"Let us now relieve the Romans of their fears by the death of a feeble old man."

Hannibal was a Carthaginian general and the scourge of Rome. Even as a child he had sworn eternal hatred to the Romans. He is probably best known for his spectacular feat of marching an army that included North African war elephants across the Pyrenees and Alps to descend on northern Italy and attack the Romans. He is often considered the greatest military tactician and strategist in history, and headed Rome's Most Wanted List for much of his professional life, striking fear and terror into Roman hearts and minds. Finally, however, Carthage (in modern Tunisia, north Africa) was no match for the Romans and Hannibal went into voluntary exile, moving around the Mediterranean and still hunted by the Roman army. Finally, circa 183-181 BCE he could escape no more and took poison (which he was said to have carried about with him in a ring) rather than be captured by the advancing Romans. The site was the village of Libyssa (today the town of Gebze in Turkey). According to Roman records, Hannibal left a suicide note variously translated as "Let us now relieve the Romans of their fears by the death of a feeble old man" or "Let us release the Romans from their long anxiety, since it tries their patience too much to wait for an old man's death."

Hannibal (248 BCE – c183/181 BCE) Carthaginian military commander and tactician

relieve (verb): cause (someone) to stop worrying (about something)
feeble (adjective): weak; frail
scourge (noun): someone or something that causes great trouble
sworn (verb, past participle of swear): promised
feat (noun): great achievement
poison (noun): a substance that kills you if you eat or drink it

Quick Quiz

Hannibal killed himself because

a. he didn't want to give the Romans the pleasure

b. he was relieved by the Romans

c. he was old and feeble

Contributor: Josef Essberger