Quora Question: Why did Hannibal Hate the Romans

Hannibal’s father was Hamilcar Barca, the most effective general Carthage produced during the 23 year long First Punic War, 264 B.C. to 241 B.C. In 264 B.C. Carthage suffered a massive defeat at the naval battle of the Aegates Islands and sued for peace. Hamilcar Barca had been having some success against the Romans in Sicily and did not want to give up the Carthaginian cause, but the the treaty of Lutatius, a peace treaty on Roman terms, was implemented against his wishes. Hamilcar Barca continued to harbor a deep resentment against Rome. According to the Greek historian Polybius, this resentment was compounded by the underhanded way the Romans took over Sardinia and Corsica while the Carthaginians were occupied by a brutal mercenary rebellion.

Hamilcar Barca inculcated his three sons, Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and Mago, with his resentment of Rome. After defeating the mercenaries he went to Spain to develop a Carthaginian hegemony there, and he brought his nine year old son, Hannibal, with him. There is a story that before he left Carthage he took Hannibal to the Temple of Elissa and made him swear that the would always be an enemy to Rome. Hannibal grew up a child of the camp and learned all of the logistics and strategies of the military from an early age.

Hamilcar Barca was killed in a battle against the Carpetani, one of the larger tribes of Spain. His place was taken by his son-in-law, Hasdrubal the Fair. Hasdrubal apparently had no interest in conflict with Rome and attempted to conciliate the tribes. He even made an agreement with Rome that the Carthaginian sphere of influence would stop at the Iberus River, while the Romans would hold sway north of the river. After eight years, however, in 220 B.C., Hasdrubal the Fair was assassinated, in Hannibal was elected to take his place.

After subduing some of the Spanish tribes that were in rebellion against Carthage (including the Carpetani) Hannibal laid siege to the city of Saguntum, a Roman ally, knowing that the Romans would declare war against Carthage. After eight months the siege was successful and the city destroyed. In the spring of 218 B.C. Hannibal gathered up his forces and led them across the Pyrenees and then across the Alps into Italy.

Was it Hannibal’s intention to destroy the Roman state? Evidently not. After his tremendous victory at Cannae, Hannibal offered Rome peace terms. The terms would probably have been similar to those that ended the first Punic war, only this time, favoring the Carthaginians. He probably would have demanded that Rome abandon its holdings in Spain, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica and confine its military activities to the Italian Peninsula. He wanted Rome humiliated and defanged.

The Romans would not admit Hannibal’s emissary to the city, and, in fact, their Senate passed a law making it an offense even to mention the word “peace.”

After Cannae the Romans largely refrained from confronting Hannibal on the battlefield and the war became one of attrition. Rome produced its own military genius in the person of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, who, after clearing all of Spain of Carthaginian forces, invaded Africa and threatened Carthage. Carthage called Hannibal home and in 202 B.C. Scipio defeated him at the battle of Zama. Scipio granted Carthage peace on Roman terms.

Hannibal was allowed to stay in Carthage and, for a time became an influential politician there. He was elected Suffete in 196 B.C. and he tried to take measures against corruption. His anti-corruption measures offended the mercantile class and they appealed to Rome. The Romans sent a delegation to investigate and Hannibal, fearing the worst, fled Carthage and offered his services to Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire (Syria, Turkey, etc.)

When Rome, under the consulship of Scipio’s brother Lucius defeated Antiochus at the Battle of Magnesia in 190 B.C., one of the conditions of peace was that Antiochus surrender Hannibal. Hannibal, however, fled to Crete. During the next seven years he traveled from place to place in Greece and the Middle East. His last abode was in Bithynia at the palace of King Prusius. The Roman politician Titus Quinctius Flamininus demanded that Prusius surrender Hannibal to him, and rather than be taken to Rome in chains, Hannibal took poison that he kept in a ring. He was about sixty five years old.

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