Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

President Saleh of Yemen has refused to hand over the terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki because it contravenes the Yemeni tradition of hospitality. If the fate of Hannibal is anything to go by, al-Awlaki had better run for it quickish.

In 218 bc the Carthaginian Hannibal had famously led his army and elephants over the Alps to take revenge on the Romans for an earlier defeat. He came within an ace of doing so, but in 202 bc was forced to return to protect Carthage. When the Romans defeated him there, he made peace. But he still longed to get his own back, and in 195 bc, when the Romans got wind of his plans, Hannibal fled east. He tried to do a deal with Antiochus of Syria to lead an attack on Rome, but when that fell through and the Romans demanded Antiochus surrender him, Hannibal fled to king Prusias of Bithynia (northwest Turkey), whom he served in various ways.

The Romans had no idea where he had gone. Years later, according to the historian Nepos, it happened that an embassy from Prusias was in Rome, dining with one Quinctius Flaminius, and one of them let it drop that Hannibal was serving their king. …

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