Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Club - The Ghost of Cannae

I'm sure you remember learning about Hannibal in World History class. Hannibal was always one of my favorite characters from ancient history. If you remember anything, you remember that Hannibal brought an army over the Alps, including elephants, into Italy and attached the Romans. This was the Second Punic War.The cities of Carthage and Rome were engaged in a many-years long struggle for domination of the eastern Mediterranean. Ultimately, it was an uneven struggle. Carthage was primarily interested in trade and commerce. Rome was primarily a military society. Carthage was rich but Rome was determined. Rome would eventually rule the entire Mediterranean. Carthage would disappear.

Hannibal spent about 15 years wandering around in Italy. He killed lots of Romans. He won many tactical battles but could never gain the strategic upper hand. The title refers to the Battle of Cannae. Whenever Hannibal could force a battle, he won. The problem was, getting the Romans to engage. The Battle of Cannae was the third great battle that Hannibal won in Italy and one of the greatest battles in the ancient world. It is still studied by modern armies. Hannibal's and Rome's forces were pretty evenly matched in size, although Hannibal's army was probably better trained. And then, there was Hannibal. The victory at Cannae was decisive. Over 50,000 Romans died that day. After that, the Romans were reluctant to engage with Hannibal. They slowly confined him to southern Italy and gradually starved him out.

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