were the only designers who seemed to matter in the industry. They were the couturiers, the trendsetters. Everyone else, Americans included, just followed their lead. So the narrative went until the Battle of Versailles.
The American representatives were Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, and Stephen Burrows. (Anne Klein was accompanied by her assistant, a 25-year-old Donna Karan). The French camp consisted of Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Christian Dior&rsquos Marc Bohan.
No one considered the possibility that the Americans could out-show the French.&ldquoEveryone thought this was a joke,&rdquo fashion expert Marcellas Reynolds told InStyle.
The day preceding the show was reportedly a bit of a mess for the Americans. The French were taking up all the rehearsal time, and working conditions in the decrepit palace were less than ideal. The American set designer had prepared using inches rather than centimeters, so the designers from the states were left with useless backdrops that didn&rsquot fit the space. There were also warring designer egos and a Halston tantrum that allegedly ended with both him and choreographer Kay Thompson walking out of the rehearsal. Liza Minnelli, who had come to perform during the show, saved the day by giving a rousing speech to the effect of &ldquothe show must go on.&rdquo
And go on it did&ndashwith Princess Grace of Monaco, Elizabeth Taylor, and Andy Warhol in attendance. Josephine Baker opened for the French, who proceeded to put on a two-and-a-half-hour performance. They had an orchestra, more than one live rhinoceros, and elaborate 17 th century-inspired sets. It was grandiose and opulent, but overly formal. The focus didn't seem to be on the clothes or the models, but on showing off the resources they put into the project. &ldquoThe French had a lot going on onstage but it was much more rooted in tradition and in history. They were aiming for something Marie Antoinette would have recognized,&rdquo The Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan told Harper&rsquos Bazaar.
If the French show had the stale energy of an antiquated opera house, the Americans&rsquo had the energized zing of a Broadway debut, in part thanks to Minnelli. One of Halston&rsquos closest friends, Minnelli had recently won an Oscar for her role in Cabaret. She was the common thread throughout the American show, opening and closing each of the five designers&rsquo segments. The lack of lavish sets emphasized the performances and, of course, the clothes. They utilized dramatic lighting and music, and had the models dancing and voguing. &ldquoThe American segment pulsed with the vibrancy of the groovy disco era, and a more liberated view of femininity,&rdquo Women&rsquos Wear Daily explains. Compared to the lengthy French segment, the Americans&rsquo 30-minute portion was so captivating that the audience threw their programs up in the air not once but twice.
The Americans were unanimously victorious. The next day&rsquos headline for Women&rsquos Wear Daily read, &ldquoAmericans came, they sewed, they conquered,&rdquo and the fashion world was permanently changed that snowy November night.
By many accounts, the Americans&rsquo inclusion of Black models like Pat Cleveland, Alva Chinn, Billie Blair, and Bethann Hardison was what put them over the edge. Their presence was surprising for the time, and they stole the show. According to Cleveland, the careers of many American models, and Black American models in particular, were set on an upward trajectory from that day forward. &ldquoAfter [Versailles] they couldn't get enough of those girls,&rdquo Cleveland told InStyle. &ldquoIt was mostly 7th Avenue girls that were coming to Europe after '73, and they were very welcomed. Things were changing. It all had to do with the music, dancing and the fun that people were having. It brought a liveliness to everything instead of just being in a couture house that was very silent ladies having tea and looking at girls walking around the room.&rdquo
&ldquoSo much of what happened at Versailles was really a reflection of the times,&rdquo Givhan, who authored a book about the event, said. &ldquoIt was a reflection of what was going on politically and socially in terms of race relations. The Americans emphasized ready-to-wear, sportswear, and fashion as a kind of entertainment and a women's freedom to choose her own style of dress.&rdquo