Over a year ago I got David Abulafia’s The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (see this post), and after setting it aside for many months I’ve picked it up again (by which I mean “I’ve started clicking on that link on my Kindle”) and have gotten to his discussion of the Punic Wars. Checking his footnotes led me to Unplanned Wars: The Origins of the First and Second Punic Wars, 247-183 B.C. by Dexter Hoyos, which this review of his follow-up, Hannibal’s Dynasty: Power and Politics in the Western Mediterranean, 247-183 B.C., calls “crucial.” I’m not about to spring for it ($184.48, 12 new from $152.42, 10 used from $94.39!), but I was glad to be able to read this bit via “Look inside,” because it explains a striking fact about Punic names:
Surnames did not exist, and the Punic elite, for its own good reasons, used a remarkably narrow range of available personal names. Hanno, Hasdrubal, Hannibal, Himilco and Hamilcar are frustratingly common. Adherbal, Bomilcar, Carthalo, Gisgo, and Mago account for nearly everybody else. The Punic commander who sailed to Ostia in 279 to offer the Romans help against Pyrrhus was a Mago; so too one of the great Hannibal’s brothers. In 264 alone, the known Punic commanders were a Hannibal, a Hanno, and a Hanno son of Hannibal. During the Roman siege of Agrigentum in 262-261, this second Hanno is later found cooperating as general with a Hannibal who may (or may not) be the same Hannibal as in 264. Three or four further Hannos, two more Hannibals and two Hamilcars appear between 261 and the war’s end. These officers account for well over half the senior Carthaginians that we know of. Yet it would be rash to suppose that we are looking at a group of blood relations.
Addendum. And I just ran across this in Abulafia:
Hamilcar was responsible for the foundation of Akra Leuke, generally agreed to lie under modern Alicante, and around 227 BC Hasdrubal was inspired to found a city further south along the coast and even closer to the sources of silver. The Carthaginians were strangely uncreative when naming people and places; there were countless Hannibals and Hasdrubals. Hasdrubal named his new city just that: ‘New City’, Qart Hadasht [i.e., the same name as Carthage itself], now known as Cartagena, though, since the time of Polybios, historians, to avoid confusion with the mother-city, have often called it New Carthage, ‘New New City’.
(For redundancy in names, see this ancient LH post.)