Framing the Dialogue

Hannibal Crosses the Alps

“Evidence regarding Hannibal and the crossing of the Alps does not exist.  No one has ever found a single piece of archaeological evidence to prove conclusively that Hannibal ever even set foot in Italy.”

John Prevas provides an exhaustive yet highly readable search for Hannibal.  Prevas’ research included at least five years climbing through the Alps trying to find Hannibal’s route.  In Hannibal Crosses the Alps I was treated to the historical rise of Hannibal and his in-grained hatred of all things Roman in defense of his beloved Carthage.  Most of us were taught extensively about the great Roman empire, but few of us know they were proceeded by the strong merchant culture of the Carthaginians whose navy and army dominated the region for centuries.  The rise of the Romans created unavoidable conflicts and the ultimate demise of Carthage at the hand of the Romans.

Hannibal, the son of a great warrior, simmered with hatred of the Romans and when he got his opportunity he undertook the most famous journey in military history.  In his desire to sack Rome in 218 B.C. he gathered 50,000 infantry and 9,000 cavalry, thirty seven war elephants, and enough other people, slaves and pack animals to carry the supplies for the massive army.

“The Carthaginian column…must have stretched from five to six miles in length and been a rolling ecological disaster at least a half-mile wide.  As the column cut a swath through the countryside in consumed everything in its path and must have left acres of cropland devastated and stripped of anything useful.  In its wake must have been a wasteland devoid of most life, and polluted beyond modern comprehension by vast quantities of human and animal waste, garbage, discarded materials of every description and the bodies of the dead and dying.”

The toll on Hannibal’s army from native tribes, treachery, starvation, weather, and precipitous climbs/descents was extraordinarily high.  Hannibal’s epic story is compelling and Prevas’ account captivates the reader.  There is plenty of detail for the true historian yet not enough to turn off a less casual history buff like me.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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