The Second Punic War is, arguably, the most sweeping, destructive war of ancient times. It marked the end of a contest for power in the Mediterranean - the establishment of Roman hegemony over the entire Italian peninsula and deep into Iberia.
It was a hard fought victory for Rome, however; Hannibal Barca’s campaign in Italy, following his daring crossing of the Alps, nearly brought Rome to ruin. Catastrophic defeats at Trebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae shattered any faith Rome’s allies had in them, and almost imploded the Republic.
The brilliance of Hannibal as a strategist and tactician cannot be denied; he came closer than anyone else ever had or would to toppling Roman power, but his failure was underestimating Rome’s ability to endure. After weathering the worst of Hannibal’s assault, Rome struck back under the brilliance of Scipio and finally, on the field at Zama, Carthage’s dream came crashing to an end.
Many accounts of the Second Punic War come from Polybius and Livy, neither of whom were alive when the events they describe took place and wrote only from Rome’s perspective. Polybius in particular, is famed for being openly critical of Carthage (he was allegedly present for the final destruction of the ancient capital), and in particular the Barcids, so his accounts are heavily biased towards Rome and can almost be considered propaganda.
Although the power plays of Julius Caesar, and the formation of the Roman Empire under Octavian, were still many years away, Rome’s victory over Carthage and its confederates laid the foundations for Rome the superpower.
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