Why the Carthaginian Senate Gave So Little Assistance to Hannibal.

There were two reasons for this.

First, the Carthaginians were divided about Hannibal’s activities and there was a faction in their Senate, led by Hanno the Great, who were not supportive of the war. They were clearly a minority after Cannae.

After the battle of Cannae, Hannibal’s brother Mago returned to Carthage bearing an urn containing over 200 gold signet rings taken from the dead bodies of Roman aristocrats who perished at the battle of Cannae. He poured them out on the floor of the Carthaginian Senate. He addressed the Senate pleading for more men and materiel to be sent to Hannibal in Italy.

Shouts of jubilation filled the senate house and nearly everyone cheered Mago’s words loud and long. Only old Hanno the Great sat silent and unsmiling. Finally, when the cheering died down, Himilco, a strong supporter of the Barca faction, turned to face Hanno and shouted “What now, Hanno? Do you still regret that we chose Hannibal as our military leader? Do you still regret that we started this war?”

Hanno rose. “I would have preferred to remain silent upon this occasion and not spoil your joy at these tidings Mago brings, but since Himilco calls upon me to answer, it would be rude and haughty of me not to make my opinion known. Yes I still regret that we made Hannibal our military leader, and yes, I still do regret that we have started this war. You are asking for money, supplies and reinforcements, the same things you would be asking for if you had been defeated, rather than victorious. Let me ask a question of you, Mago. You say that many of the peoples of Italia have revolted against Rome. Tell me, have any of the thirty-five tribes of Latium deserted the Roman cause?

“No,” replied Mago.

“That means that Rome still has considerable reserves of loyal allies to draw upon for its armies. One other question: Has Rome sent any emissaries to sue for peace?”

“No,” Replied Mago.

“Then we are still at war, the same as we were when Hannibal’s army first entered Italia. These victories change nothing. How often victory shifted in the previous war, as many of us are alive to remember. Never did our fortunes seem more favorable on land and sea than they did before the consulships of Gaius Lutatius and Aulus Postumius, but in the consulships of Lutatius and Postumius we were utterly defeated off the Aegates Islands.

“The fortunes of war can change drastically, and I say that now is the time to restore peace, when we are at the height of victory and can make a peace favorable to ourselves. I say that rather than send supplies, gold and mercenaries to Hannibal, we put a stop to this war now. Otherwise we will regret it someday, when the Romans get the upper hand.”

Secondly, despite the opposition of Hanno the Great , the Carthaginian Senate did decide to send substantial supplies, gold and mercenaries to Hannibal, but events in Spain drastically altered their plans. Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal lost a major battle at Dertosa and the Carthaginians feared that Spain, where they possessed a rich colony and very lucrative gold and silver mines, would be conquered by the Romans, so rather than sending the bulk of their reinforcements to Hannibal, they sent them to Spain instead. Hannibal only received token assistance, and after 215 B.C. Rome’s control of the Mediterranean was such that he  received virtually nothing  from Carthage.

If interested in the Carthaginian side of the Second Punic War, read my novel In the Wake of Hannibal. It is available on Amazon and Kindle.

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