Guest Post by Ben Kane
In the first third of the third century BC, Rome was a city state, with but a fraction of the power and influence it would wield in the centuries to come. Much of peninsular Italy had only come under its control within the previous couple of generations. Its first clash outside the mainland came with the city of Carthage, over the island of Sicily. The resulting bitter war lasted for 23 years, from 264-241 BC. Although the outcome could have been different on a number of occasions, it was Rome that emerged victorious.
The harsh terms imposed on Carthage made a second war between the two powers almost inevitable, and the Carthaginian to whom the job fell was Hannibal Barca. The son of a general who had fought in the first war, Hannibal was asked to swear ‘never to be a friend to Rome’ aged just eight or nine. In his mid-twenties, he inherited the command of a large, well trained army, and the control of a great section of central and southern Spain, he began preparing to take on the old enemy, the Roman Republic. It’s not certain what his aims were, but it seems that he wished to redress the wrongs done to Carthage at the end of the first war, and to reclaim its lost territories. In 219 BC, he was ready.
Knowing that Rome’s legions were occupied to the east of Italy, Hannibal attacked one of the Republic’s allies in Spain, a coastal city by the name of Saguntum. This opened hostilities, and he followed up the assault by leading a vast army (reputed to be 100,000 strong) from Spain into France, over the mighty Rhone river, reaching the Alps at the outset of winter. His plan was to invade Italy, and he chose the mountain route to avoid detection by the Romans. The price he and his men paid was terrible. His army, already shrunken by desertions and the locating of garrisons en route, was halved in number by the severe weather conditions.
It was fortunate for Hannibal that his genius was not confined to tactics. Recruiting thousands of local Gauls into his army, he inflicted a stinging defeat on the first Roman force sent to find him. Just over a year later, deep in mainland Italy, he repeated the victory in even more emphatic fashion, at Lake Trasimene. Rome still did not take him seriously, however. It took the annihilation of eight of their legions – almost the entire standing army – at a place called Cannae for the Republic’s rulers to recognize that Hannibal was a foe to be reckoned with. It was also at this low point that the Romans’ iron character was revealed. Their catastrophic losses would have made almost any people sue for peace. Instead, the Romans spurned Hannibal’s terms, and set about recruiting fresh armies.
Within three years, they had more than twenty legions in the field. Their numerical superiority, greater quality of soldiers and dogged determination combined to give them the advantage long term. Wary of Hannibal’s skill on the battlefield, they avoided direct confrontation with him and concentrated on defeating his allies elsewhere. It took more than a decade, but eventually Rome had defeated Hannibal’s allies, and seized control of its lost territory in Italy, as well as in Sicily and Spain. It was ready to invade Carthage. Recalled to his homeland by his rulers, who had so often neglected him, Hannibal struggled to form an army capable of fighting the experienced force brought from Sicily by Scipio ― a general who had learned his craft by studying Hannibal’s own methods.
The two armies faced one another on the plain of Zama in 201 BC. Scipio’s tactics and military superiority were more than a match for Hannibal. With his defeat, the war ended. Rome again imposed severe reparations upon Carthage, but even this was not enough to end the series of conflicts between the two states. A little over fifty years later, the Republic still felt threatened by Carthage, and instituted the grounds for a war. After a short three year campaign, Carthage was beaten for the last time. On this occasion, Rome made certain of its triumph by enslaving all Carthaginian survivors and razing the city to the ground. Rome would not be challenged in the same fashion for another five centuries and more.
Pub Date: May 27, 2014 | St. Martin's Press | eBook, Hardcover
As Rome rose to power in the 3rd century BCE there was only one real rival in the Mediterranean—Carthage. In the First Punic War, the Roman legions defeated and humiliated Carthage. Now Hannibal, a brilliant young Carthaginian general, is out for revenge.
Caught up in the maelstrom are two young boys, Hanno, the son of a distinguished soldier and confidant of Hannibal, and Quintus, son of a Roman equestrian and landowner. A disastrous adventure will see Hanno sold into slavery and bought by Quintus’s father. Although an unexpected friendship springs up between the two boys—and with Quintus’s sister, Aurelia—the fortunes of the two warring empires will tear them apart. In Ben Ken's Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, they find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict and an alliance forged through slavery will be played out to its stunning conclusion in battle.
About the AuthorBen Kane is a bestselling Roman author and former veterinarian. He was born in Kenya and grew up in Ireland (where his parents are from). He has traveled widely and is a lifelong student of military history in general, and Roman history in particular. He lives in North Somerset, England, with his family.
For more information please visit Ben Kane's website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
GiveawayPassages to the Past has two copies of Hannibal: Enemy of Rome up for grabs courtesy of the lovely people at St. Martin's Press! To enter, please complete the form below. Giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only and ends on July 11th.
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