Hannibal and the Punic Wars: Synopsis and Historical Background

Hannibal Carthage was founded by Phoenicians in 814 BCE, on the coast of what is now Tunisia. It grew to become a resplendent commercial metropolis with a glorious dual harbor—an architectural marvel for all to see. At its zenith its population may have approached a million. Contrary to popular myth and the fantasies of Flaubert in Salammbo, the Carthaginians did not engage in child sacrifice. The tophet in Carthage was a cemetery for children, but recent research by M. H. Fantar and others has revealed that the bones are of children of various ages, including many fetal remains, with no evidence that they were sacrificed—clearly the result of the infant mortality of the times. (More in another article.)

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Hannibal: Challenging The Classical Record

Hannibal History is written by the victors. Nowhere is this dictum truer than in the case of the three wars waged between Carthage and Rome (264-241, 218-201, and 149-146 BCE). Even the name by which these conflicts are known reflects a Roman bias: Punic Wars. Surely historians in the maritime and mercantile city-state of Carthage would have referred to the conflicts as Roman Wars. As it is, historical records that were produced by the Carthaginian side have been totally obliterated or lost, and most of what we have was penned by pro-Roman sources. Of these sources, the two most important ones are the accounts of Polybius and Livy (Titus Livius).

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