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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Life Cycles and Hannibal Barca and Scipio Africanus - Part One


This is a 2-part post featuring one of the most famous duos in all of military and ancient history:- Hannibal Barca and his nemesis Scipio Africanus. It will be told in terms of two of the most celebrated father-son pairings as well:- Hannibal and his father Hamilcar along with Scipio Africanus and his father Pubilius Cornelius Scipio. As always, there is an added twist, because I will be using the unique Life Cycles method of analysis to focus on events in just some of their adult significant years (ie.19/24/31/36). Is this a theoretical challenge? Yes, it is by far the most complex set of interrelationships I have attempted. Why did I decide to try to link these two mortal enemies? The answer as always with me is Life Cycles. That's why I call what I do:- 'psycho-biography with a twist'.

So without further ado I'll explain how this link came about. I have previously featured the life of Hannibal Barca in both Books ONE and TWO, such is my fascination. I planned to just feature him and his illustrious father Hamilcar (you must admit they are very impressive-sounding names). Then I accidentally noticed a coincidence, that both Hannibal and Scipio Africanus are said to have died in the same year (bit like I did with Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama). I also remembered a key fact from a BBC documentary on Hannibal (I have watched several and read extensively). When Hannibal laid siege to Rome in his only failed attempt, Scipio was said to have been 24 and my best approximation is that this took place in Hannibal's 36th year. Then it hit me! These two warriors were Confluent and that means their mutual fates were sealed together.


Now let's wind back the clock to when a young Hannibal begged his father to let him accompany him on his campaign in modern-day Spain. His father is reported to have held him close to a burning fire and make him swear to:- "never be a friend of Rome". Hamilcar had experienced the bitterness of defeat by Rome in the First Punic War and set about raising an army to strike back, which he did successfully. However, most probably in 228 BC, he died in battle. When surrounded by enemy troops he was said to have thrown himself into the Jucar River in Spain. His unyielding hatred of Rome, however, was already deep in Hannibal's veins. This traumatic moment is very likely to have occurred within young Hannibal's age 19 Year of Broken Pathways.

Let's now move forward to the first year of shared destiny for Hannibal and Scipio :- the year 216 BC, which was when Hannibal was in his age 31 Year of Broken Pathways and a 12 years-younger Scipio was only in his age 19 Year of Broken Pathways. This was the year of the momentous Battle of Cannae - Rome's most catastrophic defeat and one of the bloodiest battles in all of human history. Much had happened to Hannibal by this time. He had become, like his father, a military commander and when the leader of the Carthaginian army, his brother-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair, was assassinated in 221 BC, Hannibal took over. I'll mention a quote by the Roman historian Livy, regarding his appointment at the time :-
"No sooner had he arrived...the old soldiers fancied they saw Hamilcar in his youth given back to them; the same bright look; the same fire in his eye, the same trick of countenance and features. Never was one and the same spirit more skillful to meet opposition, to obey, or to command..."
So Hannibal was his father incarnate. He was going to be the one who finished his father's business by attacking and destroying Rome itself, in what is known as the Second Punic War. Let's switch now to the upbringing of young Scipio. He was born into one of Rome's most distinguished families, with a record of service in the highest offices stretching back to the early Roman Republic. His father was a noted military commander and Scipio joined him in the army at a young age, before the start of the Second Punic War. Unbelievably he was said to have made a similar vow to his father:- "that he would continue the struggle against Carthage all his life."


In short he was Patrician (ie. a member of Rome's ruling class) to his bootstraps and was also the son of a famed military father, who had vowed lifelong vengeance on his sworn enemy. I mean, never a greater similarity of two monumental rivals. Let's now pick up the threads of when Hannibal crossed the alps and arrived in what is modern northern Italy. Scipio's father led the force sent to intercept him. He was surprised to even be fighting Hannibal in this region, because he expected to face the Carthage army in Iberia (Spain). During what would become the start of the Second Punic War, at the Battle of Trebia in 218 BC, a young Scipio saved his father's life when he was wounded. He bravely rode back into the field of battle to rescue him, even though he was surrounded by enemy horsemen. So there is another shared pivotal moment  between father and son a young age for both men, which was a paramount feature of their lives, as well as their daring and bravery in battle. The overall Battle of Trebia, however, was decisively won by the Carthage army, echoing Hamilcar being surrounded by enemy troops, resulting in his death at his own hand.

More successful battles followed for Hannibal until the 'big kahuna' in the spring of 216 BC, when he seized the main supply depot for Rome at Cannae. The Romans dispatched a huge force in response, but by using brilliant tactics, he managed to totally defeat the much larger Roman army, resulting in estimates of 50-70,000 Romans killed or taken prisoner. It was Rome's most humiliating defeat and it took place in one day. This also affected young Scipio directly, as his future father-in-law died in the battle. Somehow though, Scipio survived this total bloodbath, as well as all the prior battles and of course this only intensified his desire to prevail over the Carthage army.

One of the most often debated topics between both academics and history buffs in general is whether Hannibal should have taken advantage of Rome's weakened state and immediately laid siege to the city. The consensus seems to be that he wouldn't have been successful (he lacked effective siege weapons, his soldiers were exhausted and not ready to attack and he was expecting a Roman surrender anyway), but there are always those (like myself), who think it possible even without directly launching an attack ie. just by massing an impressive army outside the walls to instill fear and panic. If successful this would have forever changed European history. Hannibal decided to go against the advice of his head of cavalry (which was to attack Rome) and took the second city of Capua (modern day Naples, who along with some other regional areas had defected to him) as a base instead. He then continued to ravage the countryside relatively unchecked for the next several years, as the Roman tactics were not to face him in a major battle. Instead they used guerrilla tactics of skirmishes and pursuing a 'scorched earth' policy (ie. burning farms and any sources of food), resulting in a strategic stalemate.


If you are well versed in Roman history you may know some or all of this. However here's what you probably don't know!
According to legend, after the disastrous Battle of Cannae, and on hearing that Lucius Caecilius Metellus and other politicians were at the point of surrendering Rome to Hannibal and the Carthaginians, Scipio and his supporters stormed into the meeting, and at sword-point he forced all present to swear that they would continue in faithful service to Rome. Fortunately, the Roman Senate was of like mind and refused to entertain thoughts of peace, despite the great losses Rome had taken in the war: approximately one-fifth of the men of military age had died within a few years of Hannibal's invasion."
So it may have boiled down to a simple matter of a battle of wills in the end. If this was true (and I suspect it might be), then Hannibal never even knew what an opportunity he missed. His bitter rival however, 19 year-old Scipio (think about his nerve for his age), knew exactly what Hannibal could potentially do and sealed his fate with his daring actions. Never a better illustration of Confluence between close rivals, in this case resulting in their mutual fates being settled in their combined Years of Broken Pathway.

Curiously I am reminded of this very phenomenon, when I did an extensive analysis on the similarities between bitter rivals Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington (born in the same year), as well as political rivals Abraham Lincoln and General John J Hardin (born in the same year. See my post ). But this is by the way.

Hannibal and Scipio, both had their challenges made manifest in their combined Year of Broken Pathways, so let's conclude Part One by asking what did the ensuing years of their uphill journeys have to hold? The theory says that your path gets altered and it usually involves some type of personal challenge that requires effort on your part to come to terms with. These challenges can be both positive and negative, depending on how things went beforehand. The lives of Scipio and Hannibal perfectly illustrate this point, which is just so textbook Life Cycles, I'll now spell it out.

1. Firstly for Hannibal it involved several years of frustration, following his momentous victory at Cannae. He never faced the Roman military in a major battle again and he was stymied by their failure to surrender and their brush warfare tactics. It caused one commentator to say :- "Hannibal you know how to gain a victory, but you do not know how to use one." His army were progressively weakened by all this and he pursued relatively small campaigns.

2. Secondly for young Scipio it meant several years of struggle to obtain the post of quaestor (the most junior magistrate role, but there was an age requirement of being 25 years). It was regarded as the first step in the so-called "cursus honorum" (path of honour). In 213 BC, in spite of opposition by the tribunes he was elected unopposed, because of his record of bravery and patriotism.

Now this builds up to their next combined significant year when Scipio would be at his age 24 Year of Revolution at the same time as Hannibal was at his important and often career-defining age 36 Year of Revolution. What is going to happen to them both that will markedly affect their futures? That will, in a sense again mutually "seal their fates"? Can you see the wonderful intricacy of Life Cycles, as it builds all this from only three basic theoretical concepts? Strange but true, I am the first and only person in all of history to make these observations and you, dear reader, are among the first to see them unveiled.

But enough of this self-congratulatory rhetoric. You really want to know what happens next don't you? Well I promise to deliver you a great story, but you'll have to read it in Part Two, because I'm done now........

                                                           END PART ONE

NB. My birth data is based on a consensus of historians, who place Hannibal's year of birth as either 248 or 247 BC. They also place Scipio's year of birth as 236 or 235 BC. There was almost certainly a degree of overlap between the periods covering their first 12 months of life, which provides the basis of Confluence. Judging by the incredible series of coincidences between their lives, I suspect this period of overlap to have be a good proportion of a total possible period of 12 months (ie. if they were born on the same day).