Impact and Influence on his Time
Hannibal Barca (247-183/182 BC) “excited, frightened and – once safely dead – drew reluctant admiration from the Romans” (Hoyos, 2008). For an historian to assess Hannibal’s legacy they would need to acknowledge both his immediate impact on the Mediterranean world and his lasting influence on Rome. The most immediate effect Hannibal had on his time stemmed from his involvement in the Punic Wars. The tactics he employed and the threat he posed to Rome, led to changes in their military and magistracies and his influence in Carthage was to oversee it becoming “energetically outward-looking… constantly evolving and… more and more attuned to Hellenistic Greek civilization (Hoyos, 2008).
Hannibal’s influence came as a result of his involvement in the Punic Wars. The question of whether the Second Punic War was of Hannibal’s making is debated greatly amongst modern historians but regardless, it is unlikely it would have taken the course it did without Hannibal as the predominant leader of the Carthaginian forces. Both Polybius and Livy described Hannibal making an oath to his father at the age of nine that he would never become a friend of Rome. With this and his defiance of Rome by attacking Saguntum as evidence, many modern scholars have attributed the outbreak of war in 218 directly to Hannibal. Bagnall for example, suggests that “Hannibal was bent on war and Rome was not loathe to accept the challenge” (Bagnall, 1999) whilst Caven writes, “Hannibal was an impetuous young man in whom the principal driving force was a burning desire for military glory” (Caven, 1992). This modern interpretation of ancient sources would suggest a key impact of Hannibal on his time: the outbreak of the Second Punic War. Whilst numerous historians refute this being the main cause of the war, with Polybius for example suggesting that it was the seizure of Corsica/Sardinia or Scullard suggesting that “The Second Punic War was largely of Rome’s making” (Scullard, 2003), Hannibal’s decision to attack Saguntum, whether voluntary or forced, marked the beginning of the war. Whether directly or indirectly, Hannibal’s most immediate impact on his time was the beginning and waging of the Second Punic War. Over the course of the Second Punic War, Hannibal defeated the Romans in battle on more than four separate occasions and came within kilometers of Rome itself. Scullard stated that, “the spectre of Hannibal still haunted Rome” (Scullard, 2003), an indication of the fear Hannibal inspired. This lead to them making a number of changes to the magistracies in order to facilitate successful generals staying in command for longer. The territory that Rome acquired as a result of the war, in Spain for example, led to further changes to the system of Roman magistrates. Thus one of Hannibal’s key impacts on his time was the change to the Roman system of governance that resulted from going to war with him. The passing of the Lex Baebia for example, in 181 was a reflection of the need for change in the system of provincial government, particularly in Spain following “Hannibal’s War” (Fournie, 2005). As a result of Hannibal’s victories over numerous Roman generals, during the Second Punic War, Rome began to more frequently extend successful general’s commands prorogatio. An example of this occurring was in the case of Scipio Africanus who was given proconsulship between 210 and 206. It was Scipio who ultimately defeated Hannibal at Zama, thus ending the Second Punic War. Changes to the Roman magistracies came indirectly as a result of Hannibal’s invasion of Italy from Spain.
The constant threat to Rome posed by Hannibal encouraged a temporary improvement in the standard of Roman troops and the structure of the Roman army. One of the key consequences of Hannibal’s invasion of Italy and Rome’s acquisition of new foreign territory was the shift from a temporary army of conscripts to a standing army supplemented...
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