Thursday, March 23, 2006

Conversations with Hannibal Part 2

Last time we looked at the audacity of Hannibal's invasion, today we look at his campaigns in Rome.

After wintering in the north of Italy, Hannibal headed south and threatened Rome itself. This led to new Consuls elected to lead Rome, including Gaius Flaminius, as a response to what the Senate felt was a poor prosecution of the war so far.

Flaminius raised a Consular Army to stop Hannibal and marched north to meet him. On June of 217 BCE Hannibal ambushed that army on the shores of Lake Trasimene. He caught the Roman army between his forces and the lake and slaughtered them, killing 15,000 men including Gaius Flaminius.

The Roman Republic was now in turmoil and elected a Dictator, Fabius Maximus to deal with this increasing threat.

But Hannibal did not lat seige to Rome.

Perhaps this was never his plan or perhaps, with the relatively small force at his command he believed he was incapable of doing so.

Instead what Hannibal sought was to break up the Roman confederacy. Having expanded from Rome herself, the Romans had conquered Greek, Latin, Italian and Gallic settlements in their drive to control all of the Italian peninsula.

Hannibal sought to humiliate the Roman army and make these client states, some of them recently conquered (like the Gallic tribes in northern Italy) feel they could rise up against their Roman masters.

We can see evidence of this in the way Hannibal treated his prisoners. He treated Roman citizens harshly. Either simply executing them or leaving them exposed to the elements to die a slow death from hunger and cold.

Italian captives, on the other hand were well fed, housed comfortably and then released after hearing a speech by Hannibal. Hannibal declared himself their liberator from Roman oppression.
If Hannibal could succeed in making the Roman government look weak and sparking a full-scale civil war among the Roman cities he could end Roman power for good.

To be continued...

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