I recently watched an old National Geographic documentary on Hannibal and his life. The style that they filmed it in has always attracted me, im sure you have seen these types of documentaries before; they bring in actors to dramatize the events as well as the characters. It really gives life to the story, and if its portrayed well, the actors visage, becomes your memory of what the character in question actually looked like. Of course that is if you do not have any previous concepts of them to begin with. This concept to me is fascinating, and gives a glimpse of how the human brain operates…
I digress though— This was an amazing documentary that had me moved and turned my previous perceptions of a great conquering general and all around bad dude; into a man stirred by vengeance, only trying to carve his sacred place in the world; as we all strive to do in one way or another.
Allow me to try and sum it up real quick if your not familiar with the Punic wars, to give you an idea of the saga of Hannibal Barca of Carthage.
- The Punic wars 264bc-146bc. Hannibal’s dad Hamilcar was fighting the Romans for a long time, and ended up being cut off from Carthage, forcing them to surrender.
- They forged a nice little place for them to live and grow in Spain through warring efforts.
- Hannibal had learned everything about commanding from his dad, who was a strong general in turn.
- Hannibal’s dad was Killed in a small Skirmish, and Hannibal had sworn vengeance against Rome for putting them in that position. He began building up his forces to oppose the great republic of Rome.
- He started sacking Roman cities to show that he would not let Carthage be pushed around by any force.
- Planned a sneak attack on Rome, one of the greatest ever achieved; and traversed the alps with 46,000 men and elephants. Animals were mainly for morale purposes, to show the men that if they could get through it, you damn well better be able to.
- Though he made it over the alps, Hannibal lost nearly half his troops on the mountain due to starvation and skirmishes from Gaul mountain tribes.
- Hannibal had some impressive and decisive victories against Roman forces, despite being outnumbered. He could not sack Rome, and sent word to Carthage for reinforcements.
- They would not give it to him, so for 15 years he attacked towns and killed more than a million people to try and prompt Rome out of the city to attack, as he held his position and slowly encroached on the great city itself. They were wiser than to meet him on his terms again.
- Rome, in response to the marauding, decided to attack Carthage itself, to force him back there to fight. He left to fight them, and in turn Hannibal’s army was defeated in Africa by Scipio the younger.
- Hannibal escaped death, only to be betrayed by his own city: turning him in to the Romans, which forced him to flee.
- He went on to becoming a mercenary and general for hire to any country who hated Rome.
- Assassins from Rome were dispatched to kill him years later, instead he took his own life with a cup of poison.
- Carthage was literally wiped off the map by Rome, for the fear that its general had struck in them by the damage he had done.
Hannibal’s story is an epic to rival all of the ancient ones, deservedly so, it is a story for the ages! Whats funny to me and what I took away was how much I felt for the guy after seeing his story portrayed in a different light. Now if the documentary’s producers were biased, and meant to do that, its of no concern; it worked. Before hand I believed him to be a barbarian, bent on the slaughter of innocents; which in fact he was, make no mistake about it, he killed relentlessly. The mans reasoning and ideologies were kept out of the public eye in favor of his achievements— crossing the alps, and giving ancient Roma a run for its money. Hannibal began to realize that he could not defeat Rome, as it was a state of mind more than an individual city, he admired it. Seeing how Rome had backed its populace and cared for them in times of struggle, promising freedom to slaves for fighting and exorbitant military stipends; Hannibal could only feel bitter towards his homeland who would not even support him with reinforcements; in which the outcome would have been beneficial for all of Carthage.
Now you may think this an old story, and why would it apply to the here and now. We are a modern society, as well as intelligent, we can think for ourselves who is good or who is bad. The implications of this message are huge, beware what information you are being fed. Good and bad are relative terms to what side of the fight you may be on— or where your political allegiance falls. The phrase “history is written by the victors” is never entirely true, but does hold some merit. We are way too connected to let something slide by our radars that is immoral or unjust and let it get away, someone will speak up, right?
Well, yes, but it may take a little while until that voice is heard; history is being made all around us at every hour of the day no matter how small. If we as a society keep accepting things at face value, then yes, I fear we are doomed to repeat past mistakes; both personally and culturally, big and small. Let my illumination serve as a reminder and a warning: There is always more than one side to a story, uncover all before passing judgement.