Hannibal and Me: The highest endorsement

Patrick Hunt at Stanford University is a leading archaeologist and historian, and arguably the leading living scholar of Hannibal.

He has taken students to the Swiss Alps to figure out which pass Hannibal took. He has given a fantastic lecture series on iTunes U, which is in my bibliography. And he does much, much more, all of it fascinating.

So try to imagine my delight at the glowing review that Patrick has just written about Hannibal and Me.

As all of you know, I have never pretended to be ‘a historian’ — rather, I am (merely but proudly) a journalist and a storyteller who happens to love, and to reflect on, history. So I’m sure that I got some details wrong in the book, and Patrick could easily have pounced. But he looked at the big concept, at the story and the meditation, and he endorsed it. And that means so much to me.

From his review:

… Rarely do books mainly about history make such entertaining reading without diluting the complexities of world events that can turn on a literal moment from impending doom to brilliant success and vice versa. Surely Polybius, our best ancient source about Hannibal, would applaud Kluth’s book for psychological depth that matches its historical accuracy, like Polybius himself whose history is as much about why and how, the deeper analytics, as about what and when. Kluth deserves every kudo for this book that shows his new Hannibal research is not beating a dead horse but rather a startlingly fresh outlook on an old mystery.

Thank you, Patrick Hunt!

And thank you Christopher, for being even quicker than Google Alerts in pointing me to it.

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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