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Hannibal: Ancient Rome's Greatest Enemy


More of this Feature

• Part 2: The Making of Another War
• Part 3: Pressing the Advantage
• Part 4: Rome Fights On
• Part 5: The End of an Era

On This Site

• An Introduction to Ancient Rome
• 
Map of Hannibal's Invasion Route
• Ancient Rome Glossary

Part 1: Warrior from Birth

The name Hannibal struck fear into the hearts of a great many Romans for generations, both during his distinguished military career and after his death. His military genius and his ability to bring together diverse groups of people under a common banner and a common will have spawned legions of imitators and thousands of pages of analysis. He was born into military conflict and died as a result of one, a sad misfit in a land far, far away from his beloved home.

Young Hannibal was the son of Hamilcar Barca, the head of the Carthaginian Army. Carthage at that time was one of two dominant powers in the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Carthage was an old city, having been founded by the Phoenicians, an early people who expanded outward from the area that we now call the Middle East. The Phoenicians built ships and explored the Mediterranean, building colonies along the way. Carthage was one such colony. As the Phoenicians' power and influence waned, their colonies became self-sufficient. In the case of Carthage, the colony also became powerful.

Carthaginian ships sailed the Mediterranean, patrolling the waters and protecting the trade that poured forth from the busy seaports of Carthage. Many smaller cities and settlements paid tribute to Carthage rather than suffer at the hands of the war-like Carthaginians. One of the area's cities that didn't want to pay tribute to Carthage was Rome.

Rome and Carthage had clashed early on, in what came to be known as the Punic Wars. Rome had, for all practical purposes, won the First Punic War. It was during this war that Hamilcar Barca gained his hatred for Rome. He passed this hatred on to his son, who was in 247 B.C. The story goes that when Hannibal was very young, his father took him to a religious place and made him swear an oath on his very life and future happiness that he would always and forever be an enemy of Rome.

Next page > The Making of Another War > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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