Sicily was a major focus of the First and Second Punic Wars. The first Punic war ended with Carthage handing over major grain-growing areas on the island, and the port of Lilybaem to Rome as spoils of war.

The second Punic War started as an uprising by Hannibal, a descendant of one of Carthage's native born generals, in Spain against "creeping" Roman domination. With little Carthagian support (but the implicit approval of the government), he raised a "mixed" army, crossed the Alps, and invaded Italy. Because Rome's defenses were too strong for him, he ended in the southern part of the peninsula, fighting a seesaw war.

During the Second Punic War, Carthage sent some 77,000 men to try to recapture Sicily, more than Hannibal had at any one time. They might have done better to reinforce Hannibal with them instead.

But maybe the Carthaginians could have done even better by directing Hannibal to Sicily to receive these reinforcements, re-capture Lilybaem and the grain lands, and prevent Syracuse from falling into Roman hands. Or did naval, or other considerations, rule this out?

  • 1
    Interesting speculation, but definitive answers are, of course, hardly possible. Dec 16, 2012 at 23:54
  • @π Luke: Why did you remove the ancient-rome tag? Jan 1, 2013 at 18:23
  • The Carthaginians contended for Sicily in the First Punic War, before Hannibal's birth. They sent no one there in the Second. They had no navy left, which is why Hannibal needed to march to Italy rather than sail there.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 15, 2015 at 18:20
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    Sicily was a backwater, used to hold the disgraced Cannae legions until Scipio built his invasion force for Zama. I've never heard of this supposed movement. What are your sources?
    – Oldcat
    Apr 15, 2015 at 18:59
  • 1
    All of that information should be in the question
    – MCW
    Nov 3, 2022 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


Carthage's leadship was not fully behind Hannibal's war on Rome. They did try to take advantage of it (like the failed Sicily mission) but never put their full power behind Hannibal. By the time they realised that they should, it was too late. Reinforcements, siege weapons, and a navy would all have helped Hannibal a great deal. None of those things were forthcoming from Carthage.

The only thing that might have helped Hannibal was to take Rome. Without a navy, siege weapons, and a lot more men, that was impossible. And even with Rome taken, it is unlikely that the Romans would have given up...


The short version is Hanno II (The Great) didn't see Rome as much a threat as Hamilcar/Hannibal Barca as Hanno II's wealth was based on north African land holdings. The Barcid family's wealth was based inter alia on Spanish mines, a much more attractive target for rapacious Romans. Hanno II's opposition saw Hannibal short of resources.


"In 237 BCE Hamilcar Barca arrived in Gadir (Roman Gades) with an army, intent upon expanding Carthaginian authority in Iberia. Under the leadership of his family Carthaginian control would extend over much of southern Iberia throughout the Guadalquivir River Valley and eastern Iberia up to the Pyrenees Mountains. ........... Carthaginians expanded and maintained political control over territories in southern and southeastern Iberia under the leadership of the Barcid family, typically referred to in scholarship as the Barcid empire."



Distribution of major ore bodies in the Iberian Peninsula (modified from Bartelheim 2007,

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