Hannibal Barca of Carthage, North Africa



Image: Coin bearing the image of Hannibal and his famed battalion of elephants.
In 247 B.C., the year Hannibal Barca was born, the Carthage empire was about 500 years old. Known as one of the greatest strategist in military history, the battles of Hannibal would strike a turning point in the history of the continent that would be called Africa.

Carthage had been settled by Phoenicians in North Africa near the current Tunis. In his 1961 work, French Historian Gabriel Audisio comments that he considered "Hannibal to be neither a Phoenician, nor a Carthaginian, nor a Punic, but a North African... The majority of the Punic populace seems to have had African, indeed Negroid, ancestry." 

The Carthaginians, according to Audisio's research, mixed freely with the native populations of North Africa. The Punic of North Africa seem to have been a mix between the Phoenicians and native North Africans, the Berbers. The Phoenicians were a Semitic people said to have migrated from north of Palestine into Northern Africa, spreading their dominion throughout the Mediterranean regions. They were primarily known as merchant traders with an economy tied to the sea trades.

There is no picture of Hannibal in existence today. The coin above is frequently presented by commentators as a representation of Hannibal and his legacy of tamed elephants. While this writer was not able to find authority that the coins were made contemporaneously during or near the life of Hannibal -- which was more than 2,000 years ago -- the existence of such coinage during some point during our common age is no surprise in light of Hannibal's historical legacy.

What we do have are descriptions of Hannibal by commentators of his time. According to the Roman historian Levy of the first century of our era, Hannibal was "fearless, utterly prudent in danger, indefatigable, able to endure heat and cold, controlled in eating habits, unpretentious in dress, willing to sleep wrapped in military cloak, a superb rider and horseman." He was the son of the Carthage general Hamilcar Barca. There is no knowledge of his mother in the history records, not even her name. He had two brothers: Hasdrubal resided in Spain and Maharbal was captain of Hannibal's calvary.

Carthage and Rome were at war during the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.). Both empires were seeking supremacy over the Mediterranean. Hannibal's father, Hamilcar Barca, general of the Carthaginian mercenaries, was infuriated about the western Mediterranean losses of Sicily and Sardinia. When Hannibal was 17 years old, however, his father was killed in an ambush in Spain, which was primarily under the rule of the North African empire. Hannibal would son step fully into his military career.



Map of Carthage empire and Roman empire

In October 218 B.C., during the Second Punic War, Hannibal had arrived at the Alps. His soldiers are said to have stretched for more than eight miles at the Alps, the foothills of the Roman Empire. Hannibal's army of 100,000 men would trek and fight 1,500 miles to arrive at the Alps from Spain. Hannibal armies included Numidians, North Africans from an area roughly where Algeria now draws its boundaries. The Numidians were known as master horsemen who could guide their horses with their knees, leaving their hands free to use swords and throw javelins.They had fought attacks from European tribes like the Gauls.

Hannibal is said to have given this speech to the army of men who had survived and crossed the swift-flowing Rhone river:
"Why are you afraid?... The greater part of our journey is accomplished. We have surmounted the Pyrenees; we have crossed the Rhone, that mighty river, in spite of the opposition of thousands of Gauls and the fury of the river itself. Now we have the Alps in sight. On the other side of those mountains lies Italy.... Does anyone imagine the Alps to be anything but what they are--lofty mountains. No part of the earth reaches the sky, or is insurmountable to mankind. The Alps produce and support living things. If they are passable by a few men, they are passable to armies."
Hannibal lost half of his army in the first two weeks into the Alps. Landslides were touched off by mountain tribes. Men died during hand battle with tribesmen. Starvation and disease were also companions of the embattled lot. Polybus, a Greek historian and contemporary to Hannibal, described Hannibal's arrival to the Po Valley with about 26,000 men. At the Po Valley, Hannibal is said to have made this speech:
"Soldiers! You have now surmounted not only the ramparts of Italy, but also Rome. You are entering friendly country inhabited by people who hate the Romans as much as we do. The rest of the journey will be smooth and downhill, and, after one, or at most a second battle, you will have the citadel and capital of Italy in your possession."
Commentators have speculated on why Hannibal spoke these words because the men were about to face the most difficult part of the journey. Friends did not await in the Po Valley. Here, the Roman army would meet the men in battle. In retrospect, considering how far the men had come, there really was no going back at this point. The Carthaginians believed that Rome was considering an invasion of Africa. Hannibal believed he had to act through an overland attack on Roman to save Carthage. He would spend 15 years in Italy, winning many battles -- such as the Battle of Cannae where he lost 6,000 troops to Rome's 70,000 troops.

We know Hannibal did not succeed, but are astonished by how close he came to success. The second of the Punic Wars was over. When Hannibal eventually retreated with his army to Carthage, his army was defeated by Scipio Africanus in the Battle of Zama.  Always sought by the Romans, when Hannibal was about the age of 64 and to be taken prisoner, he took poison and is recorded to have stated:
"Let us now put an end to the great anxiety of the Romans who have thought it too lengthy and too heavy a task to wait for the death of a hated old man."

Hon. Dr. John Henrik Clarke on Carthage

22 comments:

  1. This Carthaginian shekel is known to be from the time of Hannibal and is generally thought to bear his likeness. The image is much different than from the above coin.
    http://edgarlowen.com/greek-coins-punic.shtml

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  2. That is Scipio Africanus, Hannibal the fraud.

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  3. Maharbal was Hannibal's cavalry commander, not his brother. Hannibal had two brothers, Hasdrubal and Mago. When Hannibal invaded Italy Mago went with him while Hasdrubal stayed in command of Carthaginian Spain. After the victory of Cannae Hannibal sent Mago to Carthage to ask for reinforcements - they sent him more useless elephants and no actual troops. Hasdrubal brought an army to Italy to try to meet up with Hannibal and pincer the Romans between them but was betrayed and killed in battle near the Metaurus river. His head was thrown in to Hannibal's camp to give him the news. Mago went back to Spain,then took troops to Ligurian Italy, and eventually, after a defeat there, embarked by ship for Carthage, but a thigh wound went gangrenous and he died on the way.
    Nobody knows who Maharbal was or what happened to him, except for the famous remark recorded in Livy, to Hannibal when he wdn't march on Rome immediately after Cannae. Livy records it as "The gods do not give everything to the one man. You know how to win a battle, but not how to use the victory."

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  4. He is know for the man who "Defeated The Romans"

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  5. Too bad Hannibal was NOT black. He was a Carthaginian, which means he was descended from the Phoenician settlers who founded Carthage. The Phoenicians were Semitic people from what is today Lebanon. There are two contemporary likenesses of Hannibal. In neither is he portrayed as anything resembling a "black" person

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    1. Unless you are 2000 years old there's no way to verify that "any" of what you say is correct. I'm not likely to trust any likeness of Hannibal Barca simply because each one of them looks different. Next defining what a "black" person looks like varies wildly from person to person. I know Vin Diesel got a lot of flack wanting to play Hannibal and honestly I think it's a good choice because Carthage is noted to have been a good mix of people and this is noted by many of their minted coins depicting a good range of phenotypes.

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    2. Bob, you are clearly an idiot. It is fools like you who think they can lie to change the likes of history. Hannibal was indeed a man of color and that color was BLACK. Despite the fact that he was a military genius, defeating his enemies and having his men pillage and rape italian women leaving hundreds of little BLACK babies behind....clearly that has no base for your diabolical lying? You can't change what happened in history or the mark of who created that history. In fact, most of Europe's dirty little secrets have to do with any ties with BLACK people, kings, nobles, family crests reflect the truth of what color and features were UNDENIABLY BLACK...your lies are unacceptable.
      You people always try to wipe out what you are afraid of. ..BLACK PEOPLE ARE THE LIGHT SOURCE OF THE PLANET, FIRST PEOPLE WERE BLACK, THERE IS NOT A PART OF HISTORY THAT DOES NOT INCLUDE BLACK PEOPLE, just idiots like you who lie and try to erase the truth. ..stop lying! !!

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    3. Well put... Truth hurts sometimes..

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    4. Robbin Jackson, you clearly don't understand. Your stance comes from a vengeful and spiteful one. You use this page's propaganda to make you feel better about your inferiority complexes. But let me try to explain to you the real truth...

      Hannibal was a military genius, he did the best with what he could work with, after all Carthage was weakened greatly after the first Punic war, and they began to lose political and military influence with the rise of Rome. There's no denying that. His victories were great, but relatively small. The experienced Legions of Rome were not stationed in Italy; the ones that had commanders with great leadership, and discipline. When Hannibal reached Italy, the Romans were caught by surprise, and on a second's notice raised an army of completely new recruits of young inexperienced boys. An experienced army like Hannibal's would undoubtedly win several victories before being stopped with the odds stacked as they were. In conclusion, he did not defeat the real armies of Rome, only the recruits, so real pride cannot be fully extracted from his accomplishments militarily, although strategically yes.

      Things were different back in those times. The word "black" (latin: niger) had different associations. Compared with a Mediterranean person, someone from Ireland or Scythia was noticeably white and someone from Africa was noticeably black. To depict someone we think as black back then, a Roman would use the term "Ethiopian" to describe the appearance of someone with a (sun) burned face -- not the nation of Ethiopia. Hannibal may have been of darker skin than that of a Roman, but he would not have been described as a Ethiopian.

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    5. LET ME CORRECT YOU ABOUT YOUR WRONG HISTORY. HANNIBAL WAS IN FACT OF AFRICAN DECENT. THIS IS NOT A STATEMENT IT IS A FACT. HERE IS SOME ITEMS THAT MAY HELP YOU WITH THE TRUTH: LOOK UP PHOENICIAN HISTORY, CHECK ON THE HISTORLY OF CARTHAGE. CHECK WHERE THESE PLACES WERE LOCATED AND GUESS WHAT YOU WILL FIND THE REAL REAL

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  6. If the Moroccans are African in the France of today, so now is Hannibal African in the ages of historical time. The Europeans (know when this political term came into being) began to migrate to the continent that would be called Africa after the Moors and Phoenicians lost control of southern "Europe" from the Romans. For the Phoenicians (Hannibal of Carthage), there were three Punic wars with Rome. Those who resided on the African continent were defeated as Hannibal marched through the Alps to meet Rome on its home turf. Mr. Bob -- there were no "whites" or "Europeans" in Africa in any real numbers before this. Modern day Spain, Portugal and southern France were part of the African kingdoms/empires/nations (call them what you will) of the Moors, Phoenicians and Numidians of the African continent. These were not people of European heritage. Carthage was the central city of the North African Phoenician kingdom, whose borders changed based on its many battles in history. The Phoenician's borders changed based on who was writing the history and maps and the political conditions. Africa controlled much of the Mediterranean Sea regions during the historical time of Hannibal, especially the trade. The Phoenicians would be considered African based on their origin and the location of the Roman-sacked city of Carthage. The Phoenicians bordered Kemet, now known as Egypt. All humans originated in Africa, even the Phoenicians and the Egyptians. Nile valley civilizations still hold the oldest human bones. All world civilizations came out of the first man and woman on earth. There are no traces of Neanderthal bones or DNA in Africa, ask scientists. These are historical facts.

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    1. Thank you for truth. Your comments are eloquent and gratifying. Very tired of ignorant people trying to irradicate BLACK HISTORY. The truth shall set us free.

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  7. Hannibal Barca was most definitely not black. He was a Caucasian man that spent a lot of time marching/ fighting under the Sun. I understand black culture wanting to claim him though, he was a badass. Most people here the name Africa and immediately think of some black villager.

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    1. That doesn't even make sense... Going by your presumptions, you're basically saying that he was a white male who became dark because of over exposure to the sun. Well, to that I say, posh!! No skin cancer? Because whites are very susceptible to that. And secondly, during that time period, in almost positive Africans populated Africa, guy. So... Yeah, he was black.

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    2. As usual, you people feel the need to lie to make yourselves feel superior... it's ok stupid because you don't know anybetter. Understand this "tan Boy" I don't care how dark you people try to get out in the sun, YOU CAN'T MAKE BLACK BABIES!!!! THAT IS WHY YOU HAVE TO LIE THAT IS WHY YOU ARE SO MAD ABOUT HANNIBAL'S VICTORY...they raped the hell out of all of thoes Italian women, leaving behind a legion of little curly headed brown skinned babies....White men make white babies, stupid.
      Hannibal was a military Genius, so was Queen Hapshepsut, King Ramasese and Queen Anna Nazinga. They were not ALIENS and they were not WHITE.... STOP LYING, you have no leg to stand on.

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  8. Actually thats not true he was a Black man and not caucasian, check out C. Ante Diop, as well as J.H. Clarke and other ancient historical accounts of the Phoenicians.

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  9. The very fact that whites will not show any real depictions of Hannibal alone shows that he was black. If he had been white, they would show him! Instead, they keep showing that fake bust passing it off as him. If you noticed, the most famous black peoples (Jesus, Israelites, Hannibal, Phoenicians, Philistines, pre-white Europeans, etc) are often mysteriously lost when it comes to race. This automatically makes them black.

    I am reading a book on the Punic Wars (same title) and they can tell you about Hannibal's family, status, early life, his attitude, what he said, what he thought, how he thought, what his moves were, what he wore, where he went, what year he went, how he went, when he died, how he died - yet they don't know what he looked like? One of the most famous men in history and most certainly Roman history? You know he was black.

    Add to that the face that he was from a prominent family that basically ruled Carthage, there should be no reason we don't know what he looked like. The Punic Wars are essentially a race war. Let's say that Hannibal was white(!), then at least 80's of his army were hard-core black! Hell, evidence shows that even the European tribes that went along were blacks too...

    As for the sun tan excuse... That is easily defeated. How come other whites did not get dark in the sun enough to be mistaken for black? Hell, how come we can see whites from back them at all if the sun works? Also, that Semitics excuse is another play on words in order to make us think 'not black.' Whites are not Semites and they even say that they speak Indo-European languages, so that takes them out of the mix right there! Also, all so-called Semites are black or black-like without any indication of whites. If anything, there might be some Indian related elements, but the African type black is still clear.

    So, it is easy to debunk these whites and their old time, BS excuses.

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  10. Thank you Brotha..thank you for standing up to inferrior lies and their insignificant authors.

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  11. Come on Mathew Beightol. The word Niger does not have different meanings in History. It refers to a black man all throughout history. So does Moor, Moorish, Moore. The very name Europa itself us from a black princess. Ethiopian does not mean black. It means someone who comes from Ethiopia.

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  12. The ancient Meditteranean was racially diverse and the concept of "race" in those times corresponded more to our idea of ethnicity. In truth, "black" people and "white" people are an invention of the sixteenth ?century-- a function of the racist transatlantic slave trade. Carthaginians was composed of Semitic colonists, native north Africans, and celtiberians-- it was a very diverse society. Our conception of race doesn't describe them, nor the Romans. Emperor Septimius Severus in the 200s could be described as "black," but such a description serves our current biases not the ancient ones. The Romans were not Europeans (as Europe and "whiteness" didn't exist yet) nor were the Carthaginian Africans, because conceptually Africa and "blackness" didn't exist. It is my hope we postmodern people could acquire the cosmopolitanism of the ancients.

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    1. joe joe joe what the hell are you talking about. Where have you been these last couple of years,all the lies that the Europeans has spread regarding the African race have been blown so far out the water that now history being taught in the schools have to rewritten. everything that you stated is so wrong in many different ways, except the fact that during ancient times race were not as important as it is now, why because to see with the visual eye laid to no questions. And so that you know AFRICA and BLACKNESS have existed from the times of earth's existance

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