Hamilcar Barca or Barcas (ca. 275 – 228 BC) was a Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago. He was also father-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair. The name Hamilcar (Punic-Phoenician ḥmlqrt, "brother of Melqart") was a common name for Carthaginian men. The name Brq (or Baraq) means "thunderbolt" in the Punic language and is thus equivalent to the epithet or cognomen Keraunos, common among many contemporary Greek commanders. The word remains in Arabic and Hebrew with the same meaning.
Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginian land forces in Sicily during 247–241 BC during the later stages of the First Punic War. He kept his army intact and led a successful guerrilla war against the Romans in Sicily. After the defeat of Carthage in 241 BC Hamilcar retired to Africa after the peace treaty. When the Mercenary War burst out in 239 BC, Hamilcar was recalled to command and was instrumental in concluding that conflict successfully. Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginian expedition to Spain in 237 BC, and for 8 years expanded the territory of Carthage in Spain before dying in battle in 228 BC.
Little is known about the Barcid family prior to the advant of Hamilcar Barca. The names of Hamilcar's parents are unknown, and it is hypothesized that the family may have come from Cyrene and was part of the landed aristocracy of Carthage. He was relatively young (33 years old) when he received the Sicilian command. By this time he had sired 3 daughters, and his son Hannibal was born in 247 BC.
Hamilcar in Sicily
The Carthaginians had gained command of the sea after their victory in the Battle of Drepanum in 249 BC, but they only held two cities in Sicily: Lilybaeum and Drepanum by the time Hamilcar took up command in Sicily. Carthage at this time was feeling the strain of the prolonged conflict (In addition to maintaining a fleet and soldiers in Sicily they were also fighting the Libyans and Numidians in North Africa), and as a result Hamilcar was given a fairly small army and the Carthaginian fleet was gradually withdrawn so that by 244 BC Carthage had no ships to speak of in Sicily. Hamilcar was in command of a mercenary army composed of multiple nationalities and his ability to successfully lead this force demonstrates his talent as field commander. He employed combined arms tactics, like Alexander or Pyhrrus, and his strategy was similar to the ones employed by Quintus Fabius Maximus in the Second Punic War, ironically against the eldest son of Hamilcar. The difference is that Fabius commanded a numerically superior army than his opponent and had no supply problems, and had room to maneuver, while Hamilcar was static and had a far smaller army than his opponent.
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