Punic Wars, Hannibal

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Classics 2029: Roman Republican History

Week 7 the Punic Wars (T.P.1)

Cormac Griffin: A1177407

What did the war against Hannibal reveal about the extent of Rome's control over Italy at the beginning of the second century B.C.?


Hannibal's invasion of Italy shook Rome to its very core. A series of crushing military defeats, culminating at Cannae in 216 B.C. with the death of 50,000 - 70,000 Roman and allied troops (see Polybius, Book III, 107-118), led a number of Rome's erstwhile allies to defect to the Carthaginian cause. As Toynbee notes "the immediate effect of the battle of Cannae was to split the Roman Commonwealth into two sections. One section seceded, while the other remained loyal" (Toynbee, 1965, 109). This essay argues that, particularly post-Cannae, the war against Hannibal revealed the impermanent confederacy Rome maintained over Italy at the beginning of the second century B.C. Based on an exploration of the roles of Rome's allies, however, it also argues that, while Roman control was demeaning, sometimes demanding and frequently abused, the significant majority of these allies remained unquestionably loyal to Rome and played a vital role in the Second Punic War.

When examining the Punic Wars, in particular the Second Punic War, there are two main sources of data, Polybius and Livy. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Livy's work was written over a hundred years after the war, is arguably biased and contains historical inaccuracies. Brunt has termed Livy's work, where it is not supported by Polybius, as mere "annalistic invention" (Brunt, 1971, 19). Polybius, in contrast, appears to be a more reliable source: for example, his work draws on conversations with surviving participants of the war, including the Numidian King Masinissa and Scipio Africanus' confidant Laelius. However, Polybius also has his detractors. As a Greek...