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The Who's Who
Hannibal was a military general of the Carthagian Empire (situated in modern-day North Africa). He challenged the Romans every step of the way and even won several battles against them and their allies. However, the Carthagians lost the Punic war to the Romans, ending this great general's career. This war also determined who would rule the civilized world for the next 600 years!
The Early Days
Hannibal was born in 247 BC to Carthagian commander Hamilcar Barca. During this time, Carthage was involved in a losing war with Rome. After the war, the Carthagians lost several key territories including the province of Sicily. Little wonder then as to why Hannibal grew up hating Rome!
Gradually, Hamilcar started rebuilding the Carthagian Empire until his death in 229 BC, when Hasdrubal the Fair, who was a more sedated politician, came into power. However, he further strengthened the empire, by getting Hannibal married to a native Iberian princess.
After Hasdrubal's murder in 221, Hannibal was elected as commander by Carthagian soldiers in Iberia, and decision was also confirmed by the Carthagian government.
The young and aggresive commander walking in his late father's footsteps adopted aggressive policies and soon started capturing neighboring territories. While his political accumen was also quite remarkable, he was primarily known to be a hands-on leader, who would attack without consulting with his government. Thanks to his aggressive tactics, the Carthagians also beseiged Saguntum, which was a Roman ally. Rome couldn't do much about this, seeing as how it was involved in the Second Illyrian War at the time. The Romans were irked by this conquest and called for Hannibal's extradition by the Carthaginian government.
Hannibal's main strategy was to wear down his enemy's often superior infantry and then attack them with ambushes from the flanks. He put his smaller, yet more agile forces to full use in taking down the mighty Romans in several battles.
Three of Hannibal's greatest victories came against the Romans in the battles of Trebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae. In all these battles he captured strategic parts of the Roman Empire and made allies in Rome's enemies like he did with Philip V of Macedon.
Read about another Legendary Warrior--Alexander The Great--here.
Death and Legacy
However, several Italian city states did not align themselves with Hannibal, and soon his troops were left cornered. The Romans kept attacking his armies in short bursts. This deflated their spirits and after a fifteen year stalemate, Hannibal returned to Carthage.
Soon he was leading the Carthagians in the Battle of Zama against old rivals Rome. This time, however, Hannibal's tactics proved fruitless against a Roman cavalry that was much stronger than any he had ever faced before. The Carthagians lost about 20,000 men in this battle, while the Romans had 1,500 fatalities. This massive loss led to Hannibal's retirement.
But he soon re-emerged as a statesman, and again caught the attention of the Romans. This time they demanded his surrender. Fearing the worst, Hannibal went into exile, and continued to guide several armies in Middle-Eastern kingdoms over the next few years.
Somewhere around 183 BC the Romans started actively looking for Hannibal. Knowing they were getting closer, he finally consumed poison and ended his own life. There is some disparity over the year of his death, but it's believed to be some time between 183 BC and 181 BC.
Suffice to say, Hannibal was one of the first major threats to the Roman Empire. Historians have written extensively about how Hannibal taught the Romans the meaning of fear and even the Romans themselves built statues of Hannibal across their kingdom, in order to honor a worthy adversary.
Today, Hannibal is considered to be one of the greatest military leaders in history. His exploits and conquests still serve as case studies for budding military generals!
-Picture courtesy Thinkstock-
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