In 218 BCE, the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca launched an invasion of Italy designed to bring the Roman Republic to its knees. Yet for...

In 218 BCE, the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca launched an invasion of Italy designed to bring the Roman Republic to its knees. Yet for all of his success in defeating Rome’s legions on the battlefield, Hannibal ultimately failed in his lifelong goal. In Hannibal (Simon and Schuster, 2017), Patrick N. Hunt recounts the triumphs and frustrations of the legendary commanders dramatic military career. The son of a Carthaginian leader who fought Rome in the First Punic War, Hannibal was raised to reverse Carthage’s loss in that initial conflict. This he did by taking the fight to Rome, where his outnumbered armies triumphed over the Romans in three successive battles. Yet, as Hunt explains, Rome soon learned from Hannibal’s example, and the Carthaginians’ inability to translate battlefield victories into a Roman surrender left him mired in a war of attrition he could not win. By the time he faced a Roman army at Zama in 202 BCE, the situation was now reversed, as Scipio Africanus used many of Hannibal’s own tactics against him. In this Hunt exposes the irony of Hannibal’s life, as his effort to destroy Rome’s nascent empire only made it stronger, setting the stage for the next seven centuries of its domination of the Mediterranean.

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