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Estimate of Hannibal

Of all that befell the Romans and Carthaginians, good or bad, the cause was one man and one mind,—Hannibal. For it is notorious that he managed the Italian campaigns in person, and the Spanish by the agency of the elder of his brothers, Hasdrubal, and subsequently by that of Mago, the leaders who killed the two Roman generals in Spain about the same time. Again, he conducted the Sicilian campaign at first through Hippocrates and afterwards through Myttonus1 the Libyan. So also in Greece and Illyria: and, by brandishing before their faces the dangers arising from these latter places, he was enabled to distract the attention of the Romans, thanks to his understanding with Philip. So great and wonderful is the influence of a Man, and a mind duly fitted by original constitution for any undertaking within the reach of human powers.

But since the position of affairs has brought us to an inquiry into the genius of Hannibal, the occasion seems to me to demand that I should explain in regard to him the peculiarities of his character which have been especially the subject of controversy. Some regard him as having been extraordinarily cruel, some exceedingly grasping of money. But to speak the truth of him, or of any person engaged in public affairs, is not easy. Some maintain that men's real natures are brought out by their circumstances, and that they are detected when in office, or as some say when in misfortunes, though they have up to that time completely maintained their secrecy.

ἀρχὴ ἄνδρα δείξει. Bias, in Aristot. Eth. 5, 1.
I, on the contrary, do not regard this as a sound dictum. For I think that men in these circumstances are compelled, not only occasionally but frequently, either by the suggestions of friends or the complexity of affairs, to speak and act contrary to their real principles.

1 Livy, 25, 40, calls him Mutines.

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    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1130a
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 40
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