Hannibal saw at once that he could not advance by the route by the sea without first reducing Marseilles. This would be an even more difficult operation than the siege of Saguntum, as Rome would be able to send any number of men by sea to the aid of the besieged, and the great struggle would be fought out in Southern Gaul instead of, as he wished, in Italy. Thus he decided to march by a route which would take him far north of Marseilles, even although it would necessitate a passage through the terrible passes of the Alps.
During the winter Hannibal laboured without intermission in preparing for his expedition. He was ever among his soldiers, and personally saw to everything which could conduce to their comfort and well being. He took a lively interest in every minute detail which affected them; saw that their clothing was abundant and of good quality, inspected their rations, and saw that these were well cooked.
It was this personal attention to the wants of his soldiers which, as much as his genius as a general, his personal valour, and his brilliant qualities, endeared him to his troops. They saw how anxious he was for their welfare; they felt that he regarded every man in his army as a friend and comrade, and in return they were ready to respond to every appeal, to make every sacrifice, to endure, to suffer, to fight to the death for their beloved leader. His troops were mercenaries — that is, they fought for pay in a cause which in no way concerned them — but personal affection for their general supplied in them the place of the patriotism which inspires modern soldiers, and transformed these semi barbarous tribesmen into troops fit to cope with the trained legionaries of Rome.
Hannibal was far in advance of any of the generals of his time in all matters of organization. His commissariat was as perfect as that of modern armies. It was its duty to collect grain from the country through which the army marched, to form magazines, to collect and drive with the troops herds of cattle, to take over the provisions and booty brought in by foraging parties, and, to see to the daily distribution of rations among the various divisions.
Along the line of communication depots were formed, where provisions, clothing, and arms were stored in readiness for use, and from which the whole army could, in case of necessity, be supplied with fresh clothing and shoes. A band of surgeons accompanied the army, at the head of whom was Synhalus, one of the most celebrated physicians of the time. So perfect were the arrangements that it is said that throughout the long campaign in Italy not a single day passed but that the troops, elephants, and animals of all descriptions accompanying the army received their daily rations of food.
During the winter Hannibal made every preparation to ensure the tranquillity of Spain while he was absent. In order to lessen the number of possible enemies there he raised a body of twelve hundred horse and fourteen thousand infantry from among the most turbulent tribes, and sent them across to Africa to serve as garrisons in Carthage and other points, while an equal number of African troops were brought over to garrison Spain, of which Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s brother, was to have the government during his absence.