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6. Son of the great Hamilcar Barca, and brother of the still more famous Hannibal. He is mentioned as being present in the battle in which his father lost his life, and from which he escaped, together with his brother Hannibal, to the city of Acra Leuce. (Diod. Exc. Hoesch. 25.2.) This is the only notice we find of him previous to the departure of Hannibal for Italy; but it is evident that he must not only have been trained up in war, but must have already given proofs of his ability, which led his brother to confide to him the important command of the army in Spain, when he himself set out on his daring march to Italy, B. C. 218. The troops left under his command amounted to less than 13,000 foot and 2500 horse, principally Africans (Plb. 3.33); but he doubtless greatly increased this number by levies among the Spaniards themselves. With a part of this force he advanced to support Hanno, who had been left in charge of the province between the Iberus and the Pyrenees, against Cn. Scipio; but that general was defeated, and his army destroyed before he could arrive, and he was obliged to content himself with cutting off a body of the Roman soldiers who were attached to the fleet. (Plb. 3.76; Liv. 21.61.) The next spring (B. C. 217) he advanced from New Carthage, where he had wintered, with the intention of dispossessing Cn. Scipio of the province north of the Iberus; but the loss of his fleet, which was almost destroyed by that of the Romans, appears to have paralysed his movements, and he did not even cross the Iberus. Before the end of the season, P. Scipio joined his brother with large reinforcements from Rome, and they now assumed the offensive, and crossed the Iberus, without Bostar, who had been despatched by Hasdrubal to oppose them, venturing to meet them in the field. No decisive action took place before the winter; but Bostar, by suffering the Spanish hostages to fall into the hands of the Romans [BOSTAR No. 3], gave a shock to the Carthaginian influence throughout Spain which it hardly recovered. (Plb. 3.95-99; Liv. 22.19-22.) The campaign of the next year, 216, which was marked in Italy by the great victory of Cannae, was signalised by no decisive results in Spain, Hasdrubal having apparently confined himself to defensive operations, or to enterprises against the Spanish tribes. But when the news of the battle of Cannae reached Carthage, orders were immediately sent to Hasdrubal to march at once into Italy, in order to support and co-operate with the victorious Hannibal, and Himilco was sent with a fresh army to supply his place in Spain. But the execution of this plan was frustrated by the total defeat of Hasdrubal in a battle with the two Scipios near the passage of the Iberus; and this disaster was followed by the defection of many of the native tribes. (Liv. 23.26-29, 32; Zonar. 9.3.) The Carthaginians now sent to his relief his brother Mago, with a force of 12,000 foot, 1500 horse, and 20 elephants, which had been previously destined for the assistance of Hannibal in Italy; and we henceforward find the two brothers cooperating in the war in Spain. But our knowledge of their proceedings is very imperfect: the Roman accounts are full of the most palpable and absurd exaggerations; and it is utterly impossible to form any thing like a clear conception of the military operations of either side. Hence a very brief notice of the leading events of the war is all that can be here attempted. It may be observed, however, that the operations of the generals on both sides must naturally have been determined in great measure by the fluctuating policy of the different Spanish tribes, concerning which we have scarcely any information; and this circumstance may sometimes serve to explain changes of fortune which would otherwise appear wholly unaccountable.

In the year 215 we find Hasdrubal and Mago employed with their united forces in the siege of Illiturgi, when the two Scipios came up to the relief of the city, totally defeated them, and took their camp. But this disaster did not prevent them from soon after forming the siege of Indibilis, where, it is said, they again experienced the like ill fortune. (Liv. 23.49.) The next year, 214, was marked by the arrival in Spain of a third Carthaginian general, Hasdrubal the son of Gisco, with a considerable army; but, notwithstanding this reinforcement, nothing memorable was effected. The Roman accounts indeed speak of two successive victories gained by Cn. Scipio, but followed (as usual) by no apparent results. (Liv. 24.41, 42.) Of the campaign of 213 no particulars are recorded by Livy; but according to Appian (App. Hisp. 15), Hasdrubal was employed during a part of this year in Africa, having been sent for by the government at home to carry on the war against the revolted Numidians, which he brought to a successful termination, and then returned to Spain. The following year (B. C. 212) was at length marked by a decisive success on the part of the Carthaginians. The two Scipios appear to have roused themselves to make a great effort, and dividing their forces, marched to attack the separate Carthaginian armies at the same time. The result was fatal: Cn. Scipio, who was opposed to Hasdrubal, was at once paralysed by the defection of 20,000 Celtiberian mercenaries, who were gained over by the Carthaginian general: meanwhile his brother Publius had fallen in an engagement with the Numidian cavalry of Hasdrubal son of Gisco and Mago; and those two generals having hastened to join their forces with those of the son of Barca, Cn. Scipio was surrounded by their united armies, his camp taken, and he himself slain, with the greater part of his troops. (Liv. 25.32-36; Appian, App. Hisp. 16.)

This victory appeared to be decisive of the fate of the war in Spain; and we do not see what now remained to prevent Hasdrubal from setting out on his march to Italy. Yet we hear of no measures tending to this result, and are unable to account for the loss of so valuable an opportunity. But the history of this part of the war has been so effectually disguised, that it is impossible to conjecture the truth. It appears that the remains of the Roman armies had been collected together by a Roman knight, named L. Marcius, who established his camp to the north of the Iberus; and was able to defend it against the attacks of the enemy; but the accounts (copied by Livy from Claudius Quadrigarius and Valerius of Antium) of his great victories over the Carthaginian armies, and his capture of their camps, are among the most glaring exaggerations with which the history of this war has been encumbered by the Roman annalists. Still more palpably absurd is the story that the Roman praetor, Claudius Nero, landing in Spain with a force of 6000 men, found Hasdrubal encamped in so disadvantageous a position, that his whole army must have fallen into the power of Claudius, had he not deluded that general by a pretended negotiation, under cover of which he drew off his forces. (Liv. 25.37-39, 26.17; comp. Appian, App. Hisp. 17, and Zonar. 9.5, 7; and see some judicious remarks on this part of Livy's history by a soldier and a statesman in Raleigh's History of the World, book 5, ch. 13, sect. 11.) All that is certain is, that when the youthful P. Scipio (the son of that Publius who had fallen in the preceding year) landed in Spain in 211, he found the whole country south of the Iberus in the undisputed possession of the Carthaginian generals. Their three armies were, however, separated in distant quarters of the peninsula, probably engaged in establishing their dominion over the native tribes: while the more settled Carthaginian province was comparatively neglected. Of this disposition Scipio ably availed himself, and by a sudden blow, made himself master of New Carthage, the heart of the enemy's dominion, and the place where their principal stores had been collected. (Plb. 10.7-20; Liv. 26.20, 41-48; Appian, App. Hisp. 19-24.)

Hasdrubal had been occupied in the siege of a small town of the Carpetanians, at the time that this blow was struck: we know nothing of the measures which either he or his colleagues adopted in consequence; but we are told that the conquest of New Carthage co-operating with the personal popularity of Scipio, caused the defection of many of the Spanish tribes from the alliance of Carthage, among others that of Indibilis and Mandonius, two of the most influential, and hitherto the most faithful of her supporters. Hasdrubal, alarmed at this increasing disaffection, determined to bring matters to the issue of a decisive battle, with the view of afterwards putting in execution his longmeditated advance to Italy. But while he was still engaged in his preparations for this purpose, and was collecting a supply of money from the rich silver mines of Andalusia, he was attacked by Scipio in his camp at Baecula, and, notwithstanding the strength of his position, was forced from it with heavy loss. The defeat, however, can hardly have been so complete as it is represented by the Roman writers, for it appears that Hasdrubal carried off his treasure and his elephants in safety, and withdrew unmolested towards the more northern provinces of Spain. Here he held a consultation with the other two generals (his brother Mago and Hasdrubal the son of Gisco), at which it was agreed that he himself should proceed to Italy, leaving his two colleagues to make head against Scipio in Spain. (Plb. 10.34-40; Liv. 27.17-20.)

Of the expedition of Hasdrubal to Italy, though it is one of the most important events of the war, we have very little real knowledge. The line of his march was necessarily different from that pursued by Hannibal, for Scipio was in undisputed possession of the province north of the Iberus, and had secured the passes of the Pyrenees on that side; hence Hasdrubal, after recruiting his army with fresh troops, levied among the northern Spaniards, crossed the Pyrenees near their western extremity, and plunged into the heart of Gaul. What were his relations with the Gallic tribes--whether the period spent by him among them was occupied in peace or war--we know not; but, before he reached the foot of the Alps, many ot them had been induced to join him, and the mention among these of the Arverni shows how deep into the country he had penetrated. The chronology is also very obscure. It is certain that the battle of Baecula was fought in B. C. 209, but whether Hasdrubal crossed the Pyrenees the same year we have no evidence: he must, at all events, have spent one winter in Gaul, as it was not till the spring of 207 that he crossed the Alps, and descended into Italy. The passage of the Alps appears to have presented but trifling difficulties, compared with what his brother Hannibal had encountered eleven years before; and he arrived in Italy so much earlier than he was expected, that the Romans had no army in Cisalpine Gaul ready to oppose him. Unfortunately, instead of taking advantage of this, to push on at once into the heart of Italy, he allowed himself to be engaged in the siege of Placentia, and lost much precious time in fruitless efforts to reduce that colony. When at length he abandoned the enterprise, he continued his march upon Ariminum, having previously sent messengers to Hannibal to apprise him of his movements, and concert measures for their meeting in Umbria. But his despatches fell into the hands of the Roman consul, C. Nero, who instantly marched with a light detachment of 7000 men to join his colleague, M. Livius, in his camp at Sena, where his army was now in presence of Hasdrubal. Emboldened by this reinforcement, the two consuls proceeded to offer battle to the Carthaginian general; but Hasdrnbal, perceiving their augmented forces, declined the combat, and retreated towards Ariminum. The Romans pursued him, and he found himself compelled to give them battle on the right bank of the Metanurus. It is admitted by his enemies that on this occasion Hasdrubal displayed all the qualities of a consummate general, but his forces were greatly inferior to those of the enemy, and his Gaulish auxiliaries were of little service. The gallant resistance of his Spanish and Ligurian troops is attested by the heavy loss of the Romans; but all was of no avail, and, seeing the battle irretrievably lost, he rushed into the midst of the enemy, and fell sword in hand, in a manner, says Livy, worthy of the son of Hamilcar and the brother of Hannibal. The loss on his side had amounted, according to Polybius, to 10,000 men, while it is exaggerated by the Roman writers (who appear anxious to make the battle of the Metaurus a compensation for that of Cannae), to more than 50,000. But the amount of loss is unimportant; the battle was decisive of the fate of the war in Italy. (Plb. 11.1-3; Liv. 27.36, 39, 43-49; Appian, App. Hisp. 28, Annib. 52, 53; Zonar. 9.9; Oros. 4.18; Eutrop. 3.18.) The consul, C. Nero, hastened back to Apulia almost as speedily as he had come, and is said to have announced to Hannibal the defeat and death of his brother, by throwing down before his camp the severed head of Hasdrubal. (Liv. 27.51.)

The merits of Hasdrubal as a general are known to us more by the general admission of his enemies, who speak of him as a worthy rival of his father and his brother, than from any judgment we can ourselves form from the imperfect and perverted accounts that have been transmitted to us. Of his personal character we know nothing : not a single anecdote, not a single individual trait, has been preserved to us by the Roman writers of the man who for so many years maintained the struggle against some of their ablest generals. We can only conjecture, from some of the events of the Spanish war, that he possessed to a great degree the same power over the minds of men that was evinced by other members of his family; and his conduct towards the subject tribes seems to have been regarded as presenting a favourable contrast to that of his namesake, the son of Gisco. (Plb. 9.11.)

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hide References (40 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (40):
    • Appian, Wars in Spain, 3.15
    • Appian, Wars in Spain, 3.16
    • Appian, Wars in Spain, 3.17
    • Appian, Wars in Spain, 5.24
    • Appian, Wars in Spain, 5.28
    • Appian, Wars in Spain, 4.19
    • Polybius, Histories, 10.40
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.95
    • Polybius, Histories, 10.20
    • Polybius, Histories, 10.34
    • Polybius, Histories, 10.7
    • Polybius, Histories, 11.1
    • Polybius, Histories, 11.3
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.33
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.76
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.99
    • Polybius, Histories, 9.11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 21, 61
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 22
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 32
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 49
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 32
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 49
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 39
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 41
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 48
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 36
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 51
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 42
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 43
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 26
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 41
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 39
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