Annibale (Hannibal) (1959)




Director:  Edgar U. Ulmer

Starring:     Victor Mature (Hannibal),  Gabriele Ferzetti (Fabius Maximus),  Rita Gam (Sylvia),  Milly Vitale (Danila),  Rik Battaglia (Hasdrubal),  Franco Silva (Maharbal),  Terence Hill (Quintilius),  Mirko Ellis (Mago),  Andrea Aureli (Gajus Terentius Varro),  Andrea Fantasia (Konsul Paulus Emilius). 

Country:  U.S.-Italian

Hannibal and his elephants cross over the Alps and into Rome.  



Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.

"In 218 B.C. Hannibal made Carthage master of all Spain.  Rome, jealous of the threat to her power, promptly found a pretext to declare war. While Rome prepared to invade Spain by sea, Hannibal stole a march on his arch-enemy.  He crossed the Pyrenees into the Valley of the Romans.  Summer found him at the foot of the Alps."

There is great alarm in the Roman Senate caused by the threat of Hannibal and his men.  Minitius tells them not to worry because the Alps will kill off most of Hannibal's horses, elephants and men.  And if they do cross over the Alps, they will be so exhausted that the border legions will finish them off.  Fabius Maximus gets up to speak.  He says he understood that the Roman border legions had their hands full with the Gauls. In the middle of the debate, a message comes to report that Hannibal is crossing the Alps and the Roman garrisons are in flight.  Now the only forces opposing Hannibal is Rutarius, who happens to be an enemy of Rome.

Hannibal's troops are very tired and very cold crossing the Alps.  Ropes are used so that the soldiers can pull themselves up some of the steeper climbs.   Some men fall to their deaths along the way.  An elephant drops of exhaustion and has to be whipped to get him going again.  Wolves grab some of the men who have fallen.  The men are fed while they keep marching.  The rations are "all but gone" and the men are freezing, but they can't turn back.  The officer Maharbal asks Hannibal to relieve him of his command.  He urges Hannibal to return to Spain.  Hannibal won't hear of it.

A messenger tells Hannibal that some of Rutarius's men have come down to surrender and Rutarius himself wants to negotiate.  Hannibal goes to see the chief and Rutarius says he will ally himself with the Carthaginians as long as his tribe can be master over all the tribes in the valley.  Hannibal responds:  "I accept!" 

Some of the elephants panic and run through the lines of the Carthaginians, killing some of the men.  But the spring comes and the walking is considerably easier.  Hannibal stops to look out over the Valley of the Po River.  Hannibal tells his brother that they started up the Alps with 40,000 men but now he is down to half that number.  He knows that if he is to conquer Rome, he must built alliances with those dissatisfied with Roman rule.  He tells his staff to have their spies spread tales of the invincibility of Hannibal and his army.  Part of this strategy is to say that Hannibal is ruthless with his enemies, but kind to his allies.  He also orders the men to cover the ridge with bonfires to make the Romans think the Carthaginians have double or triple their present force.   

A Roman slave tells Hannibal that he can take as hostage the niece of Fabius Maximus.  This Sylvia has a summer villa near here.  Sylvia is presently starting out for a trip back to Rome.  The leader of the group heading to Rome is Quintiliusm, her cousin.  Before they can get going, however, Hannibal and some of his men descend on them.  Quintilius and Sylvia get away in their chariot, but Hannibal in his chariot chases after them.  He catches up with them and then jumps onto the back of the chariot.  He throws Quinitilius off the back of the chariot and then stops.  Quintilius gets up and starts running in an escape attempt but Carthaginian horsemen soon catch him.  Sylvia hides in a large hut.  Hannibal goes in and pulls her out of her hiding place, but she does manage to cut his wrist a bit with her knife. 

Sylvia tells her captor that she would rather die than serve that monster Hannibal as a slave.  Sylvia offers her captor great wealth if he will deliver her and Quintilius to her father who is very rich.  Hannibal says he will think about it, but first they must go back to the encampment.  Sylvia is put into a nice red dress and delivered to Hannibal.  She is a bit surprised when she finds out that her captor is actually Hannibal himself.  Hannibal also surprises her by treating her as his guest.  She is suspicious and wants to know what he is up to.  They will have dinner, but first Hannibal takes her on a tour of the camp.  He tells her about his allies: such as the Numidians and Spaniards.  He also show off his elephants. Back in his tent he tells Sylvia that he wants her to take a message to her uncle that Hannibal seeks peace.  He sees his actions as just a rebellion against being just a province of the Roman empire.

In the morning Sylvia waits by the chariot to head for Rome.  Quintilius goes by her but doesn't say anything to her.  He just glares at her.  She rushes over to him and throws her arms around his neck, but he just pulls away from her.  Quintilius thinks Sylvia gave herself to Hannibal to get their liberty.   

Sylvia is back with her uncle.  And it turns out that Quintilius is the son of her uncle Fabius.  She wants her uncle to negotiate with Hannibal, but Fabius tells her that this would only prove to the Carthaginians that Rome is weak or afraid or both.  Sylvia leaves in a huff.  Qunitilius tells his father that Sylvia has simply lost her mind. 

In the Senate Fabius suggests that they wear down the strength of the Carthaginians using hit and run tactics.  This idea, however, is rejected by most of the senators who want a decisive battle and victory. A Roman army of 40,000 men prepares to battle the Carthaginians. 

The battle takes place.  The elephants serve the Carthaginians well, as they instill fear into the Roman soldiers.  During the battle Hannibal is plagued by irritation and pain in his right eye.  The doctor examines the eye and then takes a hot poker to it.

A messenger sneaks in to talk to Sylvia.  He gives her a ring from Hannibal, who is very worried about her.  The Romans have been defeated at the Battle of Lake Trasimene, leaving the road open to Rome.  Hannibal is worried about her safety.  The ring will provide her safe conduct through the Carthaginian lines. 

The serious situation confronting Rome, now leads Fabius Maximus to suggest that he be made dictator.  This idea is rejected.  Sylvia asks Quintililus what is going on.  He says the senators are worried about Hannibal.  Sylvia pipes up and says but Hannibal wants peace.  She shows her cousin the ring she received from a Carthaginian spy.  It's Hannibal's ring.  Quintilius thinks she is very foolish.  He thinks that Hannibal only shows this interest in her so she can help him fool the Romans and so he can have her all for himself.  Sylvia refuses to believe that.  Quintilius now tells her that he loves her.  She tells him that since they grew up together, she just thinks of him as as a brother.  This makes Quintilius very angry and he tells Sylvia that she loves Hannibal. 

The Senate calls for total mobilization.  All men from the age of 15 to 50 are called to arms.  They are to report to their stations.  Quintilius tells his father that he is going to report for duty.  His father understands.  He tells his son that what athey need is a three months truce, which would give them enough time to train reserves and manufacture enough weapons to replace those they have lost in the fight against Hannibal.  Sylvia overhears their conversation. 

Hannibal now wears an eye patch over his right eye.  A messenger arrives and gives him the ring he gave to Sylvia.  She has come to speak with him.  Hannibal goes to see her.  He thanks her for coming because he thought she might not come at all.  Sylvia says she needs his help.  She urges peace on him, but Hannibal says peace is impossible now.  Then why did he send for her?  Because he just wanted to see her.  As they talk, Quintilius and some assistants arrive to try and kill Hannibal.  Hannibal kisses Sylvia. 

Quintilius and his men attack Hannibal.  Hannibal fights off his men, while Sylvia tries to stop Quintilius.  Then Quintilius tells his men to stop fighting.  He will take on Hannibal by himself.  Carthaginians arrive on horseback and surround the other Romans.  Hannibal knocks the sword out of the hands of Quintilius.  He asks the young fellow his name and he tells him.  Now Hannibal thinks that Sylvia set up this assassination attempt. 

Sylvia explains to Fabius and Quintilius that she only tried to set up a peace between Carthage and Rome, but she will not deny that she loves Hannibal.  Fabius tells her she has brought dishonor to their house.  He says there is a punishment for women like her  --  to be buried until she is dead.  But Fabius cannot denounce her to the authorities, because she has been his daughter ever since she was first brought to his home.  She will be taken to the Temple of Vesta to live there in chastity for the rest of her life.  Sylvia starts crying. 

Hannibal is very near Rome now, but he does not attack.

A woman in the home of Fabius tells Sylvia that she has been in contact with the spy from Carthage.  Hannibal loves her and he wants her to come to him.  Sylvia cheers up and hugs the woman.  Sylvia shows up at Hannibal's camp and the two kiss.  He takes her to her tent.  He gives the order to be ready to march to Venosa (in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata) in the morning.  Some of his staff think that Sylvia will be the ruin of the Carthaginians. 

Fabius returns to the senate to clear his name of the charges that his niece is a spy for Carthage and is in love with Hannibal.  He says the day he sees his niece's face again, is the day that she dies. 

A man talks to Hannibal's brother about killing Sylvia.  He says they can make it look like an accident.  In fact, he has already started his plan by releasing the elephants and stampeding them into the tent where Sylvia is staying.  Hannibal saves her and the elephants are taken back to their compound.  A messenger comes in to say that someone tampered with the gates and stampeded the elephants.  Hannibal goes to check it out.  He finds out quickly who is the would-be assassin by hearing him brag about his attempt at killing the Roman woman.  The culprit now sword fights with Hannibal.   Hannibal defeats him, but doesn't kill him, because he says he needs the man. 

Sylvia is upset.  She says she has caused nothing but suspicion and rebellion in his camp.  Furthermore, the men cannot forget that she is a Roman.  Hannibal asks her if she is sorry that she came to him?  She says no and the two kiss. 

Senator Varro has been appointed commander of the army.  Fabius is worried about this because Varro and the leader of the army hate each other.  He asks his son to never leave the side of the commander.  Hannibal is aware that the number one and two men hate each other and thinks this will help him defeat the Romans in their next encounter.  His plan is to let the Romans cross over the river.  As the Carthaginian infantry retreats, the Romans will move forward.  Then Carthaginians will come up behind the Romans, catch them in a vice movement and crush them. 

The Battle of Cannae.  The Romans come across the river on boats.  Varro's second in command warns him of the dangers of having a river to one's back, but Varro refuses to listen to him.  A small group go forward to attack an outpost.   They are ambushed by a small group of Carthaginians.  Then the order is given for the Carthaginians to retreat.  When Varro learns of this, he moves his men ahead into the trap.  The trap is sprung and the Romans find themselves being attacked from all sides.

The Roman cavalry now goes to the attack.  They in turn are attacked by the Carthaginian cavalry.   The Roman cavalry has to retreat back over the river, while being chased by the Carthaginians.  The Carthaginians catch up with the Romans and cut them o pieces.  Hannibal finds Sylvia grieving over the dead body of Quintilius.  He tells Sylvia that he is sorry for her loss. 

The Senate now makes Fabius a pro-consul (or rather a virtual dictator). 

In Capua they are holding a feast in honor of Hannibal.  Sylvia attends the festivities that include fighting.  But she gets a big surprise when she sees that Hannibal already has a wife and a son.  Hannibal is mad that the mother of his son has come to Rome.  He said the matter was closed awhile ago and she has been well-provided for.  Then he learns worse news.  His country has denied his request for more men.  And his brother Hasdrubal is returning to Carthage with only 4,000 men left.  Hannibal looks for Sylvia.  A guard tells him that she took a horse and is gone.  He catches up with her.  She wants to back to Rome. 

Roman archers try to assassinate Hannibal, but it is they who are killed by Carthaginian archers.  Sylvia joins up with the small group of Romans and goes with them back to Rome. 

Back at camp there is still even more bad news.  The head of their brother Hasdrubal has been thrown into the Carthaginian camp.  

Fabius comes to see Sylvia.  She says she is ready and not afraid to die.  He gives her poison in a cup of liquid.  She drinks it.  She says:  "Thank you."  She then gives Fabius the ring Hannibal gave to her.  She walks to her place of execution.  They put her in a grave and cover her up with the dirt.  Hannibal gets the ring back.  His brother Mago comes in to say that the Romans are attacking.

Hannibal continued fighting for many years. 


The movie only gives a piece of the Hannibal story, from the time he started crossing the Alps headed for Rome, to the point where Carthage denied him reinforcements.  From that point on his story is rather all downhill.  The film talks about and/or shows some of Hannibal's great victories, especially at the Battle of Lake Trasimene and at the Battle of Cannae.  So they show Hannibal at the summit of his military career, where the film stops.  There is a love story thrown in between Hannibal and the niece of a famous Roman Senator.  I thought Victor Mature did a pretty god job and Rita Gam as Sylvia was pretty in a different kind of way.   You never really get to know much about the character of Hannibal. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


The First Punic War  (-264 to -241)

-264 Appius Claudius Pulcher defeats Hiero of Syracuse at Messana

-256 the Roman fleet defeats Carthaginians at Ecnomus

-255 Regulus, attacking Carthage, is captured by Xanthippus the Spartan

-250 unsuccessful siege of Lilybaeum by Romans

-246 Hamilcar Barca takes command of Carthaginian forces in Sicily

-241 Hamilcar makes peace with Rome

-246 Hannibal, Carthaginian general born

Second Punic War (-219 to -201)

-218 Hannibal crosses the Alps (Little St. Bernard Pass), invades Italy from the north, takes Turin, and defeats Publius Cornelius Scipio at Ticinus River

-217 Hannibal defeats Romans at Lake Trasimene

-217 Rome appoints Quintus Fabius Maximus dictator

-216 Romans defeated at Cannae, with about 50,000 killed


The Second Punic War broke out between Carthage and Rome in Spain in 218 B.C. Hannibal led a mixed force of Carthaginians, Numidians, Spaniards and Gauls. He took his forces over the Alps. He marched down to southern Italy in order to get some of the supplies stored there in a vast granary.

Hannibal had 40,000 men and 10,000 cavalry. The Romans had 86,000 men.

Hannibal performed his finest tactics in his life here, using a double envelopment. As many as 70,000 Romans may have perished. Hannibal remained in Italy for another 13 years. He was finally summoned to Carthage to combat a Roman invasion.

-216 Philip V of Macedon makes an alliance with Hannibal

-215 Roman armies in Spain under Publius Cornelius and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio

-211 Rome defeated

-212 Romans under Marcus Claudius Marcellus conquer & sack Syracuse; Archimedes killed during fighting

-211 "Hannibal ante portas!" the Carthaginians before Rome

-207 After the defeat of his brother Hasdrubal on the Metaurus, Hannibal retires to s. Italy

-202 Scipio Africanus decisively defeats Hannibal at Zama

-201 end of Second Punic War


-195 Hannibal flees to Antiochus III of Syria

-192 Antiochus III, aided by Hannibal, lands in Greece

-192 war between Sparta and Rome

-191 Antiochus defeated by the Romans at Thermopylae

190 Antiochus defeated by Romans at Magnesia

-189 Hannibal defeated by Rhodian fleet at Eurymedon River

-182 Hannibal commits suicide in exile to avoid extradition by Rome

Third Punic War (-149 to -146)

-147 Roman forces destroy Corinth; Romans destroy Carthage: of 500,000 inhabitants only 50,000 remain alive; sold into slavery

-147 Greece comes under Roman control

-146 the Roman Empire consists of 7 provinces: Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, the two Spains, Gallia Transalpina, Africa, & Macedonia


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