An archaeologist and historian shares his vast knowledge of the life of the leader of the second Punic War (213-202 B.C.E.).
Hunt, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, displays an ability to teach without preaching and entertain without lowering literary standards, making for an exciting biography of one of history’s greatest commanders. Hannibal was the son of Hamilcar Barca, who led the first Punic War and made his son swear an oath to destroy Rome after Carthage was defeated. Hamilcar believed that Carthage, a society dominated by merchants, capitulated much too quickly; it lost its mastery of the seas and monopoly of trade to the Romans and had to pay a large indemnity. Hamilcar was sent to their Spanish holdings to gather that indemnity from the silver mines, and he took his young son with him. There, Hannibal learned the finer arts of war, which he used to cross the Alps and wage more than 15 years of war in Italy. Drawing on the writings of Polybius and the often negative Livy, Hunt makes good use of primary sources. Hannibal surprised his enemies with hidden armies, relied on his spies and on local Celts, and even employed stampeded cattle with burning brush on their horns to destroy armies. Rome was blindsided by the Punic army and defeated in a series of battles, including the infamous Cannae. What Hannibal didn’t understand is that Rome never considered itself defeated, no matter how many losses they suffered. Eventually, there was one Roman, Scipio, who paid attention to his methods, returned to the Fabian method of nonengagement, and mirrored Hannibal’s mastery of deception and psychological warfare. Scipio actually met with Hannibal before their final battle at Zama in 202 and again in his exile—oh, to have been a fly on the wall at that first meeting. Hunt does his best to grant us that wish.
A thrilling page-turner about one of history’s most brilliant strategists and tacticians.