The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal & the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
For millennia, Carthage’s triumph over Rome at Cannae in 216 B.C. has inspired reverence and awe. No general since has matched Hannibal’s most unexpected, innovative, and brutal military victory. Now Robert L. O’Connell, one of the most admired names in military history, tells the whole story of Cannae for the first time, giving us a stirring account of
Greatest movie: Citizen Kane. Greatest book: War and Peace. Greatest wall: China. Greatest escape: the one perpetrated by Steve McQueen and James Garner in The Great Escape.
That would be Cannae.
Cannae is the white whale of battles. Famous generals spent their entire lives trying to ...more
I’m off on a trip to Tunisia at the beginning of October, my first to the North African country. There are various reasons I want to go, among the uppermost is to stand among the stones of Carthage.
Of course this is Roman Carthage, not the Punic city. That was completely obliterated in 146BC in one of the most complete acts of vindictive retribution in all of history. Carthego delenda est – Carthage must be destroyed – Cato the Elder was in the habit of saying to the point of a ...more
While I enjoyed the detailed history of the Punic wars, I found both the style of the book and the style of the reading to be somewhat grating at times. The attempts to be hip and casual were dated the moment they were written. Furthermore, the argument that Cannae and the treatment of its veterans had a role in re-shaping the Roman Republic seems a bit thin. Scipio Africanus may have been the template for later charismatic generals who took their outsize ...more
The author really makes Hannibal's invasion of Rome come to life, and he also brings to life the brilliant Roman general Scipio Africanus, who finally defeated Hannibal at Zama in ...more
Some parts of the story are probably familiar: Hannibal’s seemingly impossible crossing of the Alps on an army of elephants, and his defeat of a superior force at Cannae. Unfortunately for Carthage, the whole episode turned into a case ...more
“The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic’ by Robert O’Connell is an engaging and interesting account of Hannibal, the battle of Cannae and the Second Punic War.
This book does not offer an in-depth history of this conflict, for that you should refer to Adrian Goldsworthy’s brilliant account; “The Punic Wars”. However if you wanted an easy and quick to-read account on this pivotal period in Rome’s and Carthage’s history then this is the book for you.
The author’s ...more
Ancient Rome's conflict with Carthage up to and including Punic Wars I, II and III, have always fascinated me. History's greatest military genius Hannibal of Carthage nearly destroyed Rome but why he failed has always intrigued me. So enormous was the rivalry and so deep the hatred between the two ancient superpowers that had Carthage succeeded, we would today be living in an African dominated world. Hannibal started his march from his operational base in Spain with 100,000 foot soldiers, caval ...more
The book starts with what we know and how we know it. Robert L. O'Connell tells the story of the battle and the major players but he also delves into the mind set of Hannibal and the Ro ...more
What I liked about this one is the way the author provided an insightful examination of the writings of ancient historians.
He just doesn't quote Livy or Polybius and leave it at that. "This is what Livy wrote - why did he write it like that? What were his motives?" If we have three different accounts of the same event, which one appears to be the most accurate and why?
There is almost no contemporaneous and reliable sources about Cannae. This lengthy book adds to a compendious literature that is essentially founded on conjecture. I would have thought there might be some population studies based on genetic research - after all, a marau ...more
He has some interesting insights into the societal and psychological forces that drive men to make war. By ac ...more
The Ghosts of Cannae is an insulting, feckless attempt at making ...more
I don't know much about the Roman Empire and even less about their Republic years, Carthage, the Punic wars, and Hannibal's invasion, so when I saw this on the shelf I decided to give it a shot. I'm very glad that I did.
The book provides a nice balance of historical data and context, quotations from the few contemporary sources available, and narrative of the likely choices facing the major players as well as their motivations. The prose is clear, descri ...more
The title refers to the Battle of Cannae, the single most brutal day of warfare ever waged in human history. In one day, on one field in Italy, Carthaginian forces under the command of Hannibal (with help from a lot of mercenaries) killed around 80,000 Roman soldiers. And it wasn't a pretty sight. Warfare in ancient t ...more
The author does a great job of identifying conflicting accounts in different sources and discussing the pros and cons of each. The pacing is fast and the ...more
Historical records on events that occurred 2,200 years ago aren't easy to come by and often provide conflicting accounts, but O'Connell does a great job of providing the reader with enough information to make his or her own judgments based on the records available.
I personally found the book a little too "text-booky" to suit my tastes, but the autho ...more
O’Connel writes with wit and insight, interspersing the ancient histo ...more