'Hannibal ad portos'
I don’t think Hannibal (Chenu Bechala- ‘Beloved of Baal’) a ‘good’ general I consider him a great general; Xanthippus was a ‘good’ general. Mayhap you consider Alexander ‘The Great’ the greatest general in antiquity, but I disagree. ‘But most illustrious and perfectly formed Flaxen’, you say. ‘Hannibal was ultimately defeated by Scipio Africanus at the battle of Zama in 202 BC. Surely the man who defeated him must be greater than one he defeated’. But this would represent a superficial analysis indeed. Listen to my analysis and weep.
Alexander was a bold tactician and exhibited breath-taking and singular strategic vision. He was also rash and on occasion exceedingly lucky. Furthermore, as Macedonian king he had complete control over the direction of the war and could bear resources in both men and finances, according to his will. The Persian Empire and the system of Satrapies was in a state of decline and rife with dissension. A bold adventurer had only to kick in the portal and watch the rotten edifice collapse. After three decisive battles the Persians and Medes were defeated conclusively. Alexander never lost a battle and is rightly considered as the greatest of all the ancient captains, bar one. However, to truly judge a man as a general we can’t totally rely on what we observe after victory. How a general deals with defeat is the defining characteristic of greatness. Arse.
Hannibal at the start of the second Punic war was faced with numerous problems. A lesser general would have waited for the Romans to invade Spain and fight the battles on his own soil. This would cede the initiative to the Romans who were also preparing to invade Northern Africa and eventually Carthage via Sicily. Hannibal did something completely unexpected. He invaded Italy by land and embraced all the hardships which this entailed.
When he debouched in Northern Italy he took the Romans completely off guard. They were so alarmed that the consular army destined for Sicily was rerouted to engage Hannibal in Italy. After passage through the Alps Hannibal’s army of Iberian mercenaries and Africans quickly obtained a victory over Roman forces on the Ticinus. Before the engagement Hannibal had a total of 26,000 men. The fruits of victory were swift. Great numbers of vacillating Gallic warriors came over to Hannibal’s standard and filled the ranks of his depleted army. Hannibal went on to inflict three further great defeats upon the Romans, culminating in the masterly battle of Cannae (216 BC). Hannibal realised that he couldn’t achieve total victory over the Romans by defeating them in the field. Battles of attrition were a means to a political end. He needed to break up the Roman confederation and thus deprive Rome of its greatest asset: a virtual unlimited supply of men. It is to be recalled that during the war the Romans raised 750,000 troops of which Hannibal killed 250,000.
Carthage ultimately failed Hannibal. They kept him chronically deprived of money and more importantly, men. They lacked the strategic vision of Hannibal and squandered resources in fruitless expeditions in Sicily and elsewhere. They failed to support their brilliant general in the only strategic theatre that actually mattered. In spite of his many disadvantages Hannibal managed to maintain his army on hostile territory against a formidable foe for 14 years. The Romans were no Persians. This is why Hannibal deserves the first position amongst the ancients.
The historical consequence of Hannibal’s defeat was that Western civilisation was subsequently based on rugged Indo-European Rome rather than lush Semitic Carthage. Hannibal’s enterprise was doomed before it started and the battle of Zama had been lost centuries before it was fought.