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What exactly is so very fascinating and interesting about the struggle between the two very closely matched adversaries of Rome and Carthage is how very close Carthage came to victory and acclaim, despite being quite completely outnumbered on the scale of one to ten by the Romans. Even more interesting and impressive is the fact that all the most important engagements were actually fought on Italian soil, except for the last and final one, and as a matter of fact, Carthage was actually sending her own paid mercenaries to fight against some of the finest and bets trained and better equipped citizen soldiers in the entire world at the time, the army of Roman soldiers. Rome in fact desired to expand towards the South, whereas Carthage desired to expand towards the North and the most beautiful and exquisite Sicily was in the way. Finally, it was in the year 246 BC that the showdown between Rome and Carthage had to happen, and the quarrel or fight continued for more than an entire quarter of a century.
The 'fair and fertile' Sicily was virtually torn apart in this fighting, and gradually, over a period of time, Rome started to gain the upper hand, but towards the end of the struggle, a so called 'military genius' came to the fore on the Punic side, and he was known as the 'thunderbolt'. His name was Hamilcar, and he was surnamed Barca, or the Thunderbolt. He was the individual responsible for the slowing down of the war and also for the gradual shifting in power, until the time when the war had no option but to wind down to a stalemate. The final outcome of the struggle between Carthage and Rome was however, decided on the sea, an area in which the Carthagians had a definite advantage over the Romans. Romans being Romans and quite ingenuous, they quickly invented the 'crow' or the 'corvu', which was a long plank of wood with a heavy spike fixed at one end, which, if dropped, would be able to effectively pin two warships together firmly. This device allowed what would be a sea battle with the Romans at a disadvantage, into a virtual land war, and the Roman soldiers, who would later be acknowledged as some of the world's first marines, would be able to quickly rush out over the plank formed by the crow, and engage the Carthagians in a solid hand to hand combat, at which the Romans were better than the Carthagians.
It was in 241 BC, after the Naval War of Aegusa, that the 'First Punic War' came to an uneasy end. Both the sides were completely exhausted, and while Rome managed to take over Sicily, Carthage had to pay Rome a tribute of 320 talents of silver for ten years, and the erstwhile beautiful island of Sicily was left completely destroyed and devastated by the struggle between the two adversaries. It was after this First Punic War that the Thunderbolt died, leaving behind his three powerful sons, Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and Mago. It is often stated that Hamilcar was aware that the tensions between Rome and Carthage would come to the fore one day in the future, and therefore, he is stated to have extracted a solemn promise form his sons that they would always maintain an enmity with Rome, even after his death, which the sons seem to have maintained.
It was in the year 218 BC that the Second Punic War started, and this time, it was Hamilcar's son, Hannibal, who was the military genius who would fight for his country against the Romans. He was a brilliant strategist, and he was well aware of the fact that Roman manpower was infinitely greater than his own. He therefore formulated a brilliant plan, knowing for a fact that once a Roman army landed in Africa, the Punic subject allies would very quickly and gladly defect. Therefore, he reasoned, he would have to get his own army into Italy before the Romans managed to reach Africa. Once he established himself in Italy, he thought, he would fight and win a few battles, and thereafter, Hannibal hoped, the Italian allies of the Romans, with the memories of their former proud independence, and also being too very far away from Africa to be really oppressed by the Carthagians, would break away from Rome, and either support and assist him, or remain neutral. This plan led to the famous epic crossing of Hannibal across the Alps, with his elephants; he could not cross across the seas because of the fact that Rome had remained master of the seas and therefore, the easier sea route was not open to the Carthagians.
It is often said that the Second Punic War was the most important of the three Punic Wars, and it was primarily fought because of the fact that the Carthagians were not able to fully overcome their bitterness and frustration over the agreement that had been signed after the First Punic war, as well as with the continuing Roman expansion that had been carried out over the past few years after the end of the First Punic War. This was why Hannibal, from the years from 237 to 219 BC succeeded in capturing parts of Spain, until the time in 226 BC that an agreement with the Romans stated that the Northern border of the Carthagian conquest would be Ebro River, in Northern Spain. However, when the Romans took it upon themselves to cross the Ebro River, Hannibal decided that there was no option but to face them, and this is what happened in the year 219 in Sagantum, for which Hannibal had to cross the Alps with his elephants. Even though it is a fact that there was a huge loss of troops as well as of elephants, this was a historic moment, and it was primarily due to this crossing that Hannibal happened to rise as a star to his countrymen and to his troops.
However, it is said that Hannibal, even though he was acclaimed as a rising star, and was able to recruit locals to his troops, he did not completely succeed in winning many decisive battles with the Romans, and perhaps, it is suggested, he even attempted to avoid a few of them. Meanwhile, the Romans used a convenient tactic of delaying matters, and since they had established a very strong hold over communications over both land as well as over the sea, they managed to influence Hannibal's troops, until the time when the declining morals among his men led to a gradual decline of Hannibal's power, until, finally, Hannibal's troops became virtually like a real state, but without land, always adrift and searching for any weak point in the Roman defence, but nevertheless, not finding it.
The Great Hannibal was fated to experience his very first defeat at the hands of the great Roman Scipio Africanus, the Elder, in the battle of Zama, in the year 202 BC. This was in fact the War that managed to end the second Punic War. Carthage had to surrender, and Spain and her entire war fleet had to be given up. A colossal indemnity had to be paid, and the Carthagians had to agree to give up their beloved leader Hannibal to the mercy of the vengeful Romans. However, Hannibal managed to affect an escape to Asia, where, much later, unable to take the relentless pursuit of his enemies any more, he took poison and died.
Scipio Africanus was, even though a young man in years, of a noble demeanor, and he was therefore unanimously elected as the Commander of the army that was sent by Rome to Spain to fight against the Carthagians. At that time, in the year 210 BC, the area in Spain south of the Erbo River was actually under the control of the Carthaginians, but fortunately for him, Hannibal and his two brothers Hasdrubal and Mago happened to be preoccupied with tensions in Africa at the time. This was perhaps why, upon landing in Ebro, Scipio was able to completely surprise and then captures Carthago Nova, which was the official headquarters of the Carthagian Empire in Spain. This capture earned him a rich booty of war stores and supplies, and Scipio, with his kind treatment of the Spanish prisoners of war, was able to win quite a few of them over to his side without much effort on his part.
In later years, Scipio decided to strike another heavy blow to the Carthagians, in Africa, and with this in mind, he visited the African Princes Syphax and Massinissa, in order to win them over to his side. However, his plan did not succeed, and when he returned to Spain, he found that his own troops were in the midst of a mutiny. In the year 206 BC, Scipio gave up his command after having ensured that the Roman occupation of Spain was indeed made secure by…[continue]
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