A look at the Barca dynasty that brought the Roman Republic close to defeat

Michael Eli Dokosi December 20, 2019
Barca Dynasty via afrographics.com

Of African dynasties which had their time under the sun briefly, the Barca dynasty counts as one. Its reign began with Hamilcar Barca or Barcas (c. 275–228 BC), who was the Carthaginian general and statesman, leader of the Barcid family, and father of Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago.

Hamilcar commanded the Carthaginian land forces in Sicily from 247 BC to 241 BC, during the latter stages of the First Punic War. He kept his army intact and led a successful guerrilla war against the Romans in Sicily. Hamilcar retired to Carthage after the peace treaty in 241 BC, following the defeat of Carthage. When the Mercenary War burst out in 240 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 eight years expanded the territory of Carthage in Spain before dying in battle in 228 BC. He may have been responsible for creating the strategy which his son Hannibal implemented in the Second Punic War to bring the Roman Republic close to defeat.”

The Barca family was a notable Carthaginian family of Carthage originating around 247BC. Although they weren’t rulers of Carthage in the traditional sense, they nonetheless help navigate the direction of Carthaginian politics and statehood.

Dishekel hispano-cartaginés-2.jpg
An ancient Carthaginian shekel, dated 237 – 227 BC. On the obverse is a depiction of Heracles/Melqart, most likely with the facial features of Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal Barca. On the reverse is a depiction of a man riding an elephant.

The surname Barca means “thunderbolt”, fitting for a family whose rule jolted the known world at the time.

In 238BC General Hamilcar Barca led an expedition into Spain. Although unauthorized by the Carthaginian government, ambitious Hamilcar Barca nonetheless conquered parts of Spain amassing great wealth from plunder, filling his public treasury. The Barca family’s control of Spain ensured their power in Carthage also.

The wealth bought him a proper army and helped him to purchase majority support from the Carthaginian senate. Thus began the extraordinary power of the Barca royal line. Hannibal Barca continued the legacy of his father and carried the Barca family by being Romes greatest rival. With his brother’s support, the Barca family dominated Carthage, showed the world the power of the Barca line and shook Rome to its very core.

Little is known about the origins or history of the Barca family prior to the Punic Wars. Quoting Tony Bath, “The Barca family, which originally came from Cyrene, was a powerful one but not at that time among the first families of Carthage”.

Lance Serge states that Hamilcar’s family was part of the landed aristocracy of Carthage. Hamilcar was a young man of 28 when he received the Sicilian command in 247 BC. By this time he had three daughters, and his son Hannibal was born during the same year.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: December 20, 2019


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates