Movie Hannibal (1959)

The movie Hannibal is a 1959 Italian production financed by Warner Brothers which recounts the Second Punic War and the life of Hannibal. 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

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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 and Hannibal decided to do something that nobody had ever done before: invade Italy by crossing the Alps!

The movie starts at the Roman Senate. We get to see the Roman Senate during the Republic and the clothing of Roman senators. Senators hear about Hannibal crossing the Alps and one senator points out that the Carthaginian general is actually doing them a favor as his troops have zero chance of crossing the mountains alive. The movie continues with beautiful images of the Alps which Hannibal and his army are crossing. Some of Hannibal's men fall off cliffs or die from the cold and exhaustion. We get to see how Hannibal's soldiers were dressed (wearing animal furs) and the impressive elephants in Hannibal's army.

Eventually Hannibal forms an allegiance with a local tribal chief and his army manages to cross the mountains albeit after suffering some major losses. 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.) where the Roman army was crushed.

The movie Hannibal tells us about the Fabian strategy

Later Fabius Maximus is finally picked to lead the Roman army and implement his war strategy. 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, Fabius wages many small battles which over time exhaust Hannibal's troops. Sylvia finds out that Hannibal already has a wife and child and 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 Rome eventually defeated Hannibal and at the Battle of Zama in Carthage in 202 B.C..


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