Second Punic War - Timeline
In plotting and writing Sons of Iberia, I have spent months examining reference material and compiling this timeline of the major events. I am fascinated by the timeline and horrified by how long the war endured and the magnitude of the destruction and loss of life on all sides.
Prelude to War
Hannibal Barca assumes command of Carthaginian forces in Iberia after the assassination of Hasdrubal the Fair. The armies of Carthage in Iberia are delighted.
Strife between pro-Carthaginian and pro-Roman citizens in Saguntum gives Hannibal the pretext to lay siege to the city who is allied to Rome. The Carthaginian senate refuse Rome’s demands to end Hannibal Barca’s siege of Saguntum.
Notable Quote: “The ruins of Saguntum (oh that I may prove a false prophet!) will fall on our heads; and the war commenced against the Saguntines must be continued against the Romans.” Hanno – Carthaginian Senator.
218 BCE - 202 BCE
The Second Punic War.
Rome prepares for war with Carthage. Twenty-four thousand Roman infantry are levied, and one thousand eight hundred horse: forty thousand allied infantry, and four thousand four hundred horse: two hundred and twenty ships of three banks of oars, and twenty light galleys, were launched.
Quintus Fabius addresses the Carthaginian Council offering them peace or war. Excerpt from Titus Livy’s The History of Rome, Book XXI. “Then the Roman, having formed a fold in his robe, said, "Here we bring to you peace and war; take which you please." On this speech they exclaimed no less fiercely in reply: "he might give which he chose;" and when he again, unfolding his robe, said "he gave war," they all answered that "they accepted it, and would maintain it with the same spirit with which they accepted it."
April 218 BCE - May 218 BCE
Hannibal Barca subdues the Iberian people north of the Ebro and crosses the Pyrenees into the land of the Gauls.
July 218 BCE
The Volcae Gauls gather to stand against Hannibal Barca’s army on the eastern bank of the Rhone river where they are defeated.
Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus fails to halt Hannibal’s forces north of Massalia and so he continues on to Iberia, landing an army of 20,000 at Empúries.
Summer, 218 BCE
The Battle of Lilybaeum: The first naval engagement of the war took place at Lilybaeum when the Carthaginians sent 35 quinqueremes to raid Sicily, starting with Lilybaeum. Alerted by Hiero of Syracuse, The Romans placed legionaries on their fleet of 20 quinqueremes and intercepted the Carthaginian ships. The Romans boarded and captured seven Carthaginian vessels without losses.
October 218 BCE
The Battle of Cissa. The Carthaginian General Hanno attacked the Roman army commanded by Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus. Outnumbered, Hanno’s forces were defeated with the loss of 6,000 warriors and a further 2,000 taken prisoner including Hanno and the influential Illergetes leader, Indibilis. Worse still, the Romans also captured all the baggage that was accumulated at Cissa to send on to support Hannibal’s army in Italy.
November 218 BCE
Battle of Ticinus. Hannibal Barca crossed the Alps and gathered Gauls to bolster his reduced army. He confronted Publius Cornelius Scipio’s at the Battle of Ticinus, primarily a cavalry encounter that saw Scipio wounded and saved by his son who was later named Scipio Africanus.
December 218 BCE
Battle of Trebia. Hannibal faces Sempronius Longus at the battle of Trebia and his victory in this first major battle in Italy secures greater support from the local Gauls, increasing his forces to 60,000 warriors. The majority of the tribes in northern Italy are convinced to back Hannibal against Rome.
24 June 217 BCE
Battle of Lake Trasimene. Hannibal defeats consul Gaius Flaminius at the battle of Lake Trasimene. The battle is noteworthy as being the largest ambush in military history and the earliest known example of the strategic turning movement.
Notable quote: “I have come not to make war on the Italians, but to aid the Italians against Rome.”
Marcus Claudius Marcellus successfully defends Nola against attack from Hannibal during the Second Punic War.
August 2, 216 BCE
The battle of Cannae. Hannibal Barca leads his army to victory against a Roman force double the size of his mainly mercenary forces delivering the worst defeat in Roman history.
Notable quote: Gisgo commented on the size of the Roman forces arrayed against the Barca army and Hannibal replied, “You forget one thing Gisgo, among all their numerous forces, there is not one man called Gisgo.”
August 216 BCE
Hannibal at the gates (of Rome) - Hannibal ante portas. Hannibal was now able to strike directly at the city of Rome. Instead, he sent a delegation to Rome to negotiate peace and a second offering to release his Roman prisoners of war for ransom. Rome rejected both offers.
Notable quote: “Of a truth the gods do not give the same man everything: you know how to gain a victory, Hannibal, but you do not know how to make use of it.” Maharbal, commander of Hannibal's Numidian cavalry
Spring, 215 BCE
Battle of Dertosa (Battle of Iberia) Hasdrubal Barca’s Iberian army is defeated by Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus and Publius Cornelius Scipio on the southern banks of the Ebro opposite the town of Dertosa. This loss caused critical reinforcements destined for Hannibal in Italy to be diverted to Iberia - 12,000 infantry, 1,500 cavalry, 20 elephants and 60 warships under the command of Mago Barca, Hannibal’s second brother.
New allies. The newly crowned king of Syracuse, Hieronymus of Syracuse engaged in a treaty with Carthage in which he abandoned support of Rome in return for the rule of the island of Sicily and its cities.
The Macedonian king, Philip V, also pledged his support to Hannibal after the decisive battle of Cannae, beginning the First Macedonian War against Rome.
214 BCE - 212 BCE
The Siege of Syracuse. The Roman commander Marcus Claudius Marcellus laid siege to Syracuse in Sicily. The siege lasted for two years with Roman efforts being thwarted by the military machines of the famous inventor Archimedes.
Rome hires mercenaries from among the Celtiberians, matching the rates paid by Carthage.
Battle of Tarentum. The citizens of Tarentum, many of whom wanted to throw off the yoke of Roman rule communicated with Hannibal Barca who was eager to see the wealthy city come over to the Carthaginian side. Marcus Livy, the governor of Tarentum was surprised and defeated in the dead of night and forced to retreat to the citadel where the Romans had to wait out the war.
Battle of the Upper Baetis. Hasdrubal and Mago Barca, Hasdrubal Gisco and Masinissa of Numidia defeated both Publius Cornelius Scipio and his brother Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus in two respective battles in the Tader valley at Castulo and Ilorca. Both Romans are killed in battle.
Scipio Africanus lands a Roman army at Empúries in northeastern Spain.
Publius Cornelius Scipio leads a surprise attack on Carthago Nova (Cartagena) and overcomes its defenders, enslaving the citizens and taking the vital Carthaginian treasury, stores, and armoury.
Tarentum comes back under Roman control during the Second Punic War.
The Battle of Baecula. Scipio Africanus defeated Hasdrubal Barca at Baecula in Iberia. After the battle, Hasdrubal led his depleted (and mainly Gallic) army over the western passes of the Pyrenees into Gaul, and then to Italy to join his brother, Hannibal.
Hannibal, harassed by Roman forces and short on reinforcements, and supplies is reduced to controlling only Bruttium in southern Italy.
22 Jun 207 BCE
Battle of Metaurus. Hasdrubal Barca and his forces en-route to reinforce Hannibal were confronted by two Roman armies near the Metaurus river. The Roman forces led by consuls Marcus Livius, (The Salinator), and Gaius Claudius Nero. Hasdrubal’s outnumbered forces were defeated and Hasdrubal Barca, seeing the inevitable defeat, made a suicide charge into the thickest of the fighting and was killed.
Battle of Ilipa. One of Scipio Africanus’ strategically masterful battles in which he broke the power of the Carthaginian forces forever in Iberia, defeating Mago Barca, Hasdrubal Gisco, and Masinissa of Numidia.
Masinissa of Numidia, foreseeing that Rome would ultimately be victorious in the war, defects to their side.
206 BCE - 205 BCE
The city magistrates of Gades bar the city gates to Mago Barca after his failed attack on Carthago Nova. He crucifies them for treason and then departs Iberia, ending the Carthaginian presence on the Iberian Peninsula.
Scipio Africanus sails to North Africa to take the war to Carthaginian soil.
204 BCE - 203 BCE
Scipio Africanus wins two battles and besieges Utica in North Africa.
The Carthaginian commander Mago is unable to join forces with Hannibal and his army is defeated in Cisalpine Gaul where he is injured in battle.
The Battle of the Great Plains (Battle of Bagrades). Scipio Africanus defeated a Carthaginian army led by Hasdrubal Gisco and Syphax near Utica in North Africa (in modern Tunisia).
Hannibal is recalled from Italy to defend Carthage.
19 October 202 BCE
The Battle of Zama. Near Zama (in modern Tunisia) Scipio Africanus defeated Hannibal Barca, forcing the Carthaginian Senate to sue for peace.
 The turning movement is a military tactic in which the attacking forces reach the rear of the enemy’s forces, separating them from their primary defensive positions and threaten to isolate them in a pocket, forcing the defenders to abandon the positions.
 Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 – c. 212 BC) was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. He is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. The Claw of Archimedes (Ship Shaker) was one weapon that he is said to have designed to defend the city. It was a crane-like arm from which a large metal grappling hook was suspended. The claw would be dropped onto an attacking ship and the arm would swing upwards, lifting the ship out of the water and probably sinking it.
A provision of the treaty was that the Carthaginians were not permitted to engage in war without consent from Rome. This allowed the Romans to establish a casus belli for the Third Punic War when the Carthaginians were forced to defend against Numidian encroachment on their territory which the Romans did not recognise.