By Michael Elias Shammas
“I will either find a way or make one.”
In 218 BC, arrayed on the banks of the Ebro River like a gigantic bow, Hannibal Barca’s army stood poised to start antiquity’s greatest war. It was a heterogeneous force—composed of Carthaginians, Iberians, Balcaric Islanders, Libyan spearmen, and Numidians. Yet Hannibal’s approximately 80,000 soldiers were all animated by a single purpose: to defeat Rome (Fournie 34). About ten years earlier, Rome’s senate had explicitly forbidden Carthage to cross that river on pain of war; now, Hannibal was preparing to do just that (Briscoe 44). In his mad quest, he would bring about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men while demonstrating unparalleled tactical genius.
That Carthage’s government allowed things to progress to this point is striking. At the time it was still reeling from the First Punic War, which had resulted in the loss of its navy as well as three important islands—Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily (Briscoe 45-46). Its treasury was lacking, its people tired, and its institutions in dire need of reform. Aware of this reality, in the years leading up to the Second Punic War many of its most influential politicians were content to merely consolidate the city-state’s recent gains in Iberia (Reid 188). Yet, to a degree that is rare in world history, this war was not a collective decision. This was Hannibal’s war. Almost entirely on his own initiative, a young man in his twenties decided how and when to start a world war. Although he eventually received limited approval to strike at Rome, it was largely because of his siege of Saguntum that Carthage had to declare war in the first place (Briscoe 45). The Second Punic War thus demonstrates the tremendous role individual initiative can play in starting conflict—and the terrible consequences that so often accompany this. In doing so, it confounds the realist perspective while promoting a sort of constructivist view, one that stresses clashing ideas and cultures over clashing materials (Wendt 1). Hannibal crossed the Alps because Carthage had no other way to invade Italy (Salmon 132); but more importantly, the general’s epic march across the Pyrenees, through Gaul, and to Rome’s steps was motivated by his moral views and aspirations. His desire for glory and his family’s ethical qualms about Rome—exemplified so well by an oath he took as a child—would permit nothing less. And, as Daniel Fournie puts it, “even the Alps could not defeat his will” (42).
Background and Context: What Drove Hannibal?
For years, scholars have been trying to identify what drove Hannibal to take on Rome in such a spectacular manner. What, they ask, gave the man such an incredibly indomitable will? The answer is not simple, for he was probably motivated by a variety of things, but history suggests that two things especially were responsible for his legendary drive. These things are love of family and love of country, and together they go a long way in explaining his hatred of Rome; for in the First Punic War, Romans had humiliated both his father and city.
Indeed, Hannibal’s father Hamilcar figured prominently into the First Punic War. In the years leading up to 241 BC, Hamilcar had been forced to fight unconventionally in the Sicilian theater, relegated to guerilla-style tactics due to a lack of money and men (Fournie 34). This style of fighting—though necessary—seemed like little more than cowardice to the ancient psyche (Gabriel 71). The experience scarred Hamilcar, and though he left Sicily with Carthage’s approval, his sense of honor never quite recovered (Lazenby 100). Although he had defeated the Romans numerous times over the course of the first war and—later on—subjugated half of Iberia after merely eight years, this was not enough. He felt as if his family’s character had been smeared. This resentment simmered in his heart and that of his sons for years. Even if Hamilcar did not feel dishonored, his patriotism meant that he still “would not have been prepared to accept the outcome of the First Punic War as definitive” (Briscoe 44). Alas, Hamilcar drowned in battle before he could finish conquering Iberia, and Hannibal’s brother-in-law Hasdrubal succeeded him as supreme commander in the region. It was he who signed the notorious treaty of 226 BC with the Romans, whereby they agreed to recognize all of Iberia south of the River Ebro as Carthaginian territory in return for Carthage’s explicit promise not to expand north of that river (Livius lvi). Yet though Hasdrubal may have been content with this treaty, Hannibal was not; having been raised and taught by his father, he wished to expand on Hamilcar’s legacy.
In addition to family, patriotism also drove Hannibal to fight the Romans. As has already been noted, Carthage suffered greatly after the First Punic War. The harsh treaty imposed on it—like the Treaty of Versailles after World War I—fostered a resentment that would help trigger the Second Punic War. This treaty—the Treaty of Lutatius—was designed almost solely by the Romans. As such, it placed the blame for the war exclusively on Carthage. According to its terms, Carthage was to evacuate Sicily and the islands west of it, return its prisoners of war free of charge while paying a heavy ransom to receive the safe passage of its own troops, transfer the Aeolian and Ustica Islands to Rome, and vacate all other islands between Italy and North Africa (Lazenby 158). In addition, the city was to pay Rome an indemnity of 30 tons of silver immediately, to be followed by ten separate payments of 66 tons of silver over the course of ten years.
Amazingly, the Romans seemed to think this treaty was generous. Scipio, meeting Hannibal before the battle of Zama, even asserted it was something the Carthaginians had “desired,” and called Hannibal’s invasion “an action of the grossest perfidy” (Polybius 307, The General History). Needless to say, the Carthaginians did not see things in the same light. To compound the treaty’s formal humiliation, the city’s navy had been utterly decimated during the First Punic War. While Carthage had once controlled the entire Mediterranean, it now found itself relegated to the extreme western portion of the sea, its boats doing little more than shipping troops back and forth across the narrow Strait of Gibraltar (Salmon 132). Although Carthage had been leveled—utterly decimated, in fact—it would not be held down for long. As E.T. Salmon writes, history “provides numerous examples of great powers thirsting for revenge after defeat” (131). Carthage was such a power.
Thus, perceived or actual wrongs committed against family and country went a long way in shaping Hannibal’s hatred for Rome; but there was another factor. Long before the Second Punic War, Hannibal Barca—barely nine years of age—took a solemn oath that would bind him for the rest of his life. According to ancient scholars, on the eve of Hamilcar’s departure to Iberia his son came to him and begged to be allowed to fight. In the story—which most modern historians accept as fact—Hannibal’s father agreed to take Hannibal to Iberia on the condition that he take a vow. Perplexed, the young Hannibal followed his father into a temple’s sacrificial chamber. There, clutching Hannibal over an open fire, Hamilcar told his son to swear that for as long as he lived, he would never be a friend of Rome. Hannibal, ever eager to surpass expectation, swore even more than this; he is reported to have said that, “I swear so soon as age will permit…I will use fire and steel to arrest the destiny of Rome” (Polybius 243, The Histories). Silius Italicus puts it more eloquently, recording Hannibal as swearing that he would “enact the doom of Troy” on Rome, despite “the treaty that bars the sword,” “the Alps,” or even “the gods” (verses 113-121). Very nearly, he did just that.
Saguntum and a Legal Pretext for War
Although initially it seemed as if the Ebro treaty had finally accomplished the impossible—forged a long-lasting peace in the Iberian Peninsula—this proved to be a false hope. For the treaty was incredibly flawed. It had been concluded without adequate consideration of circumstances and events that had occurred before 226 BC, and one massive oversight in particular soon became a source of great tension. As John Briscoe writes, “[the treaty’s] terms were flatly inconsistent with the Roman alliance with Saguntum, concluded several years before the Ebro treaty” (Briscoe 44). This oversight would finally give Hannibal a reason to launch his long-desired war. It was in this manner that Saguntum—a relatively isolated and internationally unimportant city—became the crux of the world’s first true world war.
The problem with Saguntum was that, though it was a Roman ally, it was built on land south of the Ebro River—and therefore, according to the treaty, it clearly lay in the Carthaginian sphere of influence. While Rome claimed that its alliance overrode the Ebro treaty, the Carthaginians were inclined to see things differently (Briscoe 44). Despite this, for years it seemed that Saguntum would remain little more than an inconsistency. Indeed, Hasdrubal appeared content to continue the decade-old Carthaginian strategy of consolidating Iberia. This would all change dramatically when Hannibal succeeded his brother-in-law as supreme commander in 221 BC (Livius lvi).
Before continuing, it is important to note that the Saguntines were only too aware of the problems inherent in the Ebro treaty and—as a result—had asked Rome for help numerous times in the years leading up to Hannibal’s siege of the city (Briscoe 44). While Hasdrubal was in command, the Romans doubted an attack would occur and told the Saguntines as much. But on the eve of Hannibal’s accession, they changed their tune. Whether on a whim or because even then they knew something of Hannibal’s nature, in 220 BC the Senate sent messengers to Spain (Briscoe 45). Presciently, they not only asked Hannibal to discard any thoughts of aggression against Saguntum; they also reminded him that crossing the Ebro River would be a violation of the treaty established by his brother-in-law.
Hannibal’s reply was characteristically curt and well-argued (Miles 232-233). The twenty-six year old told the Roman messengers that—on the basis of the Ebro treaty—Saguntum was part of the Carthaginian sphere of influence. This implied that Carthage had a right to take the city, by force if necessary. He added that, because Saguntum was south of the Ebro, Rome had absolutely no right to interfere in an internal Saguntine affair (Briscoe 45). The Roman response to this is unknown, but if any of them believed they had persuaded Hannibal, they were vastly mistaken. In the spring of 219 BC, acting almost entirely on his own, Hannibal—again citing Carthage’s legal right to Saguntum—besieged the beleaguered city, which surrendered eight months later (Livius lvi). Significantly, the city’s fall would reflect the horrific nature of the developing conflict; its women were raped, its men murdered, and its children sold into slavery.
One question that has perplexed scholars for years is whether Hannibal and his Carthaginian confidants thought this attack would be an isolated incident or, on the other hand, if even then they had already planned for a greater war with the Romans. Though Carthage’s government may not have foreseen a larger conflict with Rome, it seems naïve to assume that Hannibal himself didn’t. As John Briscoe maintains, historical evidence suggests that “Hannibal was looking for a reason to reopen the conflict with Rome” (45). Saguntum gave him this reason. What’s more, his own father had been convinced by the Roman annexation of Sardinia that Carthage “would never know peace as long as Roman power remained unchecked” (Fournie 34). Hannibal probably shared this assumption. Further evidence for Hannibal’s eagerness is betrayed by the very swiftness with which he took action; he attacked Saguntum almost immediately after securing the southern half of Iberia (Fournie 34). Clearly, Hannibal was looking for conflict.
The way Hannibal handled Saguntum has three important implications. First, treaties can have unforeseen consequences, especially when they advantage one side at the expense of another. Like the Treaty of Versailles, the Treaty of Lutatius was completely inequitable. It punished Carthage, accusing it of aggression, while excusing Rome of all wrongdoing (Lazenby 158). As in the case of World War I, then, the concluding treaty of the First Punic War resulted in a deep resentment that helped trigger another—even larger—war. And in the same way the Treaty of Versailles angered Germans, granting Hitler support for aggression, the Treaty of Lutatius caused Carthaginians to more readily accept Hannibal’s aggression. Moreover, the injustice likely gave Hannibal even more fuel for his anger.
Second, Saguntum implies that one small incident can trigger a series of crises that escalate into all-out war. In this case, the Romans could have acquiesced, letting Carthage absorb Saguntum (which was, after all, not incredibly important). But they didn’t. In fact, the delegation they sent to Carthage afterwards made demands that were unlikely to result in anything but war, such as even more “restitution” and the hand-over of Hannibal and other key generals (Fournie 35). In this implication, the Second Punic War is not alone. The series of events that led up to World War I and the way the war emerged from a cycling series of conflicts reflects this contention that—whether due to pride or hatred—actors are often unwilling to back down after a crisis has emerged.
Third, the siege of Saguntum implies that war does not have to be a collective decision. One person in a position of power can seize the initiative and shape things in such a way that conflict is all but inevitable. When Hannibal attacked Saguntum, he did so without the explicit approval of the Carthaginian Senate. In other words, he effectively started the Second Punic War entirely on his own initiative (Reid 176). This would have dire implications for Hannibal’s future campaign, as the hasty manner in which he was perceived to have made the decision to attack made existing enemies in Carthage’s government even more resentful of him. This bitterness is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that even when Hannibal was on the verge of absolute victory—a mere five miles away from the city of Rome—Carthaginian politicians such as Hanno the Great refused to grant him material support (Polybius 150, The Histories).
Whatever the case, at this point Hannibal finally had the war he had wanted since he was a child; his siege of Saguntum marked the effective beginning of the Second Punic War (Livius liv). He had started this war, for better or worse, almost entirely through his own actions. It was a war that would result in Carthage’s absolute destruction while at the same time engraining Hannibal’s name in the history books forever. From the above discussion, it seems probable that Hannibal had been planning this war for years—that Saguntum was in effect the means to an end, the legal pretext that paved the way for his idealistic clash with an empire he saw as corrupt and immoral (Reid 183). Although Hannibal could have taken other actions—diplomacy or bribing Saguntum’s leaders, for example—he chose the path that he knew would yield war. That Hannibal besieged Saguntum in the first place surprised both many Carthaginian politicians and, of course, the Romans; what he did next would make his siege of Saguntum pale in comparison.
Why Hannibal Chose a Land Invasion
After the Carthaginian Senate grudgingly came out in support of Hannibal—Roman demands that Carthage surrender not only Hannibal but also numerous other generals left them little choice—the Romans planned to fight the Carthaginians in Iberia. Indeed, though E.T. Salmon maintains that the Romans “must have realized long before the war began that the Carthaginian attack, when it came, would take the form of an invasion by land across the Western Alps,” there is very little evidence to support this view (139). The worst-case scenario most Romans envisioned seems to have been that Carthage might scrape up enough ships to land an army in Sicily or Sardinia. Certainly they did not imagine that Hannibal could be so determined—so mad, some might say—as to march a thousand-man army across the Pyrenees, through hostile territory (the Gauls would harass Hannibal every step of his way to Italy), and over the wall of ice and snow that was the Alps. Ancient scholars such as Livy and Polybius as well as numerous modern scholars all agree on this point: “the Senate clearly did not envisage Hannibal moving outside of Spain” (Briscoe 45).
Roman war strategy further undermines Salmon’s argument. For the Roman Senate’s own plans suggest that, even after Saguntum’s fall triggered the war, Rome was still unaware of Hannibal’s plans for a land invasion. Indeed, the Roman Senate initially decided to send two armies outside of Italy—one, led by the famous Scipio Africanus’ father, would go to Iberia, and the other to Africa (Fournie 36). No great preparations were made to defend the passes leading through the Alps (Salmon 139). But just as the Romans were fine-tuning this plan, Hannibal forced a change in strategy by crossing the Ebro River, making it evident that he did indeed plan on attempting the impossible. One question must be asked—why? Why did Hannibal decide to embark on such a risky journey to Italy? The answer is not simple, and mere patriotism, family loyalty, or even his oath to his father cannot sufficiently explain his decision.
Although John Briscoe and others maintain that scholars “can do no more than speculate on the plans that Hannibal had when he began his march,” it seems clear that Hannibal chose the land invasion for sound—if daunting—strategic reasons (46). Although he was confident in his tactical mastery and in his ability to smash any Roman army that met him, this would serve little purpose unless Rome capitulated. There were effectively two ways to accomplish this. Hannibal immediately discounted the first strategy—which would have entailed the siege of Rome. Transporting siege equipment hundreds of miles over rivers and mountains—necessary to level Rome’s formidable walls—would have been simply impossible. In other words, to bring siege equipment all the way to Italy was not “physically feasible” (Salmon 136). As such, Hannibal opted for the second option. This strategy entailed slowly working his way through Italy, defeating Rome’s armies in the field, and eventually encircling the city, cutting it off from other Italian city-states. After a time, Hannibal hoped he would have made so many Italian allies that Rome would be forced to capitulate (Salmon 138).
Ultimately, Hannibal miscalculated by relying on the strategy of isolation. In the same way that the Romans underestimated him, he underestimated the Romans. He misjudged their determination to fight, while also underestimating the loyalty of some key Italian city-states to Rome. His conception of war was “Hellenistic,” and because of this he expected the Romans to negotiate their surrender after he had attained a certain number of victories (Gabriel 71). In the face of the resounding defeats he dealt the Romans at Trebbia, Lake Trasimene, and Cannae—in which “three consuls and a master of horse were” defeated while “tens of thousands of Romans were slain”—their determination astounded him (Fournie 42). What’s more, the implications of Hannibal’s single-minded decision to go to war caught up with him only a few years after the conflict’s beginning when politicians—resentful of what they perceived to be a rash, unilateral decision to plunge Carthage into war and perhaps a tad envious—withdrew much support at the most critical moment, after the famous Battle of Cannae (Miles 240-250). In fact, his greatest enemy in the Carthaginian Senate and the peace party’s leader Hanno the Great convinced Carthage to effectively abandon Hannibal for nearly 10 years, sending neither military aid nor money. This frustrated Hannibal beyond measure. His long-sought victory—so incredibly close, if only Carthage would send siege weapons by ship to the parts of Italy Hannibal controlled (after securing Italy’s coast, the first option was viable)—slipped away because of bickering of old men. Thus, though siege weapons may have allowed Hannibal to attempt an attack on Rome itself, political gridlock in the Senate defeated him. For all intents and purposes, Hannibal’s army during the latter part of the Second Punic War could do little more than roam the Italian countryside. And as time dragged on, resilient Rome built the armies that—led by Scipio Africanus—would defeat Hannibal on the plains of Zama.
Finding the Reasons for Conflict: Constructivism versus Realism
To some degree, the realist view of international relations can explain why Rome and Carthage fought the Second Punic War. Largely, realism purports that states are inherently competitive. As such, competition drives international relations (Donnelly 62). This was certainly true in the 3rd century BC, as Rome and Carthage—the two giants of a bipolar system of international relations as Greece declined in relevance—competed over everything from natural minerals to timber (Reid 178). The competitive aspect is especially notable when one examines the struggle over Mediterranean islands. Indeed, the First Punic War was largely fought over the control of several key islands in the Mediterranean (Lazenby 130-145). What’s more, both actors probably viewed the struggle over islands as a zero-sum game; there were a limited number of islands, and the more islands one actor controlled, the less the other possessed. Correspondingly, throughout this period Carthage and Rome were constantly engaged in a naval tug-of-war, competing for both influence and resources in places like Sicily and, when necessary, using force.
Despite the above, to view conflict between Rome and Carthage from an exclusively realist perspective would be mistaken. This was especially true during the Second Punic War. Indeed, many modern realists would not have predicted Hannibal’s actions, for though realism implies competition, it also implies that states hope to survive. In other words, risk is not taken lightly. “Success is the ultimate test of policy, and success is defined as preserving and strengthening the state” (Donnelly 7). According to realists like Waltz, states will therefore not “risk much to push for hegemony” (Donnelly 114). This is because there is little point in gaining land if, to do so, one loses an equivalent or greater amount of equally valuable land. Thus, though Rome’s fall would have no doubt strengthened Carthage, the risks Hannibal took seem counterintuitive to realism. His invasion of Italy was a huge gamble. To do it, he had to take valuable manpower and resources out of Iberia. A substantial number of soldiers remained, but these troops were generally less trained, less patriotic, and less armed than those who traveled with Hannibal. What’s more, many of the soldiers Hannibal left behind were Iberian, and as such their loyalty did not clearly belong to Carthage (Fournie 37). As a result of this, Carthage lost much of the land that Hamilcar had gained during the Second Punic War; for to prevent reinforcements from being sent to Hannibal, the Romans undertook a successful campaign in Iberia that ultimately drove “the Carthaginians right out of” the peninsula (Briscoe 56). Hannibal must have known that this was a possibility, and his willingness to take such a risk by invading Italy—combined with the cultural, social, and moral qualms both he and his soldiers shared about Rome—suggests that realism cannot fully explain the conflict.
Rather than solely emphasizing competition, state survival, or material power, the constructivist approach to international relations explains war largely by stressing a clash between social or moral ideals. As Alexander Wendt points out, there are two basic tenants of this approach. First, the “structures of human association are determined primarily by shared ideas rather than material forces”; second, “the identities and interests of purposive actors are constructed by these shared ideas rather than given by nature” (1). This viewpoint seems especially relevant to the Second Punic War because—to most of the towering personalities in the war, from Hannibal Barca to Scipio Africanus—the conflict was not simply a material war; it was much more than that. Yes, Rome was fighting for its survival. Yes, Hannibal was partly motivated to attack Rome because of a possible material gain. But the clash of ideals in this war was tremendous, and different worldviews and loyalties played a large role in starting the conflict. Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of the so-called Rape of Sardinia, Carthaginians everywhere “lived for der Tag” (Salmon 131). For many Carthaginians, it was not a matter of if Carthage would fight Rome, but when. Thus, clashing ideas overshadowed the interplay between power and materials, and it was this clash—highlighted by bitterness and resentment—that instilled so much passion and tragedy into the conflict.
Numerous social and moral conceptions, it is important to point out, were clashing before and during the Second Punic War. Though they were both located on the Mediterranean, Rome and Carthage represented vastly different cultures (Salmon 132-134). Largely, Romans were more cohesive and patriotic than Carthaginians; though its society was fragmented, Carthage’s was even more divided. Indeed, there were effectively two spheres in Carthage—the rich and the poor—and there was very little middle ground. Also, Carthaginian territory was much more heterogeneous than Roman lands. As such, its army was made up of “soldiers from many peoples and cultures,” many of whom harbored some resentment for Rome (Fournie 34). This was in stark contrast to the Romans, whose army—with few exceptions—was homogenous. One clash, then, was generally between two different models of society; it was a clash between Europe and Africa. The second clash involved patriotism and different conceptions of war. This motivated both Carthage and Rome; more specifically, it drove Hannibal Barca and his famous rival, Scipio Africanus, to fight until the bitter end.
Indeed, unlike realism, constructivism points out a fundamental difference in the worldviews of the Romans and Carthaginians that would help decide the conflict’s outcome. To Scipio and his Roman counterparts, the reasons for the Second Punic War were simple. Carthage threatened Rome with an existential crisis, and as such, Rome had no option but to resist. It had to resist not only because it needed to survive, but also because it was a civilizing force in a world of barbarism. The Romans saw Hannibal’s “Hellenistic” view of warfare as flawed, the “Hellenes” as “soft and corrupt,” and as such they decided to fight to the end (Gabriel 70). Needless to say, Hannibal saw things differently. He did not understand that the Romans did not view negotiation to be the main way to end a war. And, as Richard Gabriel points out, his failure to understand his enemy’s ideals was why he lost the war despite winning battle after battle (71). The different worldviews of these two men is perhaps best exemplified by Polybius’ account of the parley they held before Hannibal’s defeat at the Battle of Zama. Entreating Scipio not to fight him, Hannibal stressed that he had already achieved victory by any sane measure of the term. “I am that Annibal, who after the battle of Cannae was master of almost the whole of Italy,” he told his young enemy (Polybius 304, The General History). Like his counterparts, however, Scipio rejected the Hellenistic conception of victory and replied that Hannibal had made a mistake: he did not seize victory when he had the chance (Polybius 305-307, The General History).
Thus, constructivism points out that ideas played a huge role in motivating Hannibal throughout the war. To Hannibal, this conflict was one that would benefit not only Carthage, but the entire world. Rome—an emerging superpower—represented a force of subjugation and corruption. It was a culture of greed, a culture that would stop at nothing to impose its specific worldview on the rest of the world. Indeed, Hannibal believed so strongly that others shared his view of Romans that he assumed the Gauls would join him rather than hinder him on his journey. Notably, his view of the Romans as inherently oppressive may also explain why he misjudged the willingness of Italian city-states to help him. In another win for constructivism, these city-states largely remained with the Romans because their culture and ideals were more similar to the Romans than to the North African “barbarians” (Briscoe 75-77). Put another way, despite the power struggles that had throughout history been fought between these states and Rome, the Italian city-states opted to stick with the power they felt more closely resembled their way of life. They had complaints, but they were unwilling to “believe that [Hannibal] was the man to redress their grievances” simply because he was so different from them (Salmon 139).
Few conflicts are as fascinating—or as prescient—as the Second Punic War. The war provides numerous episodes that entertain while also teaching certain lessons about conflict. It stresses that conflict can be started by a single vibrant personality rather than by an entire state, that the personal histories of leaders often shape how they conduct a war, that hatred and passion can dictate strategy as much as—if not more than—sound reason, and that conflicts often have a heavy idealistic component to them. Moreover, it shows that when ideas rather than materials clash, war gets more intense and more heated. Hannibal’s indomitable will, motivated by his love of country and family and his resultant hatred for the Romans, was what started the Second Punic War. While it would almost certainly have been safer and less risky for him to fight a war in Iberia, this conflict conforms more to a constructivist approach than a realist one; his personal ideals and his forceful personality meant that he could do nothing but take the fight to Italy. The next time resentment over a treaty, bitterness, one driven leader, and clashing ideals would cause such a large-scale conflict would not occur until World War II.
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Michael Elias Shammas is currently a college senior majoring in political science and English. In his spare time he enjoys studying history, reading, writing, and playing the guitar.