Did Hannibal Actually Exist?

mythstifieD

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I was poking around the darkest, dankest nooks of the internet when I happened upon this blog post.

Ironically this was written as satire to exhibit how the existence of Hannibal is even harder to prove than a historical Jesus. The intended impression is meant to be Hannibal is real and so is Jesus.

The technique executed is to challenge mainstream scholars to live up to their own rules and measure Jesus and Hannibal with the same stick.

Well, we here at Stolen History use a different stick. From my experience here so far I would say we are all extremely committed to facts but because of our uncompromising desire for truth, we employ a level of skepticism that would make a tenured historian lose their job. Luckily we're hobbyists so our minds and theories are decoupled from our fear of starvation!

That said, let's read this account. He didn't mean to, but he actually has me wondering, for real, if Hannibal was just a legend invented for political reasons!

hannibal_barca.jpg

Did Hannibal Really Exist?
To ask whether or not the great Carthaginian general Hannibal ever actually existed might seem rather pointless. It might be an exercise for a student learning about the nature of historical evidence, but not something any serious scholar would waste time on. But maybe we should not be too hasty in acquiescing with the opinion of establishment historians (in other words, there’s a plot by academics stifling debate).

Why assume there isn't such a plot? Historians doing a history of historians are forced to admit much of history is embellished for biased reasons. History is and always has been subjective. Our collective history is essentially fits of propaganda all feeding off one tainted source to another.

In fact, although there is plenty of writing about Hannibal, none of it is contemporary

No one, even neighboring nations, noticed these large armies and years long skirmishes all over the place? How could no one in Rome be admonishing Fabian or praising Scipio while they executed their strategies? Not one chisel talked about Fabian acting cowardly in the face of Hannibal? Seriously suspect!

and there is no archaeological evidence for him at all (not surprising given the Romans razed the city from whence he came). Furthermore he is not mentioned in any Carthaginian sources, which is incredible, given he was supposed to be their greatest leader (there are no Carthaginian sources as the Romans burnt their city down)!

Give me a break. No one who fled Carthage told the tale? No ships escaped loaded with books (which were extremely valuable in those days!). How CONVENIENT!

We find when we actually try to pin him down he tends to recede further into the mists of time. His exploits, such as leading elephants over the Alps, are clearly legendary (the skeptic pretends to be incredulous but seems happy to buy his own amazing theory) and it is not hard to find a motive for the creation of this colorful character by Roman writers (as long we can invent a motive for fabrication we can assume that fabrication exists).

Now that you mention it, Elephants over the alps is indeed silly! I also doubt his whole massive army waded through swamps.

Rome and Carthage were great trading rivals in the Western Mediterranean and it did not take them long to come to blows. Rome signed a peace treaty but, under the leadership of the elder Cato, desperately wanted to rid itself permanently of the competition (this is actually true and so helps to conceal the moment when we slip into fantasy).

So how do we know they didn't massacre their rivals in cold blood and cover it up by inventing a bloodthirsty supervillain?

The Romans needed an excuse and the idea they developed was brilliant. Like many ancient civilizations, the Romans rewrote history as it suited them to exhibit their own prowess (a useful and exaggerated generalization). Consequently we should not be surprised to find that they invented a great enemy from Carthage to demonstrate the threat still existed and justify a further war to wipe them out.

Exactly! Sounds reasonable actually, thanks for bringing that up. Excellent thoughts. Why didn't Hannibal wipe out Rome? Well, he had to be bad but stop short of ultimate victory otherwise how would the Romans be writing this story? Honestly, I think they got lazy here and should have thought of a plausible reason why he didn't finish the job when it would have been a cakewalk! Perhaps they had to make him scary enough that he almost and could have destroyed Rome to justify the utter destruction of their trade adversary?

The author of the fiction was Cato himself (we need someone to point the finger at; note also how there is no distinction made between the background material above and theorizing here), as Cato wrote the earliest Roman History (true as well, as it happens).

Rome was founded in 700bc but they don't bother to write their story down until 150bc? How much else is suspect?! What was he using as sources? How can we trust someone who probably just wrote rumours down and employed nothing resembling the modern historical methodology?

But it was intended simply as a justification for a further war with Carthage. It contained the details of Hannibal’s alleged campaigns against the Romans, including his victories on Italian soil (Cato’s history has conveniently not survived so we can speculate freely about what it contained).

As if that's not bad enough, we don't even have a copy nevermind the original? How do we even know Cato was real? Because he was sparsely quoted a few times?

Cato brilliantly combined the truth with his own anti-Carthaginian propaganda with the intention of goading Rome into another wholly unjustified war with the old enemy (give the fabricator lots of credit for his invention). Once the war was over and Carthage was razed to the ground, the Romans were able to ensure that only their version of history survived (this is important as it enables all other sources to be declared forgeries).

This, my friends, is exactly the method a smart conqueror would employ. Why does he mock this? It's a great way to ensure public support at home and to eventually brainwash the next generation of the conquered not to revolt.

Therefore the myth of the great Carthaginian war leader became an accepted fact. Later Roman historians like the notoriously unreliable Livy (we have to denigrate counter sources) simply assumed Cato’s fabrications were true (because the ancients were stupid and simply could not do any research themselves).

They were brilliant poets and playwrights, emenantly capable of manufacturing glorious stories to sway a Nations imagination. Don't let facts get in the way of a good story. The same way Hollywood changes history to sell more tickets, so too would they spin or wholey invent histories to win votes or justify wars.

Did Hannibal of Carthage Exist?
 
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KorbenDallas

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For me it would be a question of when, and what his real name was. I think most of them “ancients” existed, but not at the times provided, and they definitely had different names. Some of their achievements did not exist, the other we will never find out about.

As far as figuring out how we know about him you look for sources. They are Polybius, Livy, Plutarch, Petrarch. If I was to guess, Poggio Bracciolini would be the one to thank for all four.

I have not even looked at those, but will bet that 15th, 16th century is when we found out about them.

So think yourself. For at least 1500 years we knew nothing about Hannibal Barca, and then he pops up. Just like a whole bunch of other ancient individuals.

Did he exist? I think he did, at the time of the inquisitions and censorship, the only way the story could be told was via some fictional "ancient" approach. So I would look for the real Hannibal within the time frame situated much closer to the first account of his existence. Sadly, the only place to get the truth would probably be the vaults of Vatican.
 

humanoidlord

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the antiquity is very very muddled, hannibal could be a mix of a bunch of people fomenko style, be a modern invention or even a ancient hoax, its hard to decide wich is wich
 

KorbenDallas

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Too much of the so called Ancient Roman history tied into this guy. I’m fairly confident the character is real. The timing is very highly questionable. I’d move everything a thousand years closer or so. Realistically 200-300 years prior to us finding out about him.

All this baloney about miraculous survival of the original sourses for a thousand years, just enough to get discovered... and then vanishing without trace is as lame as it gets. Especially considering that in all the other cases the situation is exactly the same.
 
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mythstifieD

mythstifieD

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That's an interesting point. To have the text of a book survive a 1000 year dark age intact should be incredibly rare. Yet, all our ancient history is based on it.. Makes me wonder about the library of Alexandra
 

KorbenDallas

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Well just like I said, all those events were not that long ago from the time of their initial publication.

There are people in our recent history who knew about all this stuff. They are hard to spot, but they are out there. To date I found only one - Adam Cram
 
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mythstifieD

mythstifieD

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I heard it said that there was no gap in time between the Roman Empire and the "later" Holy Roman Empire, I don't know much about those two alleged histories to be able to combine them smoothly like that though. Interesting idea
 

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