Livy And Polybius Pinpoint As The Cause Of The Second Punic War

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What do Livy and Polybius pinpoint as the causes of the Second Punic War? Why should historians treat their interpretations with caution?

The Second Punic War of 218-201BC demonstrated a challenge for Rome to prove its power against Carthage, and to finally establish itself as the greatest and most powerful city-state of the Mediterranean. The accounts of Roman historian Livy and Greek historian Polybius allow events surrounding the Second Punic War to be analyzed and explained in terms of significance and effect to determine what caused this infamous war. These ancient historians share related and also contrasting accounts, sources and ideas on what these causes were. However, it is important to treat these interpretations with caution, in
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With influence from his father and his older brother Hasdrubal, Hannibal always looked to a powerful figure for inspiration of great warfare and power. Whilst Hannibal has been credited for having great leadership and military qualities, Livy states that ‘the man’s great virtues were matched by his enormous vices: pitiless cruelty, a treachery worse than Punic, no regard for truth, and no integrity, no fear of the gods or respect for an oath, and no scruples’ . Who Hannibal was as a soldier and leader was a large contributor to the ways in which the events leading to the war occurred. The attack and capture on Saguntum was a well thought out plan by Hannibal to ensure a reaction from the Romans. This failure on Rome’s part to protect Saguntum from Hannibal and the Carthaginians cost Rome any chance of gaining allies within Spain to fight against the Carthaginians. An elder from Volciani warned the Romans that no Spanish city will ever ally with them, and that ‘…the ruins of Saguntum will stand as an object lesson, as harrowing as it is striking, not to put ones trust in Roman loyalty or a Roman alliance.’ This moment is vital in understanding how Hannibal was able to advance through Spain and Gaul without much objection or protest by local …show more content…
The authors of these accounts had to meet particular requirements of Polybius in order to be deemed useful and reliable, to a degree. Fabius Pictor, one of the earliest Roman historians, was a key source in Polybius’ work. Other writers included a Sicilian praetor and a war-captive of Hannibal, L. Cincius Alimentus, a senator and historian of Rome, C. Acilius, and Roman consul in 151BC, A. Postumius Albinus. All of these sources, though they are written during the time of the war, are still problematic because they are bias towards Rome. Polybius often did not use Carthaginian sources, and was very skeptical and critical of using them. Champion explains that he was sharply critical of Chaereas and Sosylus of Lacedaemon, the latter of whom was Hannibal’s teacher of Greek and accompanied him on campaign . These decisions by Polybius proves that he chose not to include such sources on the basis that they may be bias towards Carthage and therefore describe Rome’s side of the war distastefully. Where Polybius relies largely on interviews and oral accounts, Livy uses written documents to write about the Second Punic War, largely because Livy wrote about the Second Punic War two hundred years after it happened. Livy acknowledges some of his written sources including Coelius Antipater, Valerius Antias, Cincius Alimentus, Fabius Pictor,

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