Known as a Carthaginian general and statesman, Hannibal of Carthage was one of the greatest military commanders in world history. Born in modern-day Tunisia, this African leader made his mark in history. But throughout the years, a question has arisen: is Hannibal of Carthage black? In this blog post, we take a closer look at Hannibal of Carthage life and explore whether he was black or not.
Who Was Hannibal of Carthage?
Hannibal was born in 247 B.C. in northern Tunisia and was the son of Hamilcar Barca, a Carthaginian leader. Hannibal’s father, brothers and brothers-in-law were all warriors. He followed in their footsteps. After his father died in 229 B.C., his son-in-law Hasdrubal succeeded him. Hasdrubal then made a young Hannibal an officer in the Carthaginian army. Unfortunately in 221 B.C., Hasdrubal was assassinated.
Upon Hasdrubal’s assassination, a 26-year-old Hannibal took command Carthage’s empire in Spain. In Spain, Hannibal took control of the region from the seaport base of Cartagena. Hannibal went on to lead a Carthaginian attack on Saguntum followed by an invasion of Italy. This marked the beginning of the Second Punic War. With an army of 90,000 soldiers, 12,000 cavalry and nearly 40 elephants, Hannibal headed 1,000 miles to Italy. When they arrived in Rome, a staunch Roman army waited for them. But Hannibal’s army prevailed. The army of Hannibal went on to win many more wars before a peace agreement ended the Second Punic War. After his time on the battlefield, Hannibal became a civil magistrate in Carthage.
The Black Debate
A question that many have had about Hannibal of Carthage is whether he was black or not? Hannibal was born in Carthage and looked like a Carthaginian, according to ancient sources. Both Phoenicians and Canaanites settled in Carthage. These two groups were Semitic people who had dark and light skin. But by the time Hannibal was born, the specific ethnic heritage of the Punic Carthaginian people was unclear. There is no widely accepted image of Hannibal so trying to figure out his race is hard. Many people often refer to a Carthaginian coin of a man who has ‘black’ features. But you can’t see someone’s race from a coin. Unfortunately, this is the only evidence of what may have been Hannibal’s race. Tunisians today mostly have light skin and they are Africans. If we had to go one way or the other, we'd say that he was black, because he was born in Africa.
No matter what race Hannibal of Carthage was, he is still a great African warrior. Because of his courage, fearlessness and bravery, his name will always be in history books.