HANNIBAL, the famous son of Hamilcar Barca, was born in 247 B.C. When he was nine years old, he accompanied his father on a Spanish expedition; and before starting, swore the oath of eternal hatred to the Roman name, which he kept so faithfully throughout his whole life. After the death of Hamilcar, he was employed by Hasdrubal, his brother-in-law, in most of the military operations which he undertook. Such was the esteem in which he was held by the soldiers, and such a reputation for bravery and strategic skill had he gained, that when Hasdrubal was assassinated, the army with one voice elected him Commander-in-Chief, an appointment which the authorities at Carthage at once ratified. Hannibal, at this time in his 29th year, undertook the command with ready zeal, for he longed to realize the legacy left him by his father, and to strike a death-blow at his county's rival by attacking her on her own soil. He started from New Carthage in 218 B.C., with 90,000 foot and 12,OOO horse. This force was very much thinned by his contests with the tribes between the Iberus and the Pyrenees, by the necessity of leaving Hanno with 11,000 men to keep them in subjection, and by his sending home a portion of his Spanish troops. His object in this last act was to inspire the soldiers with thorough confidence in themselves and their general. From the Pyrenees he marched to the Rhone without opposition, since Scipio was at Massilia (Marseilles.) His next great difficulty was the passage of the Alps, which he effected in fifteen days, in spite of the attacks of the mountain tribes, the snows, storms, and other difficulties. After allowing his army, (now about 26,000 strong,) some time to recruit, he first subdued the Taurini, and took their chief city after a siege of three days. Scipio having returned from Massilia, took command of the army in the north of Italy, and first met Hannibal on the plains near the river Ticinus. The Romans were entirely defeated; and Scipio, who was severely wounded, retreated across the Po. The armies again met at the Trebia, with a like resuit, though the Romans, who had received reinforcements, were much more numerous. These battles were fought in 218 B.C. Hannibal next inflicted a severe defeat, near Lake Thrasymene, on the Consul Flaminius; thousands perished by the sword, including the Consul, and thousands in the lake, while fifteen thousand were taken captive, Hannibal only losing 1500. He wintered at Cannae, and in June, or according to others in August, (2nd,) almost annihiiated a Roman army of 90,000 men under Terentius Varro and Aemilius Paulus, and a host of Roman Knights, Senators, and other distinguished persons.
Hannibal's great purpose now, was to arm the Italian nations against Rome, and so to crush her power by means of her own subjects; the Romans on the contrary, henceforth avoided coming to a pitched battle with the Carthagenians, but sought rather to keep the tribes in awe, and harass Hannibal and his lieutenants by small armies in different parts of the country.
Hannibal traversed Italy in all directions, surprising the Roman generals, defeating their armies, and capturing their towns. The defeat of Hasdrubal, his brother, at the River Metaurus, and the loss of his army, compelled Hannibal to confine himself to the mountainous peninsula of Brutium, where for four years he resisted all the efforts of the Romans to dislodge him. At length, after having maintained himself in Italy for upwards of fifteen years, he was recalled to Africa, to defend his country against Scipio. But notwithstanding his utmost endeavors, and the bravery of his veteran troops, he was defeated by Scipio, near Zama, with the loss of 20,000 men. Peace was concluded in the following year.
Hannibal's daring scheme had in the meantime been baffled, but his hatred to Rome had not diminished, and accordingly he set himself with all his zeal to make preparations for a still more deadly struggle at some future day. He turned his attention, in the first place, to political reforms, and some constitutional changes which were loudly called for, by which he placed the finances on a better footing. But his enemies accused him to the Romans of stirring up Antiochus III of Syria, to make war on them: and when ambassadors came to Carthage, Hannibal fled to the court of Antiochus at Ephesus. In the war which followed, he took no conspicuous part, but the King bitterly regretted afterwards that he did not take the advice of Hannibal to carry the war into Italy.
When peace was concluded, the surrender of Hannibal was one of the conditions; but foreseeing such a result, he fled to Prusias, King of Bithynia, for whom he gained a naval victory over Eumenes, King of Pergamus. He was at length demanded by the Romans; and seeing no way of escape, he took poison, which he always carried with him for such an emergency.