The Carthaginians

Carthage was originally a settlement of Phoenician colonists. Carthage grew into a large economic power throughout the Mediterranean Sea, accumulating wealth and influence. Carthage was a contemporary superpower with the Roman Republic of the 2nd and 3rd Century BC, and was its rival for dominance of the western Mediterranean. After Pyrrhus left Sicily and Italy he known to have declared that he left an interesting battleground for the Carthaginians and Romans behind him. Carthage expanded from it's capital in North Africa towards Southern Spain and Sicily. Rome set it's eyes on Sicily and Northern Spain at the same time. 

Eventually the rivalry between the states led to a series of wars known as the Punic Wars, in which a series of losses led to a decline in Carthage's political and economic strength, mostly due to the harsh penalties imposed on Carthage by Rome as conditions of the cessation of hostilities. Though the Carthaginians nearly destroyed Rome itself, when Hannibal crossed the alps with his mercenary army and came to a few kilometres from Rome itself. But after a decade in Italy he never managed to break the Roman power, or completely loosen the ties with it's Italian Allies.

The third and final Punic war ended with the complete destruction of the city of Carthage and the annexation of the last remnants of Carthaginian territory by Rome. Although a distinct Carthaginian civilization ceased to exist, remnants of it contributed to later Mediterranean culture.

The name Carthage is derived by way of Greek and Latin from the Phoenician meaning "new city." More than one Phoenician settlement originally bore this name, although only one city has the distinction of being the Carthage of the ancient world.

The core troops

One of the nicest things about the Carthaginian army is the diversity. You may wield raw North African warriors (Numidians), tough Spanish troops, Celtic warbands, Greek mercenaries and the rich citizen soldiers of Carthage. And you are allowed elephants too!

After it's defeat by the Romans, much of the Punic culture has been deleted. But enough is known to recreate there mercenary armies.

In the Hannibal and the Punic Wars WAB supplement you can make choosing troops easier, because it has several periods defined, from the first to the third Punic war, but also between Africa, Spain and the troops used in Italy.


The Veterans

There is an ongoing discussion if the Carthaginian army used the phalanx. It certainly did in the early days. But during the second Punic War they most likely took over the Roman tactics. Hannibal even dressed his own soldiers in the armour they took from the beaten Roman legions.

Hannibals Veterans from A&A Miniatures and from Gripping Beast.


The Punic Heavy Cavalry

Hannibal used mostly Numidian, Celtic & Spanish cavalry. But the Cartaginians also had their own heavy Cavalry units.

Old Glory Punic cavalry with Carthaginian high command

The Light Infantry

There is always a discussion about the colour of the tunics the soldiers wore in antiquity. Many argue that they were mostly off-white. Colours were to expensive for the common soldier. I have some points against the white-siders:

  • Looking at the splendid details many of the helmets and cuirasses have from this period, I can hardly imagine that these were cheap. So these soldiers must have had some money they could spend on tunics.
  • Historical writers mentioned colours (white with "purple" rims for the Spanish, red for the Roman tunic, the white and "many coloured" Samnite units).
  • Wall paintings and other art commonly show soldiers wearing uniforms in many colours and designs.
  • The Roman soldiers of the republic had to meet a certain degree of wealth to even be allowed in the army (a rule that was only lowered in times of extreme difficulties). The poorest could become rowers for the ships, or Velites. Those people probably wore cheap clothes.
  • In every society (then and later) you will come upon coloured clothes. Look at the tartan designs that can be found in Scotland as well as with the Celts.

Bearing this in mind, I painted the light infantry with basic brown, beige and grey colours. But my heavy (veteran) infantry are proudly wearing their RED tunics!

1st Corps Punic light infantry with Punic command group

The elephant

Epirus is said to be the first country to place a Howdah on their elephants. It is not sure the Carthaginians did. However they had fought against Pyrrhus of Epirus in Sicily and thus must have known about the Howdah. 

Some say the African Elephant was not large or strong enough to carry a tower. But in Bellum Africanum is a fierce battle in North Africa in 64 BC reported between Juba's African elephants and Caesars soldiers:

And here we must not omit to notice the bravery of a veteran soldier of the fifth legion. For when an elephant which had been wounded in the left wing, and, roused to fury by the pain, ran against an unarmed sutler, threw him under his feet, and kneeling on him with his whole weight, and brandishing his uplifted trunk, with hideous cries, crushed him to death, the soldier could not refrain from attacking the animal. The elephant, seeing him advance with his javelin in his hand, quitted the dead body of the sutler, and seizing him with his trunk, wheeled him round in the air. But he, amid all the danger, preserving his presence of mind, ceased not with his sword to strike at the elephant's trunk, which enclasped him, and the animal, at last overcome with the pain, quitted the soldier, and fled to the rest with hideous cries.

  • These African elephants also had towers:

At the same time Scipio daily drew up his troops in order of battle [...] drawing out all his forces, and his thirty elephants, with towers on their backs, and extending his horse and foot as wide as possible, he approached quite up to Caesar's intrenchments.

  • A text from Polybius (book 5) states that the African Elephants the Ptolemy army used did have towers in 217 BC at Raphia. the Carthaginians had excellent trading relations with the Egyptians.

[...] Ptolemy [...] gave the signal for battle and brought the elephants first into action. A few only of Ptolemy's elephants ventured to close with those of the enemy, and now the men in the towers on the back of these beasts made a gallant fight of it, striking with their pikes at close quarters and wounding each other, while the elephants themselves fought still better, putting forth their whole strength and meeting forehead to forehead. The way in which these animals fight is as follows. With their tusks firmly interlocked they shove with all their might, each trying to force the other to give ground, until the one who proves strongest pushes aside the other's trunk, and then, when he has once made him turn and has him in the flank, he gores him with his tusks as a bull does with his horns. Most of Ptolemy's elephants, however, declined the combat, as is the habit of African elephants; for unable to stand the smell and the trumpeting of the Indian elephants, and terrified, I suppose, also by their great size and strength, they at once turn tail and take to flight before they get near them. This is what happened on the present occasion; and when Ptolemy's elephants were thus thrown into confusion and driven back on their own lines, Ptolemy's guard gave way under the pressure of the animals. Meanwhile Antiochus and his cavalry riding past the flank of the elephants on the outside attacked Polycrates and the cavalry under his command, while at the same time on the other side of the elephants the Greek mercenaries next the phalanx fell upon Ptolemy's peltasts and drove them back, their ranks having been already thrown into confusion by the elephants. Thus the whole of Ptolemy's left wing was hard pressed and in retreat.

But, be honest: you need towers to really impress your opponent...


A converted toy elephant I "took" from my 2 years old son.


The Allies

Carthaginian allies do not fight for Carthage automatically. Every turn you roll a dice. As long as you keep rolling a 6, the unit will refuse to fight. To represent this, you can place the command group in front of the unit facing the enemy with their backs. Or place a (red) coloured coin in front of the unit. I usually place green coins behind warband units to remind me of their special rules.


Numidian cavalry & infantry

Hannibal made effective use of the light Numidian Cavalry. Thought not very effective in close combat against more heavily armed opponents, they are very well suited for delaying and harassing the enemy.

Old Glory Numidian cavalry & infantry


Celtic warband & Numidian skirmishers

The Carthaginians always used lots of Celtic allies and/or mercenaries. They were always a bit uncontrollable, and tended to easily switch sides. In the first Punic War a Celtic tribe that planned to desert to the Romans were slaughtered by the Romans, when the Carthaginians leaked to the Romans that they were not deserting, but planning an attack on the Romans! In WAB the low leadership, warband rule and allies and mercenaries rule (they only joint the battle after first throwing a 6 on a D6 at the start of the turn) makes them a colourful (read: look nice but are not worth a penny) part of your army.

Black Tree  and A&A Celtic warriors and Old Glory Numidians (above) and unknown (below)

Spanish Allies

Both the Romans and the Carthaginians used a lot of Spanish and Celtiberian allies.

    Old Glory/Newline/Gripping Beast  Spanish Scuttarii (above)
and A&A Miniatures Spanish cavalry (below)







Italian Allies

Even after a series of devastating victories (Trebbia, Lake Trasimene, Cannae), Hannibal never really got between the Romans and their Italian allies. But he included units of Italians in his army after Cannae.

Old Glory Italian Oscans equipped with Wargames Foundy Roman shields

See also for information about the novel I wrote about the life of Hannibal.

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