During the early part of the third century BC, the Carthaginians were competing with Rome for the domination of the Mediterranean. Matters came to a head when Carthage surrendered Sicily to Rome and with it the strategic and commercial command of the Mediterranean. The Carthaginians, already with a foothold in north-west Africa, at once sought to rebuild their fortunes in the western Mediterranean by developing Spain as a replacement for their now diminished empire, and Hannibal was given this task. In 218 BC, Hannibal, with some 90,000 men, 12,000 horses and 37 elephants, began the historic march on Rome which took him over the Pyrenees into Gaul, across the waters of the Rhone and across the ice and snow of the Alps, which he crossed in a mere fifteen days. Sixteen years later, despite many victories in the field, Hannibal had still not achieved his purpose, and was compelled to withdraw to North Africa in a vain attempt to save Carthage from yet another defeat at Roman hands. He failed, and Rome was set firmly on her path to empire. Here, John Peddie provides a challenging re-evaluation of the Carthaginian's generalship, and asks how was it that a man so often described by historians as a military genius and a brilliant tactician could have plunged so deeply into a situation in which he was, almost inevitably, to fail?
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