Hannibal, a famous Carthaginian general, the son of Hamilcar Barca, was born in 247 B.C. He probably took part in his father's Spanish campaigns. After Hamilcar's death (228) he carried on the war in Spain under Hasdrubal, whom he succeeded (220) as commander-in-chief of the Carthaginian forces. In the course of two campaigns he completed his predecessor's design of forming a Punic dominion in Spain as a starting point for a new attack on Rome, and then laid siege to Saguntum, a town friendly to the Romans (219), with the express design of involving them in a quarrel with Carthage. When Saguntum fell (218), the Romans despatched an embassy to Carthage, requiring Hannibal's surrender; the demand was refused, and the second Punic war began. Hannibal at once resolved to lead an army into Italy. Early in 217 he crossed the Ebro with 90,000 foot and 12,000 horse, but of this number he left behind 11,000 in the country north of the Ebro as a means of maintaining his communication with Spain, and frequent desertions induced him to send back 10,000 more during his march from the Pyrenees to the Rhone. A Gallic force, which endeavoured to check his progress at the Rhone, was easily repelled, but the passage of the Alps, which occupied 15 days, was attended with heavy losses, owing to the difficulty of the route, the attacks of the barbarians, and the severity of the autumn weather. On arriving in Italy his army was reduced to 20,000 foot and 6,000 horse. The first encounter with the Romans took place at the river Ticinus, where the Consul P. Cornelius Scipio was completely defeated. He withdrew to Placentia, and after effecting a junction with the other consul, Ti. Sempronius, again met Hannibal on a spur of the Apennines, east of the Trebia. Here the Roman army was again routed.
In the spring of 217 Hannibal continued his march southwards, and passing the consul, C. Flaminius, at Arretium, proceeded towards Perusia. Flaminius followed him, but his army was surprised at a point where the road passed between Lake Trasimenus on the south, and a semicircle of hills already occupied by the Carthaginians on the north, and shut in on all sides, was almost completely destroyed. Hannibal now advanced through Umbria and Picenum to the plains of Apulia, where his movements were cautiously watched by the Dictator Q. Fabius Maximus Cunctator. Having failed to draw Fabius into a general engagement by means of a raid into Campania, he took up his winter quarters at Gereonium. In June, 216, his army of 20,000 men encountered that led by the Consuls L. Emilius Paulus and P. Terentius Varro, which amounted to nearly 90,000, near the town of Cannae on the Aufidus. Fifty thousand Romans are said to have fallen in the battle. After this victory Hannibal was counselled by his lieutenant, Maharbal, to advance immediately on Rome, but he deemed it more prudent to await a general rising of the Italian nations. He was joined by the greater part of South Italy, but the Latin colonies still adhered to Rome, and" the Greek cities on the coast were held in check by their Roman garrisons. His admission into Capua, however, gave him a basis of operations in the neighbourhood of Rome. Here he wintered, and. the luxury of the place is said to have had an enervating effect on his soldiers. From this time onwards the fortunes of Hannibal began to wane. His intrigues with the democratic party in the Greek cities led to no fruitful result, and, though he gained possession of the town of Tarentum (212), he was unable to reduce the citadel.
Hoping to create a diversion in favour of Capua, now besieged by three Roman armies, he marched against Rome in 211, but the army under L. Fulvius Flaccus sufficed to ward off the attack, while the siege of Capua, continued by the other consul, terminated soon afterwards in its surrender. During the succeeding years hostilities were carried on in a desultory fashion, and with varying success, the most important event being the recovery of Tarentum by Q. Fabius in 209. But the defeat and death of Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal at the Metaurus in 207 practically ended the war. Henceforward his sole object was to maintain his position in the peninsula of Bruttium. There he remained until 203, when he was recalled to Carthage to repel the invasion of Scipio, who defeated him near Zama in 202. After the conclusion of peace (201) Hannibal, now a Carthaginian suffete (or chiel magistrate), proceeded to reorganise the government and reform the financial policy of nis country, hoping that it might yet be able to renew the struggle, but the adverse party informed the Romans that he was in'riguing against them and on the appearance of a Roman embassy at Carthage he sought refuge with Antiochus, King of Syria, then about to embark on a war with his enemies (193). Antiochus rejected Hannibals plan for carrying the war into Italy, but entrusted him with the duty of raising a Phoenician fleet, which he commanded at the battle of the Eurymedon (190). When peace was concludes between Rome and Syria, Hannibal, aware that his surrender was included in the Roman terms, fled to the court of Prusias, King of Bithynia, who placed him in command of a fleet with which he defeated Eumenes, King of Pergamus. The Romans, however, sent an embassy demanding his surrender, and Hannibal took poison to avoid falling into their hands. His death is said to have taken place in 183 at Libyssa, a village on the shore of the Black Sea.