Hannibal Barca is one of the greatest military commanders of all time. As a leader of the ancient superpower, Carthage he waged a lifelong war against the Romans and nearly destroyed them. And yet, today we know very little about Hannibal or his people: the Carthaginians. What we do remember is one of his amazing feats: to fight the Romans on their own turf, Hannibal led an army that included nearly forty elephants, over the frozen mountain tops of the Alps and into Italy.
That achievement, leading the largest land animal over one of the biggest mountain chains, was just part of an incredible journey, that took Hannibal and his force of sixty thousand men from southern Spain, through France, into Italy via the Alps and finally, over the sea and back to the now Tunisian city of Carthage. For Hannibal Barca this was a very personal conflict – a family affair. As a boy he’d sworn to his father Hamilcar that he would fight Rome to the death and his top generals were his two brothers, Hasdrubal and Mago. Their struggle was the main event during the biggest and bloodiest conflict of ancient times, the century long Punic Wars (264-146 BC). With Hannibal as commander, it really looked as if Carthage was going to win. European civilisation came so close to being something very different – Rome free. And yet Rome totally dominates our imagination when we think about the ancient world. When Hannibal lived, things were very different.