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Hannibal's crossing of the Alps in BC was one of the major events of the Second Punic .. relying upon contingents of forces coming to him in Italy via the land route he was about to head out upon, he must take and conquer this country .
Table of contents
- Hannibal - HISTORY
- Hannibal’s Early Life and Attack on Saguntum
- The truth about Hannibal’s route across the Alps
The controversy was still raging a hundred years later. Some authorities proposed a northerly path, past present-day Grenoble and through two passes over 2, metres high. Others argued for a southerly course across the Col de la Traversette — the highest road, reaching 3,m above sea level. Or might the route have been some combination of the two, starting in the north, then weaving south and north again?
The southern route was advocated in the ss by Sir Gavin de Beer, director of the British Museum natural history , who published no fewer than five books on the subject. For Mahaney, it began as a hobby and become a labour of love. He went looking for clues in the landscapes. Both Polybius and Livy mention that the impasse faced by Hannibal was created by fallen rocks. In Mahaney found from field trips and aerial and satellite photography that, of the various passes along the proposed routes, only the Col de Traversette had enough large rockfalls above the snowline to account for such an obstruction.
He suspects Hannibal did not intend to come this way, but was forced to avoid the lower cols to the north because of the hordes of Gauls massing there. The rockfall evidence was pretty suggestive. But could Mahaney and his team of geologists and biologists find anything more definitive? The researchers rolled up their sleeves and dug into the mire. What they found was mud. Not very informative, you might think.
But mud can encode secrets. Taking an army of tens of thousands, with horses and elephants, over the Alps would have left one heck of a mess. More than two millennia later, Mahaney might have found it. The peaty material is mostly matted with decomposed plant fibres. But at a depth of about 40cm this carbon-based material becomes much more disturbed and compacted, being mixed up with finer-grained soil. This structure suggests that the bog became churned up when the layer was formed. The researchers then took samples of this disturbed mud back to the lab, where they used chemical techniques to identify some of its organic molecules.
These included substances found in horse dung and the faeces of ruminants. In other words, the layer of disturbed mud is full of crap perhaps not so different from Glastonbury either. Microbiologists collaborating with the team think they might have found a distinctive horse tapeworm egg in the samples. Meanwhile, Mahaney hopes, if he can find the funding, to mount a radar survey of the entire mire and other mires nearby to search for items dropped by the passing army. Unless they do, other experts may reserve judgment.
All the same, he adds, Mahaney is one of the best geo-archaeologists working on the question. If Mahaney can secure firm evidence — such as chemical or microbial fingerprints of elephant faeces — it would be the culmination of a personal quest.
Hannibal - HISTORY
How Hannibal managed to get thousands of men, horses and mules, and 37 elephants over the Alps is one magnificent feat. An earlier version implied that horses are ruminants. This is not the case. Scipio retreated across the Trebia to camp at Placentia with his army mostly intact. The other Roman consular army was rushed to the Po Valley. Even before news of the defeat at Ticinus had reached Rome, the Senate had ordered Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus to bring his army back from Sicily to meet Scipio and face Hannibal.
Hannibal, by skillful maneuvers, was in position to head him off, for he lay on the direct road between Placentia and Arminum, by which Sempronius would have to march to reinforce Scipio. He then captured Clastidium, from which he drew large amounts of supplies for his men.
But this gain was not without loss, as Sempronius avoided Hannibal's watchfulness, slipped around his flank, and joined his colleague in his camp near the Trebia River near Placentia. There Hannibal had an opportunity to show his masterful military skill at the Trebia in December of the same year, after wearing down the superior Roman infantry , when he cut it to pieces with a surprise attack and ambush from the flanks. Hannibal quartered his troops for the winter with the Gauls, whose support for him had abated.
Gnaeus Servilius and Gaius Flaminius the new consuls of Rome were expecting Hannibal to advance on Rome, and they took their armies to block the eastern and western routes that Hannibal could use. The only alternative route to central Italy lay at the mouth of the Arno. This area was practically one huge marsh, and happened to be overflowing more than usual during this particular season. Hannibal knew that this route was full of difficulties, but it remained the surest and certainly the quickest way to central Italy. Polybius claims that Hannibal's men marched for four days and three nights, "through a land that was under water", suffering terribly from fatigue and enforced want of sleep.
He crossed without opposition over both the Apennines during which he lost his right eye  because of conjunctivitis and the seemingly impassable Arno, but he lost a large part of his force in the marshy lowlands of the Arno. As Polybius recounts, "he [Hannibal] calculated that, if he passed the camp and made a descent into the district beyond, Flaminius partly for fear of popular reproach and partly of personal irritation would be unable to endure watching passively the devastation of the country but would spontaneously follow him Despite this, Flaminius remained passively encamped at Arretium.
Hannibal marched boldly around Flaminius' left flank, unable to draw him into battle by mere devastation, and effectively cut him off from Rome thus executing the first recorded turning movement in military history. He then advanced through the uplands of Etruria , provoking Flaminius into a hasty pursuit and catching him in a defile on the shore of Lake Trasimenus.
There Hannibal destroyed Flaminius' army in the waters or on the adjoining slopes, killing Flaminius as well see Battle of Lake Trasimene. This was the most costly ambush that the Romans ever sustained until the Battle of Carrhae against the Parthian Empire. Hannibal had now disposed of the only field force that could check his advance upon Rome, but he realized that, without siege engines , he could not hope to take the capital. He preferred to exploit his victory by entering into central and southern Italy and encouraging a general revolt against the sovereign power.
Departing from Roman military traditions, Fabius adopted the strategy named after him , avoiding open battle while placing several Roman armies in Hannibal's vicinity in order to watch and limit his movements. Hannibal ravaged Apulia but was unable to bring Fabius to battle, so he decided to march through Samnium to Campania , one of the richest and most fertile provinces of Italy, hoping that the devastation would draw Fabius into battle.
Fabius closely followed Hannibal's path of destruction, yet still refused to let himself be drawn out of the defensive. This strategy was unpopular with many Romans, who believed that it was a form of cowardice. Hannibal decided that it would be unwise to winter in the already devastated lowlands of Campania, but Fabius had ensured that all the passes were blocked out of Campania.
To avoid this, Hannibal deceived the Romans into thinking that the Carthaginian army was going to escape through the woods. As the Romans moved off towards the woods, Hannibal's army occupied the pass, and then made their way through the pass unopposed.
Hannibal’s Early Life and Attack on Saguntum
Fabius was within striking distance but in this case his caution worked against him. Smelling a stratagem rightly , he stayed put. For the winter, Hannibal found comfortable quarters in the Apulian plain. What Hannibal achieved in extricating his army was, as Adrian Goldsworthy puts it, "a classic of ancient generalship, finding its way into nearly every historical narrative of the war and being used by later military manuals". By capturing Cannae, Hannibal had placed himself between the Romans and their crucial sources of supply.
In the meantime, the Romans hoped to gain success through sheer strength and weight of numbers, and they raised a new army of unprecedented size, estimated by some to be as large as , men, but more likely around 50—80, The Romans and allied legions resolved to confront Hannibal and marched southward to Apulia. They eventually found him on the left bank of the Aufidus River, and encamped six miles 9. On this occasion, the two armies were combined into one, the consuls having to alternate their command on a daily basis.
Varro was in command on the first day, a man of reckless and hubristic nature according to Livy and determined to defeat Hannibal. This eliminated the Roman numerical advantage by shrinking the combat area. Hannibal drew up his least reliable infantry in a semicircle in the center with the wings composed of the Gallic and Numidian horse. The onslaught of Hannibal's cavalry was irresistible. Hannibal's chief cavalry commander Maharbal led the mobile Numidian cavalry on the right, and they shattered the Roman cavalry opposing them.
Hannibal's Iberian and Gallic heavy cavalry, led by Hanno on the left, defeated the Roman heavy cavalry, and then both the Carthaginian heavy cavalry and the Numidians attacked the legions from behind. As a result, the Roman army was hemmed in with no means of escape. Due to these brilliant tactics, Hannibal managed to surround and destroy all but a small remnant of his enemy, despite his own inferior numbers.
Depending upon the source, it is estimated that 50,—70, Romans were killed or captured. This makes the battle one of the most catastrophic defeats in the history of Ancient Rome , and one of the bloodiest battles in all of human history in terms of the number of lives lost within a single day. After Cannae, the Romans were very hesitant to confront Hannibal in pitched battle, preferring instead to weaken him by attrition, relying on their advantages of interior lines, supply, and manpower. As a result, Hannibal fought no more major battles in Italy for the rest of the war. Whatever the reason, the choice prompted Maharbal to say, "Hannibal, you know how to gain a victory, but not how to use one.
As a result of this victory, many parts of Italy joined Hannibal's cause. Hannibal also secured an alliance with newly appointed tyrant Hieronymus of Syracuse. It is often argued that, if Hannibal had received proper material reinforcements from Carthage, he might have succeeded with a direct attack upon Rome.
However, only a few of the Italian city-states defected to him that he had expected to gain as allies. The war in Italy settled into a strategic stalemate. The Romans used the attritional strategy that Fabius had taught them, and which, they finally realized, was the only feasible means of defeating Hannibal. His immediate objectives were reduced to minor operations centered mainly round the cities of Campania. The forces detached to his lieutenants were generally unable to hold their own, and neither his home government nor his new ally Philip V of Macedon helped to make up his losses.
His position in southern Italy, therefore, became increasingly difficult and his chance of ultimately conquering Rome grew ever more remote. Hannibal still won a number of notable victories: However, Hannibal slowly began losing ground—inadequately supported by his Italian allies, abandoned by his government either because of jealousy or simply because Carthage was overstretched , and unable to match Rome's resources.
He was never able to bring about another grand decisive victory that could produce a lasting strategic change. Carthaginian political will was embodied in the ruling oligarchy. There was a Carthaginian Senate, but the real power was with the inner " Council of 30 Nobles " and the board of judges from ruling families known as the " Hundred and Four ".
These two bodies came from the wealthy, commercial families of Carthage. Two political factions operated in Carthage: Hanno had been instrumental in denying Hannibal's requested reinforcements following the battle at Cannae. Hannibal started the war without the full backing of Carthaginian oligarchy.
His attack of Saguntum had presented the oligarchy with a choice of war with Rome or loss of prestige in Iberia. The oligarchy, not Hannibal, controlled the strategic resources of Carthage. Hannibal constantly sought reinforcements from either Iberia or North Africa. Hannibal's troops who were lost in combat were replaced with less well-trained and motivated mercenaries from Italy or Gaul. The commercial interests of the Carthaginian oligarchy dictated the reinforcement and supply of Iberia rather than Hannibal throughout the campaign.
The tide was slowly turning against him, and in favor of Rome. The Roman consuls mounted a siege of Capua in BC. Hannibal attacked them, forcing their withdrawal from Campania. He moved to Lucania and destroyed a 16,man Roman army at the Battle of the Silarus , with 15, Romans killed. Another opportunity presented itself soon after, a Roman army of 18, men being destroyed by Hannibal at the first battle of Herdonia with 16, Roman dead, freeing Apulia from the Romans for the year. Hannibal attempted to lift the siege with an assault on the Roman siege lines but failed.
He marched on Rome to force the recall of the Roman armies. He drew off 15, Roman soldiers, but the siege continued and Capua fell. Philip, who attempted to exploit Rome's preoccupation in Italy to conquer Illyria , now found himself under attack from several sides at once and was quickly subdued by Rome and her Greek allies. On hearing, however, of his brother's defeat and death at the battle of the Metaurus , he retired to Calabria , where he maintained himself for the ensuing years.
His brother's head had been cut off, carried across Italy, and tossed over the palisade of Hannibal's camp as a cold message of the iron-clad will of the Roman Republic. The combination of these events marked the end to Hannibal's success in Italy. After leaving a record of his expedition engraved in Punic and Greek upon bronze tablets in the temple of Juno Lacinia at Crotona , he sailed back to Africa.
Despite mutual admiration, negotiations floundered due to Roman allegations of "Punic Faith," referring to the breach of protocols that ended the First Punic War by the Carthaginian attack on Saguntum, and a Carthaginan attack on a stranded Roman fleet. Scipio and Carthage had worked out a peace plan, which was approved by Rome. The terms of the treaty were quite modest, but the war had been long for the Romans. Carthage could keep its African territory but would lose its overseas empire.
Masinissa Numidia was to be independent. Also, Carthage was to reduce its fleet and pay a war indemnity. But Carthage then made a terrible blunder. Its long-suffering citizens had captured a stranded Roman fleet in the Gulf of Tunis and stripped it of supplies, an action that aggravated the faltering negotiations.
Meanwhile, Hannibal, recalled from Italy by the Carthaginian Senate, had returned with his army. Fortified by both Hannibal and the supplies, the Carthaginians rebuffed the treaty and Roman protests. The decisive battle of Zama soon followed; the defeat removed Hannibal's air of invincibility. Unlike most battles of the Second Punic War , at Zama, the Romans were superior in cavalry and the Carthaginians had the edge in infantry.
Although the aging Hannibal was suffering from mental exhaustion and deteriorating health after years of campaigning in Italy, the Carthaginians still had the advantage in numbers and were boosted by the presence of 80 war elephants. The Roman cavalry won an early victory by swiftly routing the Carthaginian horse, and standard Roman tactics for limiting the effectiveness of the Carthaginian war elephants were successful, including playing trumpets to frighten the elephants into running into the Carthaginian lines.
Some historians say that the elephants routed the Carthaginian cavalry and not the Romans, whilst others suggest that it was actually a tactical retreat planned by Hannibal. At one point, it seemed that Hannibal was on the verge of victory, but Scipio was able to rally his men, and his cavalry, having routed the Carthaginian cavalry, attacked Hannibal's rear. This two-pronged attack caused the Carthaginian formation to collapse. With their foremost general defeated, the Carthaginians had no choice but to surrender.
Carthage lost approximately 20, troops with an additional 15, wounded. In contrast, the Romans suffered only 2, casualties. The last major battle of the Second Punic War resulted in a loss of respect for Hannibal by his fellow Carthaginians. The conditions of defeat were such that Carthage could no longer battle for Mediterranean supremacy. Hannibal was still only 46 at the conclusion of the Second Punic War in BC and soon showed that he could be a statesman as well as a soldier. Following the conclusion of a peace that left Carthage saddled with an indemnity of ten thousand talents , he was elected suffete , chief magistrate of the Carthiginian state.
The principal beneficiaries of these financial peculations had been the oligarchs of the Hundred and Four. He also used citizen support to change the term of office in the Hundred and Four from life to a year, with none permitted to "hold office for two consecutive years. Seven years after the victory of Zama, the Romans, alarmed by Carthage's renewed prosperity and suspicious that Hannibal had been in contact with Antiochus III of Syria , sent a delegation to Carthage alleging Hannibal was helping an enemy of Rome.
He journeyed first to Tyre , the mother city of Carthage, and then to Antioch , before he finally reached Ephesus , where he was honorably received by Antiochus. Livy states that the Seleucid king consulted Hannibal on the strategic concerns of making war on Rome. The Carthaginian general advised equipping a fleet and landing a body of troops in the south of Italy, offering to take command himself. When Phormio finished a discourse on the duties of a general, Hannibal was asked his opinion. He replied, "I have seen during my life many old fools; but this one beats them all. The authors add an apocryphal story of how Hannibal planned and supervised the building of the new royal capital Artaxata.
During one of the naval victories he gained over Eumenes, Hannibal had large pots filled with venomous snakes thrown onto Eumenes' ships.
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At this stage, the Romans intervened and threatened Bithynia into giving up Hannibal. The precise year and cause of Hannibal's death are unknown. Pausanias wrote that Hannibal's death occurred after his finger was wounded by his drawn sword while mounting his horse, resulting in a fever and then his death three days later. Hannibal caused great distress to many in Roman society. He became such a figure of terror that whenever disaster struck, the Roman senators would exclaim " Hannibal ante portas " "Hannibal is at the gates!
This famous Latin phrase became a common expression that is often still used when a client arrives through the door or when one is faced with calamity. The Romans even built statues of the Carthaginian in the very streets of Rome to advertise their defeat of such a worthy adversary. Nevertheless, the Romans grimly refused to admit the possibility of defeat and rejected all overtures for peace; they even refused to accept the ransom of prisoners after Cannae.
During the war there are no reports of revolutions among the Roman citizens, no factions within the Senate desiring peace, no pro-Carthaginian Roman turncoats, no coups. Hannibal's military genius was not enough to really disturb the Roman political process and the collective political and military capacity of the Roman people. It says volumes, too, for their political maturity and respect for constitutional forms that the complicated machinery of government continued to function even amidst disaster—there are few states in the ancient world in which a general who had lost a battle like Cannae would have dared to remain, let alone would have continued to be treated respectfully as head of state.
The truth about Hannibal’s route across the Alps
The wailing cry of the matrons was heard everywhere, not only in private houses but even in the temples. Here they knelt and swept the temple-floors with their dishevelled hair and lifted up their hands to heaven in piteous entreaty to the gods that they would deliver the City of Rome out of the hands of the enemy and preserve its mothers and children from injury and outrage.
In the Senate the news was "received with varying feelings as men's temperaments differed,"  so it was decided to keep Capua under siege, but to send 15, infantry and 1, cavalry as reinforcements to Rome. An undeniable proof of Rome's confidence is demonstrated by the fact that after the Cannae disaster she was left virtually defenseless, but the Senate still chose not to withdraw a single garrison from an overseas province to strengthen the city.
In fact, they were reinforced and the campaigns there maintained until victory was secured; beginning first in Sicily under the direction of Claudius Marcellus , and later in Hispania under Scipio Africanus. Most of the sources available to historians about Hannibal are from Romans. They considered him the greatest enemy Rome had ever faced. Livy gives us the idea that Hannibal was extremely cruel. Even Cicero , when he talked of Rome and its two great enemies, spoke of the "honourable" Pyrrhus and the "cruel" Hannibal.
Yet a different picture sometimes emerges. When Hannibal's successes had brought about the death of two Roman consuls , he vainly searched for the body of Gaius Flaminius on the shores of Lake Trasimene , held ceremonial rituals in recognition of Lucius Aemilius Paullus , and sent Marcellus ' ashes back to his family in Rome. Any bias attributed to Polybius , however, is more troublesome. Ormerod does not view him as an 'altogether unprejudiced witness' when it came to his pet peeves, the Aetolians, the Carthaginians, and the Cretans.
Hannibal is generally regarded as one of the best military strategists and tacticians of all time, the double envelopment at Cannae an enduring legacy of tactical brilliance. According to Appian , several years after the Second Punic War, Hannibal served as a political advisor in the Seleucid Kingdom and Scipio was sent there on a diplomatic mission from Rome.
It is said that at one of their meetings in the gymnasium Scipio and Hannibal had a conversation on the subject of generalship, in the presence of a number of bystanders, and that Scipio asked Hannibal whom he considered the greatest general, to which the latter replied, " Alexander of Macedonia ".
To this Scipio assented since he also yielded the first place to Alexander. Then he asked Hannibal whom he placed next, and he replied, " Pyrrhus of Epirus ", because he considered boldness the first qualification of a general; "for it would not be possible", he said, "to find two kings more enterprising than these". Scipio was rather nettled by this, but nevertheless he asked Hannibal to whom he would give the third place, expecting that at least the third would be assigned to him; but Hannibal replied, "to myself; for when I was a young man I conquered Hispania and crossed the Alps with an army, the first after Hercules.
As Scipio saw that he was likely to prolong his self-laudation he said, laughing, "where would you place yourself, Hannibal, if you had not been defeated by me? Thus Hannibal continued his self-laudation, but flattered Scipio in an indirect manner by suggesting that he had conquered one who was the superior of Alexander. At the end of this conversation Hannibal invited Scipio to be his guest, and Scipio replied that he would be so gladly if Hannibal were not living with Antiochus , who was held in suspicion by the Romans.
Thus did they, in a manner worthy of great commanders, cast aside their enmity at the end of their wars. Military academies all over the world continue to study Hannibal's exploits, especially his victory at Cannae. As to the transcendent military genius of Hannibal there cannot be two opinions. The man who for fifteen years could hold his ground in a hostile country against several powerful armies and a succession of able generals must have been a commander and a tactician of supreme capacity. In the use of strategies and ambuscades he certainly surpassed all other generals of antiquity.
Wonderful as his achievements were, we must marvel the more when we take into account the grudging support he received from Carthage.