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The Standing on the Shoulders of Giants "Teach & Learn" Black History Curriculum​​

Specially designed for Parents, Teachers, Homeschool, or Independent Study, grades 5+

Where Black
History Lives!​

Unit 1: Ancient Africa - The Cradle of Civilization
(200,000 B.C. - 476 A.D.)

Unit 1: Class 16: Hannibal Barca – Defender of Carthage (247 B.C. – 181/183 B.C.)

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Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson, students 
will be able to:

  • Discuss the story of Hannibal Barca and his legendary war against Rome.
  • Understand the causes and effects of the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome.
  • Scrutinize the controversy surrounding Hannibal’s “race.” 
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  • Analyze Hannibal’s military strategy and understand why he is considered a military genius.
Image of Hannibal Barca by African American artist Charles Lilly commissioned by Anheuser-Busch as part of its "Great Kings & Queens of Africa" series created in 1975. 

ClassOverview

Hannibal Barca, or simply “Hannibal” as most refer to him, is the most legendary African general in history. His astonishing march over the Pyrenees and Alps into Italy with nearly 40 war elephants to crush the Romans during the Second of three Punic Wars has reached mythical proportions. However, many do not know that Hannibal’s father, Hamilcar Barca, was also a military genius and the leading Carthaginian commander during the First Punic War. Nor do most mention Hasdrubal Barca, Hannibal’s brother, who was also a Carthaginian general of considerable talent. Together, they waged a bitter and protracted war against Rome from 264 BCE to 202 BCE, defending Carthage for over six decades before it eventually fell to Rome in the Third Punic War, which ended in 146 BCE. 

Much of what we know about Hannibal comes from the Greek Writers Polybius in his 40 volume Histories, Titus Livius (Livy), in his The History of Rome, specifically Book 21, Chapter 1, and to a lesser extent, Appian of Alexandria, in his book, Roman History. We provide free e-books of all of their books on the next page; they are worth the read. Polybius’s account of the Punic Wars is the most cited for several reasons. Polybius was an erudite scholar who “believed in facts, research, cross-examination of eye witnesses, and above all in travel. Polybius personally traced the route of Hannibal in order to write about his war.” Polybius was a Greek aristocrat at the time Rome invaded Greece. To maintain order and control over Greece after they left, the Romans took 1,000 hostages back to Rome. Polybius was one of the hostages and went to Rome as a prisoner for sixteen years!

Although Polybius was a prisoner, “he wasn’t thrown into a dungeon in Rome but became the guest and teacher in the household of the great Scipiones. Yes, that’s the family of great Scipio, Hannibal’s nemesis. So he had access to all the family archives,” notes historian. Polybius was charged with writing the history of the war between Rome and Carthage, which the Romans referred to as the Hannibalic Wars. He even accompanied Scipio on campaigns and stood next to him when the Romans finally burned Carthage to the ground after the Third and last Punic War. “As a practical matter, Polybius then had to tell the story of all three wars between Rome and Carthage leading up to this moment. And for that, he talked to people who had known Hannibal, to veterans on both sides, he crossed the Alps and so forth,” notes. This is what makes his account so credible.

Aside from Hannibal’s military feats, much has been speculated in modern times about his “race.” However, as we have mentioned throughout UNIT 1, “race” is a modern construction as is racism. People in antiquity (history before the modern era or ACE) did not classify themselves or others into “races.” The concepts of race and racism emerged less than 500 years ago. They were created to justify the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, or the “African Holocaust” as I and other Black historians refer to this episode of African history. As historian Basil Davidson noted, Whites had to rationalize doing to Africans what they could not morally or legally do to White people – that is enslave them for life based solely on their skin color. Therefore, the Whites who orchestrated and 

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