Some Carthaginian Generals


Hannibal Barca (247 – c. 181 BC) at Cannae. Much has been said about the Battle of Cannae – an encounter which had resulted in the highest loss of human life in a single day in any battle recorded in history. In terms of sheer numbers, the bloody day probably accounted for over 40,000 Roman deaths (the figure is put at 55,000 by Livy; and 70,000 by Polybius), which equated to about 80 percent of the Roman army fielded in the battle! To put things into perspective, the worst day in the history of the British Army usually pertains to the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, where they lost around 20,000 men. But the male population of Rome in 216 BC is estimated to be around 400,000 (thus the Battle of Cannae possibly took away around 1/10th – 1/20th of Roman male population, considering there were also allied Italic casualties), while Britain had a population of around 41,608,791 (41 million) at the beginning of 1901, with half of them expected to be males. However objectively beyond just baleful numbers, the encounter in itself was a set-piece triumph for Hannibal, with the general’s strategy even dictating the very choice of the battlefield itself.
Cannae and its ruined citadel had long been used as a food magazine by the Romans with provisions for grain oil and other crucial items. Hannibal knew about this supply scope, and willfully made his army march towards Cannae (in June, 216 BC) for over 120 km from their original winter quarters at Gerunium. Interestingly, the camp of the Carthaginian army was just set above verdant agricultural fields with ripening crops – which could provide easy foraging to the snugly quartered troops. In other words, the chosen location and its advantages surely drummed up the morale of these soldiers, while strengthening their resolve and dedication for their commander. However at the same time, there was a more cunning side to Hannibal’s choice of Cannae – (possibly) unbeknownst to his army. That is because Rome was still dependent on the grain grown in native Italy (while seeking alternative grain supplies from Sicily), especially from the region of Apulia where Cannae was located. Simply put, the choice of Cannae was an intentional ploy to provoke the Romans to give direct battle – as opposed to the Fabian strategy of delaying. This once again alludes to Hannibal’s confidence and craftiness when it came to military affairs and logistics.

Hamilcar Barca (c. 275–228 BC) – Leader of the Barcid family and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. He was father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair. Barca means ‘thunderbolt’.

Hannibal (died 238 BC) – Took part in the Mercenary War between Carthage and rebel mercenaries. Not be confused with the more famous Hannibal Barca, son of Hamilcar Barca. During the Mercenary War, he took over from Hanno II the Great as a commander of the Carthaginian army. During the siege of Tunis, he was captured in a night raid and crucified, along with other high-ranking Carthaginians.

Hasdrubal the Fair (c. 270 BC–221 BC) – Governor in Iberia after Hamilcar Barca’s death and founder of Cartagena. He was the brother-in-law of Hannibal and son-in-law of Hamilcar Barca.

Adherbal (died 230 BC) – The admiral of the Carthaginian fleet during the First Punic War. He defeated Publius Claudius Pulcher in the Battle of Drepana in 249 BC.

Hanno II the Great (fl. third century BC) – Leader of the faction in Carthage opposed to continuing the war against Rome and opposed by Hamilcar Barca. He is blamed for preventing reinforcements reaching Hamilcar’s son Hannibal after his victory at the Battle of Cannae. Hanno stood down the Carthaginian navy in 244 BC, crucially allowing Rome time to rebuild its navy and finally defeat Carthage. After the Second Punic War, Hanno withheld payment to his Berber mercenaries, who revolted; Hanno took control of the Carthaginian army in order to defeat them, but he failed and returned the army to the control of Hamilcar. The two joined together to crush the rebels in 238 BC. After the defeat of Carthage at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC, he was among the ambassadors at the peace talks with the Romans.

Hannibal Barca (247 – c. 181 BC) – Son of Hamilcar Barca and generally considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. After the defeat of Carthage, Hannibal took refuge with Prusias I of Bithynia, who was at war with Rome’s ally, King Eumenes II of Pergamon. Hannibal served Prusias and on one occasion had large pots filled with poisonous snakes thrown into Eumenes’ ships. Under pressure from the Romans, Prusias gave him up, but Hannibal took poison at Libyssa on the Sea of Marmara; Hannibal had long carried the poison about with him in a ring. He left behind a letter that read, ‘Let us relieve the Romans from the anxiety they have so long experienced, since they think it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man’s death.’

Hasdrubal II (245–207 BC) – Hamilcar Barca’s second son and the brother of the famous general Hannibal, and of Mago. When Hannibal crossed the Alps to Italy in 218 BC, Hasdrubal was left in command of Hispania. For the next six years, he would be embroiled in fighting against the brothers Gnaeus and Publius Cornelius Scipio. In 207 BC, he was trounced at the Battle of the Metaurus, where he was killed. His corpse was beheaded, the head put in a sack and thrown into Hannibal’s camp.

Mago (243–203 BC) – Third son of Hamilcar Barca, he was influential in the Second Punic War, with commands in Hispania, Gallia Cisalpina and Italy. He excelled himself at Lake Trasimene and Cannae. Mago lives on with us to this day: on Menorca he founded the city today called Port Mahon, which has given its name to the sauce known as mayonnaise.

Hasdrubal Gisco (died 202 BC) – Fought against Rome in Hispania and North Africa during the Second Punic War. Livy describes him as ‘the best and most distinguished general this war produced after the three sons of Hamilcar.’¹ Elsewhere, Livy quotes Fabius Maximus, who described Hasdrubal as ‘a general who showed his speed chiefly in retreat.’² He was an able diplomat and raised three large armies, in Iberia and in Africa, after heavy defeats.

Hasdrubal Beotarch – A general during the Third Punic War. Hasdrubal was in command at the Siege of Carthage in 146 BC, where he was defeated by Scipio Aemilianus and lost the war to the Romans. According to Polybius, Hasdrubal’s wife and two sons hurled themselves into a burning temple on news of the defeat and Hasdrubal’s surrender to the Romans. He was taken to Rome and paraded at Scipio’s triumph, but was later allowed to live in Italy.

Hanno – Son of Hannibal, and a general during the First Punic War (264 to 241 BC). Hanno was sent to relieve Hannibal Gisco who was holed up under siege at Agrigentum. Hanno concentrated his troops at Heraclea Minoa and captured the Roman supply base at Herbesos. He duped the Romans when he ordered his Numidian cavalry to attack the Roman cavalry and then feign retreat. The Romans pursued the Numidians as they retreated, only to find themselves face-to-face with the main Carthaginian column, which inflicted heavy casualties. The siege lasted several months before the Romans won the day and forced Hanno to retreat.

2 thoughts on “Some Carthaginian Generals

  1. “seeking alternative corn supplies from Sicily” (SIC) Sir; being the maize originating from Central America, how could it have existed in Sicilia at that time?


  2. “Corn” referenced in these times did not refer to the modern corn. Rather, it was grain, such as wheat.

    What we know as corn is indeed a New World product, as are potatoes, tomatos, chocolate, and tobacco.


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