Hannibal Barca - Part 1: Never be a friend to Rome

Suggested by derprandal

Long after the 2nd Punic War, at the age of 54, the exiled Hannibal Barca was at the court of Antiochus III the Great (King of the Seleucid Empire). There Hannibal would attempt to convince Antiochus III that he was no friend of Rome:

Bust of Antiochus III the Great from the Louvre

“-at the time when his father was about to start with his army on his expedition to Spain, he himself, then nine years of age, was standing by the altar, while Hamilcar was sacrificing to Zeus.

When, on the omens being favorable, Hamilcar had poured a libation to the gods and performed all the customary rites, he ordered the others who were attending the sacrifice to withdraw to a slight distance and calling Hannibal to him asked him kindly if he wished to accompany him on the expedition.

On his accepting with delight, and, like a boy, even begging to do it besides, his father took him by the hand, led him up to the altar, and bade him lay his hand on the victim and swear never to be the friend of the Romans.”
Polybius 3:11

“When I was a small boy, Antiochus, my father Hamilcar took me up to the altar whilst he was offering sacrifice and made me solemnly swear that I would never be a friend to Rome.”  - Livy 35:19

The latin word ‘amicus’, now usually translated to mean “friend”, also denoted someone who was inferior or under the thumb of another, a “subject, client”. This would show that Hannibal was not spurred by hatred and vengeance, which is how he’s usually depicted.

The Seleucid Empire in 200 BC (before expansion into Anatolia and Greece).

He respected and honored the Romans he defeated
After the Battle of Lake Trasimene:
[7] He then gave orders for the bodies of his own men to be picked out from the heaps of slain and buried; careful search was also made for the body of Flaminius that it might receive honorable interment but it was not found.”
- Livy 22:7

Here he sets the non-roman captives free.
“ - [3] and at the end of it distributed such of the prisoners as were Romans among his troops to keep guard over, and setting all the allies free, sent them to their homes, [4] adding, as on a previous occasion, that he was not come to fight with the Italians, but with the Romans for the freedom of Italy. [5] He now allowed his own troops to rest and paid the last honors to those of the highest rank among the fallen, about thirty in number, his whole loss having been about fifteen hundred, most of them Celts.” - Polybius, 85:4-5.

After the Battle of Cannae Hannibal sought an alliance with Philip V of Macedon, believing that his victory was at hand. The treaty shows the wish of keeping the Romans in check, preventing their expansion and liberating the Italians, Celts, Ligurians, Illyrians and Greeks (among others).

Didrachm of Philip V of Macedon

March 13, BC 215
[6] Let the Carthaginians, as supreme, Hannibal their chief general and those serving with him, all members of the Carthaginian dominion living under the same laws, as well as the people of Utica, and the cities and tribes subject to Carthage, and their soldiers and allies, and all cities and tribes in Italy, Celt-land, and Liguria, with whom we have a compact of friendship, and with whomsoever in this country we may hereafter form such compact, be supported by King Philip and the Macedonians, and all other Greeks in alliance with them.

[7] On their parts also King Philip and the Macedonians, and such other Greeks as are his allies, shall be supported and protected by the Carthaginians now in this army, and by the people of Utica, and by all cities and tribes subject to Carthage, both soldiers and allies, and by all allied cities and tribes in Italy, Celt-land, and Liguria, and by all others in Italy as shall hereafter become allies of the Carthaginians”

Blue - Antigonid dynasty of Macedon c.218 BC

[12] As soon as the gods have given us the victory in the war against the Romans and their allies, if the Romans ask us to come to terms of peace, we will make such a peace as will comprise you too, [13] and on the following conditions: that the Romans may never make war upon you; that the Romans shall no longer be masters of Corcyra, Apollonia, Epidamnus, Pharos, Dimale, Parthini, or Atitania: [14] and that they shall return to Demetrius of Pharos all his friends who are in the dominions of Rome.” - Polybius 9:6-7, 12-14

The Oath of Hannibal, 1770 (oil on canvas) by Benjamin West


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