Hannibal: Defeat of a Superior Commander

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Roman history is filled with bloody wars and great military victories and losses. One of the most important of these wars was the Second Punic War fought between Rome and the Carthaginian armies led by Hannibal. Although Hannibal was a superior commander who marched his army to the gates of Rome, crushing all opposition along the way, he was ultimately unable to win the war due to political, economic and geographical reasons. Although he could not, in the end, overcome these factors to conquer Rome, Hannibal is considered one of the greatest military commanders of all time, and his tactics are still studied today.

Hannibal’s genius starts with his basic invasion plan of the Italian Peninsula. His idea was to invade Italy from the north instead of through Sicily from the south, by marching from the Iberian Peninsula through Gaul and the Alps. Although this plan became semi-apparent when Hannibal besieged and conquered the Northern Spanish city of Saguntum, it is still an important tactical move (Salmon, 133).

Carthage had a long tradition of naval supremacy and it would have been tempting for Hannibal to transport his armies to Italy by invading Sicily, but he realized that would be foolish because the Romans held local naval supremacy along the western Mediterranean near Italy (Salmon, 132). Another reason for not attacking by sea was that the war ships of the time needed many ports and landing areas, which Carthage did not hold in that area, therefore making a naval landing nearly impossible (Smith, 110).

Another clever aspect of Hannibal’s invasion plan was in recruiting local people into his army along the way. Hannibal knew that various tribes of Gauls disliked the Romans and would take up arms if they were given the right opportunity, so he gave them that opportunity (Salmon,