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Hannibal (hănˈəbəl), b. 247 B.C., d. 183 or 182 B.C. Carthaginian general, an implacable and formidable enemy of Rome. Although knowledge of him is based primarily on the reports of his enemies, Hannibal appears to have been both just and merciful. He is renowned for his tactical genius.

Invasion of Italy

From his father, Hamilcar Barca, the defender of Sicily in the First Punic War (see Punic Wars), he learned to hate Rome. He succeeded as general in Spain on the death of his brother-in-law, Hasdrubal, in 221 B.C. After consolidating his position for two years, he besieged Rome's ally Saguntum (now Sagunto), which fell eight months later. Carthage supported him, and Rome declared war (the Second Punic War, 218–201 B.C.).

With a relatively small army of select troops, Hannibal set out to invade Italy by the little-known overland route. He fought his way over the Pyrenees and reached the Rhône River before the Romans could block his crossing, moved up the valley to avoid their army, and crossed the Alps. This crossing of the Alps, with elephants and a full baggage train, is one of the remarkable feats of military history. Which pass he used is unknown; some scholars believe it was the Montgenèvre or the Little St. Bernard.

He descended into Italy and with his superior cavalry overran the Po valley, winning recruits from the Gallic tribes. A Roman force tried to stop him on the Trebbia, only to be wiped out. In the spring of 217 he crossed the Apennines and marched toward Rome. At Lake Trasimeno he destroyed the main Roman army, but he avoided the strong walls of Rome and moved southward, hoping to stir up a general revolt. In 216 the Romans, having replaced Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (see under Fabius), attacked the Carthaginians at Cannae, but by brilliant cavalry tactics Hannibal managed to surround the entire force and cut it to pieces, killing some 50,000 Romans. Most of S Italy then allied itself with him, including the important city of Capua. Insufficiently supported from home, Hannibal could not assail Rome and had to content himself with ravaging and reducing smaller places.

Defeat and Death

Beginning in 212 B.C. the tide gradually turned against Hannibal. In 211 the Romans retook Capua, despite his rapid march toward Rome to entice them away. In 207 he fought his way for the last time into a position near Rome, but the defeat and death (207) of his brother Hasdrubal on the Metaurus (Metauro) River made his position hopeless, and he withdrew into the mountains of Bruttium. Recalled to Carthage in 203 to check the advance of Scipio Africanus Major in Africa, he was decisively beaten at Zama (202).

After the conclusion of peace (201), Hannibal became (probably in 196) a suffete, or chief magistrate, of Carthage. He reformed the government and reorganized the revenues in order to pay the heavy tribute imposed by Rome. Denounced to the Romans for allegedly intriguing against Rome, he fled (195) to Antiochus III of Syria. He took a small part in Antiochus's war with Rome, and after the Syrian defeat he fled again, this time to Bithynia. About to be delivered to the Romans, he poisoned himself.


See G. P. Baker, Hannibal (1930, repr. 1967); G. De Beer, Hannibal: Challenging Rome's Supremacy (1969); W. J. Jacobs, Hannibal: An African Hero (1973); E. Bradford, Hannibal (1981); R. L. O'Connell, The Ghosts of Cannae (2010); E. MacDonald, Hannibal (2015); P. N. Hunt, Hannibal (2017); J. Prevas, Hannibal's Oath (2017).


, city, United States
Hannibal, city (1990 pop. 18,004), Marion and Ralls counties, NE Mo., on the Mississippi River; inc. 1845. It is a river port and shipping center. Industries include meat canning, printing, and the manufacture of boats, electronics, and wood and metal products. Agriculture and tourism are also important. Hannibal is famous as the boyhood home of Mark Twain; his house has been preserved, and a museum, a statue, a lighthouse, and a bridge across the Mississippi commemorate him. The famous Mark Twain cave is nearby. Hannibal-LaGrange College is also located there.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(full name, Hannibal Barca). Born 247 or 246 B.C. in Carthage; died 183 B.C. in Bithynia. Carthaginian military leader and statesman. He was descended from the aristocratic Barcine family and was the son of Hamilcar Barca.

Hannibal took part in the military campaigns of his father and later of his brother-in-law, Hasdrubal, in subduing the Iberian tribes in Spain. In 225 he took over the command of the Carthaginian cavalry in Spain, and in 221, after Hasdrubal’s death, he was proclaimed by the soldiers and confirmed by the popular assembly as the commander in chief of the Carthaginian Army. In 219, Hannibal attacked the city of Saguntum, which was allied with the Romans, virtually provoking the Second Punic War of 218-01. Carthage fought this war, just as it had fought the First Punic War of 264-41, in the interest of the circles who wanted to establish the preeminence of Carthage in the western Mediterranean.

In 218, in an attempt to anticipate the Romans, who intended to conduct military operations in Africa and Spain, Hannibal made a crossing of the Alps unparalleled in antiquity and invaded Cisalpine Gaul and Italy with a large, well-armed, and well-trained army of professional mercenaries. Here he won victories in battles on the Ticino and Trebia rivers in 218 and at Lake Trasimene in 217. In 216, Hannibal’s army won a major victory at Cannae. Macedonia in 215 and Syracuse in 213 entered the war as Hannibal’s allies. Several Italian cities and tribes also began going over to Hannibal’s side. However, he did not succeed in breaking up the Roman-Italian alliance. More than that, Hannibal’s army was greatly weakened by the tactics of the Romans, aimed at drawing out the war and exhausting the forces of the enemy, fighting on alien soil and cut off from its home and Spanish bases. From 212 on the initiative passed to the Romans, who won several victories in Sicily, Spain, and in Italy itself (the capture of Capua in 211). Hannibal’s situation became still worse when the army of his brother, Hasdrubal, which moved up to help him, was defeated by the Romans in the Metaurus in 207. In 204 the Roman Army landed in Africa, and in 203 Hannibal was recalled to the homeland. In the battle at Zama in 202 the Romans completely routed Hannibal’s army, and in 201 Carthage was forced to accept peace conditions dictated by the Romans.

After the war, Hannibal was a suffete (highest state position) until 195, heading the administration of Carthage. Suspected by the Romans of preparing a new war, he was forced to flee to Antiochus III, king of Syria, and became his military adviser. After Antiochus Ill’s defeat in the war with Rome in 192-188, the Romans demanded the surrender of Hannibal. He took refuge in Armenia and then in Bithynia. Upon learning that Prusias, the king of Bithynia, under pressure from the Romans, intended to surrender him, Hannibal took poison.


Hannibal was one of the most important military leaders of antiquity. Despite his defeat in the war with Rome, Hannibal made a great impact on the history of the art of war. The characteristic features of Hannibal’s strategy were the following: skill in using the dissatisfaction of Rome’s Italian allies to draw them over to his side; good organization of extended campaigns; creation of main and intermediate bases on the marching route of the troops and in conquered territory, which ensured stability of the strategic rear and for a number of years reduced to a minimum the army’s dependence on Carthage itself; and intelligence work organized well in advance, including the careful study of the future theater of operations. Hannibal considered the ground troops the basis of the army; the chief striking force was the highly maneuverable African cavalry, which surpassed the Roman cavalry in size and quality. The characteristic traits of Hannibal’s tactics were good knowledge of the tactics of the enemy, careful preparation of the battle, skillful use of the terrain, the use of ruse and surprise, and execution of bold maneuver and of the decisive blow on the battlefield. Hannibal’s art as military leader manifested itself most clearly at Cannae, which marked a new phase in the development of tactics: for the first time the main blow was struck not on one flank, as was done by Epaminondas and Alexander the Great, but on two flanks. Here the cavalry and the most battle-worthy part of the infantry of the Carthaginians were concentrated, attaining the complete encirclement and destruction of the superior forces of the enemy.



Engels, F. Izbrannye voennye proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1958. (With a name index.)
Lapin, N. A. Cannibal. Moscow, 1939.
Delbrück, H. Istoriia voennogo iskusstva, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936. Pages 256-319. (Translated from German.)
Razin, E. A. Istoriia voennogo iskusstva, vol. 1. Moscow, 1955. Pages 266-331.
Groág, E. Hannibal als Politiker. Vienna, 1929.
Sprey, K. Hannibal. The Hague, 1946.
Walter, G. La Destruction de Carthage. Paris, 1947.
Burian, J. Hannibal. Prague, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


247--182 bc, Carthaginian general; son of Hamilcar Barca. He commanded the Carthaginian army in the Second Punic War (218--201). After capturing Sagunto in Spain, he invaded Italy (218), crossing the Alps with an army of about 40 000 men and defeating the Romans at Trasimene (217) and Cannae (216). In 203 he was recalled to defend Carthage and was defeated by Scipio at Zama (202). He was later forced into exile and committed suicide to avoid capture
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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