Why Did Rome Win the Second Punic War

There were several reasons.

After the Battle of Cannae in which some 55,000 Romans and allies were killed, the Romans largely stopped confronting Hannibal in set piece battles and the war became one of attrition. The Romans concentrated on gaining back the territories that went over to Hannibal after the Battle of Cannae. They successfully laid siege to Capua, and took Tarentum by a ruse. They persuaded Arpi to return to their alliance. By 206 B.C. they had clawed back all of Italian territory except for Bruttium where Hannibal kept a base.

In 215 B.C., a year after the Battle of Cannae, Hannibal’s brother Mago returned to Carthage bearing an urn full of over 200 gold signet rings taken from wealthy Romans who had fallen at Cannae. In a dramatic gesture he poured these out onto the floor of the Carthaginian Senate. He then asked the Senators to appropriate men and materiel to reinforce Hannibal. The Senate did authorize this assistance, but as fate would have it, Hannibal’s brother, Hasdrubal, was soundly defeated by Gneius and Publius Scipio at the battle of Dertosa in Spain. Fearing that they might lose their very wealthy colony in Spain with it’s massive silver mines, the Carthaginians diverted this assistance to Spain, sending two armies of 25,000 each to Spain under Mago and Hasdrubal Son of Gisco. Hannibal received only a token force of 4000 Numidian mercenaries and 20 elephants. After that, Hannibal received virtually no assistance from Carthage, either because the Carthaginian Senate didn’t authorize it or because the Romans were diligent in preventing its delivery.

In the meantime the Romans developed a military genius of their own-Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, the son of the above mentioned Scipio. The elder Scipio and his brother Gneius perished in the Battles of the Upper Baetis in 211 B.C. The younger Scipio, aged 25, then volunteered to take command of the Roman legions in Spain and was elected to that position by all of the centuries. The first thing he did when he got there was march 25,000 legionaries down to New Carthage (modern Cartagena) and conquer the city, depriving Carthage of their best port, their treasury, a lot of weapons and grain, and their hostages. He sent the hostages back to their tribes and was thus able to make alliances with many of the tribes of Spain which had hitherto been allied with Carthage.

Scipio fought and won two major battles with the Carthaginians, the Battle of Baecula and the Battle of Ilipa, and within four years he cleared Spain of all Carthaginian military forces.

After his defeat at the Battle of Baecula in 208 B.C., Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal assembled an army and marched it over the Alps with the intention of joining up with Hannibal. Once in Italy he recruited Galls from the Po Valley to his army. But Hasdrubal was killed and his army annihilated at the Battle of the Metaurus River in 207 B.C. After that, Hannibal realized that his defeat was only a matter of time.

Scipio returned to Rome and successfully ran for Consul. He proclaimed that he was going to invade Africa and conquer Carthage. He assembled an army and trained for a year on Sicily. He carefully planned the logistics of the campaign. In 203 B.C. he invaded Africa and proceeded to lay waste to the Carthaginian lands. He defeated the forces of Hasdrubal Son of Gisco and his Numidian ally Syphax. The Carthaginian Senate summoned Hannibal home to defend his city. By this time Hannibal’s army was in a weakened position, many of the veterans were past their prime, and Hannibal had had to destroy most of his horses to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Romans, so he was deficient in Cavalry. Many of the troops he was able to raise in Africa were untrained. Very likely because Scipio had an advantage in cavalry, he was able to defeat Hannibal at the Battle of Zama. The Carthaginians agreed to a peace treaty on Roman terms.

If interested in the Second Punic War, read my novels The Death of Carthage and In the Wake of Hannibal. They are available on Amazon and Kindle.

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