Appian, War against Hannibal 1

Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165): one of the most underestimated of all Greek historians, author of a Roman History in twenty-four books.

Although only Appian's books on the Roman Civil Wars survive in their entirety, large parts of the other books, devoted to Rome's foreign wars, have also come down to us. The parts on the Third Punic War, the wars in Iberia, the Illyrian Wars, and the Mithridatic Wars are very important historical sources. The books on Hannibal that are offered on these pages, however, offer little that is not also known from Polybius or Livy.

Because these texts have to be reconstructed from several medieval manuscripts, not all editions of Appian's account of Rome's foreign wars are numbered in the same way. On these pages, the separate units of a book are counted strictly chronologically.

The translation was made by Horace White; notes by Jona Lendering.

The War against Hannibal (229-218)

[1] What Hannibal the Carthaginian did to, and suffered from, the Romans during the sixteen years that he persisted in war against them, from his first march from Spain to Italy until he was recalled by the Carthaginians (their own city being in danger), and was then driven out by the Romans, this book will show. What Hannibal's real reasons for that invasion were, as well as his public pretext, have been very clearly set forth in my Spanish History, yet I shall mention them here by way of reminder.

[2] Hamilcar, surnamed Barca, the father of this Hannibal, was the commander of the Carthaginian forces in Sicily when they contended with the Romans for possession of that island. Being prosecuted by his enemies on a charge of maladministration, and fearing a conviction, he managed to get himself chosen general against the Numidians before he had settled his accounts. Having proved useful in this war and having secured the favor of the army by plunder and largesses, he passed over the straits into Spain and made an expedition against Gades without the authority of Carthage. From thence he sent much booty to Carthage in order to win the favor of the multitude so that if possible he might ward off censure on account of his command in Sicily. Having gained much territory and great glory he inspired the Carthaginians with a desire to possess the whole of Spain, and persuaded them that it would be an easy task.

Thereupon the Saguntines and other Greeks who were settled in Spain had recourse to the Romans, and a boundary was fixed to the Carthaginian possessions in that country, namely, that they should not cross the river Iberus,note and a treaty to this effect was made between the Romans and the Carthaginians.note After this, Hamilcar, while settling the affairs of Carthaginian Spain, was killed in battle, and Hasdrubal, his son-in-law, succeeded him as general. The latter while hunting was killed by a slave whose master he had put to death.

[3] After them this Hannibal was chosen by the army as the third commander in Spain because he seemed to have great aptitude and fondness for war.note He was the son of Hamilcar and the brother of Hasdrubal's wife, a very young man whose early years had been passed in the company of his father and his brother-in-law. The people of Carthage confirmed his election as general. In this way Hannibal, whose history I am about to write, became the commander of the Carthaginians against the Spaniards.

The enemies of Hamilcar and Hasdrubal in Carthage continued to persecute the friends of those men, despising Hannibal on account of his youth. The latter, believing that this persecution was originally directed against himself and that he might secure his own safety by means of his country's fears, began to think about involving it in a great war. Believing, as was the fact, that a war between the Romans and Carthaginians once begun would last a long time, and that the undertaking would bring great glory to himself, even if he should fail (it was said, also, that he had been sworn on the altar by his father, while yet a boy, that he would be an eternal enemy of Rome), he resolved to cross the Iberus in defiance of the treaty.

For a pretext he procured certain persons to make accusations against the Saguntines.note By continually forwarding these accusations to Carthage, and by accusing the Romans of secretly inciting the Spaniards to revolt, he obtained permission from Carthage to take such steps as he should think fit. Thereupon he crossed the Iberus and destroyed the city of Saguntum with its inhabitants. Thus the treaty, made between the Romans and the Carthaginians after the war in Sicily, was broken.

[4] What Hannibal himself and what the other Carthaginian and Roman generals after him did in Spain, I have related in the Spanish History.

Having collected a large army of Celtiberians, Africans, and other nationalities, and put the command of Spain in the hands of his brother Hasdrubal, he crossed over the Pyrenees mountains into the country of the Celts, which is now called Gaul, with 90,000 foot, 12,000 horse, and 37 elephants.note He passed through the country of the Gauls, conciliating some with money and some by persuasion, and overcoming others by force.

When he came to the Alps and found no road through or over them (for they were exceedingly precipitous), he nevertheless marched boldly forward, but suffered great losses.note The snow and ice being heaped high in front, he cut down and burned wood, quenched the ashes with water and vinegar, and thus rendering the rocks brittle he shattered them with iron hammers and opened a passage which is still in use over the mountains and is called Hannibal's pass. As his supplies began to fail he pressed forward, the Romans remaining in ignorance until he was actually in Italy. Scarcely six months after leaving Spain, and after suffering heavy losses of men, he descended from the mountains to the plain.

[5] After a brief pause he attacked Taurasia, a Gallic town, took it by storm, and put the prisoners to death, in order to strike terror into the rest of the Gauls. Then he advanced to the river Eridanus, now called the Padus,note where the Romans were at war with the Gallic tribe called the Boii, and pitched his camp.

The Roman consul, Publius Cornelius Scipio, was at that time contending with the Carthaginians in Spain. When he learned of Hannibal's incursion into Italy, he left his brother, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio, in charge of affairs in Spain and sailed for Etruria. Marching thence with such allies as he could collect, he came before Hannibal to the Po.

He sent Manlius and Atilius,note who were conducting the war against the Boii, back to Rome, as they had no right to command when a consul was on the ground, and taking their forces drew them upnote for battle with Hannibal. After a skirmish and a cavalry engagement, the Romans were surrounded by the Africans and fled to their camp. The next night they took refuge in Placentia, a place strongly fortified, crossing the Po and then breaking down the bridge. Nevertheless Hannibal made a new bridge and crossed the river.