Generals of the Second Punic War

The Second Punic War saw two empires clash for the second time in under 25 years: Carthage and Rome. The seats of these two rival empires were in Africa and Italia respectively but were remarkably close to one another as Cato the Elder demonstrated by displaying a ripe fig picked three days earlier in Carthage to the senate in Rome.

The two empires had intrinsically different cultures and world views with the Carthaginians preferring trade and profit to the Roman's lust for power through domination. The Carthaginian army was an army of mercenaries drawn from across North Africa, Iberia, and Italia while the Romans fielded their own warriors with numbers supplemented by auxiliaries from neighbouring cities. This makes Hannibal Barca’s victories in the opening years of the war so much more startling as it would be expected that the Roman generals (consuls) would have superior military experience and fewer problems of cohesion in their ranks. The following is a summary of the generals that led the armies to battle as well as other notable leaders during the war.

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Generals of the Second Punic War - Carthage

The most successful and well-known general the Carthaginians fielded was without argument, Hannibal Barca whose battlefield strategies such as the double envelopment are still taught today in military colleges the world over. The Second Punic War, fought on multiple fronts from Iberia (Hispania) to Italia to Africa, also saw other Carthaginian generals lead armies to battle with varying success. This is a summary of the most prominent Carthaginian generals.

 

Hannibal  Barca (Aníbal Barca)

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War
  • Siege of Saguntum (Not technically part of the war, but the cause of it.)

  • Battle of Ticinus

  • Battle of Trebia

  • Battle of Lake Trasimene

  • Battle of Ager Falernus

  • Battle of Geronium

  • Battle of Cannae

  • Battle of Silva Litana

  • Battle of Nola I

  • Siege of Casilinium

  • Battle of Nola II

  • Battle of Nola III

  • Battle of Tarentum

  • Battle of Capua

  • Battle of Silarus

  • Battle of Herdonia

  • Battle of Numistro

  • Battle of Canusium

  • Battle of Caulonia

  • Battle of Patelia

  • Battle of Grumentum

  • Battle of Crotona

  • Battle of Zama

 

Hannibal Barca was the son of Hamilcar Barca, who was an accomplished Carthaginian commander during the First Punic War (264–241 BC). His younger brothers were Mago and Hasdrubal, and he was brother-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair; all also commanded the Barca army in Iberia. Hannibal was proclaimed commander-in-chief of the army in 221 BC when he was twenty-six. Two years later, he laid siege to Saguntum, a city in Iberia that was allied to Rome.

 

In 218 BC, Hannibal Barca led his army on the epic overland journey across the Rhône and through the Alps to liberate the cities of Italia and halt Rome’s ascendance in power. Hannibal proved a master military strategist and his victories over the Roman and allied armies included The Battle of Lake Trasimene and The Battle of Cannae. Hannibal’s campaign became bogged down due to a lack of reinforcements as the Roman dominance of the seas, strangled his supply line. Unable and unwilling to besiege Rome itself, Hannibal’s gains were slowly eroded as Italian cities were recaptured by the Romans. When Scipio Africanus defeated the Barca armies in Hispania and threatened Carthage itself, Hannibal returned to Carthage to command its remaining army at the Battle of Zama which saw him finally defeated by a Roman, Scipio Africanus.

A marble bust, reputedly of Hannibal, originally found at the ancient city-state of Capua in Italy

 

Mago Barca

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Battle of Trebia

  • Battle of Cannae

  • Battle of Akre Leuke                       

  • Battle of Castulo

  • Battle of Ilorca

  • Battle of Ilipa

  • Battle of Cartagena

 

Mago, brother of Hannibal Barca proved to be one

of Hannibal’s key commanders and led pivotal roles

such as springing the ambush at the Battle of Trebia.

 

Mago was redeployed to reinforce Hasdrubal in

Iberia against the Generals Publius Scipio and

Gnaeus Scipio who’s armies were defeated within

23 days of one another in 211 BC.

 

He and his fellow commanders, Hasdrubal Barca and Hasdrubal Gisco were defeated at Ilipa and he was repulsed at Qart Hadasht (Cartagena). When Gadiz, his last bastion in Iberia, went over to Rome he took the remains of his army to Northern Italy in 205 BC, capturing Genoa. His forces were trapped in the Cisalpine by seven legions who refused to give battle but prevented him combining his forces with those of Hannibal.

 

Wounded in Cisalpine Gaul, he was recalled to Carthage to defend it against Scipio Africanus, but died at sea.

The Barca army on the march

 

Hasdrubal Barca

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Battle of Dertosa (Battle of Iberia)

  • Unnamed battle against Syphax in Numidia

  • Battle of Baecula

  • Battle of Metarus

 

Son of Hamilcar and brother to Hannibal Barca, Hasdrubal commanded one of the two Barcid armies that remained in Iberia while Hannibal campaigned in Italy.

 

Having failed to prevent the Romans gaining a foothold in Iberia, in 217BC, he launched a joint naval and land counter-attack on the Romans led by proconsul Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus. This was repulsed when the Carthaginian naval contingent was defeated. He was again defeated in battle in 215BC at Ilerda near the mouth of the Ebro.

 

At the Battle of the Upper Baetis in 211 BCE, Hasdrubal commanded one of three Barcid armies that together defeated the Romans. In 208BC, with the Romans having finally wrested control of Iberia, Hasdrubal led his surviving forces to Italy to join Hannibal.

 

He was confronted by two armies led by Gaius Claudius Nero and Marcus Livius Salinator and in the decisive Battle of the Metaurus, Hasdrubal was defeated and killed. Some days later, his severed head was hurled into Hannibal’s camp in the dead of night.

 
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Military Fiction set in the Second Punic War

Hasdrubal Gisco

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • The Battle of Ilorca

  • The Battle of Ilipa

  • The Battle of the Great Plains (Battle of Bagrades)

Hasdrubal, son of Gisco was dispatched to Iberia following Hasdrubal Barca’s defeat at the Battle of Dertosa in the spring of 215 BC, arriving in Iberia in 214 BC. His appointment as a commander ended the absolute command of the Barcid family in Iberia.

He played a strategic role in the defeat of Publius Cornelius Scipio and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus in 212 BC at the Battles of The Upper Baetus.

In 205 BC, Hasdrubal persuaded Syphax, king of the Berber Masaesyli tribe of western Numidia, to ally with Carthage against Rome. Included in the alliance was the hand of his daughter, Sophonisba, who had been previously been promised to Masinissa.

 

At the Battle of the Great Plains (Bagbrades) near Utica in Numidia, Hasdrubal Gisco was defeated after his camp was burned and his army slaughtered. He returned to Carthage where he committed suicide in 202 BC.

 

Generals of the Second Punic War - Rome

During the Second Punic War, the lifespan of Roman officers was dismal. Men like Marcus Claudius Marcellus and Gaius Flaminius were accomplished warriors with long experience in waging war on neighboring tribes, Celts, and Gauls. Those that survived the initial battles with Hannibal Barca's veteran army of mercenary warriors from Africa, Greece, Iberia, and Italia, had to learn to adapt.

 

Battle of Zama

Oil on canvas by an unknown artist after Giulio Romano, 16th century

Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in Moscow.

Scipio Africanus

(Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus)

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Battle of Ticinus

  • Battle of Cannae

  • Battle of Carthago Nova

  • Battle of Baecula

  • Battle of Ilipa

  • Siege of Utica

  • Battle of Utica

  • Battle of the Great Plains (Battle of the Bagrades

  • Battle of Zama

Also known as Scipio the African, Scipio Africanus-Major, Scipio Africanus the Elder, and Scipio the Great. Scipio Africanus, a Roman general and later Consul, is considered one of the greatest generals and military strategists in history.

 

Scipio joined the Roman legions in the Second Punic War in 218BC while his father was Consul. At the Battle of Ticinus, he saved his father's life with a courageous charge into the encircling enemy ranks.

 

As a Military Tribune, Scipio fought at the Battle of Cannae in which his would-be father-in-law, the Consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus, was killed. After the disastrous Roman defeat, Scipio and Appius Claudius Pulcher took command of the Roman and allied survivors.

 

In 211 BC, Scipio's father, Publius Scipio, and uncle, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, both fell in battle. In response, the Romans resolved to send a new army to Hispania, and Scipio is said to have requested the role of Proconsul which he was awarded despite his inexperience at just 25 years old.

 

Between 211 BC and 206 BC, Scipio defeated the Carthaginian generals in Iberia and conquered the territory all the way to Gades. After consolidating anew army and naval force in Sicily, Scipio sailed for Utica in Africa and opened the final campaign of the Second Punic War. His defeat of Hannibal Barca at the battle at Zama in 202 BC earned him the agnomen Africanus.

 

Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Battle of Cissa

  • Battle of the Ebro River (Naval)

  • Battle of Dertosa

  • Battle of Ilorca

Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus landing with 20,000 legionaries at Empúries in Northeast Iberia in 218 BC with his fellow general and brother, Publius Cornelius Scipio. Gnaeus and his brother defeated Hanno at the Battle of Cissa in 218 BC.

 

In early 215 BC the Romans, under the joined command of the brothers Gnaeus and Publius Scipio, crossed the Ebro River and defeated Hasdrubal Barca at the Battle of Dertosa (Battle of Iberia). The Roman victory forced Carthage to redirect reinforcements earmarked for Hannibal in Italy to Spain.

 

In 212 BC, the Scipio brothers captured Castulo, a rich mining town and a major blow to Carthage. He hired mercenaries from the Celtiberi tribe to supplement Roman losses, but these turned on the Romans during the Battles of the Upper Baetis which included the Battle of Castulo and the Battle of Ilorca. Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus died in the Battle of Ilorca in 211 BC.

 

Bust of The Sword of Rome, Marcus Marcellus

Marcus Claudius Marcellus

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • First Battle of Nola

  • Second Battle of Nola

  • Third Battle of Nola

  • Battle of Leontini

  • Siege of Syracuse

  • Battle of Numistro

A skilled warrior, Marcellus had already gained the warrior title The Sword of Rome for winning the spolia opima by killing the Celtic King of the Gaesatae, Viridomarus in hand-to-hand combat. In the Second Punic war, Marcellus’ victories in Sicily were critical to Rome’s war effort, and upon arriving in Italy from Sicily, he took the city of Salapia and two cities in Samnium.  Marcellus then checked Hannibal’s advance after he defeated the army of Gnaeus Fulvius.

 

Marcellus fought Hannibal at Numistro and although there was no outright victor, Rome claimed it their victory. After Numistro, Marcellus refused Hannibal a set battle, preferring the strategy of attrition warfare believing that Hannibal’s warriors were best “the men whom you wore down in skirmishes and whose tracks you harried".

 

While travelling with Titus Quinctius Crispinus, his fellow consul near Venusia with a column of cavalry, Marcellus made contact with a force of foraging Numidians who ambushed him and his column. The Spear of Rome was impaled by a spear and died on the field of battle while Crispinus died from his wounds some days later.

 

When told of the victory and Marcellus’ death, Hannibal Barca rode to the battleground and ensured Marcellus’ body was given a Roman funeral after which he had the ashes sent to Marcellus’ son.

 
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Military Fiction set in the Second Punic War

Gaius Claudius Nero

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Third Battle of Nola

  • Siege of Capua

  • Battle of Grumentum

  • Battle of the Metaurus

Gaius Claudius Nero received an ovation for his part in the Roman victory at the Battle of the Metaurus which was considered a key turning point of the war by Roman historian, Titus Livius.

The battle was a major Roman victory in which Hannibal’s brother, Hasdrubal Barca was killed and his army of experienced warriors from Iberia and Africa eliminated. This was a death blow to Hannibal’s Italian campaign.

In stark contrast to Hannibal’s often respectful treatment of Roman and Italian dead, Claudius ordered Hasdrubal’s head to be taken south and thrown into Hannibal's camp.

The Battle of the Metaurus is listed in Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy's highly regarded The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World. Theodore Ayrault Dodge describes it as “the finest strategic feat of the Romans during the entire war, as well as one of the exceptional marches in history”.

 

Marcus Livius Salinator

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Battle of the Metaurus

Livius (known as the Salinator), the Governor of Tarentum, was also a Roman Consul who fought at the Battle of the Metaurus.

 

Arriving in Narni, Livius sought to block the advance of Hasdrubal Barca’s army invading the Italian peninsula from the north. He encountered the enemy at Fanum in the spring of 207 BC and, reinforced by the army of his fellow Consul Gaius Claudius Nero, defeated Hasdrubal’s army in the Battle of the Metaurus in which Hannibal Barca’s brother was killed.

 
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Military Fiction set in the Second Punic War

Ducarius Beheads Flaminius at the Battle of Lake Trasimene

by Joseph-Noël Sylvestre (1882)

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Béziers

Gaius Flaminius

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Battle of Lake Trasimene

Gaius Flaminius was a prominent politician, twice elected consul. He entered his second term as consul in 217 and was assigned command of the four legions of who had fought and lost against Hannibal at the Trebia the previous year. Despite criticism that he was acting against the will of the gods and senate, Flaminius disregarded a senatorial summons to Rome and marched his troops to Etruria to confront Hannibal. He and his army were trapped against the waters of Lake Trasimene by Hannibal’s army and suffered huge casualties. Gaius Flaminius was beheaded by Ducarius, the King of the Insubres whose tribe fought with Hannibal.

 

Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Battle of the Tarentum

As a Roman delegate to Carthage seeking the end to Hannibal Barca’s siege of Saguntum, he famously offered the Carthaginian Council peace or war.

“Then the Roman, having formed a fold in his robe, said, "Here we bring to you peace and war; take which you please." (Excerpt from Titus Livy’s The History of Rome, Book XXI.

 

After the Consul Gaius Flaminius was killed at the Battle of Lake Trasimene in 217 BC, panic swept through Rome. With Consular armies destroyed in two major battles, and Hannibal approaching the city, they decided to appoint a dictator and chose Fabius for the role.

 

Out of respect and fear of Hannibal's military skill, Fabius refused to meet him in pitched battle. Instead, he kept his troops close to Hannibal, opting for a war of attrition and a scorched earth policy. By constantly harassing Carthaginian foraging parties and scouts, he curbed Hannibal's ability to feed and grow his army, while conserving his own military force.

Quintus Fabius Maximus

by Jan Lievens (1656),

Paleis op de Dam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

 
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Military Fiction set in the Second Punic War

Publius Cornelius Scipio

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Battle of Ticinus

  • Battle of Trebia

  • Battle of Dertosa

  • Battle of Castulo

 

Publius Cornelius Scipio was the father of Scipio Africanus who ultimately defeated Hannibal Barca.

 

Scipio served as consul in 218 BC and set sail for Hispania to confront Hannibal Barca. Instead, while docking for supplies in Massalia (present-day Marseille), he learned Hannibal was already crossing the Rhône. Hastily disembarking his army, he marched north to intercept the Carthaginian General, but was unable to. He then entrusted the command of his army to his brother, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, who he sent on to Hispania while he returned to Rome to take command of a Roman army already in Cisalpine Gaul.

 

In a cavalry engagement with Hannibal’s horsemen near the Ticinus, he was severely wounded and saved by his son, Scipio Africanus. In December, he witnessed the defeat of the Roman army at the Trebia. The term of his command was extended and he was dispatched to Hispania where he defeated the Carthaginians in the battle of Dertosa.

In 211 BC, both he and his brother were killed in the Battles of the Upper Baetis.

 

Sempronius Longus

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Capture of Malta

  • Battle of Trebia

  • Battle of Grumentum

Tiberius Sempronius Longus was a Roman consul during the Second Punic War. In 218 BC, Sempronius was sent to Africa with 160 quinqueremes to gather forces and supplies, while Scipio was sent to Iberia to intercept Hannibal. It was at this time, striking from Lilybaeum, on the island of Sicily, that Sempronius Longus captured Malta from the Carthaginians.

At the Battle of Trebia, Sempronius led his forces into a trap and he and his men were surrounded. Although it was a crushing Roman defeat, Tiberius Sempronius Longus and 10,000 legionaries fought their way to safety through the Carthaginian lines.

 

Generals of the Second Punic War - Iberia

There are very few surviving details of the Iberians who fought either for Carthage or Rome during the war. One leading warrior is mentioned by both Livy and Polybius.

 

Indibilis of the Illergete

Battles he participated in during the Second Punic War

  • Capture of Cissa

  • Battle of Dertosa

  • Battle of Upper Baetis

  • Battle of Baecula

 

Indibilis was captured by the Romans at the Battle of Cissa in Spain in 218 BC. After being freed, he took to marauding the Iberian tribes who sided with the Romans. After the Battle of Dertosa in 215 BC in which Hasdrubal Barca was defeated by Scipio Calvus, Indibilis disappeared until 211 BC when he led a force of 7,500 Suessetani warriors against Publius Scipio in the Battle of the Upper Baetis.

Indibilis and his brother Mandonius had been, if not pro-Carthaginian, anti-Roman throughout the war. After the Carthaginian victories at Castulo and Ilorco, their land was returned to them. Their support of Carthage soured when the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal Gisco demanded their families be held hostage in Qart Hadasht.

In 209 BC, Indibilis concluded a treaty of alliance with the Romans and fought against Hasdrubal Gisco which ended in a victory at the Battle of Baecula in 208 BC.

 

Author J. Glenn Bauer

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