A wide-ranging account of the battle that sets it in the larger context of the Punic Wars and the rise of the Roman Empire.




Readable study of a 2,000-year-old battle that still reverberates today.

On Aug. 2, 216 BCE, in southeastern Italy, a massive Roman army faced down a smaller, apparently weaker Carthaginian force led by Hannibal. Two years earlier, Hannibal had famously led that force, war elephants and all, over the Alps into Italy, devastating the armies of the Roman Republic. At Cannae, he nearly finished the job, using a pincer movement to surround the Romans and nearly annihilating them. Contemporary accounts of the battle, such as those by Livy, aren't really contemporary at all, following it by a century and more. O'Connell (Soul of the Sword: An Illustrated History of Weaponry and Warfare from Prehistory to the Present, 2002, etc.), a former analyst with the U.S. Army Intelligence Agency, has his work cut out for him in sorting out what is reliable from what is fabulous or moralizing in the records of the past. Perhaps surprisingly, he gives fairly solid marks to Polybius of Megalopolis, who came nearly 75 years after and had access to now-lost Carthaginian accounts of the battle. The "ghosts" of the title are the Roman survivors of the battle, who crossed the sea with Scipio Africanus and sowed Carthage's fields with salt, erasing it from the map in an act that can only be considered genocide. O'Connell pointedly contrasts Carthaginian and Roman society, the one commercial and the other bellicose, and at several points he likens the Punic Wars to the transcontinental slaughter of the two world wars. He also notes that modern generals continue to study Cannae as a textbook example of smart, fluid strategizing. “[F]or the Allied invasion of Germany,” writes the author, “Eisenhower envisioned a huge Cannae-like maneuver, employing a double envelopment of the Ruhr,” and George Patton likened the Polish army in 1939 to the unfortunate Roman consular army at Cannae.

A wide-ranging account of the battle that sets it in the larger context of the Punic Wars and the rise of the Roman Empire.

Pub Date: July 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6702-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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