They can’t stop writing about Hannibal

It has been 2,200 years, and yet we can’t stop thinking about, and writing about, that man.

My book — about our own lives as seen through Hannibal’s — is essentially ready (but still awaiting a publication date from Riverhead, which is killing me). Meanwhile, others are coming out with their books.

The latest is historian Robert L. O’Connell, whose new book is called The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic.

Here he is on NPR, talking about it.

Separately, geomorphologists (people who study the features of the earth) and archeologists are still debating which route Hannibal took with his army and elephants over the snowy Alps in October 218BC.

(Thank you to Peter Practice for the link!)

William Mahaney, a Canadian researcher, and his team now think that the likeliest pass is the Col de la Traversette in France. They believe they have located geographical features — such as a gorge where Hannibal was attacked by Gauls, or a rock fall that blocked his way — that either Polybius or Livy described.

Their main “rival” is Patrick Hunt at Stanford, who thinks that the Col de Clapier is the likeliest route.

What all these boffins of course hope to find is … evidence. Coins, swords, poop, bones, sandals, elephant tusks, … anything. Whoever finds any dropping of the Punic army is sure to become our era’s Heinrich Schliemann.

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19 thoughts on “They can’t stop writing about Hannibal

  1. The Laffer curve of reader interest in Hannibal: The more books about Hannibal in the news, the greater the interest, and subsequent publications benefit.

    It’s all good until you hit the downside of the curve. If the Plinky Prompt “Hannibal and Scipio: Compare and Contrast” comes out before your book, you’re toast.

  2. Your book–perhaps out in October–just in time for Thanksgiving, is different than all these history books in that it is about our notions of success & failure.

    We as a species are so self-centered and generally worried about our place in so many arenas–work, parenting, relationships–that your book should do well, especially as the economy begins its trudge uphill.

    I’d like to preorder 25 signed copies.
    BTW, what will your book sell for?

    • Cheri – I, too, noted the “different than” in your sentence. It jarred my delicate linguistic senses, no doubt because I don’t use American English.

      My understanding, though, is that “different than” is quite correct in American English, as also would be “different from”.

      Therefore you needn’t feel humiliated.

      You would only need to feel humiliated if you wrote for the Economist, which, as an avowed eschewer of American English, would insist on “different from”.

  3. @ Richard

    Which of “Different than”, “Different from”, or ; “Different to”?

    I didn’t think of “Different to” when writing my response to Cheri. When you suggested “Different to”, it didn’t sound right. But on further thought it does sort of sound right, although I’ll surmise that “different to” was more used by people in England of a previous generation.

    The Economist, priding itself in its old-fashionedness, could conceivably insist on “Different to”. Hopefully Andreas can enlighten us.

    • Immediately after writing the above comment, I went to the website of the Guardian UK to catch up on what’s going on in Britain, only to be confronted by this sentence:

      Mandelson, Browne and Laws are all from a generation who grew up at a time when it was illegal to be gay…….

      “…….a generation who grew up…….”?? “……a generation which grew up……” it should surely be.

      That the Guardian of all publications should countenance a solecism of this egregiousness. What’s the world coming to?

      I had noticed at the top of this piece a thumbnail photo of its writer, a woman who would appear no older than thirty. Obviously she is from a generation who grew up writing things like “a generation who grew up……….”.

      So it must be all right.

    • In my first public exams at grammar school (O’ Level) it was a heinous crime to use “different to” and a mortal sin to use “different than”. This is the reason why some people get so upset about it.

    • Fowler is full of gaffes by literary and journalistic notables of the time. Sometimes I wonder how he could have been so sure.

      I speak, of course, of his Modern English Usage

      [Golly – these italics are a pain.]

  4. Completely off-topic, Andreas, in case you don’t know, BBC2 is screening a documentary series on Hannibal, starting tonight.

    No doubt it will appear on BBC i-player, so there is no need for you to buy a TV, if by any chance you might wish to watch it.

  5. Interesting: Somebody (a single reader) rated this post one star, ie awful. One wonders why and who. It’s not exactly an essay. Perhaps one of the people mentioned in the post?

  6. Just saw Robert O’Connell on Jon Stewart’s show. He is a little Orville Redenbacher in his physical presentation, says my teenage daughter. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

    Does this mean you get to go on Colbert?

    • Now I’ve just watched it myself, online.

      I had to google Redenbacher to understand your teen’s evaluation. Suffice it to say, my physical presentation would not be Redenbacher.

      Anyway, I’m thrilled that a book about Hannibal makes the cut and gets on the Daily Show. That certainly suggests my book, which explicitly uses Hannibal to understand our own lives, also has a chance.

      I like watching Stewart talk to authors: I’m trying to figure out what the best strategy is for a guest on his show. If you try to compete with him on being funny, yoiu will lose. He can interrupt you, he’s more comfortable, he must make sure his joke wins. So the best tactic seems to be to laugh at his jokes, let them run their course, then say a few dry, smirky things about your book. You look foolish in the process, but less so than if you were to play comedian.

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