The Second Punic War
Written by Peter Fitzgerald
History of War - Ancient Wars
The Second Punic War started in 218 BC and continued until 202 BC. This war was the second instalment of the Punic War’s between the Romans and the Carthage Empire and is most well known for the command of the Carthage forces by Hannibal. In fact the war is so well known for Hannibal that it is also known as The War Against Hannibal.
After being soundly beaten in the First Punic Wars the Carthage Empire wished to regain some respect and its lands so decided to take the fight to the Romans.
In 219 BC Hannibal took a force to Iber where he laid siege to the city of Saguntum. After months of a prolonged and bloody siege Hannibal’s forces took Saguntum. The Romans never once sent any help to Saguntum even though there were many requests.
Hannibal regrouped his forces and made his way north into Gaul (present day France) and moved along the coasts before a Roman Navy force followed them to the Rhine. Hannibal managed to escape the Romans and made his way across the Alps for a surprise attack on Northern Italy.
The Romans started an invasion into Iberia while Hannibal was crossing the Alps. This move saw a standoff between roman and Carthage forces as the Carthage army did not come out to open land for battle. This was also the case because the Carthage Navy was annihilated in the First Punic War by the Romans and thus did not want a repeat performance.
In 218 BC the Carthage Navy was sent out to scout the waters off the shore of Sicily, the Romans were made aware of this and the battle of Lilybaeum began with the Roman Navy beating a larger Carthage force.
In 217 BC Hannibal started his advance into Northern Italy from the Alps. Once in Italy Hannibal tried to draw the Roman army under Flaminius into battle but the Romans did not take the bait. Hannibal being a clever tactician sent his whole force around the Roman force and outflanked them, effectively cutting them off from Rome.
This move caused Flaminius to quickly retreat back, little did he know that the Carthage forces were laying in wait. When Flaminius neared Hannibal ordered the attack an in one manoeuvre nearly all the Roman army was routed and Flaminius was killed this was the battle of Lake Trasimene.
Hannibal carried on moving through Northern Italy with the Romans unable to stop him. In fact Hannibal was the person to stop himself as he set up camp and became unsure of his own next move.
It is here where the Romans decided for Hannibal as they realised they would be unable to stop him in Italy after 15 years there and made their own voyage to Africa and attacked the heart of Carthage. With this attack underway Hannibal gave up his attacks in Italy and raced back to protect Carthage.
During this same time period the Romans had defeated the Carthage forces in Iberia and took control of the area.
Upon Hannibals return in 202 AD the Romans and Carthage tried to arrange a peace treaty but it failed. This meant the war continued and the Romans faced the Carthage army under the leadership at the Battle of Zama. The Romans annihilated the Carthage army and the Carthaginians surrendered. The war was over and the Romans had beaten the Carthaginian Empire again.