Hannibal's Road The Second Punic War in Italy 213 203 BC

Many books have been written on the Second Punic War and Hannibal in particular but few give much space to his campaigns in the years from 213 203 BC' Most studies concentrate on Hannibal's series of stunning victories in the early stages of the war culminating at Cannae in 216 BC then refocus on the activities of his nemesis Scipio Africanus in Spain until the two meet in the final showdown at Zama But this has led to the neglect of some of the Carthaginian genius' most remarkable campaigns By 212 the wider war was definitely going against the Carthaginians Yet Hannibal despite being massively outnumbered and with little support from home was able to sustain his polyglot army and campaign actively across southern Italy for another ten years His skilful manoeuvring and victory in numerous engagements kept several veteran armies of the normally aggressive Romans tied up and on the defensive until Scipio's invasion of North Africa pulled him home to defend Carthage Mike Roberts follows the course of these remarkable events in detail analysing Hannibal's strategy and aims in this phase of the war and revealing a genius that had lost none of its lustre in adversityMany books have been written on the Second Punic War and Hannibal in particular but few give much space to his campaigns in the years from 213 203 BC' Most studies concentrate on Hannibal's series of stunning victories in the early stages of the war culminating at Cannae in 216 BC then refocus on the activities of his nemesis Scipio Africanus in Spain until the two meet in the final showdown at Zama But this has led to the neglect of some of the Carthaginian genius' most remarkable campaigns By 212 the wider war was definitely going against the Carthaginians Yet Hannibal despite being massively outnumbered and with little support from home was able to sustain his polyglot army and campaign actively across southern Italy for another ten years His skilful manoeuvring and victory in numerous engagements kept several veteran armies of the normally aggressive Romans tied up and on the defensive until Scipio's invasion of North Africa pulled him home to defend Carthage Mike Roberts follows the course of these remarkable events in detail analysing Hannibal's strategy and aims in this phase of the war and revealing a genius that had lost none of its lustre in adversityMany books have been written on the Second Punic War and Hannibal in particular but few give much space to his campaigns in the years from 213 203 BC' Most studies concentrate on Hannibal's series of stunning victories in the early stages of the war culminating at Cannae in 216 BC then refocus on the activities of his nemesis Scipio Africanus in Spain until the two meet in the final showdown at Zama But this has led to the neglect of some of the Carthaginian genius' most remarkable campaigns By 212 the wider war was definitely going against the Carthaginians Yet Hannibal despite being massively outnumbered and with little support from home was able to sustain his polyglot army and campaign actively across southern Italy for another ten years His skilful manoeuvring and victory in numerous engagements kept several veteran armies of the normally aggressive Romans tied up and on the defensive until Scipio's invasion of North Africa pulled him home to defend Carthage Mike Roberts follows the course of these remarkable events in detail analysing Hannibal's strategy and aims in this phase of the war and revealing a genius that had lost none of its lustre in adversity


4 thoughts on “Hannibal's Road The Second Punic War in Italy 213 203 BC

  1. says:

    While Hannibal’s three great victories in Italy are well known and so is the war in Spain through the career of his nemesis Scipio and the final phase of the war in Africa this book picks and deals with a little known period of the Second Punic War It focuses on the events and campaigns in Italy following the Roman disaster of Cannae so after 216 given the book’s contents and not 213 as indicated on the cover to the recall of Hannibal to Africa some twelve years later in 203 BC and makes a number of fascinatingWhile Hannibal is justly famous for his crushing victories at Trebbia Lake Trasimene and Cannae his ability to stay in the field represent a constant threat and mobilise against him between eight and eleven Roman legions plus an equivalent number of Roman allies at therefore at least three times the strength of his own army for so long against him is often overlooked This and the numerous battles and victories that were accumulated during this period well deserve to be brought to light as yet another of Hannibal’s achievement and military genius and this is precisely what Mike Roberts has achieved with his bookA related point that the author discusses convincingly is Hannibal’s strategy The purpose of the invasion of Italy as other authors such as Dexter Hoyos have also made clear was two fold One was to pre empt a Roman invasion of Africa with Rome making use of his naval supremacy to land a sea born expeditionary force sailing from Sicily to threaten Carthage directly This was in fact what Rome was planning at the outbreak of the war and what Hannibal’s own invasion of Italy managed to prevent for than fifteen years The second component of the invasion of Italy was not – and probably never to storm Rome but to break its alliances and set up rival confederations against it This started well with the recently subdued Gallic tribes of North Italy eager for revenge and siding with Hannibal However Etruria and Latium central Italy did not side with the Carthaginian general although Capua some of the Samnites The Bruttians and a number of Greek cities of the south of the peninsula didAs well shown throughout the book Hannibal’s problem after Cannae and increasingly after the capture of Syracuse to the Romans was that time was against him Despite his talent his ability to keep larger Roman forces at bay his ability to replenish his army with reinforcements recruited in southern Italy and a few reinforcements he was regularly outnumbered and under pressure from three or four Roman armies against his single army of veterans Little by little he was hemmed in forced to give ground and unable to be everywhere at the same time and face several attacks simultaneouslyAnother interesting feature is the descriptions of the various campaigns and battles with Hannibal mostly able to choose his battles and defeat his opponents during the earlier years but being forced to retreat extricate his army and cut his losses as time when be Contrary to popular knowledge he was not undefeated There were at least a couple of encounters where he was bested and in one of these while badly defeated his talent allowed him to retreat and preserve most of his armyA further valuable element relates to the Roman commanders Fabius “the Delayer” and the somewhat rash Metellus – the conqueror of Syracuse and one of the only Roman generals to survive a battle with Hannibal without his army being destroyed although he who latter be ambushed and killed by Hannibal’s cavalry along with his fellow consul deserve some of the credit in neutralising Hannibal However Caius Claudius Nero an ancestor of the infamous Emperor of the same name also deserves part of the credit He was instrumental in defeating Hannibal in a couple of encounters forcing him to retreat south He then daringly tricked Hannibal and rushed north to support his colleague against Hasdrubal’s army and played a major role in his defeat and demise in 207Also part of this book are two episodes that are much less frequently found in other books about the Second Punic War One is about Mago’s another of Hannibal’s brother who had been operating in Spain landing and campaigns in Liguria and north Italy between 205 and 203 BC following the loss of Spain to Scipio and his army and its ultimate failure Another is about the last years of Hannibal in the eastern Mediterranean and in particular his role as a naval commander during the war of Antiochus III the Seleucid King against Rome in 191 190 BCThere are however a few little issues with this book essentially about form It is rather compact as if the author tried to cram in as much content as possible within limited space the main text is some 250 pages long This and the numerous repetitions that it contains make it at times somewhat difficult to read Although it is certainly worth the effort and deserves four strong stars I could not help feeling that better and thorough editing would have further improved the book’s value