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Hannibal and the Second Punic War, OCR Teachers Guide

This Teacher's Guide is taken from the OCR Hannibal and the Second Punic War Teachers' Guide which can be accessed at the OCR website and downloaded in full here.

Overview of the topic

Hannibal Barca is one of the ancient world’s most intriguing characters. His military genius and leadership qualities are still valued by modern strategists, especially the manoeuvres he adopted at Lake Trasimene and Cannae. Furthermore, the crossing of the Alps and the resilience he possessed in the face of adversity has inspired writers and artists for millennia. Despite these qualities he achieved very little tangible success and his life was beset by failure and loss. This dichotomy is at the heart of this depth study, and will consequently invite students to adopt passionate stances in any debate about this intriguing character.

An additional layer has been added to this depth study which will invite learners to explore the Roman response to the Hannibal’s invasion, in particular, the idea presented by Livy that Hannibal’s victories were handed to him by the mistakes of self-serving consuls, which, in turn, led to the sacrifice of brave Roman soldiers. Echoes of this can be found in modern battles such as the Crimea and the Somme in the late 19th and early 20th centuries where the British army was described as ‘lions led by donkeys.’ Learners will explore whether Livy constructed this interpretation to embellish the heroic status of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, who completes the Roman conquest of Iberia and the submission of Hannibal at Zama, and Quintus Fabius Maximus who frustrates Hannibal’s ambitions after Trasimene and Cannae.

The prescribed texts will encourage learners to explore these themes and to formulate their own conclusions. Plutarch’s Life of Fabius Maximus, Livy’s History of Rome and Polybius’ The Histories all have their own agenda’s which learners will have to unpick to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each account.

This depth study is designed to take approximately 27–32 hours of teaching time to complete. This guide will provide an overview of how this content might be taught in that timeframe. The planning guide is structured around the narratives / content and contains possible points that might be considered or discussed in class. The planning guide does not contain activities. This is intentional to enable you to choose a series of activities that compliment your own teaching.

Teachers may use this guide as an example of one possible way of approaching the teaching of the ‘Hannibal and the Second Punic War, 218–201 BC’ depth study and NOT a prescriptive plan for how your teaching should be structured.

What this guide is intended to do is to show you what the teaching outline might look like in practice. It should then help you to build your own scheme of work, confident that you’ve covered all the required content in sufficient depth.

Planning guide

It is important to note that ‘Hannibal and the Second Punic War, 218–201 BC’ is a depth study. Learners will explore and analyse, in depth, the different reasons for Hannibal’s early successes and eventual failure. An evaluation of Hannibal’s leadership, his relationship with Carthage and Iberia and his reaction to Rome’s changing response will help students construct their personal perspective. Focus will be on a wide range of historical concepts including causation, change and continuity, significance, and similarity and difference.

The basic format of this termly planning guide is to take the events in chronological order as the easiest approach for students to gain familiarity with the facts and sources. The themes in the specification can be accessed at various points in the scheme; there will be a need to focus on the themes for the students at various points. Throughout this planning guide relevant ancient sources are suggested, as well as useful themes for discussion in the classroom.

Specification Content + (hours)

Essential Narrative/content

Relevant ancient sources

Themes for Discussion

An introduction to Carthage and the ancient sources we have

Suggested timing: 1–2 hours

· Provide students with a framework of the depth study

· The geographical locations of the key places covered in this depth study and the territories belonging to Rome and Carthage

· Introduce students to the Carthaginians, and Hannibal and his family members

· Learners should be introduced to Livy, Polybius and Plutarch and in particular the nature of their histories and their motivations for writing.

Polybius 1.14 and 12.4c and Livy’s Preface (both sources not prescribed)

· The nature of ancient sources

The contextual background to the Second Punic War and the reasons for the outbreak of hostilities


Suggested timing: 2–3 hours

· Comparative strength of Carthage and Rome before the First Punic War for context

· Impact of the Treaty of Lutatius upon Carthage and Rome

· Carthage’s vulnerability as demonstrated in the Truceless War

· Rome’s ability to exploit this weakness to seize control of Sardinia and Corsica

· the decision to try and colonise Iberia as a way to strengthen Carthage

· Hasdrubal the Fair’s approach to colonisation including his ties to the Iberian people and the Treaty of Ebro with Rome

· Hasdrubal the Fair’s murder and Hannibal’s appointment as general of the Carthaginian army in Iberia

· Exploration of the reasons Hannibal would want to attack Rome, including the famous story of Hannibal’s oath to Hasdrubal, Fabius Pictor’s assertion that Hamilcar taught Hannibal to hate Rome and Polybius’ belief that Hannibal’s ambition was significant.

· Comparison with the idea Hannibal was reacting to Roman aggression; the idea that Rome sought to take advantage of its ties to Saguntum to remove Carthage from Iberia.

Polybius The Histories 3.8–3.12

· The impact of the Treaty of Lutatius on Carthage

· The impact of the colonisation upon Carthage and Rome and the relationship between the two states

· The impact on Carthage’s ability to seek revenge against Rome

· The reasons for the outbreak of the Second Punic War

· The character of Hannibal

· The accuracy and reliability of the ancient sources

The siege of Saguntum and declaration of war

Suggested timing: 1 hour

· Hannibal’s successful campaigns to secure control of Iberia

· Saguntum’s position as an ally of Rome, including Saguntum’s destabilising impact upon the area

· The Treaty of Ebro made between the Romans and Hasdrubal the Fair

· The siege of Saguntum including Hannibal’s participation, leadership, tactics and ruthlessness

· Rome’s ultimatum to the Carthaginian Senate and the declaration of war

Polybius The Histories 3.15–3.16, 3.20, 3.33.1–3.33.4

· Hannibal’s leadership and the significance of Saguntum for starting the war

The journey to Italy

Suggested timing: 5 hours

· Hannibal’s preparations:

o Troop movements to help secure Iberia

o appointment of his brother, Hasdrubal Barca, to control Iberia in his absence

o agreement with the Celtic tribes to support his campaign

o Hannibal’s speech to his men and attempts to raise morale

· Rome’s preparations:

o plans to send troops to Spain and others sent to Sicily, to then prepare to cross over to Africa

o rebellion of the Boii and Insubres which meant one of Publius Cornelius Scipio’s legions had to send to deal with the Gauls and he had to levy a new legion

Polybius The Histories 3.33.5–3.34

Livy The History of Rome 21.22

Livy The History of Rome 21.26.1–21.26.5

· Hannibal’s leadership skills

· The strategies of Hannibal and Rome at the start of the conflict

· The accuracy and reliability of the ancient sources

· The crossing of the Rhone:

o the conflict with the Volcae in the Battle of the Rhone

o The Battle of the Raiding Parties

o Hannibal’s introducing Magalus and other chieftains to the troops

o Publius Cornelius Scipio’s failure to prevent Hannibal from crossing the Alps. As a result, he sent the bulk of his army under Gnaeus, his brother, to Spain and returned to Italy to lead the legions there.

Livy The History of Rome 21.26.6–21.29

Polybius The Histories 3.44

Livy The History of Rome 21.32.1–21.32.5

· Hannibal’s leadership skills

· The accuracy and reliability of the ancient sources

· The crossing of the Alps including

o Hannibal’s reason for crossing the Alps

o The Island and Hannibal’s support for Braneus over his brother and protection until the Alps proper

o The threats from mountain tribesmen

o The treacherous descent

o impact of journey from New Carthage to Northern Italy

Livy The History of Rome 21.32.6–21.35

Polybius The Histories 3.50–3.56.4


· Hannibal’s leadership during these events

· Why did Hannibal cross the Alps?

· The accuracy and reliability of the ancient sources

· Hannibal’s need to increase troop numbers from the Gallic tribes

· First engagement between the Carthaginians and Romans at the Battle of Ticinus led to Publius Cornelius Scipio getting injured and reputedly rescued by his son. Publius Cornelius Scipio later went to Iberia to join up with his brother Gnaeus.

· The arrival of Hannibal in Italy led to the abandonment of the Roman plan to invade African and Sempronius was summoned to North Italy.

Polybius The Histories 3.56.5–3.56.6


Hannibal in Italy

218–216 BC


Suggested timing: 7–8 hours

The Battle of Trebia

· Hannibal’s tactics at Trebia in particular his leadership, use of the environment and psychological warfare to encourage Sempronius to fight in freezing conditions

· Sempronius’ leadership and strategy

Livy The History of Rome 21.54

· The reasons for Hannibal’s victory at the battle of Trebia and Trasimene

· The leadership of Hannibal, Sempronius and Flaminius

· Whether the criticisms of Sempronius and Flaminius are valid

· The accuracy and reliability of the ancient sources


The Battle of Trasimene

· Impact of winter on Hannibal’s and Rome’s forces

· Flaminius and Servilius elected as consuls

· The leadership and strategies of Flaminius and Servilius

· Hannibal’s tactics at Trasimene in particular his ambush, leadership and use of psychological warfare

· the loss of Servilius’ cavalry

Polybius The Histories 3.80–3.87.5

Livy The History of Rome 22.7–22.8

Fabius Maximus

· The appointment of Fabius Maximus as dictator and Marcus Minucius as Master of the Horse after Trasimene, including the rivalry between the two men

· Fabius Maximus’ strategy, in particular his use of religion to reassure the Roman population, his decision not to attack Hannibal, and his understanding of Roman strengths and Carthaginian weaknesses

Livy The History of Rome 22.8.5–22.8.7

Polybius The Histories 3.87.6–3.89

Plutarch, Life of Fabius Maximus 5

· The impact of Fabius Maximus

· Hannibal’s failure to counter Fabius Maximus’ strategy

· The accuracy and reliability of the ancient sources





· The failure of Fabius Maximus’ plan to trap Hannibal in Ager Falernus; the impact of this failure and the decision to share command of the Roman legions with the Master of the Horse

· Marcus Minucius’ failure at Geronium and Fabius Maximus’ successful intervention

· Successful use of Fabian strategies after Cannae to contain Hannibal’s threat

Livy The History of Rome 22.23–22.26

Dedication for Quintus Fabius Maximus


The Battle of Cannae

· Low supply levels of the Carthaginians drew them towards Cannae which had a supply depot

· The battle of Cannae and Hannibal’s tactics and leadership

· Varro and Paullus’ leadership and strategy

· Maharbal’s advice and Hannibal’s decision not to march on Rome after Cannae

· Carthalo, a Carthaginian ambassador, led a delegation to Rome to demand a truce. The Roman Senate refused. (Livy 22.58)

Livy The History of Rome 22.44–22.48


Livy The History of Rome 22.51

· The reasons for Hannibal’s victory in the Battle of Cannae

· The leadership of Hannibal and the Roman consuls

· Whether the criticisms of the Roman consuls are valid

· The accuracy and reliability of the ancient sources

Hannibal in Italy: 216–209 BC

Suggested timing: 2–3 hours

· Realisation that Fabius Maximus’ strategy must be rigorously followed

· Rome’s ability to muster troops after Cannae, including making use of slaves and criminals

· Overview of Hannibal’s strategy for winning the war in particular his desire to sever Rome’s ties with its neighbours and create alliances with Rome’s rivals (e.g. Capua, Tarentum, Macedon, Sicily)

o Defection of Capua to Hannibal after Cannae

o Defections of many Southern Italian states to Hannibal giving him bases from which he could draw supplies

o Syracuse declared war on Rome

o Agreement made with Philip V of Macedon to encircle Rome with conflict

· Hannibal’s lack of reinforcements from Carthage and Iberia:

o Gnaeus and Publius Scipio defeated Hasdrubal Barca at the Battle of Dertosa/Battle of Ibera in 215 preventing Hasdrubal Barca joining Hannibal in Italy. The defeat led the Carthaginians to divert an army to Spain under Mago Barca which had be destined for Italy

o Hannibal only received significant reinforcements in 214 when Bomilcar and a Carthaginian fleet managed to land troops, elephants and supplies at Locri (Livy 23.41.10–12)

o Lack of access to harbours to help supply Hannibal with troops and supplies, and the strength of the Roman navy

· Change in the conflict in Italy as now dominated by fortified towns and strongholds

· Hannibal’s capture of Tarentum after a pro-Carthage faction enabled Hannibal to enter the city. However they failed to capture the citadel

· Second Battle of Capua and Hannibal’s failed attack on Rome to divert attention away from Capua to help relieve the siege in 211 BC

· Fabius Maximus’ recapture of Tarentum in 209 BC

Livy The History of Rome 23.29


Livy The History of Rome 26.11–26.12


Dedication for Quintus Fabius Maximus

· The reasons why the Carthaginians could not defeat the Romans

· The impact of Fabius Maximus and his tactics

· The support of the Roman and Carthaginian Senates for the war effort


The Scipio’s in Iberia

Suggested timing: 2 hours

· Introduction of Scipio Africanus and the events in Iberia up to this point

o Gnaeus and Publius Scipio’s arrival to establish Rome’s position and prevent men and supplies being sent to Hannibal

o Rome’s continued control of the seas after the defeat of the Carthaginian fleet in the Battle of the Ebro River (Livy 22.19–22.20)

o Recap Gnaeus and Publius Scipio preventing reinforcements getting to Italy and the impact that this had on Hannibal (Livy 23.29 PS)

o The deaths of Gnaeus and Publius Scipio in battle in 211

· Scipio Africanus’ appointment as the commander of Rome’s Iberian army (Livy 26.18–26.19)

· Scipio Africanus’ capture of New Carthage in 209 BC

· Hasdrubal Barca’s attempt to link up with Hannibal from Spain and subsequent defeat and death at the Battle of Metaurus

· An understanding of the events that led the Carthaginians to abandon Iberia

· Scipio’s attempts to form alliances with Numidian princes whilst he was in Iberia: Massinissa’s decision to switch from Carthage to Rome and negotiations with Syphax, which ultimately failed as he switched allegiance to Carthage

· Mago fled to the Balearic Islands and then to Genoa.

Livy The History of Rome 26.46–26.47



· the character and leadership of Scipio Africanus

· the different phases of Rome’s response and the reasons for these changes

· the impact of the loss of New Carthage

· the importance of Rome’s involvement in Iberia since 218

Scipio Africanus in Africa

Suggested timing: 4–5 hours

· Debate in 205 BC in the Senate between Scipio Africanus and Fabius Maximus about how to end the Second Punic War (Livy 28.39–28.45)

· Scipio Africanus’ preparation of troops for the African invasion

· Syphax’s alliance with Carthage sealed with marriage to Hasdrubal Gisgo’s daughter (Livy 29.23)

· Carthaginian defeats which led to Carthage to sue for peace. The Carthaginians accept the terms but it proved short lived.


· The support Scipio and Hannibal received from the Roman and Carthaginian Senate

· Carthaginian Senate’s decision to recall Hannibal (and Mago) from Italy

· Hannibal’s reflections on his invasion of Italy as imagined by Livy

· The Carthaginian attack on a Roman quinquereme containing a delegation sent to demand the return of ships dispersed near Carthage by a storm, thereby breaking the agreement (Livy 30.25)

Livy The History of Rome 30.20

· Reasons for Hannibal’s ultimate failure in Italy

· Impact of Scipio Africanus and Fabius Maximus

The Battle of Zama (202 BC)

· Hannibal’s conference with Scipio and desire to seek peace rather than conflict

· Scipio Africanus’ and Hannibal’s organisation of their troops at Zama

· Scipio’s tactics to counter Hannibal including tactics to neutralise Hannibal’s elephants and cavalry

Livy The History of Rome 30.29–30.31


Livy The History of Rome 30.32–30.35.10

· Hannibal’s character and leadership

· Scipio Africanus’ character and leadership

· Reasons for Hannibal’s defeat

The Carthaginian defeat and its consequences for Carthage and Rome

Suggested timing: 1 hour

· The Carthaginians seek peace

· The terms of the treaty dictated by Scipio

· Impact on Carthage: Treaty negotiations and Rome’s dominance of Carthaginian foreign policy; Hannibal’s role as sufete and rebuilding of Carthage; eventual destruction of Carthage and its absorption into the Roman Empire

· Impact on Rome: militarisation of the plebeians; rapid expansion and development of imperial policies; conquest of Iberia and weakening of rival cities such as Tarentum and Capua

Livy The History of Rome 30.35.10–30.36

Polybius The Histories 15.19

· Impact/consequences of the Second Punic War on Carthage and Rome

Overview of the Second Punic War

Suggested timing: 2 hour

A chance to pull together the key themes of the depth study, to allow students to engage with overarching general questions about the Second Punic War, similar to the style of essay questions that they will find in the examination.


Endorsed textbooks from Bloomsbury

Resources for OCR specification for first teaching September 2017



OCR Ancient History GCSE Component 1: Greece and Persia

Sam Baddeley, Paul Fowler, Lucy Nicholas, James Renshaw

ISBN-13: 978-1350015173

Released July 2017


OCR Ancient History GCSE Component 2: Rome

Paul Fowler, Christopher Grocock, James Melville

ISBN-13: 978-1350015203

Released July 2017


This textbook supports OCR's GCSE Ancient History Component 1. It covers the period study on the Persian Empire and the three optional depth studies.


This textbook supports OCR's GCSE Ancient History Component 2. It covers the longer period study on the Foundation of Rome and the three optional depth studies.

These textbooks have been written by experts and experienced teachers in a clear and accessible narrative. Ancient sources are described and analysed, with supporting images. Helpful features include study questions, further reading, and boxes focusing in on key people, events and terms.


Suggested resources


There is a great deal of recent scholarship on the Second Punic War which is accessible to the general reader. There is also a wide range of resources available looking at specific issues which you may wish to access to widen your understanding.


Ancient Sources


The prescribed sources have all been translated for you in the OCR Source booklet. However, useful notes on aspects of some of the sources can be found in the following translations:

  • Livy, The War with Hannibal, trans. Aubrey de Selincourt (Penguin 1965)
  • Livy, Hannibal’s War, trans. J.C Yardley (Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire, trans. Ian Scott-Kilvert (Penguin, 1979)
  • Polybius, The Histories, trans. Robin Waterfield (Oxford University Press, 2010)


Other ancient sources covering the Second Punic War can be found in the following editions:

  • Ronald Mellor, The Historians of Ancient Rome: An Anthology of the Major Writings (3rd edition, Routledge, 2012) ISBN 978-0415527163
  • Cornelius Nepos, The Book on the Great Generals of Foreign Nations (trans. J C Rolfe (Harvard University Press, 1929) ISBN 978-0674995147




Nigel Bagnell, The Punic Wars: Rome, Carthage and the Struggle for the Mediterranean (Thomas Dunne, 1999) ISBN 978-0312342142


Nigel Bagnall, Essential Histories: The Punic Wars 264–146 BC (Osprey Publishing 2002) ISBN 978-1841763552


M Cary & H. H. Scullard, A History of Rome (Palgrave Macmillan, 1980), 3rd ed., pp.124–37. ISBN 978-0333278307


Brian Caven, The Punic Wars (Marboro Books, 1994) ISBN 978-0880298926


Leonard Cottrell, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome (The Perseus Books Group, 1992) ISBN 978-0306804984


Gregory Daly, Cannae: The Experience of Battle in the Second Punic War (Routledge, 2003) ISBN 978-0415327435


Nic Fields, The Roman Army of the Punic Wars 264–146 BC (Osprey Publishing, 2007) ISBN 978-1846031458


Adrian Goldsworthy, Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265–146 BC (Orion Publishing, 2003) ISBN 978-0304366422


Serge Lancel, Hannibal (Blackwell Publishers, 1999) ISBN 978-0631218487


  1. F. Lazenby, Hannibal’s War: A Military History of the Second Punic War (New edition, University of Oklahoma Press, 1998) ISBN 978-0806130040


Eve Macdonald, Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life (Yale University Press, 2015) ISBN 978-0300240306


  1. H. Scullard, History of the Roman World 753–146 BC (Taylor and Francis, 2002) ISBN 978-0415305044


Patricia Southern, Ancient Rome: The Republic 753–30 BC (Amberley Publishing, 2011) ISBN 978-1445604275


Susan Sorek, Ancient Historians: A Student Handbook (Continuum, 2012), ISBN 978-1441179913


Patricia Southern, The Roman Army: History 753 BC–AD 476 (Amberley Publishing, 2016) ISBN 978-1445655338


Historical Novels


There are very good novels available for students who want to experience the later Roman period. Ross Leckie’s account of Hannibal’s life received good reviews when it was published in 1996 for its insight into the man. Ben Kane’s trilogy is an adventure story which will appeal to a wider audience. Be advised that both are recommended for the more mature reader as there are some adult themes in the books.


Ben Kane’s ‘Hannibal and Rome’ series

Enemy of Rome (2011)

Field of Blood (2013)

Clouds of War (2014)


Ross Leckie, Hannibal (1996)


TV and Radio Programmes
















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