Second Punic War

Second Punic War
Part of the Punic Wars
Mediterranean at 218 BC-en.svg
The Mediterranean in 218 BC
DateSpring 218 – 201 BCE
(17 years)
ResultRoman victory
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Roman Republic
Aetolian League
Iberian tribes
Carthage standard.svg Carthage
Vergina Sun - Golden Larnax.png Macedon
Other Greek states
Iberian tribes
Commanders and leaders
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Scipio Africanus
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Fabius Cunctator
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Publius Cornelius Scipio 
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Tiberius Sempronius
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Gaius Flaminius 
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Claudius Marcellus 
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Terentius Varro
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg Claudius Nero
Carthage standard.svg Hannibal
Carthage standard.svg Hasdrubal Barca 
Carthage standard.svg Mago 
Carthage standard.svg Hasdrubal Gisco
Syphax POW)
Carthage standard.svg Hanno the Elder
Vergina Sun - Golden Larnax.png Philip V


  • 54,000 Active Roman soldiers
  • 53,500 Roman capital detail
  • 388,000 Socii
  • 273,300 Reserves
Casualties and losses
500,000 dead (300,000 killed in action)
400 towns destroyed
270,000 dead

The Second Punic War (Spring 218 to 201 BC),[2][3][4] also referred to as The Hannibalic War and by the Romans the War Against Hannibal, was the second of three wars between Carthage and the Roman Republic, with the participation of Greek polities and Numidian and Iberian forces on both sides. It was one of the deadliest human conflicts of ancient times. Fought across the entire Western Mediterranean region for 17 years and regarded by ancient historians as the greatest war in history, it was waged with unparalleled resources, skill, and hatred.[5]:21.1 It saw hundreds of thousands killed, some of the most lethal battles in military history, the destruction of cities, and massacres and enslavements of civilian populations and prisoners of war by both sides.

The war began with the Carthaginian general Hannibal's conquest of the pro-Roman Iberian city of Saguntum in 219 BC, prompting a Roman declaration of war on Carthage in the spring of 218. Hannibal surprised the Romans by marching his army overland from Iberia to cross the Alps and invade Roman Italy, followed by his reinforcement by Gallic allies and crushing victories over Roman armies at Trebia in 218 and on the shores of Lake Trasimene in 217. Moving to southern Italy in 216, Hannibal at Cannae annihilated the largest army the Romans had ever assembled. After the death or imprisonment of 130,000 Roman troops in two years, 40% of Rome's Italian allies defected to Carthage, giving her control over most of southern Italy. Macedon and Syracuse joined the Carthaginian side after Cannae and the conflict spread to Greece and Sicily. From 215–210 the Carthaginian army and navy launched repeated amphibious assaults to capture Roman Sicily and Sardinia but were ultimately repulsed.

Against Hannibal's skill on the battlefield, the Romans adopted the Fabian strategy – the avoidance of battle against Hannibal and defeating his allies and the other Carthaginian generals instead. Roman armies recaptured all of the great cities that had joined Carthage and defeated a Carthaginian attempt to reinforce Hannibal at Metaurus in 207. Southern Italy was devastated by the combatants, with hundreds of thousands of civilians killed or enslaved. In Iberia, which served as a major source of silver and manpower for the Carthaginian army, a Roman expeditionary force under Publius Cornelius Scipio captured Carthago Nova, Carthage's capital city in Iberia, in 209. Scipio's destruction of a Carthaginian army at Ilipa in 206 permanently ended Carthaginian rule in Iberia. He invaded Carthaginian Africa in 204, inflicting two severe defeats on Carthage and her allies at Utica and the Great Plains that compelled the Carthaginian senate to recall Hannibal's army from Italy. The final engagement between Scipio and Hannibal took place at Zama in Africa in 202 and resulted in Hannibal's defeat and the imposition of harsh peace conditions on Carthage (Carthaginian peace), which ceased to be a great power and became a Roman client state until its final destruction by the Romans in 146 BC during the Third Punic War. The Second Punic War overthrew the established balance of power of the ancient world and Rome rose to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin for the next 600 years.


A Carthaginian shekel, dated 237–227 BC, depicting the Punic god Melqart (equivalent of Hercules/Heracles), most likely with the features of Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal Barca; on the reverse is a man riding a war elephant

Carthage's defeat in the First Punic War meant the loss of Carthaginian Sicily to Rome under the terms of the Roman-dictated 241 BC Treaty of Lutatius.[6] Rome exploited Carthage's distraction during the Truceless War against rebellious mercenaries and Libyan subjects to break the peace treaty and annex Carthaginian Sardinia and Corsica to Rome in 238 BC.[6] Under the leadership of Hamilcar Barca and his family, Carthage defeated the rebels and began the Barcid conquest of Hispania from 237 BC onward.[6][7] Control over Spain gave Carthage the silver mines, agricultural wealth, manpower, military facilities such as shipyards and territorial depth to stand up to future Roman demands with confidence.[8]

The Second Punic War was ignited by the dispute over the hegemony of Saguntum, a Hellenized Iberian coastal city with diplomatic contacts with Rome.[9][10] After great tension within the city government, culminating in the assassination of the supporters of Carthage, Hannibal laid siege to the city of Saguntum in 219 BC.[9] The city called for Roman aid, but the pleas fell on deaf ears.[11] Following a prolonged siege of eight months and a bloody struggle, in which Hannibal himself was wounded, the Carthaginians finally took control of the city.[11] Many of the Saguntians chose to commit suicide rather than face subjugation by the Carthaginians.[11] The loss of Saguntum as a potential base of operations in Carthaginian Iberia was a serious setback to the main Roman strategic objective in Spain: the eviction of the Carthaginians from the peninsula. The Roman Senate sent an embassy to the Carthaginian Senate that declared war on Carthage in early 218 BC over the attack on Rome's Saguntine ally.[12]

Before the war, Rome and Hasdrubal the Fair had made a treaty.[9] Livy reports that it was agreed that the Iber should be the boundary between the two empires and that the liberty of the Saguntines should be preserved.[5]:21.13

Carthaginian strategy and aims

The highest priority in Carthaginian strategy was to keep the war away from Carthage's agricultural heartland in Africa and protect the property of the wealthy Carthaginian landowners who controlled Carthaginian politics.[8] Spanish mines and sources of manpower comprised the second pillar of the Carthaginian power base and their protection was essential to maintaining Carthage's status as an independent continental great power.[13] Hannibal's invasion of Italy forced the Romans to abandon their intended invasion of Africa and de-prioritize the reinforcement of Roman armies in Spain. Most Roman troops during the war fought in Italy, which became the main theater of the war as a result of Hannibal's offensive.[14] Africa remained undisturbed by a Roman invasion army until 204 BC and the Roman military presence in Spain was confined to its northeastern corner until 209 BC. The continuation of Carthaginian rule in Africa and Spain enabled her to mobilize more armies and fleets, attempt the reconquest of Sicily and Sardinia from 215 to 210 BC and invade Italy with Hasdrubal Barca's army in 208 BC and with Mago Barca's forces from 205 to 203 BC.[15]

To win the war, Hannibal in Italy sought to build up a united front of the northern Italian Gallic tribes and south Italian city states to encircle Rome and confine it to central Italy, where it would pose a lesser threat to Carthage's power-political freedom of action.[16][17] A Carthaginian protectorate over Italy would be created, enforced by the presence of Carthaginian soldier colonists and the Carthaginian annexation of parts of Italy.[16][17] This would act as a check on Roman revanchism.[17] Sicily and Sardinia were also to be regained for Carthage by sending expeditionary forces and allying with anti-Roman rebels on both islands.[18]

Other Languages
brezhoneg: Eil brezel punek
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Punisia Kedua
Bahasa Melayu: Perang Punic Kedua
norsk nynorsk: Den andre punarkrigen
Simple English: Second Punic War
slovenščina: Druga punska vojna
српски / srpski: Други пунски рат
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Drugi punski rat