Welcome to History Thursday. This week’s story topic is buried inside the history of the Second Punic War, while the quiz explores some Roman and Carthaginian history. Chaos will ensue.
The powerful Roman army had received heavy defeats at the hands of the Carthaginian army and its cunning general, Hannibal Barca. The son of Hamilcar had established a foothold in Spain and Gaul (France), but Rome had never been in a true crisis before. Hannibal had famously marched his army through the Alps on the backs of war elephants, and was camped about three days of marching away from Rome.
Fearing for their capital, the Roman Senate sent two armies to trap Hannibal near Lake Trasimene, a swamp notorious for being impossible to cross. The importance of the battle to Rome can’t be understated. Hannibal was no longer a distant threat. He was now at the edge of Roman territory and three days of marching from Rome itself.
Carthaginian spies reported that the Roman armies were staging an ambush in the woods near the lake, the only possible route for Carthage’s army. The spies estimated Hannibal would lose half of his army if he crossed the swamp, and would lose his entire army if the Carthaginians went through the woods. The spies implored Hannibal to turn back. However, Hannibal knew his army could survive the swamp and deal a crushing blow to Rome.
Hannibal lost a third of his army in the march through Lake Trasimene, but the Romans lost far more. Hannibal pulled off one of the greatest feats in ancient world history. Carthage would come the closest to conquering Rome until Alaric’s Huns in 476, and the world will always wonder what might have been.
The Weekly Quiz. . .