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Hanno the Elder

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Title: Hanno the Elder  
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Subject: Second Punic War, 210s BC, Hannibal's crossing of the Alps, Lucius Valerius Flaccus (consul 195 BC), Carthalo
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Hanno the Elder

Hanno was the name of several Carthaginian generals. The one who served under Hannibal during the Second Punic War performed poorly according to the historian Livy: in 215 BC he was defeated by Tiberius Sempronius Longus at Grumentum, in 214 BC he was defeated by Gracchus at Beneventum, two years later he was again defeated at Beneventum, this time by Quintus Fulvius Flaccus, then in 207 BC he and Mago Barca were defeated in Celtiberia by Marcus Silanus, and he was finally killed by Scipio Africanus in 204 BC.


There is a Hanno, son of Bomilcar, who led mobile Carthaginian forces that had crossed the Rhone River higher up and then attacked the Gauls from the rear as they gathered to oppose the crossing of Hannibal Barca in 218 BC. Hannibal, while he prepared to cross the river on boats and rafts, had sent Hanno upstream with a mobile force of light infantry and horse. Hanno found a suitable crossing place and crossed the river with the help of inflated water skins. He took position behind the Gauls and signaled Hannibal using smoke. Hannibal then launched his boats, prompting the Gauls to form up on the riverbank to oppose the crossing. Hanno launched his attack on the rear of the Gauls just as Hannibal's men reached the opposite bank, and completely routed the enemy[1] after taking the Gauls by complete surprise. This Hanno is of noble birth, as Bomilcar had been one of the Suffets of Carthage. Hanno was a veteran officer who had served in the Punic armies in Spain.

Hanno is the name of the commander who commanded the Numidian cavalry on the Carthaginian right wing at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. His troops held off the Italian allied cavalry successfully until Hasdrubal and his heavy cavalry fell on the Italians from the rear. Hanno led the pursuit of the scattered Roman horse. This Hanno is identified as the same as above,[2] or speculated as being the same person.[3]

Independent command

With the defection of several cities to Carthage in Lucania, Bruttium, Apulia and Samnium after Cannae, Hannibal sent Mago Barca into Lucania with a detachment of troops in 216 BC to recruit troops and subjugate towns. Mago completed his mission, and when he sailed to Carthage to report to the Carthaginian senate and ask for reinforcements, Hanno was left in command of his army. Hanno continued to subdue pro-Roman towns in Bruttium. While marching back to Campania Tiberius Sempronius Longus defeated Hanno near Grumentum, causing 2,000 casualties, and forcing Hanno to retreat back to Bruttium in early 215 BC. Hanno received the reinforcements landed by Bomilcar, the leading Carthaginian admiral, consisting of 4,000 cavalry and 40 elephants, near Locri and joined Hannibal near Nola later that year. He was present at the Third Battle of Nola[4] in the summer of 215 BC. After the battle, Hannibal sent Hanno back to Bruttium with an army.

Hanno led a mostly Bruttian army that captured Crotona in 215 BC, and with the defection of Locri, all of Bruttium except Rhegium was allied with Carthage.[5] He had marched to join Hannibal in Campania in early 214 BC, but, near the River Calor, at Beneventum, his army was intercepted by the praetor Tiberius Gracchus and his legions of mostly freed slaves. In the ensuing combat, Hanno’s army of 17,000 foot (mostly Bruttians and Lucanians) and 1,200 horse was utterly routed, forcing Hanno to escape with only 2,000 soldiers, chiefly cavalry[6] back to Bruttium. His situation improved when he destroyed a force of pro-Roman Lucanians in early 213 BC in Bruttium.

The Capuan adventure

In 212 BC, Hannibal ordered Hanno to arrange provisions for Capua, which was being threatened by the Romans. The Romans had fielded 6 legions, along with allied units and cavalry units, to besiege Capua and was circumventing that city with double palisades. Hanno, starting from Bruttium, slipped past the army of Gracchus in Lucania, then evaded the respective armies of the two consuls in Samnium, and finally reached Beneventum. He set up camp on a hill and collected provisions from his Samnite allies, then requested the Capuans for wagons to carry the provisions to Capua from his camp. The tardiness of the Capuans, who were slow to send sufficient wagons, gave time for Quintus Fulvius Flaccus to get wind of the enterprise from loyal Italians, and he attacked the Carthaginian camp when most of Hanno’s men were out foraging. Although the Carthaginians succeeded in repulsing the first assault, the Romans were galvanized by the actions of an Italian allied cohort and eventually captured all the supplies and wagons along with the camp.[7]

Hanno, unable to do anything further for Capua, then retired to Bruttium, again evading the Roman armies that could have intercepted him in on the way.[8]

Identity confusion

Several Hannos appear in the record after 212 BC, and it is unclear which are different individuals. There was a certain Hanno who was a cavalry commander at Capua, one was in command at Metapontum in 207 BC, and was sent to Bruttium to raise fresh troops by Hannibal, another Hanno was sent to Spain in 206 BC by the Carthaginian senate, where he was defeated and captured by the Romans under Marcus Silanus in 207 BC, another Hanno was defeated and killed by L. Marcius in 206 BC near Gades and one, called the son of Bomilcar, was in command in Africa in 203 BC before the arrival of Hannibal.[9]


  1. ^ Polybius, III, p. 42, Livy, XXI, p. 27
  2. ^ Polybius, III, p. 114, Appian, p. 20
  3. ^ Lazenby, J.F, Hannibal's War, p. 95-96
  4. ^ Cottrel, Leonard, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, p. 102
  5. ^ Bagnell, Nigel, The Punic Wars, p. 240
  6. ^ Livy's History of Rome Bk 24.14 in Everyman's Library edn, vol.4, ed. Ernest Rhys, transl. Rev. Canon Roberts. Dent, London 1905
  7. ^ Lazenby, J.F., Hannibal's War p. 113-114
  8. ^ Livy, XXV, p. 13-15
  9. ^ Livy, XXV, p. 42

External links

  • Index of names: Hanno
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