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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

Hannibal Barca, that incomparable commander who nearly brought Rome to its knees, was Carthaginian hatred personified. He tested the political will of the Roman ruling elite and the legendary perseverance of the Roman people. His campaign in Italy, known to history as the Hannibalic War of 218-201, set in motion the social, economic, and political currents which eventually resulted in the demise of the Roman Republic. Rome’s legions and the commanders who led them proved to be outclassed on the battlefields of Italy. To survive the onslaught – indeed, the wholesale massacre – the Romans learned through bitter experience to employ a strategy of attrition, containment, and isolation. They also learned to capitalize on their substantial advantage in manpower and logistics. Mighty as Hannibal was in the field, he did not have the staying power or the resources needed to bring about a favorable settlement with Rome. Hannibal’s undoing was the result of the deliberate Roman policy of harassment and deprivation, his inability to win a critical mass of political support from the Italian communities, and his failure to find a long-term solution to his considerable supply needs.

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