Commander Hannibal and Artashes I, King of Armenia

It is reported that Hannibal, the famous Carthaginian, after the defeat of Antiochus under the Romans, coming to Artaxas, king of Armenia, instructed him in several necessary and useful things; who being taken with the pleasant and delightful situation of that place, then uncultivated and neglected, drew a model of a city for the same; and bringing Artaxes thither, showed him the same, and encouraged him to build; at which the king being pleased, and desiring him to oversee the work, erected a large and stately city called after his own name, and made it Metropoli of Armenia. (Plutarch’s Life of Lucullus‘ XXXI.5)

In 202 BC, Hannibal Barca lost to general Scipio Africanus at the battle of Zama, spelling the end of the second Punic war between Carthage and Rome. He was to spend the rest of his life in exile, in the courts of different Eastern kings, as military advisor, with the hopes of maybe one day engineering an invasion of Italy.

First he served as military advisor to Antiochus III, who was planning an invasion of mainland Greece, then under Rome’s sphere of influence.

Being one of the greatest generals in history, and well aware of the efficiency and lethality of the Roman armies, it is surprising that Antiochus III did not listen to his advice, and pushed Hannibal to the sidelines.

Sure enough, Rome soundly defeated Antiochus III at the battle of Magnesia in 190 BC. Scipio africanus, the same general who had defeated Hannibal in 202 BC, dictated the terms: “keep out of Europe, withdraw from Asia this side of the Taurus mountains….” (Livy 37.45.10-18).

Hannibal was then compelled to put more distance between himself and the Romans, and eventually in 189 BC sought refuge at the court of Artaxias I, a former satrap of Antiochus III, who had just declared himself king of Armenia.

Hannibal and Artaxias probably spent a lot of time together and got along. As a matter of fact, it was Hannibal who advised Artaxias on the strategic location of his new capital, on a high and well defensible group of 12 hills on a peninsula at the banks of the Araxes river.

Hannibal was even tasked to oversee her construction. Artaxiata was nicknamed the “Carthage of Armenia” and was described as a beautiful city built upon the Hellenistic model.

After Armenia Hannibal joined the court of King Prusias of Bithynia and assisted him in his war against Pergamon, an ally of Rome.

Here Prusias also lost the war, and was ordered to give up Hannibal. He had no choice but to betray his location to the Romans, but before they closed in on him, Hannibal committed suicide by poison.

In 183 BC, one of the greatest generals in history was dead, having denied the Romans the pleasure of ever having captured him.

by Joseph Sarkissian

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