Timeline of World History: Year by Year from Prehistory to Present Day


  Illustrated History of the World

The Ancient World - ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.

The Ancient World

ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.


Carthage: World Power and Rival of Rome

814-44 B.C.



1 Hannibal crossing the Rhone in 21 8 B.C.

The Phoenician colony of Carthage, traditionally founded in 814 B.C., rose, through trade and shipping, to become the leading power of the Western Mediterranean. Facing conflicts with the Greek colonies on Sicily and later with Rome, Carthage also armed itself militarily. The struggle between Rome and Carthage under 1 Hannibal was a battle for survival. It culminated in the defeat and destruction of Carthage.



The Rise of Carthage to Military and Economic Power

After Carthage's ascendancy as a trading power, it also became an important military power as a result of its clashes with the West Greeks and Romans in Sicily.


Originally settled by Phoenicians from Tyre, 4 Carthage was initially very much under Phoenician cultural and religious influence.

4 Ruins of Punic Carthage

Its highest god was 3 Baal Hammon, joined in the fifth century B.C. by the goddess Tanit.

3 Statue of Baal Hammon

The cult was practiced in cave-like 6 shrines (tophets), but whether child sacrifices were made—as was reported—is disputed.


6 Shrine (tophet) of Carthage

Grotesque 2 clay masks that have been found in the area possibly belonged to а cult or the dead.

2 Pendants in the form of bearded heads,
ca. fourth/third century B.C., found in Carthage

In the sixth century B.C., the politically independent Carthage began setting up trading colonies in North Africa and on the Mediterranean coasts. Carthage became a great city with, at its zenith, 400,000-700,000 people living in buildings up to six stories tall.

The heart of the city was the double harbor (Cothon)—a circular inner 5 military harbor enclosed by an outer harbor for trading vessels—and a city wall 20 miles long was constructed.

5 Punic defensive military harbor with docks which
cannot be observed from the sea, artist's reconstruction

Carthage was ruled by elected shophets (chief magistrates)—who were both head of state and military leaders—and a senate composed of members of the nobility. The conflicts with the West Greeks, primarily with the tyrants of Syracuse, began in the fifth century B.C., over bases and trading settlements in Sicily and Sardinia. After several wars and sieges, the Halycus River was set as the boundary line in Sicily in 374 B.C. From the sixth to the third centuries, the Carthaginians maintained trade relations with the Etruscans and the Romans, to whom they were tied by alliance treaties. When the Romans took control of Messina in northeast Sicily in 264 B.C., a conflict ensued. In the First Punic War (264-241 в.с), the Romans drove the Carthaginians out of Sicily although a Roman landing in Africa in 256-255 was repelled. In 241, Rome destroyed the Carthaginian fleet. Forced to sue for peace, Carthage withdrew from Sicily and Sardinia in 237.





According to the myth, it was the Phoenician princess Dido who founded Carthage. The Roman poet Virgil tells of her love for the Trojan hero Aeneas. When Aeneas only stops briefly in Carthage on his way from the defeated Troy and then leaves the queen in order to fulfill his destiny and found Rome, she immolates herself on a burning pyre. The story has been a very popular subject among writers, composers, and poets since.



Hannibal and the End of Carthage

Hannibal´s route of invasion given by the Department of History, United States Military Academy.



In the Second Punic War, Hannibal was able to win several victories against Rome but was then forced onto the defensive. Carthage was totally destroyed in the Third Punic War.


Second Punic War

Second Punic War
, ( 218–201 bc: ) also called Second Carthaginian War, second in a series of wars between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginian (Punic) Empire that resulted in Roman hegemony over the western Mediterranean.

In the years after the First Punic War, Rome wrested Corsica and Sardinia from Carthage and forced Carthaginians to pay an even greater indemnity than the payment exacted immediately following the war. Eventually, however, under the leadership of Hamilcar Barca, his son Hannibal, and his son-in-law Hasdrubal, Carthage acquired a new base in Spain, whence they could renew the war against Rome.

In 219 Hannibal captured Saguntum (Sagunto) on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Rome demanded his withdrawal, but Carthage refused to recall him, and Rome declared war. Because Rome controlled the sea, Hannibal led his army overland through Spain and Gaul and across the Alps, arriving in the plain of the Po River valley in 218 bc with 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry. Roman troops tried to bar his advance but were outmatched, and Hannibal’s hold over northern Italy was established. In 217 Hannibal, reinforced by Gallic tribesmen, marched south. Rather than attack Rome directly, he marched on Capua, the second largest town in Italy, hoping to incite the populace to rebel. He won several battles but still refrained from attacking the city of Rome, even after annihilating a huge Roman army at Cannae in 216. The defeat galvanized Roman resistance. A brilliant defensive strategy conducted by Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator harried the Carthaginians without offering battle. Thus, the two armies remained deadlocked on the Italian peninsula until 211 bc, when Rome recaptured the city of Capua.

In 207 Hasdrubal, following Hannibal’s route across the Alps, reached northern Italy with another large army supported by legions of Ligurians and Gauls. Hasdrubal marched down the peninsula to join Hannibal for an assault on Rome. Rome, exhausted by war, nevertheless raised and dispatched an army to check Hasdrubal. Gaius Nero, commander of the southern Roman army, slipped away north also and defeated Hasdrubal on the banks of the Metauros River. Hannibal maintained his position in southern Italy until 203, when he was ordered to return to Africa; Italy was free of enemy troops for the first time in 15 years. During the long mainland campaign, fighting had continued as well on Sardinia and Sicily, which had become Rome’s chief sources of food. Aided by internal upheaval in Syracuse, Carthage reestablished its presence on the island in 215 and maintained it until 210. Meanwhile, in Spain, Roman forces maintained pressure on Carthaginian strongholds. The Roman general Publius Scipio won a decisive battle at Ilipa in 206 and forced the Carthaginians out of Spain.

After his Spanish victory Scipio determined to invade the Carthaginian homeland. He sailed for Africa in 204 and established a beachhead. The Carthaginian council offered terms of surrender but reneged at the last minute, pinning its hopes on one last battle. The massed Carthaginian army, led by Hannibal, was defeated at Zama. The Carthaginians accepted Scipio’s terms for peace: Carthage was forced to pay an indemnity and surrender its navy, and Spain and the Mediterranean islands were ceded to Rome.

Encyclopædia Britannica


In 237-236 B.C. the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca occupied the south and west of Spain as a power base against Rome. His son-in-law Hasdrubal advanced up to the middle of Spain but concluded a moratorium with Rome in 226.

With Hasdrubal's murder in 221, command fell to 9 Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca, who had 12 sworn deadly enmity against Rome as a boy.

Hannibal had enormous talent for military and tactical thinking, and he immediately began with the conquest of the area north of the Ebro River in Spain, provoking the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.). Hannibal famously crossed the Alps with his army and the legendary elephants in 218 and defeated the Romans under Publius Cornelius Scipio, later known as Scipio Africanus, on the Trebia River in 218 and again on Lake Trasimene in 217.


9 Portrait bust of Hannibal

12 Hamilcar Barka lets his nine-year-old son swear enmity to the Romans,
painting by Johann Heinrich Schonfeld, ca.1662



Hannibal, (born 247 bc, North Africa—died c. 183–181 bc, Libyssa, Bithynia [near Gebze, Turkey]), Carthaginian general, one of the great military leaders of antiquity, who commanded the Carthaginian forces against Rome in the Second Punic War (218–201 bc).

Early life
Hannibal was the son of the great Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca. According to Polybius and Livy, the main Latin sources for his life, Hannibal was taken to Spain by his father and at an early age was made to swear eternal hostility to Rome. From the death of his father in 229/228 until his own death about 183, Hannibal’s life was one of constant struggle against the Roman Republic.

Hannibal’s earliest commands were given to him in the Carthaginian province of Spain by Hasdrubal, son-in-law and successor of Hamilcar. It is clear that Hannibal emerged as a successful officer, for, on the assassination of Hasdrubal in 221, the army proclaimed him, at age 26, its commander in chief, and the Carthaginian government quickly ratified his field appointment.

Hannibal immediately turned himself to the consolidation of the Punic hold on Spain. He married a Spanish princess, Imilce, and then conquered various Spanish tribes. He fought against the Olcades and captured their capital, Althaea; he quelled the Vaccaei in the northwest; and in 221, making the seaport Cartagena (Carthage Nova, the capital of Carthaginian Spain) his base, he won a resounding victory over the Carpetani in the region of the Tagus River.

In 219 Hannibal attacked Saguntum, an independent Iberian city south of the Ebro River. In the treaty between Rome and Carthage subsequent to the First Punic War (264–241), the Ebro had been set as the northern limit of Carthaginian influence in the Iberian Peninsula. Saguntum was indeed south of the Ebro, but the Romans had “friendship” (though perhaps not an actual treaty) with the city and regarded the Carthaginian attack on it as an act of war. The siege of Saguntum lasted eight months, and in it Hannibal was severely wounded. The Romans, who had sent envoys to Carthage in protest (though they did not send an army to help Saguntum), after its fall demanded the surrender of Hannibal. Thus began the Second Punic War, declared by Rome and conducted, on the Carthaginian side, almost entirely by Hannibal.

The march into Gaul
Hannibal spent the winter of 219–218 at Cartagena in active preparations for carrying the war into Italy. Leaving his brother Hasdrubal in command of a considerable army for the defense of Spain and North Africa, he crossed the Ebro in April or May of 218 and marched into the Pyrenees (the Romans, shortly before they heard of this, decided on war). There his army—which consisted, according to Polybius, of 90,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry (Polybius’ figures are probably exaggerated; a total force of about 40,000 is more likely), and a number of elephants—met with stiff resistance from the Pyrenean tribes. This opposition and the desertion of some of his Spanish troops greatly diminished his numbers, but he reached the Rhône River with but little resistance from the tribes of southern Gaul. Meanwhile, the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio transported his army, which had been detained in northern Italy by a rebellion, by sea to Massilia (Marseille). As Scipio moved northward along the right bank of the Rhône, he learned that Hannibal had already crossed the river and was marching northward on the left bank. Realizing that Hannibal probably planned to cross the Alps, Scipio returned to northern Italy to await him.

Controversy has surrounded the details of Hannibal’s movements after the crossing of the Rhône. Polybius states that he crossed it while the river was still in one stream at a distance of four days’ march from the sea. Fourques, opposite Arles, is thought to be a likely place, but he may have made a crossing north of the confluence of the Isère and the Rhône. Hannibal used coracles and boats locally commandeered; for the elephants he made jetties out into the river and floated the elephants from these on earth-covered rafts. Horses were embarked on large boats or made to swim. During this operation hostile Gauls appeared on the opposite bank, and Hannibal dispatched a force under Hanno to cross farther upstream and attack them from behind.

After crossing the Alps and receiving friendly Gallic leaders headed by the northern Italian Boii, whose superior knowledge of the Alpine passes must have been of the greatest value to Hannibal’s plans, the Carthaginians crossed the Durance River (or more probably an ancient branch of it that flowed into the Rhône near Avignon) and passed into an area called “the island,” the identification of which is the key to Hannibal’s subsequent movements on land. According to Polybius, it was a fertile, densely populated triangle bounded by hills, by the Rhône, and by a river that is probably either the Aygues or the Isère. On the “island” a civil war was being fought between two brothers (of what tribe it is not clear). Brancus, the elder, in return for Hannibal’s help, provided supplies for the Carthaginian army, which, after marching about 750 miles in four months from Cartagena, was in sore need of them.

Hannibal crossing of the Alps

The Alpine crossing
Hannibal’s army approached the Alps either by the Col de Grimone or the Col de Cabre, then through the basin of the Durance, or else by the Montgenèvre or Mont Cenis pass into the upper Po valley, descending into the territory of the hostile Taurini, where Hannibal stormed their chief town (modern Turin).

Some details of Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps have been preserved. At first danger came from the Allobroges, who attacked the rear of Hannibal’s column. (Along the middle stages of the route, other Celtic groups attacked the baggage animals and rolled heavy stones down from the heights on the enfilade below, thus causing both men and animals to panic and lose their footings on the precipitous paths. Hannibal took countermeasures, but these involved him in heavy losses in men.) On the third day he captured a Gallic town and from its stores provided the army with rations for two or three days. Harassed by the daytime attentions of the Gauls from the heights and mistrusting the loyalty of his Gallic guides, Hannibal bivouacked on a large bare rock to cover the passage by night of his horses and pack animals in the gorge below. Snow was falling on the summit of the pass, making the descent even more treacherous. Upon the hardened ice of the previous year’s fall, the soldiers and animals alike slid and foundered in the fresh snow. A landslide blocked the narrow track, and the army was held up for one day while it was cleared. Finally, on the 15th day, after a journey of five months from Cartagena, with 20,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and only one of the original 37 elephants (the sole Asian elephant among 36 African), Hannibal descended into Italy, having surmounted the difficulties of climate and terrain, the guerrilla tactics of inaccessible tribes, and the major difficulty of commanding a body of men diverse in race and language under conditions to which they were ill-fitted.

The war in Italy
Hannibal’s forces were now totally inadequate to match the army of Scipio, who had rushed to the Po River to protect the recently founded Roman colonies of Placentia (modern Piacenza) and Cremona. The first action between the two armies took place on the plains west of the Ticino River, and Hannibal’s Numidian cavalry prevailed. Scipio was severely wounded, and the Romans withdrew to Placentia. After maneuvers failed to lead to a second engagement, the combined armies of Sempronius Longus and Scipio met Hannibal on the left bank of the Trebia River south of Placentia and were soundly defeated (December 218). This victory brought both Gauls and Ligurians to Hannibal’s side, and his army was considerably augmented by Celtic recruits. After a severe winter (in which he contracted an eye infection), he was able to advance in the spring of 217 as far as the Arno River. Although two Roman armies were now in the field against him, he was able to outmaneuver that of Gaius Flaminius at Arretium and reached Faesulae (modern Fiesole) and Perugia. By design, this move forced Flaminius’s army into open combat, and, as it passed between the northern shore of Lake Trasimene and the opposite hills, Hannibal’s troops from their prepared positions all but annihilated it, killing thousands and driving others to drown in the lake. Reinforcements of about 4,000 cavalry under Gaius Centenius were intercepted before they arrived and were also destroyed. The Carthaginian troops were too worn to clinch their victories and march on Rome. Hannibal, furthermore, nurtured the vain hope that the Italian allies of Rome would defect and cause civil war.

Hannibal spent the summer of 217 resting at Picenum, but later he ravaged Apulia and Campania; meanwhile the delaying tactics of Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator’s army allowed only skirmishes between the two armies. Suddenly in early summer of 216 Hannibal moved southward and seized the large army supply depot at Cannae on the Aufidus River. There early in August the Battle of Cannae (modern Monte di Canne) was fought. While the Gauls and Iberian infantry of Hannibal’s centre line yielded (without breaking) before the drive of the numerically superior Roman infantry, the Libyan infantry and cavalry of Hannibal’s flanks stood fast, overlapped the Roman line, and in a rear encircling movement turned to pursue the victorious legionaries.

This great land victory brought the desired effect: many regions began to defect from the Italic confederacy. Hannibal, however, did not march on Rome but spent the winter of 216–215 in Capua. Gradually the Carthaginian fighting strength weakened. The strategy suggested by Fabius was put into operation: to defend the cities loyal to Rome; to try to recover, where opportunity offered, those cities that had fallen to Hannibal; never to enter battle when the enemy offered it but rather to keep the Carthaginians alert in every theatre of war. Thus Hannibal, unable because of inferior numbers to spread his forces to match the Romans and unable to employ this concentrated strength in a decisive battle, passed from the offensive to a cautious and not always successful defensive in Italy, inadequately supported by the home government at Carthage and, because of the Roman command of the sea, forced to obtain local provisions for protracted and ineffectual operations.

Hannibal, except for the capture of Tarentum (modern Taranto), gained only minor victories (215–213). Reinforcements from Carthage were few. In 213 Casilinum and Arpi (captured by Hannibal in winter 216–215) were recovered by the Romans, and in 211 Hannibal was obliged to march to relieve the Roman siege of Capua. Despite Hannibal’s quick march to within 3 miles (5 km) of the strongly fortified walls of Rome, Capua fell. In the same year, in Sicily, Syracuse fell, and by 209 Tarentum, in south Italy, had also been recaptured by the Romans.

The wars in Spain and Africa
Meanwhile Roman successes in Spain dealt severe blows to Carthaginian power there. In 208 Hasdrubal, detaching a force from the main Carthaginian army, crossed the Alps (probably by his brother’s route) to go to Hannibal’s aid. Hasdrubal’s army was defeated, however, at Metaurus in northern Italy (207) before the Carthaginian armies could effect a junction. His last hope of making a recovery in central Italy thus dashed, Hannibal concentrated his forces in Bruttium, where with the help of his remaining allies he was able to resist Roman pressure for four more years.

Scipio, however, struck at North Africa, breaking Carthage’s principal ally, the Massaesylian Numidians, and endangering Carthage. In order to go to the help of his country, Hannibal abandoned Italy in 203. Although a preliminary armistice had already been declared and the Carthaginian armies had accepted Scipio’s severe terms (winter 204–203), Hannibal concentrated the remnants of the Carthaginian forces at Hadrumetum (modern Sousse, Tunisia). Almost at the very moment when the ambassadors were returning from Rome with the preliminary peace proposals, the Carthaginians violated the armistice.

Accounts of the campaigns that followed differ greatly. Both Hannibal and Scipio, in order to link up with their respective Numidian allies, moved up the Bagradas River to the region of Zama Regia. Hannibal was now deficient in cavalry; the mercenary troops of his front line and the African infantry of his second line together were routed, and Scipio, seeing that Hannibal’s third line, the veteran soldiers, was still intact, reformed his front and brought up the Numidian cavalry of Masinissa, his Numidian ally, in the Carthaginian rear. Hannibal lost 20,000 men in defeat, but he himself escaped Masinissa’s pursuit.

Exile and death
The treaty between Rome and Carthage that was concluded a year after the Battle of Zama frustrated the entire object of Hannibal’s life, but his hopes of taking arms once more against Rome lived on. Although accused of having misconducted the war, he was made a suffete (a civil magistrate) in addition to retaining his military command, and as suffete he was able to overthrow the power of the oligarchic governing faction at Carthage and bring about certain administrative and constitutional changes. He thus became unpopular with a certain faction of the Carthaginian nobility, and, according to Livy, he was denounced to the Romans as inciting Antiochus III of Syria to take up arms against the Romans. Hannibal fled to the court of Antiochus at Ephesus (195), where he was welcome at first, since Antiochus was preparing war with Rome. Soon, however, the presence of Hannibal and the sound advice he gave concerning the conduct of the war became a source of embarrassment, and he was sent to raise and command a fleet for Antiochus in the Phoenician cities. Inexperienced as he was in naval matters, he was defeated by the Roman fleet off Side, in Pamphylia. Antiochus was defeated on land at Magnesia in 190, and one of the terms demanded of him by the Romans was that Hannibal should be surrendered. Again accounts of Hannibal’s subsequent actions vary; either he fled via Crete to the court of King Prusias of Bithynia, or he joined the rebel forces in Armenia. Eventually he took refuge with Prusias, who at this time was engaged in warfare with Rome’s ally, King Eumenes II of Pergamum. He served Prusias in this war, and, in one of the victories he gained over Eumenes at sea, it is said that he threw cauldrons of snakes into the enemy vessels.

Finally the Romans by unknown means put themselves in a position to demand the surrender of Hannibal. Unable this time to escape, Hannibal poisoned himself in the Bithynian village of Libyssa. The year is uncertain but was probably 183.

It is not to be expected that his Roman biographers would treat Hannibal impartially, but Polybius and Dio Cassius give the least-biased accounts. In spite of the charges of Hannibal’s cruelty put forth by the Roman authors, he did enter into agreement with Fabius for the return of prisoners and treated with respect the bodies of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (consul 215) and Lucius Aemilius Paulus (216), the fallen enemy generals. Of avarice, the other charge commonly laid against him, no direct evidence is found other than the practices necessary for a general to finance a war—indeed, he spared Fabius’s farm.

Much that was said against him (e.g., cannibalism by Polybius) might be ascribed to individual activities of his generals, but even this is uncertain. His physical bravery is well attested, and his temperance and continence were praised. His power of leadership is implied in the lack of rioting and disharmony in that mixed body of men he commanded for so long, while the care he took for his elephants and horses as well as his men gives proof of a humane disposition. His treachery, that punica fides that the Romans detested, could from another point of view pass for resourcefulness in war and boldness in stratagem. Of his wit and subtlety of speech, many anecdotes remain. He spoke Greek and Latin fluently, but more personal information is absent from his biographies. He is shown in the only surviving portraits, the silver coins of Cartagena struck in 221, the year of his election as general, with a youthful, beardless, and pleasant face.

William Culican

Encyclopædia Britannica


Hannibal crossing of the Alps


Hannibal crossing of the Alps


Hannibal and his Army Crossing the AlpsJ.M.W.Turner

11 Battle of Cannae, 216 B.C.
  Battle of Cannae


By encircling the Romans, he won a major victory at the 11 Battle of Cannae in 216.

He then tried to force the northern Italian peoples such as the Celts to join him against the Romans, but was only partially successful. However, in 215 he was able to form an alliance with Philip V of Macedonia, another enemy of Rome.

Under the Roman consul and dictator Quintus Fabius, known as "Cunctator" ("the delayer"), the Romans consistently avoided direct battle with the Carthaginians and limited themselves to guerrilla attacks. Consequcntly, Hannibal moved toward Rome in 211 B.C. but was stopped and soon forced out of most of Italy and Spain in 206. In 204, P. Cornelius Scipio landed in North Africa with his Roman legions.

Hannibal returned to defend Carthage but was defeated in 13 Battle at  Zama by Scipio in 202.


13 Scipio conquers Hannibal in the Battle of Zama, 202 в.с. painting 1521
  Battle of Zama  

Scipio Africanus the Elder

Scipio Africanus the Elder, Latin Scipio Africanus Major, in full Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (born 236 bc—died 183 bc, Liternum, Campania [now Patria, Italy]), Roman general noted for his victory over the Carthaginian leader Hannibal in the great Battle of Zama (202 bc), ending the Second Punic War. For his victory he won the surname Africanus (201 bc).

Family background
Publius Scipio was born into one of the great patrician families in Rome; his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all been consuls in their day. In 218 bc Scipio’s father, also named Publius, held the consulship in one of the most critical years of Rome’s history. While with him during a cavalry engagement on the Ticinus, the young Scipio made his first appearance in history: seeing his father wounded and cut off by the enemy, he charged forward and saved him. This anecdote is recorded by the historian Polybius on the authority of Scipio’s friend Laelius, and it may well be true.

Of Scipio’s boyhood or the date of his marriage to Aemilia, daughter of Aemilius Paullus, consul of 216 who fell at Cannae, nothing is known. He had two sons: Publius, who was debarred by ill health from a public career and who adopted Scipio Africanus the Younger; and Lucius, who became praetor in 174. Scipio’s physical appearance is shown on some coins minted at Carthago Nova (Cartagena)—which almost certainly bear his portrait—and also probably on a signet ring found near Naples.

Military career. Battle of Cannae
Scipio served as a military tribune at the disastrous Battle of Cannae in 216. He escaped after the defeat to Canusium, where some 4,000 survivors rallied; there he boldly thwarted a plot of some fainthearts to desert Rome. Then in 213 he returned to a civilian career by winning the curule aedileship; the story is told that when the tribunes objected to his candidature because he was under the legal age, he replied “If all the Roman people want to make me aedile, I am old enough.” Soon family and national disaster followed: his father and uncle were defeated and killed in Spain, where the Carthaginians swept forward to the Ebro (211).

In 210 the Romans decided to send reinforcements to Spain, but it is said that no senior general would undertake the task and that young Scipio offered himself as a candidate; at any rate, the Roman people decided to invest him with a command there, although he was technically a privatus (not a magistrate). This grant by the people, to a man who had not been praetor or consul, of a military command outside Italy created an important constitutional precedent. Thus Scipio was given the chance to avenge his father’s death in Spain, where he hoped not merely to hold the Carthaginian armies at bay and prevent them sending reinforcements to Hannibal in Italy but to resume his father’s offensive policy, to turn back the tide of war, and to drive the enemy out of the peninsula. Such a task must have seemed fantastic in 210, but Scipio had the confidence and ability; it was achieved in the next four years.

From his headquarters at Tarraco (Tarragona) in 209, Scipio suddenly launched a combined military and naval assault on the enemy’s headquarters at Carthago Nova, knowing that all three enemy armies in Spain were at least 10 days distant from the city. Helped by a lowering of the water in a lagoon, which exposed the northern wall, he successfully stormed the city. This tidal phenomenon, attributed to the help of Neptune, was perhaps caused by a sudden wind; at any rate, it increased the troops’ belief in their commander’s divine support. In Carthago Nova he gained stores and supplies, Spanish hostages, the local silver mines, a splendid harbour, and a base for an advance farther south.

After training his army in new tactics, Scipio defeated the Carthaginian commander Hasdrubal Barca at Baecula (Bailen) in Baetica (208); whereas normally the two rear ranks of a Roman army closely supported the front line, Scipio in this battle, under a screen of light troops, divided his main forces, which fell upon the enemy’s flanks. When Hasdrubal broke away, ultimately to join his brother Hannibal in Italy, Scipio wisely declined the impossible task of trying to stop him and decided rather to accomplish his mission in Spain—the defeat of the other two Carthaginian armies still there. This he brilliantly achieved in 206 at a battle at Ilipa (Alcalá del Río, near Sevilla), where he held the enemy’s main forces while the wings outflanked them. He then secured Gades (Cádiz), thus making Roman control of Spain complete.

Elected consul for 205, Scipio boldly determined to disregard Hannibal in Italy and to strike at Africa. Having beaten down political opposition in the Senate, he crossed to Sicily with an army consisting partly of volunteers. While preparing his troops, he boldly snatched Locri Epizephyrii in the toe of Italy from Hannibal’s grasp, though the subsequent misconduct of Pleminius, the man he left in command of the town, gave Scipio’s political opponents cause to criticize him. In 204 he landed with perhaps 35,000 men in Africa, where he besieged Utica. Early in 203 he burned the camps of Hasdrubal (son of Gisgo) and his Numidian ally Syphax. Then, sweeping down on the forces that the enemy was trying to muster at the Great Plains on the upper Bagradas (modern Sūq al Khamīs, on the Majardah in Tunisia), he smashed that army by a double outflanking movement.

Battle of Zama
After his capture of Tunis, the Carthaginians sought peace terms, but Hannibal’s subsequent return to Africa led to their renewing the war in 202. Scipio advanced southwestward to join the Numidian prince Masinissa, who was bringing his invaluable cavalry to his support. Then he turned eastward to face Hannibal at the Battle of Zama; his outflanking tactics failed against the master from whom he had learned them, but the issue was decided when the Roman and Numidian cavalry, having broken off their pursuit of the Punic horsemen, fell on the rear of Hannibal’s army. Victory was complete, and the long war ended; Scipio granted comparatively lenient terms to Carthage. In honour of his victory he was named Africanus.

Late years
In 199 Scipio was censor and became princeps Senatus (the titular head of the Senate). He held this position until his death, the following two pairs of censors having confirmed him in the position. Though he vigorously supported a philhellenic policy, he argued during his second consulship (194) against a complete Roman evacuation of Greece after the ejection of Philip V of Macedonia, fearing that Antiochus III of Syria would invade it; his fear was premature but not unfounded. In 193 he served on an embassy to Africa and perhaps also to the East. After Antiochus had advanced into Greece and had been thrown out by a Roman army, Scipio’s brother Lucius was given the command against him, Publius serving as his legate (190); together the brothers crossed to Asia, but Publius was too ill to take a personal part in Lucius’ victory over Antiochus at Magnesia (for which Lucius took the name Asiagenus).

Meantime, in Rome, Scipio’s political opponents, led by the elder Cato, launched a series of attacks on the Scipios and their friends. Lucius’ command was not prolonged; the generous peace terms that Africanus proposed for Antiochus were harshly modified; the “trials of the Scipios” followed. On the trials the ancient evidence is confusing: in 187 an attack on Lucius for refusing to account for 500 talents received from Antiochus (as war indemnity or personal booty?) was parried, and Africanus himself may have been accused but not condemned in 184. In any case, his influence was shaken, and he withdrew from Rome to Liternum in Campania, where he lived simply, cultivating the fields with his own hands and living on a villa (country farm) of modest size: Seneca later contrasted its small and cold bathroom with the luxurious baths of his own day. He had not long to live, however; embittered and ill, he died in 184 or 183, a virtual exile from his country. He is said to have ordered his burial at Liternum and not in the ungrateful city of Rome, where his family tomb lay outside, on the Appian Way.

The legend of Scipio
Such was Scipio’s impact upon the Romans that even during his lifetime legends began to cluster around him: he was regarded as favoured by Fortune or even divinely inspired. Not only did many believe that he had received a promise of help from Neptune in a dream on the night before his assault on Carthago Nova but that he also had a close connection with Jupiter. He used to visit Jupiter’s temple on the Capitol at night to commune with the god, and later the story circulated that he was even a son of the god, who had appeared in his mother’s bed in the form of a snake.

The historian Polybius thought that this popular view of Scipio was mistaken and argued that Scipio always acted only as the result of reasoned foresight and worked on men’s superstitions in a calculating manner. But Polybius himself was a rationalist and has probably underestimated a streak of religious confidence, if not of mysticism, in Scipio’s character that impressed so many of his contemporaries with its magnanimity and generosity. Thus, although Polybius had an intense admiration for Scipio, whom he called “almost the most famous man of all time,” the existence of the legend, a unique phenomenon in Rome’s history, indicates that Polybius’ portrait is too one-sided.

Significance and influence
A man of wide sympathies, cultured and magnanimous, Scipio easily won the friendship of such men as Philip, king of Macedonia, and the native princes of Spain and Africa, while he secured the devotion of his own troops. Though essentially a man of action, he may also have been something of a mystic in whom, at any rate, contemporary legend saw a favourite of Jupiter as well as a spiritual descendant of Alexander the Great. One of the greatest soldiers of the ancient world, by his tactical reforms and strategic insight he created an army that defeated even Hannibal and asserted Rome’s supremacy in Spain, Africa, and the Hellenistic East. He had a great appreciation of Greek culture and enjoyed relaxing in the congenial atmosphere of the Greek cities of Sicily, conduct that provoked the anger of old-fashioned Romans such as Cato. Indeed, he was outstanding among those Roman nobles of the day who welcomed the civilizing influences of Greek culture that were beginning to permeate Roman society. His Greek sympathies led him to champion Rome’s mission in the world as protector of Greek culture; he preferred to establish Roman protection rather than direct conquest and annexation. For 10 years (210–201) he commanded a devoted army at the people’s wish. His position might seem almost kingly; he had been hailed as king by Spanish tribes, and he may have been the first Roman general to be acclaimed as imperator (emperor) by his troops; but, though convinced of his own powers, he offered no challenge to the dominance of the Roman nobility ensconced in the Senate except by normal political methods (in which he showed no outstanding ability). Reaction against his generous foreign policy and against his encouragement of Greek culture in Roman life led to his downfall amid personal and political rivalries, but his career had shown that Rome’s destiny was to be a Mediterranean, not merely an Italian, power.

Scipio’s influence outlived the Roman world. Great interest was shown in his life during the early Renaissance, and it helped the early humanists to build a bridge between the classical world and Christendom. He became an idealized perfect hero who was seen to have served the ends of Providence. Petrarch glorified him in a Latin epic, the Africa, which secured his own coronation as poet laureate in 1341 on the Capitol, where, some 1,500 years earlier, the historical Scipio used to commune in the temple of Jupiter.

Howard Hayes Scullard

Encyclopædia Britannica


Battle of Cannae


Engraving of the Battle of Zama by Cornelis Cort, 1567.

Note that the elephants shown are Asian ones rather than the very small North African ones used by Carthage.


Hunted by the Romans, Hannibal fled through Syria to Bithynia. Threatened with extradition to Rome, he 8 ended his own life in 183.

Total submission to the power of Rome saved Carthage at first. But the fear of the once powerful city-state, stirred up primarily by Cato the Elder, led to the Third Punic War (149-146 B.C.).

Carthage was taken and 7 obliterated in 146 в.с—the ground of the city strewn with salt to render it infertile. Resettled under Julius Caesar, in 29 B.C.

Colonia Julia Carthago became the capital of the African province.

8 Hannibal's suicide in
Libyssa in Bithynia in 183 B.C.

7 Obliteration of Carthage
in 146 B.C. in the Third Punic War

10 Mosaic with scenes of country life on a
Roman estate near Carthage



Scipio Africanus the Elder

Cato's Closing Words

Cato the Elder's dosing words of every one of his speeches before the Roman Senate:

"Ceterum censeo, Carthaginem esse delendam."

("I declare that Carthage must be destroyed").

Cato the Elder


Marcus Porcius Cato

Marcus Porcius Cato, byname Cato The Censor, or Cato The Elder (born 234 bc, Tusculum, Latium [Italy]—died 149), Roman statesman, orator, and the first Latin prose writer of importance. He was noted for his conservative and anti-Hellenic policies, in opposition to the phil-Hellenic ideals of the Scipio family.

Cato was born of plebeian stock and fought as a military tribune in the Second Punic War. His oratorical and legal skills and his rigid morality attracted the notice of the patrician Lucius Valerius Flaccus, who helped him begin a political career at Rome. Cato was elected quaestor (205), aedile (199), and praetor (198) in Sardinia, where he suppressed usury. He was elected consul with Flaccus in 195, and as consul he unsuccessfully opposed the repeal of a measure restricting female extravagance (Lex Oppia). Then, in an extensive and bitter military campaign, he stamped out an insurrection in Spain and organized the province of Nearer Spain. In 191 Cato served with distinction under Manius Acilius Glabrio at Thermopylae in the war against the Seleucid king Antiochus III. Shortly thereafter he included Glabrio in his denunciation of the supporters of the Scipios. He then attacked Lucius Scipio and Scipio Africanus the Elder and broke their political influence. This success was followed by his election to the censorship in 184, again with Flaccus as his colleague. (The censors were twin magistrates who acted as census takers, assessors, and inspectors of morals and conduct.)

As censor Cato aimed at preserving the mos majorum (“ancestral custom”) and combating all Greek influences, which he believed were undermining older Roman standards of morality. He passed measures taxing luxury and strictly revised the list of persons eligible for the Senate. He checked abuses by the tax gatherers, and he promoted much public building, including the Basilica Porta (the first market hall in Rome). Cato’s censorship impressed later generations but was too reactionary; his anti-Hellenic policies, in particular, were retrograde and lacked wide support. His sternness as censor made him so many enemies that he later had to defend himself 44 times against various accusations and attempted prosecutions.

After his term as censor, Cato continued to preach his social doctrines and to support such measures as the Lex Orchia against luxury (181) and the Lex Voconia (169), which checked the financial freedom of women. In his later years he turned to capitalistic farming, speculation, and moneylending on a considerable scale. His embassy to Carthage (probably 153) convinced him that the revived prosperity of Rome’s old enemy constituted a new threat. Cato constantly repeated his admonition “Carthage must be destroyed” (“Delenda est Carthago”), and he lived to see war declared on Carthage in 149.

Cato’s dislike of luxury and ostentation partly explains his deep hatred of the Scipio family. He himself affected rustic manners and speech, though he was witty and deeply learned. Cato’s influence on the growth of Latin literature was immense. He was the author of Origines, the first history of Rome composed in Latin. This work, of whose seven books only a few fragments survive, related the traditions of the founding of Rome and other Italian cities. Cato’s only surviving work is De agri cultura (On Farming), a treatise on agriculture written about 160 bc. De agri cultura is the oldest remaining complete prose work in Latin. It is a practical handbook dealing with the cultivation of grape vines and olives and the grazing of livestock, but it also contains many details of old customs and superstitions. More important, it affords a wealth of information on the transition from small landholdings to capitalistic farming in Latium and Campania. Cato also compiled an encyclopaedia and Praecepta (“Maxims”) for his son, in addition to works on medicine, jurisprudence, and military science. Of at least 150 speeches he published, only meagre fragments of about 80 survive.

Encyclopædia Britannica