Movie Hannibal (1959)

Movie Hannibal (1959)

Hannibal is great movie that recounts the Second Punic War (see also our page related to the Punic Wars) and the life of Hannibal. Hannibal is actually a 1959 Italian production which was financed by Warner Brothers. The movie's budget is estimated at around $4-5 million which was quite important for the time. The movie starred Victor Mature and Rita Gam and employed about 20,000 extras! Being an Italian production, all actors of this 1959 movie actually spoke Italian (their lines were later dubbed in English) except for Victor Mature and Rita Gam.

Hannibal 1959 Roman senate

Roman Senate in the movie Hannibal

As we previously pointed out, the movie is about the Second Punic War (218 to 201 B.C.) and the life of Hannibal, a general from Carthage. The Carthaginians were really unhappy about paying large war reparations to Rome. So Hannibal decided to do something that nobody had ever done before: invade Italy by crossing the Alps!

Actually the movie starts at the Roman Senate. Viewers get to see what the Roman Senate looked like during the Republic and how Roman senators were dressed. Senators hear about Hannibal crossing the Alps and one senator says to the Senate that Hannibal is actually doing them a favor as his troops had zero chance of crossing the Alps alive.

Then the movie continues by showing us Hannibal and his army crossing the Alps. We see beautiful images of the mountains and some of Hannibal's men either falling off the cliffs or dying from the cold and exhaustion. It is interesting also how the movie shows how Hannibal's soldiers were dressed, for example wearing animal furs, etc. We also see all the elephants in Hannibal's army! We can get an idea of how incredible it was to have elephants crossing the Alps.

Eventually Hannibal forms an allegiance with a local tribal chief and his army manages to cross the mountains albeit after suffering some major losses. As we know from history, general (and senator) Fabius Maximus delayed Hannibal's advances by fighting small battles which eventually weakened Hannibal's army. In the movie, Hannibal's men capture Sylvia, who is the daughter of senator Fabius Maximus. Sylvia and Hannibal fall in love which outrages both some of Hannibal's troops and later the Roman Senate.

Hannibal 1959 senator villa

Sylvia in senator Fabius Maximus' villa

Despite Fabius Maximus' warnings, the Roman Senate makes the decision to fight Hannibal out in the open in what we know historically as the Battle of Cannae (216 B.C.). The Roman army was crushed at this battle.

Eventually Fabius Maximus is picked to lead the Roman army and implement his war strategy. He wages many small battles in order to exhaust Hannibal's troops. In the movie, Sylvia finds out that Hannibal already has a wife and child. She returns to Rome and commits suicide. The movie ends with a postscript that tells us that Hannibal fought many more battles.

As we know from history, these battles lasted for over 16 years! And we also know that Rome eventually defeated Hannibal and at the Battle of Zama in Carthage in 202 B.C.


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