Quora Question: Did Carthaginian Senators Fell that Hannibal Invited the Wrath of Rome on its People. Were It Not For Hannibal Would Carthage Have Survived?

Carthaginian Senators were very much divided as to whether they should support Hannibal in the war against Rome. Initially the Barca faction was very strong and their adversary, Hanno the Great was very much in the minority.

Hanno strongly opposed the war. When a delegation of Romans descended on Carthage to protest the siege of Saguntum, he is quoted as saying “It is against Carthage that Hannibal is now moving his vineae and towers. It is Carthage that he is shaking with his battering ram. The ruins of Saguntum (oh that I may be a false prophet!) will fall on our heads and the war commenced against the Saguntines must be continued against the Romans. Shall we therefore deliver up Hannibal (as the Romans demanded)? In what relates to him I am aware that my authority is of little weight on account of my enmity with his father. But I rejoice that Hamilcar perished, for this reason, that had he lived we should now have been engaged in a war with the Romans; and this youth, as the fury and firebrand of this war, I hate and detest! I therefore give my opinion, that ambassadors be sent immediately to Rome to satisfy the Senate, other to tell Hannibal to lead his army away from Saguntum, and to deliver Hannibal himself according to the treaty (of Lutatius) to the Romans: and I propose a third embassy to make restitution to the Saguntines.”

Obviously, Hanno was much in the minority in the Carthaginian Senate and the delegation ended with a declaration of war.

We see Hanno again three years later after the Battle of Cannae. Some 55,000 Romans and allies had died on the battlefield, and the day after the battle Hannibal sent his men among the bodies to collect the gold signet rings worn by upper class Roman soldiers. They collected over two hundred of them and put them in an urn. Some months later Hannibal sent his brother Mago back to Carthage to drum up support for the war. Mago dramatically poured the gold signet rings out on the floor of the Carthaginian Senate.

One of the strongest Barca supporters, one Himilco, 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 and replied “I would have preferred to remain silent upon this occasion and not seek to 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 he 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 best 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 more 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.”

As before, Hanno’s faction was very much in the minority in the Carthaginian Senate and they voted to send substantial assistance to Hannibal. Most of this assistance,, however was diverted to Spain because Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal had lost a major battle at Dertosa, and the Carthaginians feared that they might lose their province in Spain and the massive silver mines it contained. They sent two armies of 25,000 soldiers each to Spain under Mago and Hasdrubal Son of Gisco, and Hannibal received only a token force of 4000 Numidians and 20 elephants. This would be the last assistance Hannibal would receive for the remainder of the war, either because the Carthaginian Senate didn’t authorize it or because the Romans were diligent in preventing it’s arrival.

Hanno’s faction no doubt gained in strength as the war went on, but probably never became a majority in the Carthaginian Senate.

As to the question of whether Rome would have destroyed Carthage if there had been no Hannibalic invasion, I suspect that the answer is no. Carthage would have remained an economic rival to Rome, and it is entirely possible that there would have been some conflict in the future, but the impetus to destroy the city would have been absent. The move to destroy Carthage was largely instigated by Cato the Elder (“Cartago delenda est!”) and he probably wouldn’t have come to prominence without the Second Punic War.

If interested in the Second and Third Punic Wars, read my historical novels The Death of Carthage, In the Wake of Hannibal and The Last Carthaginian. The are available on Amazon and Kindle.

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