The End of the War – after Cannae: 215-202bc


[Your textbook gives a very sketchy account of the war after Cannae, leaping quickly to the battle of Zama, so it is doubtful that you will be asked much about anything else.  However, for your wider general knowledge of the war, I have summarised events here.]


Polybius would be annoyed by this 'area-by-area' approach to the events of the war - his point was that the war was a World War, and that it needs to be studied as a whole, not comparmentalised.

The war in Italy

a. Hannibal’s Italian League

• After Cannae many of Rome’s non-Latin-speaking allies (Arpi, Capua, Bruttium) defected to Hannibal. Pro-Carthagians in Tarentum seized the town for Hannibal in 212bc (though not the citadel or the harbour); so for a while Hannibal controlled much of southern Italy, whilst the tribes of Cisapline Gaul were also in revolt – so Rome controlled only central Italy.
• However, Hannibal failed to capture the key town of Nola – although he attacked in 216, 215 and 214bc, he was defeated by Marcellus.
• Hannibal’s allies quarrelled between themselves; many refused to fight outside their own borders. Within the Allied towns, also, many people – mainly the aristocrats – still supported Rome, seeing Hannibal’s supporters as a democratic movement.

b. Roman numerical superiority

Rome had between 7 and 10 armies in the field (up to 200,000 men) – about ten times as many men as Hannibal.

c. Hannibal could not get reinforcements

• Hanno raised troops in Italy, but the Romans intercepted and destroyed his army in the Battle of Beneventum (214bc) befire he could reach Hannibal.
• In 207bc, Gaius Claudius Nero defeated Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal – who had marched another army from Spain over the Alps – at the Battle of the Metaurus. The Romans threw Hasdrubal’s head over the wall into Hannibal’s camp.
• In 205bc, Mago landed in Italy, but was defeated in the Po Valley Raid (203 bc), in which he sustained the wound which eventually killed him.

d. Improved Roman generals

• Hannibal continued to win battles – e.g. Silarus (212bc; the Romans sustained 90% losses), and Herdonia (210 BC; 65% losses) – but the Roman generals improved.
• Marcellus defeated Hannibal at Nola in 216, 215 and 214bc.
• The Battle of Grumentum was an inconclusive fight in 207 BC between Gaius Claudius Nero and Hannibal.

e. Gradual Roman reconquest

• Arpi (213bc) mutinied, killed the pro-Carthaginians, and surrendered to Fabius.
• Capua (211bc) was besieged and taken – a feint attack on Rome by Hannibal failed to distract the Romans
• Fabius took Tarentum (209bc) ‘by treachery rather than by valour’ – a citizen in love with the sister of one of his officers was persuaded to betray the city.
• By 203bc, Hannibal was essentially limited to Bruttium, in the heel of Italy.



The War in Spain 

With Hannibal in Italy, Spain became the key to the war; most of the war consisted of Carthaginian attempts to get reinforcements overland to Italy, and of the Roman attempts to prevent them:

a. Battle of Cissa (218bc)

Gnaeus Scipio established a Roman fort and won back the land north of the Ebro; when Hanno attacked him with a much smaller army, he defeated him, capturing all the Carthaginian baggage, Hanno and 6,000 Carthaginian soldiers.
This cut off Hannibal from overland support from Spain.

b. Battle of Dertosa (215bc)

Attempting to re-establish the overland route to Italy, Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal attacked the Romans, using an enveloping tactic similar to Cannae; however, the Romans broke through the surrounding Carthaginian line, and routed them.
Hannibal remained cut off from overland support from Spain

c. Battles of the Upper Baetis (211bc)

The Carthaginians defeated, in separate battles a few days apart, both Gnaeus Scipio and P Cornelius Scipio, killing them both; however, they could not drive the Romans out of northern Spain.
Hannibal remained cut off from overland support from Spain

d. Scipio Africanus in Spain

• Scipio first captured New Carthage (210bc)
• At the Battle of Baecula (209bc), Scipio inflicted a severe defeat on Hasdrubal as he marched to reinforce Hannibal in Italy
• Finally, in the battle of Ilipa (206bc), Scipio defeated Mago and Massinissa. For several days Scipio drew up his army with the Romans in the centre, but when he eventually attacked suddenly he put the Romans on the wings; the subterfuge worked, the Carthaginians deployed their forces wrongly, and Scipio destroyed their much-larger army.

e. The Carthaginians abandoned Spain (205bc)

After a mutiny in the Roman army and an Iberian revolt against the Romans, Mago tried but failed to recapture New Carthage; he then abandoned Spain and went to try to join Hannibal in Italy.



The War At Sea 

a. The Carthaginian Navy

Although the Carthaginian navy continued to operate throughout the war (e.g. in 214bc the Carthaginian admiral Bomilcar reinforced Hannibal with 4,000 cavalry and 40 elephants, and in 203bc the navy successfully transported Hannibal and his army to Africa), it was only ever about two-thirds of the size of the Roman fleet.

b. Battle of Lilybaeum (218bc)

A Carthaginian surprise-attack on the Roman port of Lilybaeum in Sicily was defeated after Hiero II of Syracuse warned the Romans; a Roman fleet of 20 quinqueremes defeated the 35 Carthaginian quinqueremes. This made it difficult for the Carthaginians to reinforce Hannibal in Italy.

c. Battle of Ebro River (217bc)

A Carthaginian fleet of 40 ships was severely defeated by the 55 Roman and Massalian ships, with about 75% of the fleet captured or sunk and the rest beaching their ships with the Carthaginian army on the shore.
This made it difficult for the Carthaginians to reinforce their armies in Spain.

d. Rome ruled the waves

The Roman fleet continually raided Carthaginian coasts and harbours. Carthaginian attempts to capture Sardinia and to relieve Syracuse and Tarentum failed. Whenever the Carthaginian fleet tried to resist, they were comprehensively defeated (esp. at the battle of Clupea, 208bc).

e. Castra Cornelia (203bc)

When Scipio was invading Africa, a last-gasp naval attack on Scipio’s harbour/camp (by a Carthaginian admiral named Hasdrubal) failed when Scipio blocked the harbour-mouth with a line of merchant ships.



The War Elsewhere 

a. Sardinia (215bc)

A Carthaginian invasion of the island failed, with the Carthaginians losing 7 ships in a huge naval battle.

b. Sicily (215-214bc)

After the death of the pro-Roman Heiro II, the town of Syracuse (a vital harbour) joined Hannibal in 215bc. Syracuse (214 – let in by a pro-Roman faction).

c. The First Macedonian War (214–205bc)

In 214bc Philip V of Macedon signed a Treaty with Hannibal, but he never sent Hannibal any troops,and his attacks on Illyria failed. In 211bc the Romans made an alliance with the Aetolian League (Philip’s enemies in Greece) and the war in Greece ground to a stalemate.

d. Numidia (206bc)

Seeking an alliance with the Western Numidian king Syphax (who was an ally of the Romans), the Carthaginians agreed for him to marry Sophonisba, daughter of Hasdrubal Gisco (a Carthaginian general). This was a diplomatic disaster because Massinissa, to whom Sophonisba had been promised, went over to the Romans … and was to be the deciding factor at Zama.

e. Scipio invades Africa (204-202bc)

In 204bc Scipio invaded Africa, defeating Hasdrubal Gisco in 203bc at the battles of Utica and the Great Plains. This latter defeat forced the Carthaginians to recall Hannibal and sue for peace.



The Battle of Zama and the End of the War (202bc) 

a. Armistice (203bc)

The Carthaginians sought peace, and Scipio signed a Treaty with them (ratified by the Roman senate) which stated:
• Carthage could keep its African territory, but would lose its overseas empire
• Massinissa was given land in Africa
• Carthage was to reduce its fleet
• Carthage was to pay a war indemnity.

b. War renewed (203bc)

• The Carthaginian senate recalled Hannibal from Italy in 203 BC; this allowed the war party in Carthage to gain control.
• When a Roman fleet was caught in the Gulf of Tunis, the Carthaginians looted it.
• The Carthaginians now rejected the Peace Treaty they had agreed.
• Hannibal tried to persuade the Carthaginians not to use their new recruits against the battle-hardened Romans, but the Carthaginians insisted on war (Hannibal’s co-general, Hasdrubal Gisco, was forced to commit suicide by a violent mob after he spoke in support of Hannibal).


The location of Zama is uncertain, as is the location of Scipio and Hannibal's conference at 'Margeron'.

c. Pre-battle Conference (202bc)

According to Polybius and Livy (some modern historians doubt it ever happened), Hannibal met Scipio before the battle.
• Hannibal warned Scipio that ‘Fortuna’ might turn against him.
• Scipio rehearsed the Carthaginians’ faults and bad faith in a speech which sounded like a victory speech.
Despite the two generals' mutual admiration, negotiations failed.

d. Battle of Zama (October 202bc)

• Before the battle, Hannibal gave no speech to his new troops, only to his veterans,whom he placed at the rear of his army (as a Roman army).
• The Romans had superiority in cavalry and the Carthaginians had superiority in infantry; the Roman army was better armed and stronger.
• Hannibal started with an elephant charge, which Scipio turned back – disrupting Hannibal’s cavalry, who were then chased from the field by the Roman cavalry (Hannibal may have intended this to try to take the cavalry out of the battle).
• Scipio used his lengthening the line strategy; Hannibal forced his centre outwards by refusing to allow them to retreat. • Meanwhile, Hannibal’s infantry gained the advantage over the Roman infantry … until the Roman cavalry returned and outflanked the Carthaginians.
• 20,000 Carthaginians were killed and 20,000 taken prisoner; the battle marked the utter defeat of the Carthaginians and the end of the war.

e. Peace (201bc)

• Polybius and Livy give the impression that peace was signed almost immediately; Cornelius Nepos states that Hannibal fought on.
• Peace was signed in 201bc.






The following web pages will help you complete the task:

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

There is an excellent double-account of the war at sea here.



  1. On a large sheet of paper write 'The End of the War' in the centre, and then write around it the five topic headings, each with their list of five points.  Working with a partner, discuss and try to draw links between the various aspects of the war so as to get - as Polybius would have wanted - the combined 'whole picture'.

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

Livy, book 30, Chapters 34-35
34.12. That was the beginning of a completely new battle. The Romans now faced their real enemies, a match for them in quality of equipment, military experience, famed for their deeds, and with fears and expectation just as great as their own.  34.13. But now the Romans had the advantage both in numbers and morale, since they had already routed the elephants, and having broken the enemy front were now challenging their second line.  35.1. At this critical moment, Laelius and Masinissa returned from a fairly long pursuit of the defeated cavalry, and charged the Carthaginian rear. This attack by the cavalry finally broke the Carthaginians.  35.2. Many were surrounded and slaughtered where they stood, many others scattered across the open fields in flight but died at the hands of the cavalry, who held all the escape routes.  35.3. 20,000 Carthaginians and their allies died that day; a similar number were taken prisoner, along with 132 military standards, and 11 elephants. The victorious Romans lost some 1500 men. .

Briefly describe the Battle of Zama    [4]

Explain why Hannibal lost the Battle of Zama    [4]

Do you accept that Livy's description of the Battle of Zama is accurate?  Explain your opinion.  You must refer both to this passage, and to your knowledge of Livy as a writer.     [5]