Livy, History and Hannibal Notes for 1st tutorial by aes

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Livy, History and Hannibal

Notes for 1st tutorial by AES
Some of you have heard me talk about Livy before so I shall say the minimum now about Livy and his age. I do suggest you use Wikipedia: Livy; Punic Wars; Second Punic War; Ancient Carthage; Hannibal etc. I do not own any of the illustrations, which are presented with addresses for educational use. The text is mine.
Titus Livius 64?/59? BC – 17 AD
Livy was born in Northern Italy, in Patavium or Padua, in 59 BC, at which time his town, north of the River Po, was officially in Cisalpine Gaul: it was only admitted to full Romanitas by Julius Caesar in 49 BC. Livy in Rome maintained a pride in his hometown that distinguished him from the Roman born – he was even accused of ‘Patavinitas’. It is irresistible to think of him as a wealthy Yorkshireman, with his thumbs in his waistcoat self-conscious among the effete Southerners – so I am not going to resist. However, reality is always more complicated. His history is a massive undertaking – originally 142 books.

In addition, Livy was a Republican by sentiment – he supported the ideal of rule by the Senate and people. Although he wrote in the time of the Emperor Augustus, the idea of Rome as an autocracy was by no means established. Rome had enjoyed hundreds of years of Republican Governement. Temporary autocracy - dictatorship -was an entirely Republican solution to national emergency and dicatators had come and gone before Julius Caesar, whose dictatorships began in 49. The dictator, Sulla (82-81), had been able to retire into private life, admittedly after having many of his opponents put to death, and the Repulic had returned for another thirty years. The process of making autocracy permanent arguably began with Caesar, who, as dictator, did begin to introduce reforms which tended to concentrate power in him – for example he is said to have sought the right to appoint the consuls for 43. For this he was assassinated. Republican government was nominally resumed after his death, although in reality Civil War broke out and power passed to the warlords. Augustus gradually accumulated autocratic powers from 27 BC onwards. However, there remained the hope that these would die with him. He could be an exceptional case, a leader in time of National Disaster, but there might be a return to a sort democracy post-Augustus. The Augustan rhetoric that made him a restorer of peace at home and abroad, of tradition and morality and of the Roman compact with the gods could actually feed these Republican hopes. The state is now mended – let normality return.
The important thing, for Livy, was the story of the Republic. Livy’s story is communitarian. It tells how certain people with particular values and capabilities work together as a community and, ultimately, gain greatness. In the later books, it becomes the story of the loss of greatness too. Livy’s method seems to be broadly modelled on that of Thucydides, the founder of Greek history – we make a record of what happened in the past so that lessons can be learned for use in the future. However Thucydides confined himself to one recent war – the Peloponnesian War – and he wrote as a political exile, shaping his account of the war through his political interpretation of it. His history is a political book. His exile excluded him from the high positions in the state where he had been able to make policy directly, but he hoped his history would extend his political life.
In Livy’s case too, writing may be a form of displaced political activism. There was no Republic for him to participate in – even if he could overcome the disadvantage of being a Paduan. Real power rested with in Augustus and his generals. Livy was no soldier, and lacked the social capital to join the uncrowned elite of the state – always supposing he wanted too. His history writing extended his political reach and brought him the personal interest of Augustus, who was sufficiently impressed by his talent to accept his strongly Republican bias, hence the joke, recorded in Tacitus Ann. IV 24 that he called Livy ‘Pompeianus’ – a supporter of Pompey the Great who had opposed Julius Caesar, Augustus’ father, in the name of the Senate. In fact, Augustus was no real persecutor of Republicans – notionally he had not abolished the Republic and he wished to present himself as loyal heir to all its glories, which Livy was ably chronicling.
The Myth of Carthage
The three Punic Wars (264-146) , the wars with Carthage, were the great defining wars of Republican Rome. At the height of Carthaginian power, in the 3rd century BC, the Carthaginians controlled coastal North Africa, much of Spain and disputed Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia with Rome
The horrors of Hannibal’s campaign in the Second Punic War, where Italy was ravaged for 16 years, must have done much to encourage the Romans to elevate the Carthaginians to a special category as an enemy. The two cities are often represented in Roman literature as binary opposites, unavoidably locked in conquest until one defeats the other. No other enemy ever quite attained this status. Had the Romans ever conquered the Parthians, they might have been treated similarly: but an essential ingredient of the popularity of the myth when it appears is that Rome’s evil doppelgänger has already been destroyed.
This binary opposition goes far beyond the economic and political reality of two expanding empires in the same geopgraphical area. It has two important features which reflect core elements of Roman identity. The first is to do with destiny, the second, morality, although of course, as Carthage gets her desserts, these are not entirely separate.
The destiny theme reaches its fullest development in Virgil Aeneid IV, where the great ancestor of Rome, Prince Aeneas of Troy, deserts Dido Queen and Carthage, who commits suicide in shame and misery. Jupiter destined Rome to be the greatest city in the world. Juno destined Carthage, hoping to displace Rome. Aeneas is almost tricked by Juno into settling his people with the Carthaginians, but he is recalled by Jupiter. The dishonouring of the Queen and the desertion of the city to its enemies makes Aeneas and his people eternal enemies of Carthage and its people. The feud must be played out until one of them triumphs and becomes the greatest city in the world.
The morality theme occurs again and again in depictions of Carthage. The Romans did not regard themselves as cruel. In Livy’s time, the enormities of the Arena were still in the future. While committing what would now be called atrocities in the normal course of war – massacre, rape, pillage – they saw themselves as opposed to cruel and sadistic punishments – something according to Livy Book 1 which they renounced in the very earliest days of Rome after the quartering of the traitor Mettius Fufetius. The Carthaginians were regarded as eastern and despotic, and enthusiasts for pointless torture – the famous example being the use of sunlight to burn out the eyes of the Roman leader Marcus Atilius Regulus in the first Punic War (as told in Horace Odes 3.5).

Stele in the Tophet of Salammbó showing Tanit image
The touchstone of Carthaginian cruelty was the Roman’s belief that the Carthaginians sacrificed first-born babies, by burning, to Baal. The Romans themselves regarded human sacrifice as repugnant to god and man – although some exceptional instances are recored. The claims of child-sacrifice are mainly accepted by British scholars but contested by some who explain away the archaeological discovery of multiple infant and foetal burials in Tophets connected to Carthaginians sites of worship as, simply, special infant burial grounds. This is credible to modern readers from cultures which have small families, no slaves, and place a high value on child-life. It is less convincing in the ancient cultural context.1 The Romans are accused of vilifying their opponents with false stories. The reality could equally be the other way round; the Romans found in the Carthaginians a genuine political enemy whose lifestyle was both distinctively alien and ‘eastern’ and so ‘barbarous’ that they expected divine approval in conquering them and wiping out their offensive practices.
The War with Carthage
(Repeat) The three Punic Wars (264-146) , the wars with Carthage, were the great defining wars of Republican Rome. At the height of Carthaginian power, in the 3rd century BC, the Carthaginians controlled coastal North Africa, much of Spain and disputed Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia with Rome.
The Carthaginians were descended from Phoenician (Lebanese) colonists who had founded the city of Carthage in 814. Their language was Semitic, and their culture derived from their original homeland although they were completely independent politically. Before Rome extended its power into the South of Italy, the Carthaginians were engaged in territorial wars there with the Greek cities that dominated the region, especially over Sicily, which the Carthaginians partly controlled, along with Sardinia, Corsica and other islands. Their navy ruled the waves of the Western Mediterranean.

As the Romans expanded into Southern Italy, it was inevitable that they would come into conflict with the Carthaginians. The First Punic War (264-241 BC) was over the possession of Sicily. The Romans emerged with Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia added to their Empire. To defeat Carthage, they had begun, for the first time, to build up naval power.
The conquest of Sicily had important consequences. Firstly, the Romans invented a new mechanism, the province, as a method of ruling people a long way from Rome, culturally different from the Romans (the dominant culture in Sicily was Greek) and who were not being offered Roman citizenship or any form of allied status. This new instrument became the building block of the Roman Empire. Secondly the vast grain supply of Sicily enabled the city of Rome to grow in size far beyond the capacity of the local food resources.
In 241, the Romans had encroached into Carthaginian territories. Furthermore they now had overseas territories and supply routes to protect. It seems inevitable that they would have come into conflict again with Carthage on the Sea. Yet the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) was actually over Rome’s northern land border in North Italy. How did this happen?
After the First Punic War, the Carthaginians found themselves short of revenue and facing uprising and political breakdown. As order was restored, the Barca family emerged as significant figures. The father of the family, the general, Hamilcar Barca, was frustrated by the dominance in Carthage of a conservative faction, led by Hanno the Great. He launched a campaign into Spain, or Iberia, as we shall call it, where he was very successful, acquiring silver mines and enlarging his army through conquest and enrolment of natives. Back in Carthage, Hanno’s military capacity was diminished by Hamilcar’s absence.
As Hamilcar pushed northwards he came within the sphere of Roman influence which reached far beyond the Po frontier in North Italy. In 226 BC, Hamilcar signed the Ebro Treaty with Rome, respecting the Ebro (Ebre) River as the northern frontier for his expansion. This river runs parallel to the Pyrenees across the northern part of Spain, effectively dividing Spain from France. This effectively left the South of France as a buffer zone between Carthaginian and Roman territory as well as Italy north of the Po valley which was inhabited by Gallic tribes and not yet subject to Rome. So at this point the Carthaginians were south of the Ebro and the Romans south of the Po. Hamilcar’s rule was now essentially independent of his home city – historians speak of ‘the Barcid Empire.’
Hamilcar had three sons, Hannibal, Mago and Hasdrubal. He also had a son-in-law, Hasdrubal the Fair. When Hamilcar died in battle in 228, it was Hasdrubal the Fair who took over from him. In his time, the Romans became concerned that the Carthaginians were creating alliances with the Gauls, intending to invade Rome from the north. They acted by annexing the Po region in 225-220 BC, creating the province of Gallia Cisalpina. This did not break the Ebro Treaty but it decreased the buffer area. In 221 BC Hasdrubal the fair was assassinated.
Now Hamilcar’s sons, led by Hannibal, took over the Barcid Empire. Ancient writers (Polybius, Livy) claim that he and his father both had a long term goal of attacking Rome. In fact it is the Romans who declare war over a supposed breach of the Ebro Treaty – the Carthaginian attack on the town of Saguntum which had made a treaty with Rome in 226 BC. It is arguable that this did not breach the treaty – Saguntum is south of the Ebro – but Hannibal was more than ready for war. Although the Roman quarrel was with the Barcid Empire, they treated Hannibal as a Carthaginian general, and as Carthage both denied the treaty and refused to give up Hannibal, war was declared in 218 BC not just on the Barcids but on the Carthaginian Empire as a whole.
Livy XXI deals with the opening phase of this campaign in which Hannibal crossed the Alps and was supported by a Gallic uprising. The book includes the defeat of the Trebia. The invasion went on to be a long and bloody affair for the Romans, with the Carthaginian army ravaging large areas of Italy for 16 years and defeating the Romans in two more terrible battles – Trasimene (217 BC) and Cannae (216 BC). This was the war in which ‘Fabian’ tactics were evolved as the dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus developed a policy of avoiding pitched battle and cutting supply lines. Rome’s Italian allies mostly stayed loyal and Hannibal was unable to reach the city itself. Meanwhile Hasdubal’s troops (Hannibal’s brother) were involved in battles for the islands. Publius Cornelius Scipio (Africanus) was sent to the Ebro (211 BC) and prevented Hasdrubal (Hannibal’s brother) bringing reinforcements from the north. The war ended when the Romans succeeded in cutting supply lines from Carthage – Hannibal returned to Africa and was defeated in the Battle of Zama by Scipio in 202 BC.

The Third Punic War (149-146 BC) was a very different affair. Carthage had been humiliatingly defeated in 202 BC and forced to pay a war indemnity. Now, 50 years later, she began to re-establish her position in Africa with an unsuccessful was with the neighbouring Numidians. Many Romans had always believed that Carthage should have been destroyed in 202 BC, including Cato the Elder, who is said to have added the words ‘ceterum censeo Carthaginem delendam esse’ to every speech he made in the Senate. Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Numantinus, adopted grandson of the original Scipio Africanus took the city in 146 BC after a three year siege. 50,000 Carthaginians were sold and the city was legendarily razed to the ground and the site sown with salt. In the same year Corinth fell, leaving the Romans in control of the whole Mediterranean area.

A Note on the Elephants
Were they Indian or African? This is a trick question. A lot of ancient animals no longer roam their accustomed haunts or are extinct. Among them the North African Lion or Atlas or Barbary Lion (felis leo barbaricus), extinct in the wild since the 1960’s, and the Aurochs, the giant ox, which once roamed three continents. The last European Aurochs died in Poland in 1627. Hannibal’s Elephant belongs to this group. It is called the Atlas Elephant, or the Carthaginian Elephant or the North African Forest Elephant and is now extinct. These elephants, to judge from their appearance in art, were much smaller than the familiar elephants of the African Savannahs – more like the Forest Elephant Loxodonta Cyclotis, which inhabits forested areas in central Africa. Their range was north of the Sahara and probably extended down the coast of Sudan and Eritreia. The ancient evidence is that they were tameable, and used by the Egyptians as well as Carthaginians. The Roman use of thousands for beast-fights probably contributed to their extinction in antiquity.
There was also a Syrian elephant (Elephas Maximus Asurus), a sub-species of the Asian Elephant which became extinct in about 100 BC.

1 In most Mediterranean cultures, dead infants were not afforded conspicuous burial, and babes could be buried privately in the home. Burials were usually kept away from sacred sites – and we do not find adult burials connected with sites of worship in Carthage either. There is a lot of evidence for Carthaginian child-sacrifice and the argument against it seems to come largely out of modern revulsion – that we think it is horrible and therefore it cannot be true - which is a bad basis for evaluating an ancient society. Some of the arguments are far-fetched – that the loss of life would diminish the population for example. Infants were discarded widely in the ancient world and infant death was not perceived as problematic. Historians say slave babies (which were abundant and little valued) were often used, and, as many infants died naturally, it might be economical to put the death of some to good use by ensuring divine favour for the others. It seems from the Tophets that still-born infants may have been acceptable, which makes the practice even more economical.

Copyright © 2016Alison Samuels

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