Hannibal of Carthage



                   Battle of Zama

             Defeat of Carthage 

                             Massinissa Offering Poison to His New Bride, Sophonisba , to Save Her from the Romans

                                                                                                    Sophonisba Taking Poison 

           After the crushing loss at the Battle of the Great Plains, as said before, Carthage asked for terms from Scipio, who was given authority by the Roman senate, and was given favorable terms. According to the terms of the treaty signed between Scipio and Carthage, Carthage could keep most of her African territory, but would lose all lands from her overseas empire. Spain and all islands in the Mediterranean Sea would be lost forever.  Masinissa was to be allowed to expand Numidia into parts of Carthage-held Africa. Also, Carthage was to reduce its fleet to only 10 ships for trade and pay a huge war indemnity each year for a period of 25 years. The Roman senate had ratified the agreement. Hannibal and Mago were also to leave Italian soil, leaving all Italians in their respective armies behind.  Meanwhile, Carthage, not intent to honor the treaty, sent quick word to both Hannibal and Mago, ordering them to sail to Africa with their armies to destroy Scipio and save the city from further humiliation. Carthage would then breach the armistice agreement when their navy, commanded by Hasdrubal Gisco, would attack and capture a Roman naval fleet that was bringing supplies from Italy for Scipio near Utica ( Battle of Castra Cornelia). Carthage no longer believed a treaty advantageous, and rebuffed it under much Roman protest.

          The Romans, after learning of the Carthage breach, sent two armies, one to engage Mago, and the other Hannibal,in an effort to ensure that these two armies never reach Carthage. They also ordered Scipio to re-new the war against Carthage. Hannibal was able to elude the Roman force sent to stop him, and boarded ships sent by the Carthage senate for his passage. The bulk of his horses he had to kill as he did not have enough space on the ships for their passage. Under favorable winds, he then set sail for Carthage. One can only wonder what was going through his mind as he gazed upon the disappearing Italian landscape. Mago, however, was not able to elude the Roman army sent to stop his departure. Before he and his 15,000 men made their escape, a minor pitched battle was fought that resulted in a serious injury to Mago. He was to perish from his wounds as his fleet was well on their way across the Mediterranean, to be buried at sea. Thus perished Mago, the youngest son of Hamilcar. A man very useful to Carthage, but always in his brothers shadow.

          With the departure of Mago and Hannibal, Rome was sent into a massive frenzy of celebration and thanksgiving. 16 years of hell for them was gone.  Everywhere Rome and her allies celebrated. The few cities and towns that had remained loyal to Hannibal and was able to be defended by him against Rome, however, stood ready for Romes devastating wrath.


          Hannibal, upon safely reaching the African coast, landed near the town of Hadrumentum, which was southeast of Carthage. Returning to his homeland for the first time since leaving with his father at the young age of nine he quickly set about his plans by calling a council of war with his generals. He ordered his camp to be quickly fortified and sent out a small contingent of cavalry in attempts of finding the whereabouts of the Roman army. One thing was sure in the mind. There was to be no margin for error against Scipio. A defeat of his army would also be the last resistance that his city could put forth.  Here he sent word for all forces that Carthage could muster to immediately march to his fortified base and to bring with them all horse that they could find. The remnants of Hasdrubal Giscos army arrived and was joined by several thousand Numidian horse, led by the grandsons of Syphax. Also joining Hannibal was 4,000 Macedonian spearmen, sent courtesy of Phillip V. Ultimately the vital army of Mago was also to dock and join Hannibal. As said before, Mago had perished during the voyage and Hannibal was said to have taken the death of his last brother as an omen for things to come for Carthage.  Carthage also sent Hannibal 80 war elephants to bolster his army, however, these beasts were young and had never been involved in battle.


          Scipio, meanwhile, continued to ravage the Carthaginian countryside in an attempt to draw Hannibal into battle. Soon the cavalry that Hannibal had sent to find Scipio returned with word of his whereabouts. Hannibal, with his forces assembled, payed homage to the gods of Carthage. He then marched to confront his enemies for what would be one, final, devastating battle. After several days force march he was able to reach Zama minor, near to where Scipio had been plundering, which was suitable for cavalry maneuvering. Hannibal marched as quickly as he could as he was made aware that Masinissa had left the Roman army to put down a revolt in Numidia, courtesy of a son of Syphax, leaving Hannibal, for the time being, favorable over the Romans in cavalry. Should Masinissa return in time, however, the upper edge would return to Scipio who relied heavily on his Roman heavy cavalry and the Numidian light cavalry. Hannibal deployed his troops facing northwest, while Scipio deployed his troops in front of the Carthaginian army facing southeast.

         As both armies fortified their respected camps, Hannibal sent spies to infilitrate the Roman camp to bring word of the strengths and any weakness that they could find in the Roman army. These spies were captured and instead of being tortured to death, were brought before Scipio, who in turn, ordered that they be given a tour of the Roman army and be allowed to return to Hannibal with what they had witnessed. When they returned and informed Hannibal what had happened and what they had witnessed, Hannibal was naturally puzzled by the events and sent a messenger to Scipio asking that they meet before any general engagement occur. The likes of such had never before been recorded in history. Scipio, upon hearing of Hannibals request, was eager to meet Hannibal as he considered him an unlikely mentor in the art of war and was eager to finally meet his enemy whom he respected greatly. Both were to leave their armies under a small personal escort and meet each other between their anxious armies. Here stood the two greatest military leaders of their time, standing face-to-face for the longest time, without either saying a word or flinching, both looking sqarely into the others eyes as if trying to intiminate the other.  The young Scipio, in full battle armor, and the grizzled veteran of so many battles, Hannibal, standing dressed plainly as so many of the men in his army were.  Finally, after several tense minutes, Hannibal was the frist to speak. He first congratulated Scipio for his string of victories over Carthage. He also spoke to Scipio of the respect he held for his father and expessed his sympathy over his death. He also spoke to Scipio of his losses as well, his father and two brothers were also gone. Had the two of them also lost enough friends and soldiers during the war? He also spoke of how fleeting success was and that although the fortunes of Carthage was far from what had been earlier in the war, a Carthage victory here might indeed turn the fortunes of the war back in favor of Carthage. So much hindered on a single battle in war. Would Rome and the great Scipio want to risk such fortunes on this single battle, when he, the great Hannibal, was willing to ask Scipio for terms of surrender that might end the bloodshed and war that had gone on for far too long? Scipio informed Hannibal that he was given authority to only offer terms agreed to by the Roman senate, and that they were the same that Carthage had broken by the attack upon the Roman fleet while the Carthage general was still in Italy. Hannibal responded by asking what those terms would be and that should he accept, he would give his word that Carthage would not again break the treaty.  Scipio first stated that Carthage would relinquish all overseas lands in her empire, Hannibal agreed.  Second, Carthage would recognize Masinissa as ruler of Numidia and agree to surrended a portion of her African poccessions to the Numidian King, Hannibal accepted. Third, Carthage would surrender their fleet, save ten to be used only for trade, to Rome.  Hannibal again agreed. Fourth, Carthage was to pay Rome a huge indemnity each year for a period of twenty-five years, and once again, Hannibal agreed.  Finally, Scipio demanded that all Italians that were serving in Hannibals army be surrendered to him as they were traitors of Rome and would be executed as such. Here Hannibal stiffened and refused to honor this last request. He could never hand over his men to Scipio, what kind of a person could do such a thing he was said to have responded?  Scipio responded that he could offer no less than what he had offered and Hannibal voiced his rergets and returned to his army to prepare for battle.    The Battle of Zama would soon follow ( October 19, 202 B.C.)


                  Sacred Band Helmet  found at the Battle of Zama


          Hannibal's army consisted of 45,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and the 80 war elephants, which as said before were untested in battle. His cavalry horses were also new and had never faced the horrors of battle as he had to kill his veteran horses before he left Italy.  His army was also a far-cry from his earlier army that had carried him to so many victories. The army, thrown together hastily, lacked the bond that was needed to be successful against Scipio. Furthermore, Scipio was before an army that reflected a total of 34,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry. Although his army was slightly smaller than Hannibals, they were a superb fighting force. They had not been thrown together as one during the past several days as Hannibals had. They had fought as one for several years and had never been defeated by any army that Carthage had sent to oppose them. Even though this time he was not fighting Carthage armies led by Hannibals brothers, Scipio was confident of his chances against the invincible Carthaginian. Even Hannibals veterans, the best that he had, were fighting far from home and their loved ones, in a foriegn, strange land. Finally, much to the disdain of Hannibal, Masinissa had returned later that afternoon with his cavalry, fresh from putting down the revolt in his homeland, giving Scipio the decided advantage in cavalry.

         Putting his vital, experienced cavalry on the flanks, Hannibal aligned his troops in three straight lines behind his massive line of eighty war elephants. The first line, less reliable, consisted of mixed infantry of mercenaries from Gaul, Liguria, and the Balaeric islands. In his second line he placed the Carthaginian and Libyan citizen levies, while his veterans from Italy were placed in the third line along with the Carthage "Sacred Band" unit of 1,000 infantry. Hannibal intentionally held back his third infantry line, in order to prevent Scipio's tendency to pin the Carthaginian center and envelop his opponent's lines, as he had previously done at the Battle of Ilipa against his brother Mago.  Hannibal also deployed the 4000 Macedonians but it is unknown if these he placed in the second or the third of his lines.

          Scipio deployed his center in three lines as well. On his flanks he placed the stronger right wing that was composed of the Numidian cavalry and commanded by Masinissa while the left wing was composed of the heavy Italian cavalry under the command of Laelius. The greatest concern for Scipio was the massive line of elephants that stood before him. He came up with an ingenious plan to take care of them.


          At the outset of the battle, as the city of Carthage grimly awaited for the outcome, Hannibal gave orders and unleashed his massive line of elephants and skirmishers against the first Roman line in order to break the cohesion of their line and to set about the exploitation of any breaches that could be opened.  The attack was confronted by the Roman skirmishers. In addition to this Scipio ordered his army to blow thousands of loud horns to frighten the beasts which partly succeeded and several rampaging elephants turned towards the Carthaginian left wing and caused great confusion which was to precipitate the charge of Masinissa into this  arm of Hannibals army, also composed of Numidian cavalry. Hannibal then ordered both wings of his cavalry to flee far from the battle, on purpose, to lure Masinissa to follow, rendering the Roman horse from the battle, in hopes of allowing the action to be settled by the infantry, of which, he was confident that his third line of veterans would prevail against Scipio.  Once his cavalry leaders were sure that they had drawn the Roman horse far enough away, they were directed to fall upon their enemies and should they prove victorious, return to the infantry action as soon as they could. Meanwhile Scipio had his infantry form open lanes to allow the remaining elephants to carefully pass through and taken to the rear of the Roman army where they were dealt with. Scipio's plan to neutralize the threat of the elephants had worked. Scipio's troops then fell back into traditional Roman battle formation.

          Scipio now marched with his center towards the Carthaginian center which was under the direct command of Hannibal. Hannibal moved forward with only two lines and the third line of veterans was kept in reserve to prevent Scipio from extending his center to attack the wings. After a close contest the first line of Hannibal was pushed back by the Roman center.  Hannibal ordered his second line not to allow the first line in their ranks. The bulk of them managed to escape and to position themselves on the wings of the second line on Hannibal's instructions. This prevented disorganization of his second line and Hannibal now charged with his second line. A furious struggle ensued and the Roman center was pushed back with heavy losses. Scipio reinforced these troops with his second line and a long, fierce struggle ensued. Scipio would then attempt to move a portion of his third line to the flanks of his first two, in an attempt to envelope the Carthage lines, but Hannibal saw what Scipio was doing and he led an equal number of his third line to counter.  Scipio would then order the last line of his infantry to join in the attack and Hannibal's second line crumbled. They fled back towards the third line, but Hannibal again had ordered this line to not allow any of the second line to entangle their formations and this line fled to the flanks. Scipio, pausing a moment for water, would then lead his entire infantry formation in an attack upon Hannibal's third line of defense, the vererans of Cannae. Here they stood, with heads lowered, shields raised, and weapons in hand, as the Roman forces came crashing into their formation as fast as they could run. These elite veterans of Hannibal's Italian campaigns were to have the last say in the battle or so Hannibal hoped. It is to be expected that while these troops clashed, Hannibal must have kept a constant glance over the African countryside in the direction that the Roman horse had followed his cavalry, hoping that his troops had led the Romans far from the field.  

          As the infantry  remained engaged, Hannibals veterans began to push the Roman infantry back and suddenly the situation was beginning to heavily favor Carthage.   But as Scipio tried to rally his troops, he suddenly caught the glimpse of the sun reflecting upon the armor of thousands of his cavalry troops lined in a straight line, charging at full force towards the back of Hannibal's veterans. Masinissa had returned just in time. He had followed the Carthage horse far from the field when suddenly they turned upon him and attacked his cavalry. The opening struggle was fought with desperation until Masinissa was able to gain the upper hand, causing the Carthage horse to flee from the battle. It was then that Masinissa returned and led his troops to save the battle for the Romans. As his cavalry smashed into Hannibal's veterans, the Carthaginians turned and fought. Scipio then, after re-organizing his infantry, launched an attack upon these Carthage veterans, extending his lines around to the Carthage flanks, as he had tried to do earlier. This time Hannibal had no men in reserves to counter this Roman formation as his veterans were being cut down by the Roman horse. Thus, the circle of death was complete. Just as Hannibal had done at Cannae, Scipio now had done at Zama. Scipio had learned from the best well, leaving Hannibal with a bitter pill to swallow.  The battle would end here and a devastating slaughter of Hannibal's troops would follow. Hannibal, after trying in vain to rally his troops, to no avail, fled with a small group of horsemen to his camp at Hadrumentum realizing that he would be of better service to Carthage in defeat rather than die in vain at Zama. Unlike the troops from Hannibal's first two lines, the third line of veterans and Sacred Band soldiers would not surrender. They fought until the last man fell.

          Upon the bloody fields of Zama, 20,000 men of Hannibal's army had perished. Another 20,000 were captured by the Romans, again these from the first two lines.   Only 11,000 escaped. Scipio was to lose only around 6,000 of his troops. The last battle of the Second Punic War had been fought. The disaster of Cannae had been avenged.

          Hannibal immediately sent a messenger to Carthage to bring them the news that they were anxiously awaiting. The news that they hoped would be different than what was delivered. The messengers also brought word from Hannibal to the Carthage senate. They were informed of the Carthage defeat and directed to accept any terms of surrender that Scipio would offer. The battle and the war was over for Carthage there was no longer resources to continue.  The Carthage senate could do nothing but agree with Hannibal and sent a solemn delegation to Scipio asking for terms. Suprisingly, Scipio agreed to the original terms, save one, that Carthage had earlier breached and finally the war was over. That additional term of surrender, however, would bring about the third and final war. This term stated that since Carthage was now a "friend and ally" of Rome, they were never again allowed to enter into a war with any other nation unless Rome gave them permission to do so.

          Scipio would return to Rome a conquering hero. The Roman republic had withstood the wrath of the Barca family and was now on their way to becoming an imperial empire, to be rivaled by noone. Carthage, in defeat, would never again rise to her former glory. But Hannibal, in defeat, was allowed by Rome to remain in Carthage where he was promptly elected shofet, and he quickly put into plans the reversal of the Carthaginian fortunes. With Hannibal leading the city, the future would hold promise.