Customer Reviews for

The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2010

    So-So Recap of Conventional Punic War History

    The topic is interesting, but O'Connell takes the conventional, Romanocentric view of the Rome-Carthage conflict. Although he attempts to be evenhanded, he often makes unsupported, judgmental statements and posits them as categorical fact. Many of these are historical boilerplate, even though there's really no way to know them as fact. Example: Hannibal's family hated Rome and was above all motivated by it. Really? How does one prove that? Even if true, what bearing does this assertion have on the overall historical analysis of the conflict between the two empires?

    Although a decent enough writer, O'Connell's stylistic flourishes were often grating and fell flat. Also, while his almost sole focus on military history is understandable and will be extremely interesting to some, this book was not a particularly enlightening or thorough examination of the conflict between Rome and Carthage. Granted, as implied by the title of the book, the focus is on the Battle of Cannae. However, with so much of the book devoted to the situation and events that led to Cannae, a better historical appraisal of the two empires would have been appreciated.

    For a much better modern historical analysis of Carthage and its conflict with Rome, I would suggest "Carthage Must Be Destroyed" by Richard Miles. (Unfortunately I think it has only been released in Britain so far.) It is longer and doesn't focus as much on military history (though there is plenty of that too), and since it is written by someone with a background in archaeology, there are many fewer unsubstantiated assertions, and less reliance on traditional stereotypes of the two empires.

    The main things I took from Mr. O'Connell's book were:
    1) Carthage's reliance on mercenaries left it extremely vulnerable when things went bad.
    2) Rome's reliance on charismatic generals led to the downfall of the republic.

    Both those theses were interesting and applicable to the modern era. I was just hoping for more from the book than that.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is a superb look at the participants of the second Punic War

    In 218 BCE, Hannibal led the Carthage army using elephants to invade the Roman Empire by climbing over the Alps. Two years later in Cannae, Italy the two enemies fought again using different tactics. The Romans had superior forces and a short supply line. Yet deploying a pincer movement, Hannibal and his army nearly ended the Roman Empire.

    This is a superb look at the participants of the second Punic War mostly from the military sides of both combatants and the Roman civilian actions and reactions; there is much less on how the people of Carthage felt. Fascinating with a super comparative analysis of Rome the conqueror and Carthage the traders as well as a discerning analysis of the strategies of Hannibal including his "panzer pachyderms" taking the fight to Italy, and the two Roman leader rivals Scipio Africanus who confronts the foe with swamping the battlefield and no regard to collateral damage and Fabius Maximus who wanted to delay the fight to attrite the enemy. Well written, the disgraced Roman survivors of the Cannae massacre were hidden from public view exiled to Sicily until Africanus realized they had a motive to insure victory at Zama in Africa. Mr. O'Connell makes references to modern warfare that can trace its roots to Cannae and how the victors write the history books with little regard to the facts as he debunks the revisionists who wrote over the next few centuries following the salting ethnic cleansing) of Carthage.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2012

    Recommended for history fans

    Very good book - details the efforts leading up to the battle at Cannae and how it all unfolded. Would have given this 5 stars if a little more time had been spent describing the subsequent decade + of Hannibal in Italy.

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  • Posted March 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly recommend for the battle-minded soul.

    If you enjoy reading about battles and the strategies of battle, then this book is a must read for you.

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