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During the second Punic war, Hannibal Barca fought in Italy for 14 years, and yet the Romans managed to bring the war to Africa.

How is that possible, especially after battles such as Cannae? If Carthage had sent more troops/material to Hannibal, they would probably have defeated Rome.

Is there any explanation for that lack of action?

  • Can someone please explain the negative? – Juan Antonio Gomez Moriano Dec 4 '14 at 0:00
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    There is no obligation to explain downvotes. I believe this question deserves a downvote because it demonstrates no research, and in fact as Mr. Durden points out, the premise is flawed. The question also relies on presumptive counterfactualos "probably would have defeated Rome". – Mark C. Wallace Dec 4 '14 at 12:50
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    Perhaps because Carthage had no standing army, and relied almost entirely on mercenaries? Carthage was an oligarchy/plutocracy; those forms of government traditionally find it challenging to wage foreign wars. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 4 '14 at 12:52
  • Carthage was also stretched pretty thin as it was fighting the war on multiple fronts. The weakness of their navy in particular was quite crippling. And yeah, the whole premise is wrong. – Semaphore Dec 4 '14 at 12:57
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    @MarkC.Wallace : Thanks for your comments, however I must say that the reason for asking this question is my last read of the second novel of Santiago Posteguillo "Africanus" (good writer and better historian). In such novel, it is described how Hannibal is not even provided all the ships he needed to move his troops to the battle of Zama, letting many troops (specially horses) in Italy, and how afterwards, the Carthage senate claims to have plenty of money to continue the fight. – Juan Antonio Gomez Moriano Dec 4 '14 at 22:06
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They did send more aid. Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, came with a whole new army which miraculously made it all the Italy, but then was unfortunately wiped out at the Battle of the Metaurus.

  • True, but still, why not send ships via the Mediterranean sea? – Juan Antonio Gomez Moriano Dec 3 '14 at 22:43
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    @JuanAntonioGomezMoriano Not enough ships. The whole Carthaginian navy would have been less than 100 ships and you would need thousands of ships to move the entire army all at once. Moving it piece meal would be too dangerous, because once the Romans found about it, they would have attacked the ships with their superior naval force. – Tyler Durden Dec 3 '14 at 23:33
  • why "unfortunately"? – sds Dec 4 '14 at 19:52
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    @sds That's the way war is. When you win it is because you are are a military genius, but when you lose it is because of bad luck. – Tyler Durden Dec 4 '14 at 19:56
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    @JuanAntonioGomezMoriano The Carthaginian navy was essentially wiped out in the First Punic war. By the time of the second, you had a situation where Carthage had a badass army, but Rome ruled the seas. – T.E.D. Dec 4 '14 at 22:18
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It comes down to two issues: no army to send and no navy to get it there.

The war of Hannibal and the Barcas against Rome was more or less a personal project by that family, who controlled Spain and its resources and built up their armies there. Hannibal's initial thrust across the Alps and into Italy needed to be done because Rome had complete control of the seas.

Rome sent the forces intended to stop Hannibal in Gaul on to Spain, and raised new forces to fight him in Italy. They faced Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal there for some years.

In Carthage proper, there were essentially no troops at all. There was also not much of a navy, or shipping to carry troops to Italy. So when Hannibal's march ended up in essentially a stalemate, there was no way to get more than a trickle of help through the blockade, although it was a constant concern, especially when King Philip of Macedon allied with Hannibal.

After some years, Hannibal's brother faced a deteriorating situation in Spain himself and marched to join Hannibal, as while he had an army there was no other way to get to Italy. He was caught and his army destroyed by the consuls of the year in North Italy.

When Scipio Africanus invaded Africa some years later, there was still no real army in Africa to face him. Hannibal had to be recalled for the final battle at Zama.

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Carthage did send some troops to Hannibal in Italy, just not very many. I remember reading that ships did make it into either Tarentum or Lucri but I am having trouble finding the original source I read that from. I was able to find these sources below:

" In Italy, Carthage finally sent at least a small force of reinforcements that joined Hannibal at Lucri." (1)

" Therefore, he turned his attention to southern Italy, where he captured Tarentum and several other ports (213), facilitating the supply of new soldiers from Macedonia and Carthage." (2)

"...Carthaginian authorities... sent reinforcements and subsidies to Hannibal in Italy, and to Mago in Spain, with orders to rekindle the war..." (3)

  1. http://www.unrv.com/empire/after-cannae.php
  2. http://www.livius.org/articles/person/hannibal-3-barca/
  3. http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/rome/3-06-war-hannibal-cannae-zama.asp?pg=76
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No, hasdruabal went, not by the order of carthage, but because hasdrubal and hannibal were talking and making their own agenda on how to win the war behind the cartaginians backs. Hannibal and hasdrubal were both loyal to carthage but realized carthage was not as into this war as they were due to their long-standing hate of rome, and decided to win on ther own terms. It might have worked if Hasdrubal was not cut off as hannibal was only 2 miles away from rome lying in wait.

Carthage did not send more troops to hannibal because hannibal had failed to secure a port for the Carthaginian reinforcments to dock in. This, coupled with the tiring of Hannibal and the carthaginians resulted in defeat.

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    Welcome to History.SE. A few issues with this answer: A) First part seems to contradict the second one (if Carthage did not want to send troops, why was securing a port important?) B) It lacks any citations of references and C) This sounds more like a comment to Tyler Durden's answer that a complete answer by itself; please improve those points. – SJuan76 Aug 29 '15 at 22:22
  • Well I never said that Carthage did not want to send troops, they just tired of the war effort over time, and coupled with the inability to help Hannibal, resulted in the waning of the Cathaginian war effort, eventually leading to Hannibal having to resort to his own measures to win the war. Furthermore, all of these facts are relatively well known, but if you insist on some form of citation, there is well known History of Rome podcast series by Mike Duncan that I took some of this info from. – MaskedBandit1 Aug 30 '15 at 23:00
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Also, in addition to my previous answer, Hannibal was never allowed to capitalize off of his battle at Cannae as every time he flipped the allegiance of a roman city, Rome would follow and flip the allegiance back. Also, Rome employed a famous strategy of avoiding conflict with the Carthaginians led by Hannibal which, coupled with Carthage's inability to help, led to Hannibal's forces being "stuck" in Italy. Many historians are perplexed at why, when Hannibal was at his highest power, immediately following Cannae, he did not march for Rome. We may never know if Hannibal could have taken Rome if he chose to at this time. But, over time, Rome slowly gained the upper hand and soon Hannibal was too weak to strike for Rome, even when he wanted to.

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    It would be better if you edit your previous answer to include this, rather than post something new. – Semaphore Sep 1 '15 at 6:23

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