Nearly 500 years after Romulus and Remus founded Rome, it started to become one of the earliest empires. By 264 B.C. Rome controlled all of Italy and became a regional power to the Mediterranean. On the opposite side of the sea, the city-state Carthage, boasted the strongest navy controlling much of the Mediterranean Sea.
Carthage near present-day Tunis, North Africa flexed its naval superiority by barring all Roman trade in the Western Mediterranean. Even with a heavily outmatched navy, Rome took to war invading Sicily and Corsica beginning the 1st Punic War that went on to last 23 years ending without a decisive victory but an exchanging of territories.
13 years later territorial posturing on both sides led to the 2nd Punic War. In 218 B.C. the Carthaginian general Hannibal attacked Rome via the Iberian Peninsula and the Gallic coast. Crossing the Alps and leading his army into central Italy, Hannibal then ran wild over the Romans for 17-years until being called back to Carthage and ending the occupation.
The 3rd Punic War in 149 B.C. ended the 80-year scuffle where the Roman general Scripio the Younger attacked Carthage. There he destroyed the city of Carthage burning it to the ground. This enabled Rome to turn Africa into another Providence of the Empire and cement their footing as a world power.
The Carthaginian hero of the 2nd Punic War was their General Hannibal. The son of Hamilcar Barca, who led the army during the 1st Punic War as the main Carthaginian commander. When Hannibal was a young boy his father led the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, present day Spain. Hannibal begged his father let him to join conquest and legend notates that Hamilcar made his son swear he’d never be a friend to Rome. During the occupation Hamilcar died by drowning during the expansion into Hispania and Hannibal’s brother in law Hasdrubal took command but was later assassinated. At the age of 26, Hannibal then took command of the Carthaginian army in 221 B.C.
As a test of leadership Rome pushed the boundaries of their treaty making alliances with city-states within the Carthaginian controlled boundaries of Hispania. Hannibal in response marched his armies across southern Gaul primed to attack Rome thus starting the 2nd Punic War. Instead of attacking by sea or the obvious southern boarder Hannibal chose to take 40,000 infantrymen, 8,000 cavalrymen, and 38 elephants over the Alps mountains. A treacherous journey resulting in numerous lost lives but placing the Carthaginian army in central Italy by complete surprise.
In the Roman heartland, Hannibal bypassed attacking the city of Rome knowing that he lacked the proper siege weapons to raze the city. He also understood that he would have to transverse the Italian marshes surrounding the city that were notorious for pinning armies and spreading malaria. Hannibal chose to face the most hazardous conditions rather than the certainty of meeting his opponents in position of their own choosing. In turn, he unleashed the Carthaginian army across central Italy as bait luring the Roman army into a battlefield of his choosing.
In 216 B.C. the Carthaginian army seized the supply depot at Cannae. Placing his army between the Romans brought the opposition to the field of battle. Paying attention to the Roman’s aggressiveness Hannibal crafted the strategy to use the center of his forces to lead the defense while maintaining his flanks in a maneuver that resembled an upside-down U. The Romans engaged while the center forces methodically retreated. The Romans committed the error of aggressively attempting to route the Army. They committed the bulk of their Army to the attack. The upside-down U of Carthaginian Troops then turned into a U. The Roman forces were quickly surrounded in a double envelopment and annihilated.
The 2nd Punic War eventually turned into a war of attrition. The Carthaginians eventually left Rome to address internal issues. Following, the Romans applied the lessons learned at the hands of Hannibal. Starting a 3rd Punic War and ending it quickly. Later they absorbed the remnants of the former Carthaginian Empire. Two millennium later Theodore Doge named Hannibal the Father of strategy. For Rome learned from his painful teachings and the world has never been the same since.
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