Hasdrubal Barca’s Role in the Second Punic War

Hannibal left his brother Hasdrubal in Spain to deal with the Romans whom he suspected were planning to invade. Southern Spain was the site of vast rich gold and silver mines that the Carthaginians used to finance the war, and they needed to be protected.
Upon learning that Hannibal and his army were heading toward the Alps, the Consul Publius Cornelius Scipio the Elder (father of Scipio Africanus) who was in southern Gaul, sent his brother Gneius Cornelius Scipio and his legions to Spain and returned to northern Italy to organize the legions there and prepare for Hannibal’s arrival.
Gneius Scipio defeated Hasdrubal Barca in a naval battle, and then defeated the Carthaginian general Hanno at the Battle of Cissa in Northern Spain, taking the general prisoner.
In 215 B.C., the year after the Battle of Cannae, the Scipio brothers, acting in concert, defeated Hasdrubal Barca at the Battle of Dertosa. The Carthaginian Senate, concerned about the rich gold and silver mines, decided to send the reinforcements that they had earmarked for Hannibal in Italy to Spain instead. Two armies of 25,000 each under the generals Mago Barca and Hasdrubal Son of Gisco were sent to Spain. Hannibal received only 400 Numidian mercenaries and 20 elephants. This may have been the decision that lost the war for Carthage. After this, Hannibal never received any reinforcements from Carthage, either because Carthage didn’t send them or because the Romans were diligent about intercepting them.
In 211 B.C., Hasdrubal Barca, Mago Barca and Hasdrubal Son of Gisco, acting in concert with Masinissa and his Numidians as well as Indibilis and Mandonius of the Ilergetes destroyed three fourths of the Roman legions in Spain at the Battles of the Upper Baetis, and killed both Publius and Gneius Scipio. The 8000 remnants of the legions under the leadership of Lucius Marcius Septimus held onto the Roman Province in northeastern Spain.
In 209 B.C. the son of the above-mentioned Publius Cornelius Scipio, also named Publius, was appointed to the command of the Roman legions in Spain. He had about 35,000 men at his command as Rome had sent more legions to join the forces of Lucius Marcius Septimus. The first thing he did was to capture New Carthage, which held the Carthaginians’ wealth, munitions, ships and hostages. He took full advantage of capturing these assets., using this wealth, and the release of hostages to ingratiate himself with the Spanish tribes and turning many away from loyalty to Carthage.
The following year, Scipio soundly defeated Hasdrubal Barca at the Battle of Baecula. Hasdrubal himself escaped and organized a mercenary army and led it across the Alps in much the same manner as Hannibal had eleven years before. He went about recruiting Cis-Alpine Gauls and attempted to besiege Placentia. He sent a delegation of two Gauls and two Numidians southward with a letter to Hannibal who was in Apulia asking him to meet him in South Umbria. This delegation, however, was intercepted by the Romans and the message was delivered to the Roman Consul in Apulia, Marcus Claudius Nero. Nero had it translated, and he decided to march seven thousand veterans north to join the other Consul Marcus Livius Salinator. Together they brought Hasdrubal to battle and destroyed his army at the Battle of the Metaurus River. Hasdrubal died in a suicidal charge, and Nero had his head cut off and delivered to Hannibal’s camp in Apulia. When Hannibal saw it, he knew his cause was lost.

So, this was Hasdrubal’s Second Punic War record, one decisive victory, three decisive defeats. Hannibal was a genius at battlefield tactics, but it takes more than one military genius to win a war.

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