Patrick Hunt (Stanford): “Hannibal’s Secret Weapon”

February 27, 2023 @ 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
McCune Conference Room, HSSB 6020

Hannibal’s success as a military commander in the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE) – surprising and severely defeating Rome after crossing the Alps at the Trebbia, Trasimene and Cannae battles and trickery against Fabius Maximus and others – is usually not focused on his brilliant weaponization of nature and his important use of Iberian silver to secure excellent military intelligence and pay his allied mercenaries as well as his schooling of Rome to reinvent its military. When Scipio – Hannibal’s best pupil – took New Carthage (Cartago Nova or Cartagena) in 209 BCE, he effectively cut off Hannibal’s access to further Iberian silver and Hannibal’s successes dried up, which is no coincidence. Scipio learned well from Hannibal’s craftiness, as documented in Polybius and Frontinus’ Strategemata, by turning the tables on Hannibal at Zama in 202 BCE. As a result of Hannibal’s genius, every strategist since Hannibal, including Machiavelli and military commanders up to the present, emulates Hannibal’s program for adding nature to his arsenal and his use of military intelligence and topography, which is why Hannibal’s tactics are still taught as relevant spycraft. The irony that Hannibal never aimed to destroy Carthage but only to preserve Carthage is all the more tragic in that Rome sought to and succeeded in destroying Carthage’s empire and impose their own empire and remake the Mediterranean as “Mare Nostrum.”

Patrick Hunt is with the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Stanford University, the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at UCLA, the School of Cultural Diplomacy in London, the Fromm Institute in San Francisco, and the Institute for EthnoMedicine.  He holds his Ph.D. from the Institute of Archaeology, University of London, and has also studied at the University of California at Berkeley, and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.  His research interests are Alpine archaeology, archaeological science, archaeometry, geoarchaeology, forensic archaeology, Roman archaeology, Celtic archaeology, and Hannibal studies.  His main publications include Alpine Archaeology (2007), and Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History (2007), as well as numerous articles and encyclopedia entries, and his most recent book is Hannibal (2017). Prof. Hunt is one of the AIA’s 2022/2023 Norton Lecturers.