Hannibal

Review

by
published on 06 July 2017
Rating:
Audience: University
Difficulty: Medium

Hannibal by Patrick N. Hunt is the story of a Carthaginian military genius who was one of the most influential players in Roman history. Ultimately Hannibal’s story is that of a brilliant mind who fought against stacked odds, lost, was blamed by his own people for the loss, and all the while still left a lasting impact. Hunt brilliantly weaves historical and modern sources together to provide an accurate picture of what Hannibal did and how it helped shape Roman warfare.

Hannibal by Patrick N. Hunt is the story of a Carthaginian military genius who was one of the most influential players in Roman history, though he is only popularly remembered as the man with the elephants that crossed the Alps. Because of that feat that nearly succeeded he often gets discredited as ultimately his homeland, Carthage, was lost to the Romans. As Hunt observes, Hannibal’s humanity is not plainly obvious and history preserves the image of a ruthless, terrifying enemy. Many early Roman historians though were divided regarding Hannibal. Some, Livy in particular, called him criminally cruel and attempted to undermine his achievements and others, such as Valerius Maximus, praised Hannibal. Hunt brilliantly navigates the dichotomy between the man and the legend and portrays Hannibal in the light he deserves: as a military man that has an important story to tell.

Hunt begins by telling the story of the young Hannibal through the lens of legend and fact, giving rise to the picture of a boy under immense pressure from the successes of his father, Hamilcar. Hannibal grew up fighting Rome and eventually would lead the Carthaginian army in their war against the Romans. Hannibal did the unfathomable. He led an army that included elephants across the Alps intending to surprise and defeat the Romans. He won many battles in northern Italy and used his military genius to outmaneuver his enemies and defeat armies that were much larger than his own.

In telling the story of Hannibal’s victories and defeats, Hunt deciphers Roman historians and their writings concerning Hannibal and analyzes fact from fiction giving a plausible story of the actual man. In documenting Hannibal’s life and telling his story Hunt also shows Hannibal’s influence on Rome and their military tactics, especially his influence on his opponent Scipio who would one day be a misunderstood exile just like Hannibal.

Ultimately Hannibal’s story is that of a brilliant mind who fought against stacked odds, lost, was blamed by his own people for the loss, and all the while still left a lasting impact. Hunt brilliantly weaves historical and modern sources together to provide an accurate picture of what Hannibal did and how it helped shape Roman warfare while acknowledging the larger than life aspects of his legacy. Hunt shows us perhaps the first man to understand that Rome would not admit defeat and to realize Rome’s empiric designs. He tells us what we need to know about the man and acknowledges the ambiguities in the story. In doing so he provides a riveting biography that encapsulates the reader the same way a thriller would. He provides a clear picture while still leaving the reader intrigued and wanting to know more about the man Hannibal. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in military history or about the man that was Hannibal.