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?

  • Interesting speculation, but definitive answers are, of course, hardly possible. Dec 16 '12 at 23:54
  • @π Luke: Why did you remove the ancient-rome tag? Jan 1 '13 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 '15 at 18:20
  • @Oldcat: Except that they sent 77,000 men (from Carthage). So why not send Hannibal there to lead them? The difficulty might be moving Hannibal from Italy to Sicily, but they actually moved him back to Carthage before Zama.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 15 '15 at 18:57
  • 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 '15 at 18:59

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...

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.