Hasdrubal Barca (245 – 22 June 207 BC), a latinization of ʿAzrubaʿal (Punic: 𐤏𐤆𐤓𐤁𐤏𐤋) son of Hamilcar Barca, was a Carthaginian general in the Second Punic War. He was the brother of Hannibal and Mago Barca.
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Hasdrubal, son of Hamilcar Barca
|Died||22 June 207 BC|
Metauro River, Italy
|Battles/wars||Second Punic War:|
Youth and Iberian leadership
Little is known of Hasdrubal's early life. He was present, along with his older brother Hannibal, when his father, Hamilcar, died in battle against Iberian tribes. Hamilcar may have drowned in the Jucar River, although the sources do not agree. Little is also known about Hasdrubal's activities during the time Hasdrubal the Fair led the Punic forces in Spain, or during the campaigns of Hannibal Barca in Spain and his Siege of Saguntum.
Hannibal, when he set out for Italy in 218/17 BC, left a force of 13,000 infantry, 2,550 cavalry and 21 war elephants in Iberia. The Punic navy had a fleet of 50 quinqueremes and 5 triremes stationed there. However, only 32 Quinqueremes were manned at the start of the Second Punic War. Hasdrubal commanded this force and was to set out for Italy in 217 BC to reinforce Hannibal. Hannibal left another army under Hanno in Catalonia, consisting of 10,000 foot and 1,000 horse on his way to Italy in 218 BC.
Left in command of Hispania when Hannibal departed to Italy in 218 BC, Hasdrubal was destined to fight for six years against the brothers Gnaeus and Publius Cornelius Scipio. The expedition led by Gnaeus Scipio in 218 BC had caught the Carthaginians by surprise, and before Hasdrubal could join Hanno, the Carthaginian commander on the North of Ebro River, the Romans had fought and won the Battle of Cissa and established their army at Tarraco and their fleet at Emporiae. Hasdrubal, commanding only 8,000 troops and outnumbered by the Romans, raided the Romans with a flying column of light infantry and cavalry, which inflicted severe losses on their naval crews and reduced the fighting strength to 35 ships. This loss was offset by the arrival of an allied Greek contingent from the city of Massilia.
In the spring of 217 BC, Hasdrubal led a joint expedition north to fight the Romans. He commanded the army, while his deputy commanded the fleet. The Punic Army and the fleet moved north side by side and encamped on the mouth of the Ebro River. Carelessness of the Carthaginian fleet enabled Gnaeus Scipio to surprise the Carthaginians and crush their naval contingent at the Battle of Ebro River. Hasdrubal was obliged to march back to Cartagena, fearing seaborne attacks on Carthaginian territories. With the Iberian contingent of the Carthaginian navy shattered, Hasdrubal was forced to either call Carthage for reinforcements or build new ships. He did neither. The performance of the Iberian crews had been poor in the battle, and their dismissal sparked a rebellion in the Turdetani tribe. Hasdrubal would spend all of 216 BC subduing the rebels around the area near Gades. Hasdrubal received orders from Carthage to move into Italy and join up with Hannibal in order to put pressure on the Romans in their homeland, but Hasdrubal delayed, arguing that Carthaginian authority over the Iberian tribes was too fragile and the Roman forces in the area too strong for him to execute the planned movement. In Italy, Hannibal Barca had defeated the Romans at the Battle of Cannae in August of 216 BC, resulting in the defection of most of South Italy, and in the north the Gauls had wiped out 25,000 Roman and Italian soldiers in the Battle of Silva Litana, putting them on the defensive. Hannibal had sent his youngest brother, Mago, who had marched into Italy with him in 218 BC, to Carthage to gather reinforcements, and He had raised an army of 12,000 infantry, 1,500 cavalry and 20 elephants which was meant to land at Locri in Italy in 215 BC. Hasdrubal now planned to invade North Italy, catching the Romans in a strategic pincer movement.
Hasdrubal was reinforced by 4,000 infantry and 500 cavalry and was ordered by the Carthaginian senate to march to Italy in the same year. He left Himilco the Navigator in charge at Cartagena and marched for the Ebro river, besieged a pro-Roman town and offered battle at Dertosa. In this battle, Hasdrubal used his cavalry superiority to attempt to clear the field while attempting to envelop the enemy on both sides with his infantry. However, the Romans broke through the thinned-out center of the Carthaginian line and then defeated each wing separately, inflicting severe losses, and taking heavy losses themselves.
The Scipios' victory ensured Hasdrubal's failure to reinforce Hannibal overland when the Carthaginians held the upper hand in Italy, also robbed Hannibal of anticipated seaborne reinforcements and further weakened the Carthaginian hold on the Iberian tribes. Mago and his army was diverted to Iberia after the Carthaginian defeat at Ibera. The classicist Howard Scullard is of the opinion that the Roman victory prevented them from being expelled from Iberia, not least because the Iberian tribes would have abandoned Rome; and from Hasdrubal promptly marching at full strength to reinforce Hannibal in Italy, where "Rome could hardly withstand the double force." Klaus Zimmermann agrees: "the Scipios' victory ... may well have been the decisive battle of the war" The Carthaginians from then on were forced to contest the Romans in the area between the Ebro and Jucar rivers.
This defeat also led to Mago and Hasdrubal Gisco arriving in Iberia with two armies and ending the undisputed command of the Barcid family in Iberia. The Carthaginians fought the Scipio brothers and had on the whole the worst of the conflict between 215 and 212 BC, but managed to prevent the loss of any territory. According to Livy, the Romans fought multiple battles against the Carthaginians south of the Ebro from 215–214 BC, at Iliturgi, Munda, and Orongi. Livy's chronology is confused and contradicted by Polybius, who explicitly states that the Scipio brothers did not venture south of the Ebro until 212 BC. As a result, most historians consider these engagements to be ahistorical.
At the instigation of the Romans, Syphax, one of the kings of the Numidian tribes, attacked Carthaginian territories in Africa in 213/212 BC. The situation in Iberia was sufficiently under control, because Hasdrubal and his Iberian army crossed over to Africa and crushed the threat of Syphax in a battle where 30,000 Numidians were killed. With his Roman-trained army shattered, Syphax fled to Mauritania. The aid of Masinissa, a Numidian prince, was invaluable during this episode, and he crossed over to Iberia with Hasdrubal after the African expedition ended with 3,000 Numidian cavalry.
The Roman commanders captured Saguntum in 212 BC and in 211 BC hired 20,000 Celtiberian mercenaries to reinforce their army. Observing that the three Carthaginian armies were deployed apart from each other, the Romans split their forces and invaded Carthaginian territory with the aim of defeating the Carthaginian forces in detail. However, In late 212 BC, Hasdrubal, with timely cooperation from Mago Barca and Hasdrubal Gisco, completely routed his opponents at the Battle of the Upper Baetis, destroying the majority of the Roman army in Iberia and killing both the Scipios. Carthaginians gained control of Iberia up to the Ebro as a result of this victory. However, the lack of cooperation between the Carthaginian generals led to the surviving Roman force of 8,000 retiring safely to the north of the river Ebro. These troops somehow managed to keep the Carthaginian armies from gaining a foothold north of the Ebro and resist all Carthaginians efforts to expel them. The Romans reinforced this detachment with 10,000 troops under Claudius Nero in 211 BC to stabilize the situation, and with another 10,000 soldiers under Scipio Africanus Major in 210 BC, who spent the year training his army and improving his diplomatic contacts.
Second Carthaginian expedition to Italy
The Carthaginian armies had dispersed into the interior of Iberia in 209 BC, possibly to maintain control over the Iberian tribes, which they were dependent on for soldiers and provisions. The Carthaginian armies were subsequently outgeneraled by Scipio Africanus Major, who, taking advantage of the absence of the three Carthaginian armies in 209 BC, captured Carthago Nova and gained other advantages. Hasdrubal was defeated by Scipio at the Battle of Baecula but managed to retreat with two-thirds of his army intact.
Later in 208 BC, Hasdrubal was summoned to join his brother in Italy. He eluded Scipio by crossing the Pyrenees at their western extremity and safely made his way into Gaul in the winter of 208. Scipio's failure to stop Hasdrubal's march to Italy was criticized by the Roman Senate. Scipio did not exploit his victory at Baecula to drive out the Carthaginians from Iberia, instead choosing to withdraw to his base at Tarraco. He secured alliances with many of the Iberian tribes, who switched sides after the Roman successes at Carthago Nova and Baecula. Hasdrubal waited until the spring of 207 to make his way through the Alps and into Northern Italy. Hasdrubal made much faster progress than his brother had, partly due to the construction left behind by Hannibal's army when he had passed via the same route a decade earlier, but also due to the removal of the Gallic threat that had plagued Hannibal early on. The Gauls now feared and respected the Carthaginians, and not only was Hasdrubal allowed to pass through the Alps unmolested, his ranks were bolstered by many enthusiastic Gauls. Hasdrubal, in the same fashion as his brother, succeeded in bringing his war elephants, raised and trained in Hispania.
It was not until Hasdrubal sent messengers to Hannibal that decisive measures were taken. Hasdrubal wished to meet with his brother in South Umbria. However, this was not to be. Hasdrubal's messengers were captured, and he was ultimately checked by two Roman armies. Being forced to give battle, he was decisively defeated at the Battle of the Metaurus. Hasdrubal, with his armies defeated and in full disorganized retreat, charged into the fray to his certain death, and was beheaded. His head was packed into a sack and thrown into his brother Hannibal's camp as a sign of his utter defeat. This action was in stark contrast to Hannibal's treatment of the bodies of fallen Roman Consuls.
The significance of the Battle of the Metaurus is recognized amongst historians. It is included in Edward Shepherd Creasy's The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World (1851), the rationale being that it effectively removed the Carthaginian threat from Rome's ascendancy to global dominion by leaving Hannibal stranded in Italy. Paul K. Davis sees its importance as the "Carthaginian defeat ended the attempt to reinforce Hannibal, dooming his effort in Italy, and Rome was able to establish dominance over Spain."
- Pride of Carthage by David Anthony Durham
- "The Histories" by Polybius
- "The Fortune of Carthage" by William Kelso published 2012. Covers Hasdrubal's Metaurus campaign from 207 BC.
- Other Hasdrubals in Carthaginian history
- Huss, Werner (1985). Geschichte der Karthager (in German). 8. Munich: C.H. Beck. p. 566. ISBN 9783406306549.
- Sinha, Surabhi; Ray, Michael; Hunt, Patrick. "Hamilcar Barca". Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
- Peddie, John, Hannibal's War, p. 182, ISBN 0-7509-3797-1
- Livy 2006, p. 163. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLivy2006 (help)
- Lazenby 1998, p. 128. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLazenby1998 (help)
- Barceló 2015, p. 370. sfn error: no target: CITEREFBarceló2015 (help)
- Edwell 2015, p. 321. sfn error: no target: CITEREFEdwell2015 (help)
- Edwell 2015, p. 322. sfn error: no target: CITEREFEdwell2015 (help)
- Zimmermann 2015, p. 291. sfn error: no target: CITEREFZimmermann2015 (help)
- Hoyos 2005, p. 139. sfn error: no target: CITEREFHoyos2005 (help)
- Lazenby 1998, pp. 128–129. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLazenby1998 (help)
- Goldsworthy 2006, pp. 250–251. sfn error: no target: CITEREFGoldsworthy2006 (help)
- Scullard 1930, pp. 47–48. sfn error: no target: CITEREFScullard1930 (help)
- Hoyos 2015, p. 167. sfn error: no target: CITEREFHoyos2015 (help)
- Hoyos 2015, p. 179. sfn error: no target: CITEREFHoyos2015 (help)
- Paul K. Davis, 100 Decisive Battles from Ancient Times to the Present: The World’s Major Battles and How They Shaped History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 39.