Friday, March 24, 2006

Conversations with Hannibal Part 3

Unsuccessful in fomenting any rebellion among the conquered Italians, either through his military success or his mercy, Hannibal headed south to try his strategy again among the Greek and Samnite peoples conquered by the Romans in their early campaigns to unite the Italian peninsual under their rule.

The Dicatator elected by the Senate, Fabius Maximus was now ready to make his move. Remember that the word "dictator" did not really have its present connotation in early Rome. A dictator was a special magistrate who had broad, sweeping powers to combat a specific emergency.
It is from Julius Caesar, who had himself elected "Dictator for Life" that we draw our more negative modern use of the word.

Fabius Maximus was cool-headed and patient, a trait that seperated him from previous Consuls who had clashed with Hannibal. Hannibal led a mercenary army (only his officers were actually Carthaginian) on foreign soil.

Time was on the side of Rome.

The Romans had already seen mercenary armies rise up against Carthage when conditions got bad or payment could not be delivered as promised. In the aftermath of the First Punic War, for example the Carthaginians had been forced to fight a full scale war against their own unpaid mercenaries, since they had planned to pay them from the spoils of a Roman defeat.

Fabius Maximus therefore decided not to rush to engage Hannibal but rather to shadow his movements. Hannibal's foragers, sent to resupply his forces with food and water, were instantly set upon by Fabius' men and killed. He would starve Hannibal's army out from under him.

Despite the fact that his tactics were successful in limiting Hannibal's movement and preventing him from attacking any other Roman settlements, Fabius' tactics were very unpopular with the Senate and with the Roman people.

An invading army was on Roman soil and all that was being done was to harry them. The popular sentiment was that they should be repulsed and quickly.

The result was new leadership including a young aggressive Consul named Gaius Julius Varo. With this young firebrand, perhaps as a precautionary move they also elected an older more experienced politician, Licius Amelius Paulus.

But still, the mandate from the Senate was clear: Hannibal was to be engaged not merely shadowed.

To be continued...


Larry Clapp said...

Hey man. Enjoying your Hannibal series. Thought I'd let you know. :)

Chuck said...

Sweet. I usually think its just me that enjoys these jaunts through history.


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