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Hannibal’s formula: courage & cunning

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The great military genius of antiquity, Hannibal, relied on strategy over strength because that’s what he had.

An army brat from the thriving North African kingdom of Carthage, Hannibal lived from 247 to 183 B.C., becoming a general at age 26. He spent 16 years fighting and winning against the mighty Roman legions. Here’s how:
  • Sheer wits. Hannibal led an army that was far from home and constantly short of men and supplies. To compensate, he followed no particular strategy but instead continually shifted tactics and burst upon the enemy with brazen attacks. The Romans, no slouches themselves, held him in awe.

  • Daring. A brave fighter, he also inspired boldness in his troops, throwing everything he had into their campaigns. After invading a Spanish city in 219 B.C., Hannibal found his army cut off by sea, so he marched 50,000 men, horses and elephants over the Pyrenees and Alps to attack Rome itself. This feat so surprised the Romans that they stopped harassing Carthage and defended their own turf.

  • Trust. Hannibal spent time learning the languages of his troops and bonding with them. He kept his promises. Even though he outranked his men as a general and an aristocrat, he didn’t grab any privileges but lived and fought with them. Almost alone among ancient leaders, he remained scandal-free.
Bottom line: Hannibal never lost a major battle in Italy. Only the shortcomings of the Carthaginian leaders back home kept the Roman Empire in business.

—Adapted from “Even Mountains Posed No Obstacle For Hannibal,” Sean Higgins, Investor’s Business Daily.

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