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Physical Characteristics of Hannibal

Hannibal's ability as a diplomat and statesman that he learned from his brother-in-law Hasdrubal, equaled his generalship taught to him by his father. Hannibal's diplomacy embraced the world of his day: marriage, negotiations with embassies, dealings with different small nations and tribes in Spain, Africa and Italy; treaty with King of Macedonia and Bithynia. Hannibal was an individual of ascetic habits and a fanatic, but he was not cruel, inhuman or even "cannibal," as some Romans claimed.

"'No one', Polybius said, 'can withhold admiration for Hannibal's generalship, his courage, and his power in the open field,...how he fought the Romans for sixteen years, never broke up his forces or dismissed them from the field, but kept them together under his personal command...We cannot but admire Hannibal and with reason'" (Kagan 247).

Hannibal, came from a rich, famous and influential family of Barca's, was son of the great Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca. Hannibal had a typically big family: both parents, two brothers, Hasdrubal II and Mago; adopted brother-in-law Hasdrubal and a younger sister. Hasdrubal was married to Hannibal's eldest sister and had a son, Hanno. History does not divulge the exact dates of birth and death, names and number of Barca's family members, especially females. Hannibal, while living in Spain for nineteen years, and his brother Hasdrubal II, were married to the Iberian nobles. According to Howard Scullard, professor of Ancient History in the University of London, Hannibal made possible issue of new money in Spain depicting his father and himself in the guise of Heracles Melkart, one of the gods, and elephants on the other side (42). Hamilcar as every respectable man of his age and title, had a beard on the silver coin. Hannibal, because of his youth, was beardless.

According to Gilbert Charles-Picard, French historian and Director of Tunisian Antiquities for many years, little Hannibal said to his father before he left to the war in Spain: "I want to go with you" ("The World of Hannibal" 291). Hamilcar, without a word, took the child with him to Spain. Hannibal soon showed that he was a general of outstanding ability (Webster 27).

Drilled from childhood as a soldier, he, like other military geniuses such as Alexander and Napoleon, showed his ability in early manhood. "His excellent army had been hardened by fighting against Iberian barbarians," writes Joseph Swain, professor of History at University of Illinois, "Studies of Pyrrhus and Alexander had made him familiar with the best Hellenistic warfare" (140). Donald Kargan from Corneal University writes about Hannibal's youth:

Hannibal, having been sent into Spain, from his very first arrival drew the eyes of the whole army upon him. The veteran soldiers imagined that Hamilcar, in his youth, was restored to them; they remarked the same vigour [SIC] in his looks and animation in his eye, the same features and expression of countenance . . . (95)

Hannibal was fearless in encountering danger, and "his prudence when in the midst of them, were extreme" (Kagan 95). Long marches could not exhaust his body, nor his mind subdued, by any toil. He could endure alike either heat or cold. According to Kagan, "the wants of nature determined quantity of his food and drink . . . the seasons of his sleeping and waking were distinguished neither by day nor night" (95). Hannibal did not need a comfortable and quite environment, although his enemies did. "Many saw him wrapped in a military cloak, lying on the ground amid the watches and outposts of the soldiers. His dress was not at all superior to that of his equals: his arms and horses were conspicuous," writes Kagan (95).

Hannibal became very interested in elephants after studying strategy of Pyrrhus. Elephants were his advantage in the battle, something like modern tanks. Hannibal took about sixty elephants with his army across Alps. According to a legend told by CharlesPicard in "The World of Hannibal": "Delirious, halfblind from an infection, Hannibal clung to the last elephant his brave pet Syrus, according to legend and led his men to high ground [SIC]. Near Fiesole he halted and gazed upon the rich valley of the Arno with one eye" (318). According to Theodor Mommsen, writer and historian, Hannibal had ophthalmia (276).

However, Romans quickly learned how to deal with elephants from their earlier experience with Pyrrhus and now Hannibal, simply by scaring them with fire and long, sharp swords. Since then it was a disadvantage to have elephants in the army, cause they made more damage in the native army than to Romans.

The same author in the book "Daily life in Carthage" writes: Hannibal astonished his compatriots by his remarkable resistance to fatigue and sickness; we know that although he lost an eye crossing the Tuscany marshes, he was just as active afterwards and that when he was considerably over fifty, he could still cover the fifty leagues from Carthage to Thapsus in two stages on a horseback. (129) Physical endurance was a necessary quality in seacaptains braving the Atlantic Ocean and leaders of caravans crossing the Sahara. Mago Barca, younger brother of Hannibal, boasted of having crossed this desert three times without a drop to drink (CharlesPicard, "Daily Life" 130).

"Twenty-nine years old when he came to Italy, Hannibal was a wiry, athletic man, trained to run and box and endure hardship, possessed of an iron self-restrain", writes Michael Grant, historian, "He was fanatical and superstitious like most of his countrymen. Yet all the same, not only his talent, but also the integrity of his personal character, cought the fancy of subsequent ages, despite virulent Roman propaganda to the contrary" (127).

When Hannibal knew that eventually people of Rome would surround him and that farther escape would be impossible, so he always kept poison with him. In 183 B.C., aged sixtythree years, the great Carthaginian committed suicide. He preferred to give his life for freedom, for which he fought all his life.

Hannibal 1

Hannibal 3

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