I. Hannibal, son of Hamilcar, the Carthaginian. If it is true, which no one doubts, that the Roman people exceed all races in virtue, it must not be denied that Hannibal surpassed other commanders in prudence by as much as the Roman people exceed all nations in fortitude. For whenever battle was met with him in Italy, he always came out on top. If he had not been debilitated by the envy of his own citizens at home, it seems that he could have overcome the Romans. But he maintained his father's hatred for the Romans (as if he had received it as an inheritance) so much that he would lay down his life before it. In fact, even when he had been expelled from his homeland and was reliant on the resources of others, he never ceased to wage war with the Romans in his mind.
II. For putting Philip to one side, whom Hannibal turned into an enemy of the Romans without even meeting him, the most powerful king of that time was Antiochus. Hannibal inflamed him with such a desire for waging war that he attempted to bring arms all the way from the Red Sea to Italy. When Roman envoys came to him to find out about his disposition and tried to use secretive stratagems to bring Hannibal into the suspicion of the king, as if he had been corrupted by them and thought differently from before, they did not labour in vain and Hannibal realised this and saw that he had been excluded from the inner council, so, when an opportunity presented itself, he went up to the king. When he had reminded him of many examples of his loyalty and of his hatred of the Romans, he added this: "my father, Hamilcar, when I was a little boy, not more than nine years old, set out for Spain as commander and made a sacrifice to Jupiter the Best and Greatest at Carthage. While he was carrying out this sacred thing, he asked me whether I wanted to go out into the field with him. When I accepted enthusiastically and started begging him not to hesitate to take me, then he said "I will take you, if you give me the proof of your dedication which I ask of you." At the same time, he led me up to the altar, were he had performed the sacrifice and, when everyone else had left, he ordered me to take hold of the altar and swear that I would never enter into friendship with the Romans. This formal oath, given to my father, I have maintained up to this time, such that there ought to be no doubt for anyone whether I will be in the same mind for the rest of time. Why, if you are thinking anything amicably towards the Romans, you would not act imprudently if you hid this from me, while, on the other hand, if you were preparing for war, you would only thwart yourself if you did not put me in charge of it.
III. So, at the age which I have stated, he set out to Spain with his father. After the latter's death, Hasdrubal succeeded as commander and Hannibal was placed in command of all the cavalry. When Hasdrubal was also killed, the army transmitted the supreme command to him. When this was reported at Carthage, it was publicly confirmed. So Hannibal, when he was less than twenty-five years old was made commander and in the next three years he subjugated all the races of Spain by war; Saguntum, an allied community, he conquered by force; he gathered up three very large armies. Of these, he sent one to Africa, he left another with his brother Hasdrubal in Spain, and he took the third with him into Italy. He crossed a Pyrenean mountain pass. Wherever he travelled, he came into conflict with all the inhabitants: he did not leave any enemy unconquered. After this he came to the Alps, which separate Italy from Gaul, which no one had ever crossed with an army before, except Hercules the Greek - for which reason this pass is today called "the Greek." He cut through the inhabitants of the Alps who tried to prevent him from crossing, he threw the way open, secured the routes, made it so that an armoured elephant could go where a single unarmed man could scarcely sneak through before. In this way he led his forces over and brought them into Italy.
IV. They joined battle near the Rhone with Publius Cornelius Scipio, the consul, and beat him. He clashed decisively with the same man at Clastidum, near the Po, wounded him and then sent him fleeing away. For a third time, Scipio came against him with his colleague Tiberius Longus, near the Trebia. He joined the melee with them and put them to flight. Then he crossed the Apennines through Ligurian territory, making for Etruria. On this journey, he was afflicted with a disease of the eyes, so serious that afterwards his right eye never fully recovered. Even as he was suffering from this state of health and had to be carried in a litter, he surrounded Gaius Flaminius the consul near Trasimene with his army and killed him in an ambush, then, not much later, killed Gaius Centenius the praetor as well, who had occupied the woods with a picked band. From here he continued into Apulia. There two consuls came to block his progress: Gaius Terentius and Lucius Aemilius. He routed both of their armies in a single battle, killed the consul Paulus and some former consuls, including Gnaeus Servilius Geminus, who had been consul the year before.
V. After this fight had been fought, he advanced on Rome with no one resisting him. In the mountains near the city he was held up. After he had maintained a camp there for a few days and then turned back towards Capua, Quintus Fabius Maximus, Roman Dictator, put himself in his way at Ager Falernus. Hannibal, constricted by the narrowness of the place, extracted himself by night without any harm to his army and escaped Fabius, who was a very rash commander. For, when night fell, he tied sticks around the horns of bullocks, set them on fire and sent out a great number of these in all directions. With this unexpected sight placed before them, he struck so much fear into the army of the Romans that none of them dared to go out beyond the walls of their encampment. Not very many days after he had done this, he brought Marcus Minucius Rufus, master of the horse, who had authority equal even to the dictator, to battle by a trick and routed him. He lured Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, who was consul again, into an ambush in Lucanian territory and destroyed him - without even being present. He killed Marcus Claudius Marcellus, consul for a fifth time, near Venosa, in the same way. It would take too long to list all the battles. So this one statement will be enough to understand how great he was: the whole time he was in Italy, no one defeated him in battle, no one placed any army in the field against him after the Battle of Cannae.
VI. Then, he was recalled, undefeated, to defend his fatherland and waged war against Publius Scipio, the son of the man whom he had routed first by the Rhone, then by the Po and for a third time by the Trebbia. Since the resources of his fatherland were now exhausted, he wanted to end the war with him for the time being, so that he might re-engage more stongly later. He met to negotiate, but their demands did not meet. A few days after this happened, Hannibal clashed with him near Zama. Knocked back, amazingly, in two days and two nights he made it to Hadrumetum, which is about three hundred thousand paces from Zama. During this escape, the Numidians who had withdrawn from battle with him, turned on him. He didn't just drive them off, he crushed them. At Hadrumetum, he gathered the remaining men from the escape; with new levies, he gathered together many men in a few days.
VII. While he was so ardently occupied with preparations, the Carthaginians ended the war with the Romans. Afterwards he was no less in charge of the army and carried on in Africa until the year when Publius Sulpicius and Gaius Aurelius were consuls. For when they were magistrates, Carthaginian envoys came to Rome, who gave thanks to the Roman senate and people for making peace with them and gave them a gold crown for this; at the same time, they asked that the hostage Carthaginians be kept at Fregellae and that the Carthaginian prisoners of war be returned. A decree from the Senate responded that their gift was appreciated and accepted, the hostages would be kept at the location they had requested, but that the prisoners of war would not be returned, because even now they retained Hannibal, the greatest enemy to the Roman name, whose action had caused the war, in command of an army - and his brother Mago too. When they received this response, the Carthaginians summoned Hannibal and Mago home. When he returned, he was made king, after he had been praetor for twenty-two years. For two kings are appointed each year in Carthage, like the consuls in Rome. Hannibal devoted himself to this magistracy with same diligence as he had given to the war. By means of new taxes, he not only ensured that there was money, for the fine which the Romans had charged in the peace treaty, but even that there was a surplus, which he placed in the treasury. Then, when Marcus Claudius and Lucius Furius were consuls, envoys came to Carthage from Rome. Since Hannibal thought they had been sent to have him delivered up, he boarded a ship and escaped to Antiochus in Syria before an audience with the senate could be given to them. When this became known, the Carthaginians sent two ships which were to arrest him if they were able to catch him, they confiscated his property, razed his house to the ground and declared him an exile.
VIII. But in the third year after he had fled his home, when Lucius Cornelius and Quintus Minucius were consuls, Hannibal came into Africa to the Cyrenaican border [with Carthage], to see if perhaps he could bring the Carthaginians into the war by hope and faith in Antiochus, whom he had now convinced to advance into Italy with an army. He summoned his brother Mago to this place. When the Phoenicians learnt this they inflicted the same punishment on Mago, as they had on his brother, in absentia. They gave up on this venture, untied their ships and opened their sails to the wind, and Hannibal travelled to Antiochus. About the death of Mago, two different stories are recorded. For some have left a written record that he was killed in a shipwreck and others that he was killed by his own servants. And as for Antiochus, if he had been as willing to rely on Hannibal's advice in the conduct of the war as he had been determined in his enthusiasm for it, then he would have contended for ultimate authority nearer to the Tiber than Thermopylae. Although Hannibal saw that [Antiochus] had acted very foolishly, he did not spare any effort. He led the few ships that he had ordered to bring to Asia from Syria, brought them into battle with the Rhodians' fleet in the sea off Pamphylia. Although they bested him as a result of the size of their forces, he was victorious on the wing where he commanded.
IX. When Antiochus had fled, Hannibal feared that he would be betrayed, which no doubt would have happened, if he had given him the opportunity, so he went to Crete, to the Gortynians, in order to consider where to direct himself. But, as the most cunning of all men, he saw that he would be in great danger, unless he took precautions, on account of the greed of the Cretans. For he had a lot of money with him and he knew that rumours about this would get out. So he made this plan: he filled many amphorae with lead and covered it over on top with gold and silver. He deposited these in the temple of Diana, with the leaders present, pretending that he was entrusting his fortune to their faithfulness. Once they had been tricked, he filled some bronze statues, which he had brought with him, with all his money and left them out in the open at his house. The Gortynians guarded the temple with the greatest care, not so much from other people as from Hannibal, to ensure that he did not remove [his money] and take it away with him without their knowledge.
X. Having kept his things safe and tricked all the Cretans, the Phoenician travelled to Prusias in Pontus. At his court, he maintained the same attitude towards Italy and worked to achieve nothing other than to arm the king and campaign against the Romans. When he saw that Prusias' domestic resources were less than firm, he made overtures to the other kings; he added war-like peoples. The Pergamene king Eumenes, a very good friend of the Romans, opposed him and war was waged between them on land and sea. But on both, Eumenes did better on account of his alliance with the Romans. For this reason, Hannibal wanted to crush him even more, judging that if he removed him, everything else would be easier for him. In order to kill him, he initiated this plan. They were a few days away from having a naval battle. He was at a disadvantage in the number of ships; the battle was to be fought by a trick, since he was not a match for him in forces. He commanded that a great number of live venemous snakes be collected and stuffed into earthen jars. When he had produced a great number of these (on the same day on which he intended to have the naval battle), then he called together the captains and instructed them all to rush at the one ship of King Eumenes and that they should consider it enough just to defend themselves against the other ships. He promised that they would easily achieve this by means of the great number of snakes, but that he would ensure that they knew which ship the king was in, and that, if they captured him or killed him, there would be a great reward for them.
XI. After the exhortation of the troops, the fleets were led into battle by both sides. When they were drawn up in a line, before the sign was given to attack, in order to make clear to his forces where Euemenes was, sent out a letter-carrier with an official staff in a dinghy. When he reached the enemies' ships, he showed them a letter, claimed that he was seeking the king and was immediately led to the king, because no one suspected that it was anything other than a letter about peace. When the the ship of the commander had been indicated to them, the letter-carrier withdrew to place he had set out from. But when the letter was opened, Eumenes found nothing in it, except things intended to enrage him. And yet he did not wonder about the reason for this or realise what it was; instead he did not hesitate to join battle immediately. In accordance with Hannibal's instruction, the Bithynians charged at Eumenes' ship alogether in a rush. Since the king could not withstand the power of their assault, he sought safety by flight, which he would not have achieved, had he not withdrawn into his encampment, which was located on the nearby shore. When the rest of the Pergamene ships were pressing heavily on their enemies, suddenly the earthen jars which we made mention of above began to be thrown into their midst. When these were thrown, at first, they spurred the combatants to laughter, since they could not understand why they had done this. But then they realised that their ships were full of snakes. They were completely terrified by this unprecedented thing and, since they did not know what was the most important thing to avoid, they turned tail and withdrew to their naval base. Thus Hannibal overcame the forces of the Pergamenes by a strategem, and not just on that occasion, but often at other times he defeated enemies with land forces by means of similar tactical skill.
XII. While these things were being done in Asia, it happened by chance that envoys of Prusias at Rome had dinner in the house of Titus Quinctius Flamininus the ex-consul, and when Hannibal was mentioned there, one of them said that he was in Prusias' kingdom. The next day, Flamininus reported this to the senate. The conscript fathers, who considered that they would never be free from plots while Hannibal was alive, sent envoys to Bithynia, including Flamininus among them, to demand that he stop hosting their greatest enemy and give him to them. Prusias did not dare to deny them: he objected that they were asking something of him which was contrary to the law of hospitality and that they should arrest him themselves, if the could, saying that they could easily discover the place where he was. For Hannibal maintained himself at one location, in a castle, which had been given to him by the king as a gift and which he had renovated so that there were exits in all parts of the building, clearly fearing that what happened would occur. When the Roman envoys reached this place and had surrounded his home with a lage number of troops, a slave looked out the door and told Hannibal that more soldiers than usual had appeared. He ordered him to go round all the doors of the building and report to him quickly whether he was besieged in this way on all sides. When the slave quickly reported back that it was so and he had made clear that all the exits were blocked, Hannibal sensed that this was not by chance, that he was under attack and that not much more time was left for him to live. Rather than surrender his life to the judgement of another and mindful of traditional virtues, he drank the poison which he had always had with him.
XIII. Thus the bravest man, having completed many different deeds, passed on in his seventieth year. Who the consuls were when he died is not agreed. For Atticus recorded in his Annals that he died when Marcus Claudius Marcellus and Quintus Fabius Labeo where consuls, but Polybius says Lucius Aemilius Paulus and Gnaeus Baebius Tamphilius were consuls, and Sulpicius Blitho says Publius Cornelius Cethegus and Marcus Baebius Tamphilus were consuls. And although such a great man and occupied in such great wars, he did not give no time to literature. For there are several books of his, written in the Greek language, including To the Rhodians about the deeds of Gnaeus Manlius Volso in Asia. Many published records of his military deeds, but two of them who were with him in the castle and also survived, as long as fate allowed, were Silenus and Sosylus the Lacedaemonian. Hannibal also employed this Sosylus as a tutor in Greek literature. But it is time for us to make an end of this book and recount the commanders of the Romans, so that, with the acts of both placed side-by-side, it can more easily be judged which men ought to be most esteemed.