Why Did Hannibal Not Besiege Rome After the Battle of Cannae?

After the Battle of Cannae, according to the Roman historian Livy, Hannibal’s chief of cavalry, Maharbal offered to take the cavalry to Rome and besiege it. while waiting for the infantry to arrive. Hannibal turned down the offer. Maharbal commented “So the Gods don’t grant all their gifts to one person. You know very well how to win a victory, Hannibal, but you don’t know how to use it.”
Hannibal sent the Carthaginian nobleman Carthalo to Rome with peace terms, fully expecting that the Romans would want to sue for peace after such a devastating defeat, as was the usual custom in the ancient world. The Romans wouldn’t even let Carthalo into the city. The Roman Senate passed a law that made it a crime to even mention the word “peace.”
So why did Hannibal not besiege the city? There could be several reasons. Hannibal had had experience with sieges. He had successfully besieged and conquered Saguntum, but he had had 100,000 soldiers at his command and all the resources of southern Spain at his disposal and still the siege had taken eight months. Hannibal had no siege machines and he probably didn’t think that he could maintain his army in the region for that long without first building alliances with other cities and tribes of southern Italy first, so that’s what he set about doing.
Unfortunately for Hannibal, his delay allowed the Romans to organize their resistance. Under the leadership of the cautious Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator, the Romans largely stopped fighting Hannibal on his own terms and the war became one of attrition. The Romans concentrated on clawing back territories that had gone over to Hannibal after Cannae, and eventually most of these decided it would better to rejoin the Roman fold rather than suffer the fates of Capua and Tarentum, where the inhabitants were sold into slavery after their cities were taken by the Romans.
Hannibal did briefly besiege Rome in 210 B.C., six years after the Battle of Cannae, but by then the Romans didn’t take it seriously, realizing that it was only a ploy to get the Consuls Claudius and Fulvius to relieve the siege of Capua and come to the aid of Rome. It didn’t work. It was, in fact, so ineffective that property occupied by the Carthaginian camp outside the city was sold for the same price as it would have been sold without the Carthaginians there. Hannibal soon gave up on the siege and left Capua to its fate.

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.