A Matter of Hatred: The Myth of Hannibal's Oath

Did the young Hannibal swear an oath of hatred? Hannibal’s hatred of Rome is so well known that it has become proverbial and allusions to it abound in literature. How many times have we read that a character was possessed of “a hatred like Hannibal’s” or that “he hated with the intensity of Hannibal”? When hyperbole is sought, as in the description of Captain Ahab’s feelings toward the great white whale, we read that “his hatred was greater than Hannibal’s.” But is there actually any factual basis for this Hannibalic stereotype?

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The Trouble With Zama: Paradox, Smoke and Mirrors in an Ancient Battlefield

Elephants At The Battle Of Zama The second so-called Punic War between Carthage and Rome came to an end in 202 BCE. Rome had prevailed and a peace treaty was signed in 201 between the two Mediterranean powers, with heavy concessions and indemnity to be paid to the victor. The deciding factor, according to the classical record (composed almost exclusively of pro-Roman accounts, the Carthaginian reports having been conveniently lost or destroyed), was the Battle of Zama. Hannibal, probably the most brilliant military genius in history, after remaining unvanquished for 16 years on enemy land, facing overwhelming odds and receiving almost no reinforcements, was allegedly decisively defeated by the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio, who would be awarded the title Africanus in recognition of his great victory. Is this really what happened? A number of problems, inconsistencies, and paradoxes suggest otherwise.

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The Road to Zama: The Heroization of Scipio and the Betrayal of Massinissa

Scipio The battle of Zama, supposedly waged in North Africa in 202 BCE, between the armies of Hannibal Barca and the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio, was the final military engagement of the Second Punic War, and a decisive turning point in the history of the Mediterranean cultures and the rest of the world. The traditional accounts of the battle, based practically in their entirety on pro-Roman sources, paint a strange and highly unlikely picture of the conflict and its outcome. Let us first examine the reasons for the distortions presented by the classical record, and the circumstances leading up to the battle. In a following article I will attempt to reconstruct what actually happened on that fateful day, looking through what can only be characterized as smoke and mirrors in the standard sources.

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Propaganda War In The Roman World: The Demonizing of Hannibal and the Carthaginians

The Author At The Tophet During His 2006 Visit Carthage, the Queen of the Mediterranean, was founded by Phoenicians in 814 BCE, on the coast of what is now Tunisia. It grew to become a resplendent commercial metropolis, with multi-storied buildings, refulgent temples, libraries, marketplaces, and a glorious dual harbor, which was an architectural marvel for all to see. At its zenith it had a population that may have approached a million.

The Carthaginians were gifted sailors and talented merchants who came to dominate the ancient Mediterranean, in the process coming into conflict with the Greeks and later with the Romans. Athens was the maritime center of Greece, and a number of Greek colonies were established in Asia Minor, southern Italy, and Sicily, among others. Since the Carthaginians also had an interest in Sicily, a number of conflicts ensued between the navies and land forces of the two powers. As is typical in such confrontations, each side must have resented the other and described its adversaries in unflattering terms. The Greeks referred to the Carthaginians as greedy and faithless, and although the records and libraries of the latter were destroyed in 146 BCE, we can imagine that they applied reciprocal pejoratives to their Greek rivals.

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