What were Hannibal's war aims?

That is, what was he seeking to accomplish in his war on Rome? Did he want to annex territories to Carthaginian rule? Leave Rome and the other Italian states of the day intact, but as vassals to Carthage? Or just smash things and grab loot?

What would victory have looked like for Hannibal?

The war started over a dispute over Saguntum. And Hannibal himself had sworn that anti-Roman oath, and I think he himself personally just wanted to kill as many Romans as possible. But what I think victory would have looked like for Carthage would be to get back the territory they had lost in the first war.

The Roman histories are not in complete agreement, plus they were written by the Romans, so it’s not clear. It was widely written that Hannibal’s father Hamilcar made him swear an oath on an altar against Rome. E.g., “I will use fire and steel to arrest the destiny of Rome.” or some such. (Which sounds sort of fishy. Why would a Carthaginian assume Rome had a destiny?)

Hamilcar was basically extremely irate at the Romans over their taking over Sicily (violating various treaties along the way), and he passed that down to his sons.

It appears that Hannibal pretty much wanted revenge against Rome. The short term goal was to roll back the gains the Romans had recently won. And in the long term utterly destroy it. It was fairly personal. This lead to many problems over the years as most of the upper class of Carthage didn’t want a big war against Rome.

While Hamilcar and Hannibal did in fact subjugate various Iberian tribes, Hannibal seems to have been okay with just making treaties with the tribes in southern Gaul and northern Italy. Not much indication of an attempt to take over any other groups.

Carthage was a trading empire, like their Phoenician ancestors. Set up some trading colonies at key coastal points. Work with the interior people. Only go to war with them if they gave you trouble. (It’s like the Godfather: Wars are bad for business.) Conquering large chunks of land just to control said chunks of land wasn’t part of their mentality.

My semi-educated guess? A negotiated settlement would probably see Rome stripped of all overseas possessions, which were relatively few at the time - Sicily ( the main territorial dispute ) and Sardinia to Carthage. In addition probably some dismantling of the Roman “alliance” and the reduction of Rome back down to a smaller polity on the penninsula, with independence for the likes of the city-states of Magna Grecia and the Samnites ( who would remain restive for another century after the Second Punic War ).

If he got lucky, Rome sacked and at least temporarily devastated.

But he never actuallly tried to sack Rome, did he?

No, he ( arguably) never was in any position to do so. But it is not outside the realm of possibility that he might have been in better shape further down the line. This assumes failure in Rome’s second front in Iberia, Hannibal subsequently actually getting all of his requested reinforcements and Rome getting frustrated enough with Fabius Maximus’ failure to bring the war to a conclusion to try and take another roll of the dice in the field. Then losing badly.

Not terribly likely, but possible. Especially given Rome’s historically stubborn approach to negotiations. It might have taken something nearly as dramatic to compel an admission of defeat.

After his early successes in Italy, he might have been able to sack Rome if he had rushed straight for it without giving the Romans time to regroup, but he didn’t. After that, he didn’t have the resources to both lay siege to Rome and fend off the Roman army. So things went into stalemate for a while.

Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal brought an army into Italy (his second try) but was defeated in the famous Battle of the Metaurus by a nice Roman trick.

If the two Carthaginian armies had united, it might have been all over for the Romans. Instead, the stalemate got solidified and Hannibal spent a few years holed up in southern Italy, hoping that the political situation would turn his way. No such luck and he had to leave to (unsuccessfully) defend Carthage against a Roman attack.

His main aim was to strip away the support of Italian allies of Rome, leaving Rome isolated, and no longer a regional superpower. This was somewhat forced upon him by his lack of siege warfare equipment, which meant he could not realistically hope to sack Rome, no matter how often he beat their army in the field.

Could he have realistically built siege equipment? He had local allies, after all, and presumably could have commandeered local resources (craftsment, timber, etc).

That was his strategy to beat Rome, not his war aim. Or rather, it was his de facto war aim as he had none as such. Like the Germans in WWI he never made clear, to himself or anyone, what victory would look like.

The lack of siege equipment was forced by the march over the Alps; that extravagance also caused his chronic lack of manpower. At one point he actually marched past Rome and saw the walls, but judged he didn’t have the strength to attack. Had he not succumbed to the vanity of the dramatic gesture and arrived in Italy by ship as good sense would dictate, he might have had 80,000 men instead of 30,000, plus the siege equipment.

He left new Carthage in Spain with over 100,000 men but left Gaul with 60,000 due to garrisons he had to leave behind. After the Alps crossing he’s down to 24,000 men (some reinforcements come through later to make it up to the 30,000). His only hope at that point was to not only turn Roman allies against them (primarily by continual defeats of Roman armies), but to persuade them to join forces with him in a siege of Rome. But as even he did not and seemingly could not conceive of an Italy without Rome they were unpersuaded; even those few that left the Roman orbit did not contribute troops to his cause, realising that they would almost certainly face Roman wrath for that at some later juncture.

After Cannae one of his officers supposedly told him that he knew how to win a battle, but not a war. This because he wouldn’t march on Rome. But the best general on the scene was Hannibal, and he didn’t think that he could take Rome in a siege and figured that it would pin his position while Rome could be endlessly resupplied from the sea. He was probably right.

The Wikipedia article claims that “political infighting” in Carthage prevented Hannibal from receiving sufficient reinforcement to close out his war with Rome (presumably by taking cities with siege equipment?).

My understanding of his war aims has always been that he recognized Rome as a mortal enemy of Carthage (this was the Second Punic War, after all), watched Rome’s rise and expansion, and wanted to stop it to preserve Carthage. Probably a combination of white-hot hate (his father had made him swear an oath) and a more rational assessment of a rival great power’s potential (sort of like the modern Cold War).

There are two ways of conducting a siege. One requires a lot of equipment to batter down walls. The other requires a lot of patience and a favorable balance of forces. You just starve them out. Hannibal could have starved Rome if there weren’t any Roman armies wandering around. (The spread out forces around Rome would have been too easily attacked by a Roman army.) Rome was not really easily resuppliable by the sea. It’s too far upstream on the Tiber. It’s main breadbasket at the time was the Latin Plain. (Which Hannibal passed thru but failed to control. The Latin tribes had become the most pro-Roman group.) It wasn’t siege equipment, it was the overall tactical situation.

After Cannae, Hannibal might have been able to directly attack Rome without a protracted siege since the city’s defensive forces were weak at the time.