Bob's Reviews > The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal & the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

The Ghosts of Cannae by Robert L. O'Connell
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's review
Sep 14, 2010

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Read from September 04 to 14, 2010

I'm not a big fan of ancient history, as it was not exactly my favorite in college. And I'm not a big military history fan either. Nevertheless, I decided to give this book a shot.

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 times was ugly hand to hand battle. O'Connell described it as a "giant knife fight."

It's not an easy task to make events that happened over 2200 years. O'Connell succeeds to some extent as he gives you a good feel for what warfare was like in a time when bringing elephants on to the battlefield was considered a useful strategy. (Actually the elephants were mostly useless because they get spooked easily and just start stomping on anything and everything.)

There's a fair amount of Latin words that pop in (there's a glossary).

O'Connell tries to draw parallels between Cannae and modern day warfare, although it's a little bit of a stretch. There are fewer elephants now.

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