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Punic Wars, Hannibal Essay

2206 words - 9 pages

Classics 2029: Roman Republican HistoryWeek 7 the Punic Wars (T.P.1)Cormac Griffin: A1177407What did the war against Hannibal reveal about the extent of Rome's control over Italy at the beginning of the second century B.C.?IntroductionHannibal's invasion of Italy shook Rome to its very core. A series of crushing military defeats, culminating at Cannae in 216 B.C. with the death of 50,000 - 70,000 Roman and allied troops (see Polybius, Book III, 107-118), led a number of Rome's erstwhile allies to defect to the Carthaginian cause. As Toynbee notes "the immediate effect of the battle of Cannae was to split the Roman Commonwealth into two sections. One section seceded, while the other remained ...view middle of the document...

He was, accordingly, viewed as being unduly influenced by Hannibal's promise to free captive nations, drawing as it did on the Panhellenic notion of 'the Freedom of the Greeks' - an objective of the Hellenistic kings (Erskine, 1993, 59). Thus, use of these two primary sources has its limitations.Italian/Rome relations prior to the 2nd Punic WarThe Roman conquest of Italy began as early as 509 B.C. However, it was not until the middle of the third century B.C. that Rome came to dominate the Italian peninsula. "The rise of Roman hegemony was established by three diverse means: (a) direct annexation of territory and incorporation of the existing inhabitants; (b) the foundation of Latin colonies on territory confiscated from defeated peoples; and (c) the binding of defeated peoples to Rome by treaties of perpetual alliance" (Lomas, 1996, 37). Incorporation into the Roman confederation came at a price and entailed significant burdens for the new socii (allies): the loss of substantial territory, the loss of freedom of action in foreign relations and heavy military obligations. Balanced against these losses, however, were the very important advantages of the system for the socii. "By far the most important was the liberation of the socii from the perpetual inter-tribal warfare of the pre-hegemonic peninsula. Endemic chaos was replaced by the Pax Romana (Roman Peace)" (Polybius, Book I, 41). Thus, it is clear that Rome's allies both benefited and suffered at its expansionist hands. At least some of these allies could, accordingly, be expected to defect from Rome at an appropriate time.Second Punic WarThat time arrived in the form of Hannibal, a Carthaginian general, and arguably one of the finest military commanders the world has ever seen. His army invaded Italy, from Spain, through the Alps. Although numerically weaker, Hannibal's well-trained army initially crushed the inexperienced Roman armies sent against them. Following a series of Carthaginian victories at Trebia (218B.C.), Trasimene (217B.C.) and particularly at Cannae (216 B.C.), a number of Italian allies started wavering in their loyalty to Rome. As Polybius notes, "How much more serious was the defeat of Cannae, than those which preceded it can be seen by the behaviour of Rome's allies; before that fateful day, their loyalty remained unshaken, now it began to waver for the simple reason that they despaired of Roman power" (Polybius, Book VII, 356 ).Defections commenced in Arpi, one of the most important cities of Central Italy. Salapia then joined Hannibal, and the strongholds of Aecae, Herdonea and Compsa followed suit alongside most of the tribes of the Samnite mountain region. In Lucania and Bruttium, with the exception of the Greek cities, the revolt was universal; only Petelia maintained a desperate defence and Consentia submitted after the fall of Petelia. But the most important of all the defections was that of Capua, at that time the second city in Italy.The causes of these revolts...

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