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Human history was shaped by various struggles that have been fought by many. Nonetheless, these very same struggles became the root cause for the rise of innumerable wars that served as the measure of strength for millions of men and the establishment of vast empires that culminated history. While many shed blood to win these conquests, only a handful have mastered the art of war itself, and only a limited few were able to make it within the records of history because of their exemplary courageousness and brilliant military strategies.
Hannibal Barca of Carthage is perhaps one of the greatest leaders of the ancient world to have lived.
At a time when the Romans have established themselves as the most dominant empire, boasting the most powerful military forces within the ancient world, Hannibal waged his own war against this empire that he even dared to fight in the lands of the enemies. His visionary conduct of warfare, alongside his charisma and cavalry, enabled him and his men to sustain a fifteen-year battle against the Romans, culminating the so called “Punic Wars,” which to date is considered as one of the monumental military feats in ancient history (Schaeffer).
At a very young age, Hannibal’s father, Hamilcar Barca who himself was a top general in Carthage, familiarized the young lad with the art of war; encouraging him to anticipate his future role as a warrior to his homeland. By the age of nine, Hannibal accompanied his father in their campaign against the Romans in Spain, which is known as the first Punic War.
Prior to the commencement of the said war, Hannibal took an oath to his father and the other officers that he would renew the war against Rome at the right time.
This promise was marked in the minds of the witnesses that they were determined to see Hannibal remaining true to his words. During the initial stages of the First Punic War the Carthaginians defeated the Romans under the leadership of Hamilcar. However, during the latter stages of the battle, specifically during the fight at the Aegates Islands, the Carthaginians were beaten by the Romans to the extent that they were forced to request for peace. Hence, the Romans and the Carthaginians were able to reach a compromise, which left the Romans control over Sicily and the Carthaginians indebted to their sworn enemy (Kjeilen).
By 221 B. C. , Hannibal, who is already in his mid-twenties, found the opportunity to fulfill his oath. Had he been denied the position in the Carthaginian military, he might have not waged his own war against the Romans. However, right after the death of his brother-in-law, Hannibal assumed the highest position in the Carthaginian army, which was strongly agreed upon by the Carthaginian government (“Hannibal”). Prior to the opening of the Second Punic War, Hannibal’s military genius have already surfaced during previous battles.
At the close of the First Punic War, Hannibal spearheaded an attack against the nations that surrounded the city of Saguntum. With the said attack Hannibal violated the treaty that the Carthaginians had with the Romans. One thousand men were sent in order to put an end to Hannibal’s attacks. However, the young commander learned such strategy as he was approaching the Tagus River, that he strategically commanded a large number of his men to hide by the riverbank, while the remainder proceeded to walk with him towards the water so as to give the enemy an impression that they were retreating.
By the time that the enemies were heading on the deep portions of the river, Hannibal and his infantry charged the troops, decimating the enemies to the river. Hannibal, on the other hand, crossed the river to reroute their enemies towards their side, which gave the Carthaginians the opportunity to finish the battle with victory on their side. Such strategy was also used by Hannibal during their attempt in crossing the Rhone on their march towards Italy, where they have fought against a group of Gauls who were the allies of Romans.
Similar with the battle they have encountered at the Tagum River, the enemies were caught off-guard by Hannibal’s superior tactics, thereby giving them the advantage of entering Italy (Schaeffer). Despite the pertained military success, it is perhaps with conviction that Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps as the greatest achievement he had in terms of his tactical capabilities. Bringing in with him “38,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry,” (Prevas, 151 qtd. in Schaeffer n. p. ) “and 37 elephants” (Morris 97 qtd in Schaeffer n. p. , Hannibal chose the route of Alps to penetrate Italy at the earliest time possible and to avoid the Roman army headed by Consul Cornelius Scipio, who was in pursuit of Hannibal’s unit. Instead of taking a more direct path, Hannibal took precautionary measures by leading his men toward a circuit of routes in Rhone. The tactic worked, that Scipio and his men abandon their pursuit, while Hannibal was left with his own devices despite the deadly chasms, frozen peaks and snows that he and his army were about to confront.
Though Hannibal was not able to engage with Scipio’s army, his knowledge about terrains was put to test when his army encountered hostile natives that are blocking several mountain pass in the Alps. Through observation, Hannibal noticed that the mountain men were guarding critical points of the mountain for a certain period of time, and abandons their positions during the evening. Based from what he observed Hannibal ordered some of his men to build campfires and tents at fortified positions to give the impression that they were just camping, while a large faction of his army were ordered to position themselves near the pass.
As the mountain men descended, they eventually found Hannibal’s troops who were about to take their positions. Hence, they attacked the Carthaginians without knowing the exact number of the army awaiting them. Hannibal and his army eventually defeated the mountain men, giving them continuity to their journey of defeating the Romans (Schaeffer). After fifteen days spent in crossing the Alps, Hannibal lost numerous men. However, this did not stop him from overtaking various settlements within the range of Alps, and made allies with other nations.
By the time he met various officers of the Roman army, Hannibal used the strategies he applied from the past, giving him the edge against the likes of Scipio, Sempronius Longus and Flaminius. His decisive kills against his enemies gained him great deal of attention and support from other people in order to continue the campaign he stood forth against the Romans (Schaeffer). The last greatest victory won by Hannibal was during the Battle of Cannae. Though outnumbered by more than 30,000 men, Hannibal employed his old strategies in order to defeat both Consuls Aemilius and Varro.
On the early parts of the battle, the Carthaginian commander sent a large number of his troops to the Roman frontlines. As the men threw their shields and weapons towards the Romans; they were eventually ignored to a point that the enemies kept a light guard over their attacks. However, as the fight at the forefront ensues, the remaining Carthaginians each possessed daggers and eventually launched attacks towards the consular army from behind, causing the defeat of the Romans and mortally wounding Consul Aemilius.
In this final battle, in Italy Hannibal was able to cement his dominance over the Romans in terms of military tactics. More so, his unprecedented success in Italy left a great fear over the Romans, to an extent that their morale decreased. After the battle in Cannae, a general known as Scipio the younger assumed the position as the Roman general. His skills were equated with that of Hannibal during his younger years. In this respect, the Romans once again regained their position as the strongest military force in the ancient world after they defeated the Carthaginians; eventually ending the Second Punic War.
From the given perspectives, it is apparent that Hannibal is indeed a military genius, which earned him the title of the “Father of military strategy. ” With the epic battles he waged against the enemies, it could be said that he changed the conventional military strategies used during the ancient period. His knowledge about winning wars was ahead of his time, that to date his battles are glorified in the military history. Because of his contributions in the field of military strategy, his noteworthy Carthaginian accounts earned him the respect not only of his people but of his enemies as well.
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