Carthaginian ship patrolled the waters, protecting their commercial trade routes. Interestingly, small villages and colonies of people other than the Carthaginians were afraid of their power, so much so that they preferred paying tribute to Carthage in order to avoid destruction and reprisals. Nevertheless, one city was not cooperating with the Carthaginians: Rome. The first major conflict between Carthage and Rome was the first Punic War during which Hamilcar Barca, Hannibals father, began hating the Romans. (Cotterell, 5 -7) Leonard Cotterells book centers on Hannibal, the famous historical figure who stood fast against the Romans.
The review of this book will center on the way Cotterell weaves the tale of Hannibal, the legendary leader of the Carthaginians, within a true historical factual context. (Cotterell, 5) The first chapter entitled Inspiration is a truly remarkable way to start the book; Cotterell throws the readers right into the Roman army en route to intercept Hannibal crossing the Alps. Then, he talks about how he came about to be interested in Hannibal and the Carthaginians while in a hospital in Italy as a war correspondent during WWII.
Cotterell understands the need to draw readers in right from the beginning to make them want to read more about the historical accounts that many people may find tedious and rather boring. In fact, the tone he uses throughout the book is reminiscent of a story teller telling a fascinating tale. Cotterells description of the historical figures uses the same idea; Cotterell is probably using his background as a journalist to achieve that effect, for example his portrait of Hasdrubal (Cotterell, 12) Hannibals background was a childhood and adolescent years spent with his father Hamilcar, a Carthaginian warrior.
It was suspected that it was the time Hannibal grew hatred of the Romans. Hannibal was a highly educated man knowing Greek, Greek philosophy, and several other languages besides his own. (Cotterell, 13) Besides the description of characters, he does not forget the place them in their historical context, telling the readers that in order to understand Hannibal and his actions, they must see and understand how his surroundings (the lands he would conquer) affected the political climate of his time.
(Cotterell, 20, 68) Importantly, he contrasts Rome and Carthage on the way their land was governed; Rome was a republic at the time where consuls were elected, even to take command of the legions whereas Carthage had professional army warriors who were the army leaders for life (Cotterell, 22) Another excellent way to keep the readers interested is the description of the geographical places involved in the account while relating the tactical difficulties to todays warfare tactics that modern readers know about.
On page 42, Scipio, the Roman commander, is said to have been hesitant as to how to track down Hannibal since he did not totally believe that Hannibal had crossed the Pyrenees. (Cotterell, 42) The Legions commander Scipio sent reconnaissance teams ahead to probe the area in order to get clues as to how to proceed. The route Hannibal actually took to get on the way to the Po valley has been disputed among historians. Cotterell states: He [Hannibal] climbed one pass (¦) then climbed onto a second, more difficult pass which led him into the valley of Po, in Northern Italy.
These geographical conditions exactly fit the account given by Polybius, though not that of Livy. (p. 58) After many perils and deaths of his men and most of his elephants along the way, the surrounding tribes of Gauls may have guided Hannibal through more difficult deadly terrains. Eventually, Hannibal arrived at a strategic spot overlooking the Po valley where he galvanized the morale of his men. They were going to need it since the Italian terrain, steeper than the French side of the Alps, would be causing more deaths.
(Cotterell, 80) Interestingly, Cotterell says that Hannibal had to be an excellent diplomat with certain surrounding tribes to gain their help against the Romans: He [Hannibal] came, he said, not as a conqueror, but as a liberator. (Cotterell, 85) Psychological strategies were also among Hannibals tactics, basically know your enemy. Hannibal knew that the other consul Tiberius Sempronius was impatient and impetuous and took advantage of that. (Cotterell, 92) Hannibal then organized his men with a front and a hidden group to attack the Romans by surprise at the battle of Trebbia.
(Cotterell, 99) The Roman army was defeated and the Romans hearing of this catastrophe were alarmed since Hannibal now seemed unstoppable. (Cotterell, 113) In the meantime, the Romans attacked Carthagena and decimated the Carthaginians armies there. A truce was then signed between the Romans and Carthaginians, demanding the withdrawal of the Carthaginian army from Italian soil, from Gaul, and the surrender of their colonies and some of their ships. (Cotterell, 226).
In conclusion, Cotterell skillfully builds an impressive account of Hannibals unstoppable march towards Rome by his vivid descriptions of places Hannibal went through, weaving in and out other anecdotes, and enlivening these historical protagonists from beyond their legends. It is quite obvious that Cotterells style would be a great asset to history textbooks because he knows how to make History fascinating. Figure 1. Map of Hannibals route to conquer Rome. This map was taken from http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/graphics/hannibalattackroute.jpg