Did You Know Hannibal of Carthage was Black?

by | Jan 3, 2018 | Did You Know, DYK, History | 16 comments

Hannibal Barca (247 B.C. – 183/181 B.C.) is considered by many to be one of the greatest military leaders of antiquity. His exploits as a young commander of the Carthaginian army gained him legendary fame by his people and fear and hatred by their enemy, Rome. But what is not often recognized was that he was an African as well.

The site of ancient city of Carthage lies in what is now Tunisia in northern Africa. The city was founded in 813 B.C. and soon became one of the “richest of Mediterranean cities in the third century, taking in millions of dollars a year.” However, the growth and expansion of the Carthaginian Empire eventually would lead to conflict with another growing Mediterranean power, Rome.

Open warfare erupted between the two powers during the First Punic War (264 – 241 B.C.) over the island of Sicily. Hannibal’s father, Hamilcar, was the leading Carthaginian commander at that time.

Carthage was eventually defeated. However, Hamilcar was “enraged at the humiliation heaved upon Carthage by Rome.” He vowed to avenge this loss and prepared an invasion of Europe. He first invaded present day Spain to establish a base to continue his eventual march to Rome and brought with him his three sons: Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and Mago.

Hamilcar died before continuing his dream to avenge Carthage. His son-in-law briefly commanded the army when, upon his assassination, the 28 year old Hannibal was elected commander of the army in about 229 B.C. He was a charismatic and courageous commander. A brief historical description of him follows:

He could run or ride with the swiftest, hunt or fight with the bravest; he was “the first to enter the battle…and the last to abandon the field.” The veterans loved him because in his commanding presence and piercing eyes they saw their old leader returned to them in fresh youth; the recruits liked him because he wore no distinctive dress, never rested till he had provided for his army’s needs, and  shared with them all sufferings and gains.

Hannibal wasted little time and began his campaign against Rome which began the Second Punic War.

He led his army of soldiers, horses, and war elephants on an epic march across the Alps and into northern Italy. There he fought several battles against the Roman army and emerged victorious.

But his most impressive victory came in 216 B.C. at the Battle of Cannae. Here the Carthaginian army laid a trap for the pursuing Roman forces. The surprise was complete and by the end of the day of battle a reported 70,000 Roman soldiers were slain. The Roman army was almost completely destroyed.

Even with this great victory, Hannibal was unable to capitalize on this to bring Rome to its knees. He was forced to retreat back to Carthage and was defeated at the Battle of Zama in 202 B.C.

Although, he survived the battle, Hannibal was eventually forced into exile and died sometime between 183 to 181 B.C.


Peck, Anne T. (1984, April). Great Warriors: Hannibal Barca and Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Command & Staff College.

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  1. Dylan

    I’m sorry but Hannibal was not black, or subsaharan African. He was Semitic or even Greek. He was Phoenician, they were from Philistine and were somewhat Semitic/Greek in appearance. And, since he was royalty, it is likely they kept their bloodline pure and only mixed among other Punics and even Greeks to an extent. Also, there is a massive desert between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa that was nearly nontraversable in the time period; there was likely no mass migration by tribes in Africa to the Mediterranean at the time. Further, the only darker, ethnically African people at the time in North Africa were the Numidians who, though they lived near Carthage, they were not on good terms with the Carthaginians. The Numidians were remnants of the Kushan people after they were expelled from Egypt after their 2 century rule.

  2. Dylan

    And, only 14,000 Roman soldiers were slain at Cannae. He was a good tactician but eventually Hannibal was beat by Cornelius Scipio Africanus who used Hannibal’s same box strategy, which he used at Canne to encircle the Romans, at Zama. I hate to belittle Hannibal’s achievements but he lost at Zama and killed himself in 188 or 186 BCE. Don’t skew history

  3. Dennis J Allen

    Hannibal was Phoenician. They are Greek and semetic in appearance and philistine and cannanite in decent. Of we discount this with he fact that he was from North Africa we still don’t get to a conclusion where he was black. He was not subsaharan or aetheopean. If we assume he was full African he would be closer to a Berber then anything else and he would still not be black. We also have pretty good descriptions of him, his people, and his ancestry. We know that his family can trace it’s liniage to queen dito… Who was pure Phoenician. We have coins and busts of his appearance, which are decidedly not Africa. And we know that the me “Africa” at the time was used specifically not for the continent as a whole(which was decided between Africa, Tunisia, eagyptus, lybia and aetheopean) but for a region of North Africa around Carthage… Hannibal is called an African by multiple believable Roman accounts (including Levi and polybius) which would be a describer of someone not only from Africa but “African” (catheginian, or Phoenician) in appearance. He was never once described as lybian, or aetheopean, or even Egyptian… Only ever African, Phoenician, cartheginian, and sometimes even Greek.

  4. Maureen I Bowman-Watson

    The truth hurts but if you can’t handle it ok……

  5. HHH

    This is a terrible attempt at black-washing Levantine-Megrebi history. Some might say black-washing doesn’t exist, but I disagree, when you try to ruin real history just in favor of a skin color, you’re washing that history with that color, whether it be brown, yellow, white, black. Hannibal was a royal (Phoenician) Canaanite who can trace his ancestry to purely Canaanite/Phoenician blood, having descended from original medditeranean ancestry of course. Hannibal and his people would resemble the Levantine people (and maybe sometimes even greeks) but never any black people, and by assuming that Hannibal was black you’re also black-washing North Africa’s history, between North Africa and Subsaharan africa there was a desert that was technically impossible to cross in a way that would make all of Africa black, North Africans are asiatic peoples who migrated to the land thousands of years ago, MUCH BEFORE the creation of carthiage, which was a PHOENICIAN COLONY. Canaanites are not black, and Berbers (North Africans) aren’t either, there was no way he was able to be black.

    • Reneegede

      What you call Blackwashing is Black people taking back a history that was white-washed to begin with. You simply don’t get to flip the script and then pretend to be all self-righteous when the truth finally comes out.

      • Greg Shumaker

        What truth? There’s no evidence in this article. Plenty of historians know the origins of Hannibal. He was Pheonician royalty… which meant he was of Lebanese/Syrian origin. Even if he was 100% Carthaginian they weren’t black. They were north african. DNA tests in north African show significantly less mixing with sub saharan africans than was thought. It was very very hard to cross the Saharan desert.

        Please show us what makes you think Hannibal was black? It’s pretty sad that you guys have to pretend historical people were the same skin color as you.

        • Reneegede

          Hon, there were no white people in that part of the world during that time unless they were Greek and Roman. The sooner you catch up is the sooner you keep up.

          ALL of those people were Black, but you can’t take a DNA test now and prove anything about something that happened thousands of years ago. They didn’t call Africa “The Dark Continent” because someone forgot to pay the light bill. They called it dark because there was nothing in it BUT Black people, so ALL of those people were Black and that is without exception.

          It’s like people nowadays thinking that because of European infiltration of migratory colonialists, that America is a European nation when it never was. It’s an imperialist european nation of infiltrators and rapists and thugs and pirates, but it was never ‘white.’

          • Einsatzgruppen

            The Sahara Desert prevented any movement of blacks into Northern Africa, the people of North Africa in pre-Islamic times were almost indistinct from the people of Southern Europe. How was America never a white nation? European Americans were always a historic majority. Americans and Swedes fought pirates in the Barbary Wars and continue to fight Somali pirates so what are you going on about?

          • Reneegede

            You mistakenly believe that the planet has only existed 7,000 years or so … it’s been here for nearly a quarter of a MILLION years and their history can only be traced back less than 10,000 while Black people have been on the planet since it’s very beginning. Even THEY know that, no matter how many people they manage to gaslight into believing the world didn’t exist before they got here.

  6. Read a book

    This is the same ignorant racial rhetoric black racist try to use to justify that all white people are out to get them. Gotta love it when black racists attempt to call Cleopatra black. Hello dumbass, ass her family was Ptolemaic. I personally seen the sculptures and Roman mosaics of Hannibal, never seen black people with white skin and pointy noses.

    Go march in a black live matters parade, cuz that isn’t racist either?!?!

  7. Karthagist

    while Karthago was located in North Africa and one could think he thus was arab, its historically proven Hannibal was of Phoenician descendance (semitic race) – so originating from a place in today’s Syria/Israel/Lebanon

  8. strangest

    while Karthago was located in North Africa and it thus might seem he was arab, there’s historical proof Hannibal was of Phoenician descendance (semitic race) – so originating from a place in today’s Syria/Israel/Lebanon

    • Reneegede

      If he was Syrian, Israeli, or even Lebanese he was Black, and it doesn’t change anything because the African people are bleaching and deracinating themselves to what they think is a standard of European beauty. You cannot change a man because Black people these days are in denial of being Black.

  9. Alberto Barbosa


  10. Talawin Ankin

    maybe he was North african (berber caucasian people ) but not nigger



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