Many people are familiar with the story of Hannibal the Great. He was a Carthaginian who was famous for crossing the Alps with elephants and soldiers in tow. To make such a massive trek really requires dedication. For Hannibal, his desire to overthrow Rome was so strong that he was not about to let a little thing like a mountain range stand in his way- but why? Part of his hatred lay in where he was from, and part came from who his father was.
Hannibal was from Carthage, a city-state that was located outside of where Tunis, Tunisia now stands. Over time, Carthage took control of some of the most economically powerful colonies in the area. The city-state became quite powerful as a result. Rome didn’t really enjoy having any rivals for power in the area and, in 509 BCE, signed a treaty with Carthage that divided both the political influence and the commercial activity in the area. Despite this division of power, Carthage managed to become the center of commerce in the Western Mediterranean region.
Rome let this stand until 24 BCE, when the First Punic War broke out. Although it was not strictly between Carthage and Rome, they were some of the major players in the conflict. Enter Hamilcar Barca, a general who led Carthaginian troops in later portions of the war. Hamilcar Barca was Hannibal’s father. By the time he got involved, the war had already been going on for some time. Hamilcar was a fairly brutal man. He punished any of the mercenaries that had rebelled by murdering, drowning or sending them away.
Hamilcar trained Hannibal to be his successor and instilled in him a deep suspicion of, and hatred for, Rome. Hannibal saw himself as taking up his father’s fight against Rome. There were many stories that came out of Carthage about how Hannibal had been groomed to take up the fight. Some state that he swore to the God Baal that he would continue to fight against Rome. It was said that the Carthaginians were willing to sacrifice their own nobly born sons in order to keep Rome from taking the city.
The Second Punic War began in 218 BCE, and involved Hannibal’s long, overland trek through the Alps with his troops and elephants. Although it is commonly known as a fight between Carthage and Rome, other parties were involved as well. Carthage, Syracuse, Macedon and other peoples who were located in the western Mediterranean were all involved in the conflict.
Hannibal managed to seize and hold control over a large portion of Italy for years but, in the end, Hannibal was defeated. The Battle of Zama took place in 202 BCE between forces led by Hannibal and Scipio. The elephants that Hannibal had brought so far turned out to be of little use in the battle. In the end, Hannibal’s troops were encircled and annihilated by the Roman troops. This forced Carthage to sue for peace and ultimately led to the destruction of Carthage itself.