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The Ghosts of Cannae

Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

By Robert L. O'Connell

(4)

| Paperback | 9781400067022

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Book Description

A stirring account of the most influential battle in history

For millennia, Carthage’s triumph over Rome at Cannae in 216 B.C. has inspired reverence and awe. It was the battle that countless armies tried to imitate, most notably in World Wars I an Continue

A stirring account of the most influential battle in history

For millennia, Carthage’s triumph over Rome at Cannae in 216 B.C. has inspired reverence and awe. It was the battle that countless armies tried to imitate, most notably in World Wars I and II, the battle that obsessed legendary military minds. Yet no general ever matched Hannibal’s most unexpected, innovative, and brutal military victory—the costliest day of combat for any army in history. Robert L. O’Connell, one of the most admired names in military history, now tells the whole story of Cannae for the first time, giving us a stirring account of this apocalyptic battle of the Second Punic War, and its causes and consequences.

O’Connell shows how a restive Rome amassed a giant army to punish Carthage’s masterful commander, who had dealt them deadly blows at Trebia and Lake Trasimene, and how Hannibal outwitted enemies that outnumbered him. O’Connell describes Hannibal’s strategy of blinding his opponents with sun and dust, enveloping them in a deadly embrace and sealing their escape, before launching a massive knife fight that would kill 48,000 men in close contact. The Ghosts of Cannae then brilliantly conveys how this disastrous pivot point in Rome’s history ultimately led to the republic’s resurgence and the creation of its empire.

Piecing together decayed shreds of ancient reportage, the author paints powerful portraits of the leading players: Hannibal, resolutely sane and uncannily strategic; Varro, Rome’s co-consul who was so scapegoated for the loss; and Scipio Africanus, the surviving (and self-promoting) Roman military tribune who would one day pay back Hannibal at Zama in North Africa. Finally, O’Connell reveals how Cannae’s legend has inspired and haunted military leaders ever since, and the lessons it teaches for our own wars.

Superbly researched and written with wit and erudition, The Ghosts of Cannae is the definitive account of a battle whose history continues to resonate.

2 Reviews

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  • 1 person finds this helpful

    bookshelves: history, ancient-history, roman-civilisation, winter-20132014, under-1000-ratings, tbr-busting-2014, war, tunisia, published-2010, newtome-author, italy, fraudio
    Read from October 20, 2013 to January 19, 2014

    Blurberoonies: Other batt ...(continue)

    bookshelves: history, ancient-history, roman-civilisation, winter-20132014, under-1000-ratings, tbr-busting-2014, war, tunisia, published-2010, newtome-author, italy, fraudio
    Read from October 20, 2013 to January 19, 2014

    Blurberoonies: Other battles are perhaps just as famous as Thermopylae, Waterloo, Gettysburg, but the aura of Cannae, where Hannibal obliterated the largest army the Roman Republic had ever put into the field, is unmatched. The battle is unparalleled for its carnage, with more men from a single army killed on that one day, Aug. 2, 216 B.C., than on any other day on any other European battlefield: something like 50,000 Romans died, two and a half times the number of British soldiers who fell on the first day of the Somme.

    Pure Military History, so this is a tacticians wet dream. The strategies on display at Cannae have been emulated down the ages.

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    Bettie said on Jan 19, 2014 | Add your feedback

  • 1 person finds this helpful

    Wanted 3.5 stars

    The story told in Ghosts of Cannae is a good one; the way it's told leaves something to be desired.

    Aside from the casual reference to elephants crossing the Alps one hears from time to time, the last I heard of Hannibal was in 10th Grade World Hi ...(continue)

    The story told in Ghosts of Cannae is a good one; the way it's told leaves something to be desired.

    Aside from the casual reference to elephants crossing the Alps one hears from time to time, the last I heard of Hannibal was in 10th Grade World History, 20-X years ago. What I remember of him was not much more than his taking elephants for a mountain stroll. Enter Robert O'Connell.

    Ghosts of Cannae was a fresh start with a character who 10th Grade World History didn't really give me an appreciation for. You'd think that as I read more, bits and pieces of my studies so many years ago would slowly come back to me - nothin'. I never learned what a badass Hannibal was. The guy was basically untouchable for the better part of 2 decades. Mr O'Connell also introduces us to more badasses in Scipio Africanus, and, to a lesser degree of badness, Quintus Fabius.

    The exploits of these ancient leaders are fascinating, but Mr O'Connell's presentation made the read tougher than it should have been for this casual reader of history. Some reviewers here want new scholarship - it's all new when the depths of your memory stops at elephants & Alps. Some reviewers criticize the modern metaphors - the anachronism didn't bother me the way it bothered others, although they did come across as failed attempts to be cute and/or humorous. My criticism is that I too often found myself battling my eyelids - I liked the characters and portrayals, but it was tough to stay focussed through sometimes tortured prose.

    All said, Ghosts of Cannae is worth the effort, and the read is not effortless. Some things are worth working for, I guess. In addition to having a newfound appreciation for the Punic Wars in general and Hannibal & Scipio specifically, an immediate payoff of my efforts here was understanding the reference to Quintus Fabius made on this season's premiere of 30 Rock.

    Is this helpful?

    Andyberschauer said on Sep 27, 2010 | Add your feedback

Book Details

  • Rating:
    (4)
    • 5 stars
    • 4 stars
  • English Books
  • Paperback 336 Pages
  • ISBN-10: 1400067022
  • ISBN-13: 9781400067022
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publish date: 2010-07-01
  • Also available as: Audio CD , Others , eBook
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