The Second Punic War

Hannibal knew very well that the various states and provinces of Spain, which had refused to ally themselves with the Romans and abandon him, had -been led to do this through the influence of his resents or the fear of his power, and that if, after had penetrated into Italy, he should meet with reverses, so as to diminish very much their hope of deriving benefit from his favor or their fear of his power, there would be great danger of defections and volts. As an additional security against this, he adopted the following ingenious plan. He enlisted a body of troops from among all the nations of Spain that were in alliance with him, selecting the young men who were enlisted as much as possible from families of consideration and influence, and this body of troops, when organized and officered, he sent into Carthage, giving the nations and tribes from which they were drawn to understand that he considered them not only as soldiers serving in his armies, but as hostages, which he should hold as security for the fidelity and obedience of the countries from which they had come. The number of these soldiers was four thousand.

Hannibal had a brother, whose name, as it happened, was the same as that of his brother-in-law, Hasdrubal. It was to him that he committed the government of Spain during his absence. The soldiers provided for him were, as has been already stated, mainly drawn from Africa. In addition to the foot soldiers, he provided him with a small body of horse. He left with him, also, fourteen elephants. And as he thought it not improbable that the Romans might, in some contingency during his absence, make a descent upon the Spanish coast from the sea, he built and equipped for him a small fleet of about sixty vessels, fifty of which were of the first class. In modern times, the magnitude and efficiency of a ship Is estimated by the number of guns she will carry; then, it was the number of banks of oars. Fifty of Hasdrubal’s ships were “quinqueremes”, as they were Called, that is, they had five banks of oars.

The Romans, on the other hand, did not neglect their own preparations. Though reluctant to enter upon the war, they still prepared to engage in it with their characteristic energy and ardor, when they found that it could not be averted. They resolved on raising two powerful armies, one for each of the consuls. The plan was, with one of these to advance to meet Hannibal, and with the other to proceed to Sicily, and from Sicily to the African coast, with a view of threatening the Carthaginian capital. This plan, if successful, would compel the Carthaginians to recall a part or the whole of Hannibal’s army from the intended invasion of Italy to defend their own African homes.

The force raised by the Romans amounted to about seventy thousand men. About a third of these were Roman soldiers, and the remainder were drawn from various nations dwelling in Italy and in the islands of the Mediterranean Sea which were in alliance with The Romans. Of these troops six thousand were cavalierly. Of course, as the Romans intended to cross Into Africa, they needed a fleet. They built and equipped one, which consisted of two hundred and twenty ships of the largest class, that is, quinquerernes, besides a number of smaller and lighter vessels for services requiring speed. There were vessels in use in those times larger than the quinqueremes. Mention is occasionally made of those which had six and even seven banks of oars. But these were only employed as the flag-ships of commanders, and for other purposes of ceremony and parade, as they were too unwieldy for efficient service in action.