Minard’s map of Hannibal’s crossing

As you know, I love maps, especially historical maps, and I like to play with them to make points.

For instance, in this post, I turned a map of Hannibal’s invasion of Italy upside down to illustrate the arc of his and his enemy’s lives.

And in this post I paid my respects to Charles Minard, a Frenchman who, in the 19th century, launched the field of data visualization by producing a new kind of map — one that graphically as well as geographically shows Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.

Now I get an email from one Jonnie Lappen, a senior at Arizona State University who is studying geography and considering doing his honors thesis on a different map by Minard.

I didn’t even know about that map until Jonnie showed it to me. Which is shocking: On it, Minard depicts Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps.

If it’s not famous, that’s probably because it is not nearly as good as the Napoleonic map: Minard gives us an angle of the Riviera we’re not used to seeing, and the shrinking line of the Carthaginian army is not as striking as in the Napoleonic map. (Still, look at that Alpine crossing: suddenly the line shrinks by half. That’s a lot of human beings dropping into gorges, slipping off ice sheets, dying of dysentery…)

Anyway, Jonnie is now engrossed in Livy to improve upon this map and give it its proper drama. A great idea. Good luck, Jonnie!