Arjan has posted Hannibal related material on YouTube and kindly agreed to kick off the 'Enthusiasts' section of Wood Brothers website
What do you find most compelling about Hannibal?
For me the most compelling about Hannibal is the fact that he made a crossing over the Alps, during winter time, 2000 years ago, in a time without proper roads, maps, tom tom and modern day equipment. Doing this with a multicultural army (different languages, costumes), elephants (of all creatures) and marching through a hostile territory (landscape-wise and because of the hostile tribes living in the Alps), makes it the more astonishing.
Hannibal is often lauded as one of the greatest leaders of ancient history. Do you think he deserves this position even though in the end he lost the 2nd Punic War?
Let's not make a mistake about it, Hannibal was a good commander. However a downside would be that he did use a lot of trickery and treason (Trebia – hidden cavalry Trasimene - ambush at Cannae – Numidians pretending to defect). The few cities he took, he also took with treason. Alexander and Caesar were outnumbered on many occasions also, but managed to win because of bold moves on the battlefield.
Hannibal was very well informed on his adversaries (know your foe), which enabled him to have them do what he wanted them to do. Romans worked with two consuls, the rivalry between these consuls played into Hannibal’s hands. At Cannae and Trebia, the consuls disagreed with each other, but went ahead with the battle. The moment Scipio became sole commander, things got better.
In my opinion Hannibal was great but not as great as people say. If he had won, he may have been one of the greatest.
Did Hannibal ever have a chance against Rome? Why did he lose?
The reasons why Hannibal lost (not in order of importance):
1.Hannibal anticipated that if he could beat Roman armies, Rome's Latin allies would join him. This did not happen, even after Cannae they stayed loyal. Only a few cities (mainly in the south of Italy) sided with Hannibal, these cities were usually taken by treachery instead of free will.
2. Those Italians that sided with Hannibal, mainly Po valley Celts, were not very trustworthy. And because of their partying and drinking, they were not very reliable during battles. (Hasdrubal can tell you all about that because of the battle at the Metaurus).
3. Because many cities stayed loyal to Rome, Hannibal had to besiege these cities. Unfortunately he wasn’t prepared for siege warfare.
4. At a certain point he had his army camped in Capua for quite some time. His battle hardened warriors became lazy and enjoyed the booze and the woman in the city too much.
5. Hardly any backup from Carthage. Hannibal’s successes led to jealousy in the Carthaginian Senate, they weren’t very keen on sending more soldiers. Some soldiers were sent, but not enough. Hasdrubal’s march was at his own initiative.
6. Hasdrubal’s defeat. I am not sure what would have happened if Hasdrubal had reached Hannibal. His death and the annihilation of his forces were a big blow to the Hannibal’s cause.
7. Rome. Hannibal could have tried to take Rome. It would have a been an important signal to Rome's allies. A missed opportunity.
8. Hannibal’s army consisted mainly of mercenaries, they fight for money. The Romans fought with citizens, they fight for their country. The Romans also had a vast supply of manpower too.
9. Phillip of Macedon. Phillip was thinking of joining Hannibal. They might have won the war if they had joined forces. Unfortunately Phillip wanted to join when it was already to late.
10. The Romans. At Cannae the Romans constructed a column, which said something like: "No other people would have survived such terrible defeats. And that is a true thing. Greeks , Persians, Gauls would have yielded unlike the proud, stubborn Romans." PS: the column is still there and would make a nice photo!
If Hannibal had sufficient allies he could have won, but things turned out differently.