The Second Punic War begins


Briefly describe the life and achievements of Hamilcar Barca 

a. Hamilcar 'Barca'

He won the cognomen 'Barca' (thuderbolt); Polybius admired him and the Roman writer Cato thought him one of the best generals of the time.

b. Sicily, 247-241bc

Hamilcar fought a ruthless guerrilla war in Sicily which held off the Romans at Eryx for three years; when the naval defeat at the Aegates Islands (241bc) cut off his supplies, and forced him to negotiate a truce and abandon Sicily, Hamilcar got his second-in-command Gesco to conduct the negotiations so he did not have to admit to failure).

c. Truceless War, 241-237bc

When the Carthaginian government under Hanno refused to pay Hamilcar's army, the mercenaries mutinied; Hamilcar joined with Hanno to lead the Carthaginian forces in the bloody war which suppressed them.

d. The Conquest of Spain, 237-220bc

Hamilcar established his base at Gades (Cadiz), then conquered the silver mines of Andalusia, then systematically conquered the Iberian peninsula in a series of bloody campaigns; he drowned in a battle at the Jucar River, whilst drawing the Oretani away whilst his son Hannibal made his escape by another route.

e. The Carthaginian Army

During the Spanish campaigns he built up a permanent, well-trained and disciplined army, which Hasdrubal used to complete the conquest of Spain and Hannibal used to invade Italy.



Explain the significance of Hamilcar Barca in Carthaginian politics 

a. Hamilcar's family

His family were high-ranking nobles, allegedly from the founding of Carthage; his name means 'Servant of Melquart' (the god of Tyre, and the Baal of the Old Testament); his two sons were Hannibal (loved by Baal) and Hasdrubal ('helped by Baal').

b. Hasdrubal the Fair

Hamilcar built up a 'war party' in Carthage, allying himself through the marriage of his daughter to the influential Carthaginian Hasdrubal the Fair; this was why, when the Roman delegates offered 'peace or war' in 218bc, the Assembly supported Hannibal and chose war.

c. Revenge and hatred

After the defeat in the First Punic War, and especially after the loss of Sardinia, Hamilcar Barca held a hatred against Rome which led Carthage into the Second Punic War.

d. Hannibal

Hamilcar took his 9 year-old son to Spain and trained him as a warrior; he was said to have made his son swear never to be a friend to Rome; Livy was convinced that, had he not died, Hamilcar (not his son) would have invaded Italy.

e. Roman anti-propaganda

The Roman historian Nepos (1st century bc) pedalled a rumour that Hamilcar was homosexual, and in a relationship with Hasdrubal the Fair (which is why he married his daughter to him); Diodorus states that he gained the generalship by cultivating 'the voice of the public', whom he had bought with booty he had plundered in war.



Briefly describe the Carthaginian conquest of Spain to 226bc 

a. Gades

Hamilcar set up his base in Gades (Cadiz) in 237bc; sources disagree whether he had the support of the Mighty Ones or not - Polybius says he did, and that his aim was 'to re-establish the Carthaginians' affairs in Iberia'.

b. Silver mines of Andalusia

Soon after,Hamilcar conquered the silver mines of Andalusia, defeating the local tribes (allegedly) by putting an army of 50,000 to flight by mutilating and executing their king (whom he had captured) in front of them; archaeologists have discovered that he started minting silver coins almost immediately.

c. Southern Spain

Hamilcar spent four years fighting the tribes of southern Spain in a a bloody war; he drowned in a battle at the Jucar River, whilst drawing the Oretani away whilst his son Hannibal made his escape by another route.

d. Carthago Nova

Hasdrubal the Fair took over from Hamilcar (by this time he had an army of 50,000) - he was acclaimed by the army, married a localprincess (Hannibal too was married to a Spanish princess) and called himself strategos autokrator (copying Alexander the Great at his accession); he conquered the rest of Spain and established Qart Hadasht ('new city' = 'Carthage') as his capital in 228bc.

e. Carthaginian conquest of Spain, 237-220bc

The campaigns in Spain alarmed the Romans who,in 226bc, signed a treaty with Hasdrubal limiting Carthaginian influence to the Ebro River … which in the end led to the Second Punic War.



Briefly describe the life and significance of Hasdrubal the Fair 

a. Hamilcar's supporter

After the First Punic War he married Hamilcar's daughter and became a supporter of Hamilcar's 'War Party'; he used his influence and connections to ensure that the War Party dominated the Mighty Ones..

b. The Conquest of Iberia

He went as one of Hamilcar's generals to Spain and, after Hamilcar's death (228 BC), succeeded him in the command of the army there. By a judicious mixture of bribery, diplomacy, marrying a local princess and warfare he conquered most of Spain.

c. Carthago Nova, 228bc

He founded Carthago Nova (In Punic 'Qart Hadasht' = simply 'New Town', = 'Carthage without the 'New' - i.e. present-day Cartagena) as the new capital of Iberia.

d. Ebro Treaty, 226bc

In 226bc, when Roman ambassador arrived (showing the Rome was becoming nervous about Carthaginian expansion in Spain) he made a treaty with the Roman Republic which fixed the River Iber (probably the Ebro, but one historian thinks it was the Jucar) as the boundary of Carthaginian Spain.  This showed his skill at using diplomacy ... but it also ended up as one of the causes of the Second Punic Wat.

e. Assassination, 221bc

He was killed by a Celt assassin as revenge for crucifying the man's master; as a result, Hannibal came to control the army in Spain ... which led soo after to the march on Italy - the question is, would the Carthaginians have crossed the Alps if the master-of-diplomacy Hasdrubal had still been in control?



Explain the causes of the Second Punic War  

a. Sardinia, 237bc

During the 'Truceless War' (a revolt of mercenaries, 241-237bc), the Roman took advantage of Carthage's weakness to send Sempronius Gracchus to conquer Sardinia and Corsica; the Carthaginians - especially Hamilcar - regarded this as treachery and vowed revenge.

b. Carthaginian conquest of Spain, 237-220bc

The campaigns in Spain alarmed the Romans who, in 226bc, signed a treaty with Hasdrubal limiting Carthaginian influence to the Ebro River … which in the end led to the Second Punic War - Polybius said that the conquest of Spain gave the Carthaginians the confidence to go to war again against the Romans.

c. Hamilcar Barca's legacy - 1: the 'Wrath of Hamilar'

Even if the story of Hamilcar making his son at the age of 9 swear never to be a friend to Rome is not true, it is clear that he communicated to him a lifelong hatred of Rome and a desire for revenge - Polybius called it 'the Wrath of Hamilcar'.

d. Hamilcar Barca's legacy - 2

Hamilcar built up a 'war party' in Carthage; which was why, when the Roman delegates offered 'peace or war' in 218bc, the 'Mighty Ones' supported Hannibal and chose war.

e. The 'Saguntum Outrage'

Although Polybius states that the 226bc Treaty said nothing about Spain south of the Ebro, in c.220bc the Romans promised to support Saguntum in its quarrel with Carthage; when Hannibal captured to the town in defiance of their warning, the Roman ambassadors offered the Carthaginian Assembly 'peace or war' ... and the newly-expanded, newly enriched and newly-confident Cathaginians accepted war.









The following web pages will help you complete the task:

This document contains the relevant sections of the set
OCR Textbook.

The causes of the War are an issue of historical debate; it is important that you read Mr Clare's article on it.




  1.  Use the notes above to write answers to questions 1-5 on the Start of the War worksheet.

 2.  Read the following passage from Livy, and write answers to the questions which follow:

Livy, Book 21, Chapter 21
Now that Saguntum had fallen to him, Hannibal retired to his winter quarters at New Carthage. There he received despatches reporting on the activities and decisions in Rome and Carthage. This made him aware of the fact that he was not only army commander for the Carthaginians but (in Roman eyes) the cause of the impending war, so he decided that there was no point in any further delay.

Explain why The Second Punic War broke out in 218bc.  [4]

In your opinion, how reliable is Livy’s account of the causes of the Second Punic War?
You must refer both to this passage, and to your knowledge of Livy as a writer.     [5]



'Hannibal was to blame for the outbreak of the Second Punic War.'  How far do the ancient sources support this opinion?


In your answer you should:

•  give a brief account of Hannibal's actions leading up to the war;

•  explain how Hannibal's actions helped precipitate war;

•  show knowledge of the relevant sections of Polybius and Livy;

•  consider how reliable you think these sources are.                                       [30]