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General Hannibal

How should we rate Hannibal as a general? In some ultimate sense he must be judged a failure. If it has been said that the British army loses every battle but the last one, it may be said of Hannibal, as of Napoleon, that he won almost every battle save his last one. Zama was his Waterloo; like Napoleon, his cause was lost with the battle, and both men subsequently died in exile. In Hannibal's case, indeed, it may be said that the ultimate price of defeat for his country was far greater. If France never recovered after Waterloo the dominant role in European affairs that it had enjoyed for most of the previous several centuries, it remained still a great power. If in our own time it has in turn has lost that status, this is due more to the changed scale of geopolitics than even to its defeat in 1940

--much less in 1815--and it still thrives today as a leading power of the second rank, one whose opinions carry very substantial weight in world politics.

Carthage, in contrast, never recovered from the Second Roman War, as it had from the first, and within two generations it was extinguished altogether. It surely was the bitter memory of the Second Roman War that gave Cato the Elder's cry, "delenda est Carthago," so powerful a resonance to his Roman audience, and provided motivation for the Third Roman War, a war of revenge without strategic necessity against an enemy already eliminated as a threat. Insofar as Hannibal's campaigns evoked this catastrophic vengeance, the effects of his defeat upon Carthage could not have been more complete. In that respect, Hannibal's generalship proved a complete failure, leading in the end to the destruction of the city in whose name he fought. It seems unjust, however, to judge a general only by the final outcome of his war, the more so since so many other factors were at work: the cohesiveness of Rome, the ineffectiveness of his Italian rebel allies, the passivity of Carthage--to name...

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General Hannibal. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:09, September 23, 2020, from