Why Did an Army of Elephants Cross the Alps?

The great general, Hannibal, was born in 247 B.C. in Carthage, an ancient city in North Africa that had been founded centuries earlier by traders from the Near East.

At the age of 25, Hannibal became the leader of the Carthaginian army in Spain, just across the Mediterranean from Carthage. When Hannibal led his army into the territory in Spain that belonged to Rome, the Romans declared war on Carthage.

During his conquests through Spain and France, Hannibal used African elephants to carry men and supplies. He even marched his army of elephants over the towering Alps to invade Italy! Hannibal defeated Roman armies and plundered Italy, coming within 100 miles of Rome itself. His invasion of Italy was the most serious threat the Romans ever faced.

Hannibal’s army spent 15 years in Italy, but never succeeded in conquering Rome. Then they had to return to Africa to defend Carthage from a Roman invasion. In 146 B.C., the Romans conquered Carthage, and the city was completely destroyed.