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Carthage and Hannibal from Zama to Apamea

Eve MacDonald

Cardiff University

In the aftermath of the Battle of Zama (202BC) the general Hannibal returned to his native city of Carthage after an absence of 36 years, at the age of 45.  After so many years as an international political figure of heroic dimension, his domestic reception may actually have been more bruising than what he was used to abroad.  At home, Hannibal was a deeply divisive figure both within the governing elite and, we can imagine, among the wider populace. Both Romans and Carthaginians were happy to lay all the blame for the disasters of the recent war squarely on Hannibal’s shoulders. Cassius Dio wrote that ‘Hannibal was accused by his own people of having refused to capture Rome when he was able to do so and of having appropriated the plunder from Italy’ although Dio also notes that he was not ‘convicted’ of these charges (Cassius Dio 17, Zonaras 14-15, frag. 86).  After Zama, however, the extant sources look away from Carthage and follow Rome’s military focus eastwards towards the Antigonids and the Seleucids.  Carthage after Zama was a peripheral power; although the Romans would always be wary of the city, what real influence it possessed is difficult to assess.  When we do get the occasional light shone on events at Carthage during this period it is almost exclusively connected to the figure of Hannibal.  Thus in this paper we will closely follow Hannibal’s career in the post-Zama world to try to grasp a more nuanced understanding of the city of Carthage and its interstate relations in these final decades.  This is one way to address key issues like Carthage’s surprisingly quick recovery from the harsh peace imposed by the Romans.  The journey that Hannibal made post Zama went from failed general, to ruling magistrate (sufet), to exile, and then dissident and warlord at the court of Antiochus III.  This chapter of Hannibal’s life can provide insight into the way Carthage was interacting within the wider Hellenistic Mediterranean. The city may have been banned from any military action outside of Africa but commercial activity and contact across the Mediterranean thrived and allowed Carthage to prosper.  It would, of course, be this very prosperity that provoked a belligerent Rome to cause its downfall.

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Carthage and the Mediterranean

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