The name of Hannibal’s father was Hamilcar. He was one of the leading Carthaginian generals. He occupied a very prominent position, both on account of his rank, and wealth, and high family connections at Carthage, and also on account of the great military energy which he displayed in the command of the armies abroad. He carried on the wars which the Carthaginians waged in Africa and in Spain after the conclusion of the war with the Romans, and he longed to commence hostilities with the Romans again.
At one time, when Hannibal was about nine years of age, Hamilcar was preparing to set off on an expedition into Spain, and, as was usual in those days, he was celebrating the occasion with games, and spectacles, and various religious ceremonies. It has been the custom in all ages of the world, when nations go to war with each other, for each side to take measures for propitiating the favor of Heaven. Christian nations at the present day do it by prayers offered in each country for the success of their own arms. Heathen nations do it by sacrifices, libations, and offerings. Hamilcar had made arrangements for such sacrifices, and the priests were offering them in the presence of the whole assembled army.
Young Hannibal, then about nine years of age, was present. He was a boy of great spirit and energy, and he entered with much enthusiasm into the scene. He wanted to go to Spain himself with the army, and he came to his father and began to urge his request. His father could not consent to this. He was too young to endure the privations and fatigues of such an enterprise. However, his father brought him to one of the altars, in the presence of the other officers of the army, and made him lay his hand upon the consecrated victim, and swear that, as soon as he was old enough, and had it in his power, he would make war upon the Romans. This was done, no doubt, in part to amuse young Hannibal’s mind, and to relieve his disappointment in not being able to go to war at that time, by promising him a great and mighty enemy to fight at some future day. Hannibal remembered it, and longed for the time to come when he could go to war against the Ronaans.