The Roman Republic - Vol. 1

By W. E. Heitland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV
SECOND PUNIC WAR, (a) 218-216 B.C.
WE need not enlarge upon the importance1 of the Second Punic War. All recognize in it a great turning point, not only in the history of Rome, but in that of the whole Mediterranean world. It was a highly dramatic struggle, and has from this point of view been called the 'Hannibalic' war, after the great central figure. And indeed in the central action of the drama, in Italy, the presence of Hannibal was everything: but in the side-actions, in Spain, Greece and Sicily, his absence was not less important, and these side-actions were all parts of the war and went far to determine its result. Nor was the war a private affair of the Barcid family. The Barcid party was dominant in Carthage, and Carthage clearly accepted the issue of battle. The government sent forces to Spain and Sicily, and it seems certain that reinforcements, though inadequate, reached Hannibal in Italy. It was strictly a Punic war. Like the first war, it was a long weary struggle, but it had two points of difference. First, it was decisive. After the first war, the loss of Sicily and Sardinia was a heavy blow, but the foundation of a Carthaginian empire in Spain opened up new markets to take the place of the old, at the same time adding greatly to Carthaginian military strength. The second war deprived Carthage of Spain: henceforth she might heap up money, but no land remained in which she could create another empire. In the second place, it was not a maritime war. No great sea-fight was fought in all those 17 years. A few minor naval operations were carried on from time to time, but the general freedom of movement by sea shews that no effective control of the waterways was established by either side.
The military lessons of the war were sharp and plain. That the yearly magistrates of the Roman state should command its armies was absurd. But its absurdity had never yet been exposed as it was now, when Hannibal foiled and beat these brave and
____________________
1
I will not apologize for the length of this narrative of the war. So many matters that illustrate the condition of Rome and Italy, not to mention Carthage and other powers, come up in the course of the story, that it can hardly be told briefly. Of the actual battles I have said very little.

-227-

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