Hannibal – Hannibal Crosses The Alps Essay, Research Paper
The march of Hannibal across the Alps onto Italy is thought to be legendary. Having read this book, that mere sentence is reiterated to its full extent. He had to fight his way through a Roman army, cross the Pyrenees (themselves a difficult range of mountains), then fight his way across southern France, for this area was under Roman control, then cross the formidable Alps. The scope of this accomplishment is often overlooked for Hannibal did much more than cross the formidable Alps. Hannibal Crosses the Alps by John Prevas, in my view, successfully accomplishes in crossing that visible line. He successfully captures every militaristic, psychological, and humanistic aspect of the second Punic War. His book successfully foretells the events leading to the demise of Carthage and the history of the ever brewing hate for the Romans.
?The mountains were a dreadful sight before their eyes, high peaks, covered with snow and stretching to the sky, and all around them everything was stiff with cold. Shaggy, unkempt men perched on the crags above, more horrible to look upon than words can tell. All this renewed the fear of the column.?- Livy.
By now Hannibal had abandoned his Spanish base with his army of 100,000 mercenaries and embarked on one of the most daring maneuvers in military history. He had successfully crossed the treacherous Rhone River, avoided a confrontation with the Roman army, and replenished his troops on ?the island? by following the river northward [it is still uncertain to what Livy?s ?the island? may refer to]. With guides provided from Brancus, the tribe leader of ?the island?, he was successfully guided to the foothills of the Alps. Hannibal had now come to the Alpes du Dauphine. Although formidable mountains of from four to five thousand feet high, behind them, miles and days ahead loomed the most difficult part of the march at even higher altitudes and over more dangerous roadways. Eventually, after being ambushed by the shadowing allobroges and a three-day march, Hannibal?s army had reached the Durance river valley in full sight of their grave.
The aforementioned quote by Livy was used by Prevas to describe the sight seen by the army of mercenaries. The last and the most difficult leg of the march laid in full view for the army to stare at awe. The Carthaginian column now stood at the valley of the Hautes Alpes, the highest and most difficult mountains in the French Alps and the last barrier that stood between them and Italy. They stood and gazed at the giants that lay before them, the peaks of these mountains soared into the sky and touched the clouds. These were mountains whose summits rose to thirteen thousand feet, and stood like an unassailable wall guarding Rome and daring the mercenaries to scale their heights.
This incident to me is by far the most memorable in the entire book. The author is able to use imagery and exploit the mind with countless pieces of information aimed at holding the reader to read further. He successfully uses the theme of David versus Goliath in reference to the will of Hannibal versus the might of Rome. He successfully creates the sense of Hannibal?s will being handed to the Gods. I myself am able to connect to his dreadful situation, as well as Julius Caesar. Caesar?s ?The dye is Cast?, before crossing the Rubicon, might fare well with Hannibal?s situation. Caesar had taken his step towards Rome, but will Hannibal do likewise? Furthermore, Prevas warns us about the inhabitants of those towering mountains. ?According to the ancient sources, [the inhabitants] were only ?half-civilized?.? He continues and adds the following quote by the Greek historian Strabo:
? When they capture a village or even a small town, they not only murder all the males but they also kill the male infants. Nor do they stop there either, but in their frenzy also kill all the pregnant women who their priests say carry within them male children.?
With this in mind, it is apparent of the intentions of Prevas. He hopes to capture his audiences by capturing their senses. I must admit he succeeds brilliantly for I have finished reading his book in no time. He also succeeds in bringing a military genius to life. I must say I have not found Hannibal interesting at all until the moment I had picked up this book and read its first chapter. He provides the background for Hannibal?s hate over the Romans. The author understands that one must be knowledgeable of the first Punic War and the failure of his own father, Hamilcar, to comprehend the scope of his mission over the Alps. Prevas also mentions of a nine year old Hannibal who grasps his father’s hand and in a dim temple repeats what he was told to say: He will hate the Romans. To the end of his life he never had any other goal than the punishment of their accursed nation. He would reject both appeasement and compromise until he wins complete victory.
?I swear that so soon as age will permit? I will use the fire and steel to arrest the destiny of Rome?- Childhood Hannibal quote.
John Prevas brilliantly combines the research of the ancient sources, mostly of Polybus and Livy, with his own extensive excursion of the Alps to bring to life this ?awesome trek?. Hannibal Crosses the Alps in my view is an excellent study of the Second Punic War. John Prevas specifically concerns himself with the exact routes traveled by Hannibal that which may very be the reason for readers to turn away from his extremely elaborated work. I do admit parts of his book were very personal and thus repetitive. He seemed to discuss an awful lot about certain routes and he constantly voiced his opinion as to bore me with useless information. I understand that his book was written in order for he himself to examine Hannibal?s controversial route, but it was needless to be so repetitive. Although it nicely clarified fact from opinion, there was no need to discuss about five other different mountain ranges that Hannibal might have used.
As we study Latin and thus Ancient history, Roman history to be exact, students must consider Hannibal?s importance to be colossal. Western society as we know today is governed by ancient principles, after all we must be knowledgeable of the past to be successful in the future. Our founding fathers have based our basic law principles from that of Romans. How different today?s society might be if the Carthaginians had succeeded in sacking Rome. How much would success by the Carthaginians have altered the timeline of history either for the good or the bad of the human race. No one is in the position to answer that question nor will there ever be one. This topic is to debated for centuries to come and not to be on this report for it will be impossible.
I have enjoyed the high drama, excellently written, Hannibal Crosses the Alps by John Prevas. I strongly recommend this book for those who are willing to explore the history of themselves and that of the Roman Empire. Hannibal enthusiasts will not be dissatisfied for I have become one myself. Those who are willing to explore the humanistic and psychological side will also find it satisfying and soothing. As well as those who wish to explore the military genius of Hannibal, I strongly recommend this well elaborated work. Hannibal Crosses the Alps, two thumbs up.