Over the Alps

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Despite his best efforts, Hannibal’s mission to conquer Rome would ultimately fail. Though he pushed the Republic to the very brink of destruction, he was unable to sack Rome and complete his conquest—a testament to Rome’s tenacity in the face of utter annihilation rather than any lack of capacity on Hannibal’s part. Livy writes of the Hannibalic war, “The final issue hung so much in doubt that the eventual victors came nearer to destruction than their adversaries.” However, even before he took his first steps into the Italian peninsula to begin one of the most devastating and memorable conflicts in human history, Hannibal had already catapulted his name into legend with what many consider to be his crowning achievement: his astonishing crossing of the Alps.

Hannibal’s crossing looms large as one of the most memorable achievements of military logistics to ever occur. The tale of this Carthaginian commander boldly leading his forces, including several dozen elephants, into a mountain range thought to be impassable by all his contemporaries, and not only completing the passage, but doing so in a matter of weeks, has a feel of mythic awe about it. It is the sort of story that feels like it has more in common with legend and folklore than with sensible military strategy. To this day it is still admired as a watershed moment of military command, especially given the plethora of obstacles the general faced. For Hannibal had to not only cross an extraordinarily treacherous mountain range, but he had to do so in the midst of hostile tribes, with limited supplies, and perhaps worst of all, in the chill of winter. And, of course, he had to do so with his army intact and ready to take on the Roman forces upon their arrival in hostile territory. All of these challenges may cause the observer to ask a pressing question: why would a military commander who possessed a wealth of experience (as Hannibal did) make such an audacious gamble?

Hannibal’s crossing has fired the imaginations of countless artists.

The answer to this question can never be fully known. Perhaps Hannibal was misinformed about the arduous nature of the crossing; even though he was successful, the ancient sources still estimate the loss to be enormously high—some even suggest up to half his force was lost in the endeavor. Perhaps he was supremely confident in his troops’ abilities to surmount such an immense struggle. But also we must consider what Hannibal gained from such an endeavor: certainly, it would entail an enormous amount of loss and hardship, but the potential boons were enormous too. At the time when Hannibal elected to undergo his legendary passage, he was faced with the problem of either crossing the purportedly impassable Alps, with winter rapidly approaching, or taking the southerly and far more hospitable route through the region of Massalia (modern Marseilles); the route the Romans expected him to take. The problem with taking the southerly route however, was just that: all of Rome was anticipating his forces’ arrival through that passage. Rome had long viewed the Alps as Italy’s impenetrable northern barrier, and therefore entirely logically predicted that Hannibal would head south, by way of Massalia, to make his entrance into Italy.  Thus, in response to that eventuality, Rome had taken the prudent course of stationing a well-equipped, armed, and entrenched army at Massalia, to bar Hannibal’s passage into Italy, and keep the war off Roman lands.

The Alps are an extraordinarily rugged and beautiful setting.
The Alps are an extraordinarily rugged and beautiful setting.

Thus, Hannibal was faced with a choice: he could attempt to force his way through a Roman army waiting for him, on their terms, before ever arriving on Italian soil, or he could take what was arguably an even greater risk—putting his entire army on the line without ever proffering battle. There were, of course, a variety of other factors effecting the final decision. Livy states that Gallic tribes in the northern reaches of Italy, who for years had been eager to break free of Roman control, offered Hannibal their full support upon his arrival in their lands. Circumnavigating the Roman army would enable him to choose the time and place of his encounters (an asset that was critical to all of Hannibal’s most memorable victories), and force them to react to his movements, rather than the other way around. Every victory won in Italy, Rome’s very homeland, would have far greater ramifications than those abroad, as Hannibal would be able to capitalize on his victories with greater alacrity and inflict more significant and lasting damage to his opponent.

Perhaps my favorite reason for Hannibal’s legendary choice, though, is one that is less purely logical. As Hannibal made his decision, a man of his intellect must have been able to discern the potential psychological ramifications of his crossing should he succeed. Not only would he outmaneuver his enemy’s position and appear in their backyard with his army, he would have done so in a fashion that, a month before, his opponents would have deemed utterly inconceivable. The Alps were impossible to cross for an army in the best of times, the Romans would have said, let alone for an army of foreigners in the midst of winter, surrounded by hostile tribes. It is not hard to imagine the Senate never even fathoming that Hannibal would attempt so outrageous a maneuver, and then to envision their horror and dismay at discovering not only had he done so, but done so in a matter of 16 days. For the Romans, it would appear as if they were facing a man who was capable of achieving the impossible, a man who could overcome the most unimaginable obstacles. What sort of mortal could achieve such feats? Surely, Hannibal must be more than a man—he must be an instrument of divine retribution upon the Republic. The psychological force that such an accomplishment must have had in and of itself is a worthy justification for attempting a feat that seems more herculean than mortal.

The heights of the Col de Clapier Pass- Hannibal's army may have camped on this very spot
The heights of the Col de Clapier Pass- Hannibal’s army may have camped on this very spot

In Virgil’s Aeneid, the seminal work of Roman literature that would be written some centuries later, neither Hannibal nor his crossing is forgotten. While only spoken of in allusion, the text constantly whispers about his coming: upon her funeral pyre, Carthaginian Queen Dido summons the arrival of an avenging spirit and the resulting reckoning he will bring upon Aeneas’s descendants. He is the dark force that will one day sweep down from the towering Alps. He is the greatest antagonist the world’s greatest empire will ever face, and his crossing of the Alps, perhaps more than any other achievement, shows just how worthy a nemesis Rome had found.

It is a great irony then, that, for such a famed event in human history, our data is far from concrete. Nearly two and a quarter millennia from the time Hannibal carved his name into legend, our best archaeological evidence has yet to conclude with any certainty what Hannibal’s path was exactly. The ancient sources only provide a fairly loose outline, and scholars have argued for centuries between many potential candidates for THE route. Nevertheless, it would be an offense of unimaginable proportions to claim to be following Hannibal’s trail, and ignore its most epic moment. The path we ultimately decided on is the one that in recent years has been most firmly advanced, by sources such as Stanford archaeologist Patrick Hunt and Hannibalic scholar Serge Lancel. In truth, when examining the region, it is also the one that topographically makes the most sense. The route we set out to follow took us first northeast along the Isere river valley, which stretches all the way from the Rhone into the mountains, and then along the Maurienne river valley which intersects with it, south, until, finally, crossing the Alps at the Col de Clapier pass.

Arriving in Grenoble, it is impossible to overstate the sense of awe that overcame us, staring upon the beetling peaks of the looming mountains. Assuming this is the route Hannibal took, the path along the river’s edge is not hard to trace, nor is it hard to imagine that the mountains, austere and unmoved by the passing of the centuries, looked almost the same in his day as they do in ours. In summertime, it is a region of incomparable beauty, with gorgeous, Tolkeinesque mountains surrounding a landscape largely composed of small villages and open fields. With our 15 kilogram packs on, we hoped to get a rough sense of what it would be like trudging throughout the region, day-in and day-out, but we assumed our trek would be leisurely in comparison to hardships endured by Hannibal and his men. Indeed we anticipated that by and large we would have to simply imagine what the Carthaginian army’s struggle must have been like, and that we would not truly be able to empathize with the exhaustion, misery, and even terror they must have endured on their journey in winter. We were wrong.

The Isere River carves through a gorgeous, wide valley
The Isere River carves through a gorgeous, wide valley

In the Alps, even in the height of Summer, the weather is merciless. At night it can drop down into the low 40’s, coupled with seemingly perpetual wind and rain. Those rare days of sun are a blessing—and one that any would-be adventurer must take full advantage of to compensate for the many days they will be drenched to the bone. As it happened, our guide book’s lack of proper warning, and our haphazard, typical college-student-level of preparation, left us far from being fully ready for the struggles we would face on the trek across the Alps. Despite all of this, the week and a half we spent undergoing our own crossing was by far the most memorable and incredible of the entire journey.

Standard Alpine Weather
Standard Alpine Weather

Our own crossing began idyllically enough, with a beautiful summer day as we covered mile after mile of charming French countryside. Walking roughly along the Isere river, we walked through a number of quaint villages, full of people who rarely see tourists at all, especially outside of ski season. On the rare occasions we found people who spoke enough English, we eagerly inquired as to whether they knew anything of Hannibal, to incredibly mixed results—some had only barely heard of him, some said they knew the precise path he took, one even claimed they had Carthaginian blood in them from a deserter who stayed in the region. However, after such a lovely start, we made the foolish assumption that the weather would be as mild, the hiking as easy-going, and the experience as enjoyable as it had been thus far.

For nearly a full week following, it poured everyday. The skies were perpetually gray, and we seemed to be perpetually drenched. After giving us an enticing taste of good weather, the Alps decided to unleash the full fury they could muster: while camping in a makeshift tent we prepared the first night, a storm of apocalyptic portions swept in, forcing us to take shelter in the campsite’s ‘Sink Room.’ From that point onward, every minute it wasn’t raining we had to take as a blessing. Many times, we had to take shelter in countless forms of ramshackle locations, from tumbledown warehouses, to abandoned stables. All the while we pressed along the Isere, and eventually, around the Maurienne. Even despite the steep challenges the rain posed, we were constantly impressed by the panoramic display of the countryside, and, as we got deeper into the mountains, the scenery only improved. Walking along the river valleys, flanked by mountains in every direction, one cannot help but be overcome by a since of wonder. The number of times we stopped to soak it all in, even in the rain, is beyond counting, and something that I hope our photographs can communicate even more effectively than my words.

Our majestic and masterfully crafted tent
Our majestic and masterfully crafted tent

While walking along the river valleys was a challenge and a pleasure in its own right, nothing compared to the time we had to undertake our own crossing. The weather had been getting gradually colder as we had gotten deeper into the mountains, with frigid alpine winds barraging us, and we knew with altitude it would only get worse. Indeed, we had to stay an extra night at one of our alpine inns, simply because the rain that day would have made for a horrifically miserable ascent. Thus, when the gods (whether Roman or Carthaginian, who can say) granted us another rare day of sunshine, we seized our opportunity, ascending toward the Col de Clapier in the most outlandishly gorgeous part of the journey, amplifying all aspects of the undertaking with which we had already become familiar. The wind blew colder, the panoramas more beautiful, the hiking more arduous and steep. Standing atop a ridge overlooking an alpine lake of indescribable beauty, gazing down on a trio of sculptures depicting Hannibal and his elephants, Napoleon and his horses, and the Tour de France Racers and their bicycles in turn, was a sight that was so breathtaking it nearly moved me to tears. Marching up ever higher, the air growing thinner and chillier, each step burned with a continually greater ferocity, as if agony and beauty were always meant to walk hand in hand.

Legendary Crossings from across the Centuries
Legendary Crossings from across the Centuries

In spite of the incredible sites and sensations we experienced throughout the Alps, no part of the journey bears a greater emotional impact, and sense of historical resonance, than reaching the summit of the Col de Clapier. As we ascended the narrow pass, staring up towards that famous ridge, we could look out at the valley around us, in many parts with snow still clinging to the cliffside, under a moody gray sky, and imagine the desperately hungry and exhausted Carthaginian army clambering up the cliffside—so very close to their ultimate goal. Ascending the pass even in the summertime is no mean feat, with the ground in many places becoming marshland, and in others drying up to loose, craggy scree.  It is said that from atop the pass Hannibal pointed down on the plain of the Po valley into Italy, to show his men how close they were. From the height of the pass, we too, despite the clouds that shrouded the air, could see the distant Po sprawled out before us; perhaps that very same site Hannibal gestured to all those centuries ago.

"Look men. The Po lies just beyond!"
“Look men. The Po lies just beyond!”

As it would turn out, reaching the height of the pass was very far from the end of our journey: as Livy suggested, the descent was far more trying than the ascent. Hannibal’s losses on the descent are depicted as horrendous, and, after experiencing the downward slope ourselves, it is little wonder why. The journey downhill was so steep, and the footing in many places so precarious, that many times we called into question the wisdom of our endeavor. The path would often times vanish all together, and we had to survey the nearby hillsides in order to discern how to press forward. If these obstacles alone weren’t enough, scarcely a few minutes into our downward journey, another torrential rain began to pour down on us, soaking us through to our socks, and making the entire path slick and ever more treacherous. What would have already been a brutal descent changed into an experience of more or less undiluted misery, that even the view of distant Italy, seeming never to inch closer, could do little to repress. Performing this trying descent, often over narrow riverbed ravines, and through dense underbrush, with a mere two people and at the height of summer was an extremely trying experience. To envision anyone doing it with an army in winter is virtually unthinkable. When we finally arrived at a paved road once again, what felt like an epoch of toil later, we were so relieved that we collapsed to our knees. We had never expected that in our journey we would be able to empathize with Hannibal’s men to such an extent, but, in hindsight, I feel as though it is all the more appropriate that we did. Had we faced no true hardship, no minute risk of perishing, we could never have truly claimed to have experienced what Hannibal’s crossing must have been like. We could never have fully realized how mind bogglingly outlandish his achievement was. As it stands now, for all its beauty and hardship, all its elation and toil, our own crossing will loom large forevermore in my mind, as one of the most unforgettable experiences I have ever had. P1010403

Lyon: Roman Lugdunum and the River Rhone

Lyon is France’s third largest city, and is held by many to be the country’s gastronomic capital. The food here is legendary, with renowned dishes such as Salad Lyonnais finding their origin in Lyon’s acclaimed restaurants. The city is built upon three separate shores: both the river Rhone and Saone run through the city, dividing it into three distinct districts. This remarkable division not only grants the city a remarkable amount of idyllic beauty (walking along the riverbanks at sunset was one of the most beautiful moments of this entire journey), but uniquely partitions the city, segmenting its historical, modern, and industrial districts as one moves across the banks. And on the west most bank, atop and around the towering Fourviere hill, lie the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Lugdunum. 

An American Hero in the midst of Lyon
An American Hero in the midst of Lyon

Lyon may be France’s third largest city today, but in antiquity it occupied an even more prominent position. Founded as a settlement by the Romans in 43 BC due to the strategic position provided by the towns steep Fourviere hill, the location was quickly singled out for its excellence: laying along two major rivers, as well as being highly defensible, it was targeted for development and became the chief communications hub for all of Roman Gaul. Lugdunum, as it was then called, rapidly developed into a major city, and came to be one of the most important centers in the entire Roman empire. Two emperors, Claudius and Caracalla, would be born in the city. For nearly 300 years, it retained its eminent status, until ultimately a struggle for succession in 197 AD would cause the city to be sacked by the victorious Septimus Severus, after the ill-fated Battle of Lyon. In spite of this however, Lyon would rise again in the middle ages as a mercantile city state that nearly rivaled its Italian counterparts, and for centuries would become the silk capital of all Europe- even today, there are hundreds of silk makers in Lyon who continue the craft, which became an integral part of the cities economy over the course of the first millennium.

Lyon's Fourviere Hill, the chief site of the ancient settlement
Lyon’s Fourviere Hill, the chief site of the ancient settlement

Today, Lyon is a city rich in heritage, but one that never becomes too nostalgic for its past. Its sights are exceptional and numerous, from its gorgeous hilltop basilica to its noteworthy collection of Roman ruins and artifacts, but are never forced on the visitor. Even its remarkable variety of museums, such as a fabulous collection of Roman antiquities in the Gallo-Roman museum which explores the city’s Roman past, are by and large hidden away, and must be sought out by the interested visitor. The river division helps to accentuate this; Lyon’s historic district, at the base of the Fourviere, is an old town that still bustles with life, where many of the city’s museums, sites, and history are concentrated. Across the Saone the city becomes gradually more modernized (in a very French sense of the word) almost immediately, full of bars, clothing stores, and restaurants. Despite this contrast, both sides of the Saone still feel firmly part of a congruent whole, retaining a great deal of bucolic architectural charm. Then, across the Rhone on the other side of that middle island, Lyon fully steps into the modern spotlight, with skyscrapers and other commercial centers towering throughout the city’s eastern section. This unique layout is one of Lyon’s most interesting features, and makes it a city well worth exploring.

Lyon's natural setting is almost picturesque
Lyon’s natural setting is almost picturesque

Despite how Lyon has thrived for so many centuries, in Hannibal’s day it wasn’t really a city. Archaeologists believe that the hilltop was probably an outpost for Gallic peoples of the time, but decidedly not the thriving center it would become in the centuries to follow, and therefore unlikely to be worthy of note for an army marching through the region. Nevertheless, it provides a base along the river Rhone, which had an extremely important purpose in Hannibal’s campaign. According to the ancient sources, Hannibal’s crossing of the Rhone was his most significant challenge in the passage of Gaul, because when he came to the river, he encountered an army of hostile local peoples waiting for him on the other side, refusing to let him cross their lands. Hannibal was faced with the dual challenge of crossing the Rhone, elephants in tow, while dealing with the army laying in wait for him. It was here that Hannibal would first fully demonstrate the genius that has made him one of the most iconic military commanders of all history. In debating how best to deal with the foe presented before him, Hannibal made use of the ambush-style tactics that would serve him so well in so many later battles, as well as employing the keen mastery of terrain and environment that would lead him to time and time again outwit his Roman foes. By night, he divided his force, and sent a squadron of several thousand north to cross the river at another point, whilst maintaining the size of the camp so that it would seem as though nothing were amiss. Then, seemingly foolishly, he began the crossing of the river the following day on rafts, carting his men across only a few hundred at a time, and luring the enemy into overconfidence. This apparent blunder drew them out of their camp down toward the river bank to engage the embarked forces. Meanwhile, the detached force swept in from behind, dismantling the enemy camp and hitting their army from the rear. In the chaos that ensued, the Gallic army broke almost immediately, and Hannibal was able to finish his crossing with minimal loss of either time or men.

The Rhone river is no mere trickle
The Rhone river is no mere trickle

The site at which this battle occurred is debated to this day, but the Rhone river flows through Lyon in much the fashion it does on its entire southward course to the Mediterranean, making visiting this storied city an opportunity well worth taking advantage of. Observing the river, which has both a sizable width and powerful current, one can see just how much of a logistical challenge it would have been to cross with an army with elephants in normal circumstances, let alone with an enemy force endeavoring to take advantage of your vulnerable position. To do so with so few casualties and with such alacrity is nothing short of extraordinary. Indeed, if the Romans had taken the opportunity to study their opponent’s tactical acuity here, and treated him with the respect a foe of such caliber deserved, the Second Punic War may not have been quite so dire for them. As fate would have it however, Hannibal would have to decimate Rome’s legions several times before that lesson would be driven home. 

Nimes and Roman Gaul

In the ancient sources, little is said about Hannibal’s passage through Gaul, now modern day France. Though he had to deal with many hostile tribes throughout the Pyrenees, the mountain range that marks the border between Spain and France, the route from the Pyrenees to the river Rhone (which lies only a few short kilometers from the Alps) seems to have been largely uneventful. The peoples he encountered were mostly willing to let his forces pass through without harassment, and the trip is described as almost leisurely in comparison to the grueling challenges that would be posed by the immense Alps. This lack of noteworthy encounters poses a considerable deal of difficulty in pinning down a route through the French countryside that would correspond precisely with the campaign trail of the Carthaginian army. While historians uses locations such as Narbonne and Nimes as probable benchmarks based on what evidence still lingers, the fact of the matter remains that tracking Hannibal’s journey from the Pyrenees to the Rhone requires a good deal of speculation. However, though Hannibal may be difficult to trace through Gaul, the region is not any less worthy of attention; simply getting a feel for the countryside provides an illuminating window into how this terrain must have felt thousands of years ago, and its easy, leisurely rolling hills and wide fertile expanses will doubtlessly provide the same contrast for us as as it would have with the Carthaginian army upon reaching the soaring Alps.

Nimes' Amphitheater is the most well preserved in the entire Roman world, due to its centuries of use as a fortress after the fall of Rome.
Nimes’ Amphitheater is the most well preserved in the entire Roman world, due to its centuries of use as a fortress after the fall of Rome.

Furthermore, though Hannibal’s activity in the region may not be particularly well documented, Rome’s impact and influence on Gaul thankfully does not suffer from any such ambiguity. Gaul, after its conquest by Julius Caesar, would become one of the most important provinces in the empire, and many of its tribes and natives would undergo exceptional ‘Romanisation’; a process in which groups, over decades of Roman control, saw the potential gain in adapting to the Roman way of life, and discarded their traditions and cultures by choice to do so. This process of organic cultural evolution, that transpired over the many centuries of stability Rome would provide to its provinces, is one of the chief reasons the Roman Empire to this day remains one of the most significant empires in human history: few states would control so wide a swathe of land, and fewer still would maintain sovereignty in those regions over the centuries it takes for its culture to supplant that of the local populace.

The ancient Roman watchtower of Nimes to this day provides fabulous views over the city.
The ancient Roman watchtower of Nimes to this day provides fabulous views over the city.

As far as Romanisation goes, there is perhaps no better example of the process than the modern day city of Nimes. Nimes, known as Nemausus in Roman times, was home to a sacred spring which the nearby Gallic tribes venerated. Vassals of the Roman empire from a relatively early stage, these tribes sent men to assist Caesar during his conquest of Gaul, and as such was quicker than most to recognize the advantages in cooperating with the Romans. Under Augustus the location was granted imperial recognition, and funds were sent to develop the town into a full fledged Roman settlement. Nimes would become one of the most important cities in Roman Gaul, and the modern day city likes to make sure no one forgets that proud Roman past. Throughout the city, from its incredibly preserved amphitheater to its refurbished Roman watchtower, one finds countless landmarks and structures reminding the onlooker of Nimes’ bygone Roman days. Referring to its culture as ‘Gallo-Roman’ the city reflects on its Roman heritage with considerably more pride and nostalgia than its Celtic (or French) roots. In fact, the city’s temple to Augustus, which has been restored to such an extent that the marble gleams white, today stands in one of Nimes’ central squares, and every 30 minutes plays a live action short film commissioned by the town celebrating its position as ‘a jewel of the Roman Empire’ and going over the towns Roman History with a little more bravado than is altogether merited.

The Pont du Gard is jaw-dropping in its scale.
The Pont du Gard is jaw-dropping in its scale.

Nimes would be worth visiting solely for the example it provides of the sweeping impact of Romanisation, and the comparison to be made between it and the other Roman settlements we’ve traveled through thus far on Hannibal’s trail, but the town still provides one other major draw: its proximity to the World Heritage listed Pont du Gard. Considered to be the most impressive Roman sight in France, the Pont du Gard is a towering aqueduct bridge, once part of the same system that provided the thousands of inhabitants of Nimes with fresh water. Today, what’s left of it is still an awesome feat of engineering, made all the more incredible due to its millennia of age. The Pont du Gard bridges the Garon river, no small stream, soars to height of nearly 50 meters with three different levels, and is as emphatic a symbol of Rome’s engineering acuity and mastery of nature as one is likely to find standing in any part of the former empire. It may not be Hannibalic, but it is something that any student of antiquity should strive to see; an impossible, imposing reminder of just what Rome, as an empire of development and construction, limited by the technology of the day, was able to achieve.

Empuries, Greek Jewel of the Costa Brava

The Beachside Town of L'escala stands less than a kilometer away from the ruins of Empuries, a port city of similar size some millenia ago
The Beachside Town of L’escala stands less than a kilometer away from the ruins of Empuries, a port city of similar size some millennia ago

The sleepy town of L’escala, a small domain of a few thousand inhabitants, is hardly on the beaten tourist track. Adorning Spain’s gorgeous Costa Brava, it is often considered by many to be simply one of dozens of little coastal villages dotting the region, so many of which are flooded by sun-seeking tourists. To get here from Barcelona, one must take a train northward to an equally unpretentious countryside village, from which point the only way to reach L’escala is to hire a taxi to take you the remaining 12 kilometers. This lack of accessible public transportation to the town makes it all the more remarkable that L’escala is not only a charming beach location, but also home to one of the most impressive sets of classical ruins in the entire Mediterranean: the remnants of the Greek trading port of Empuries.

The sprawling ruins of Empuries are very impressive: buildings of all sorts, rather than solely monumental structures, can be found intact inside the city walls.
The sprawling ruins of Empuries are very impressive: buildings of all sorts, rather than solely monumental structures, can be found intact inside the city walls.

The name of Empuries may not be spoken of in the same breath as sites such as Pompeii or Ephesus, but the ruins that stand here, along with their accompanying museum, are some of the most awe-inspiring in the Mediterranean. The bases of immense fortress walls loom around the edges of the site where the foundations of an entire city lie unearthed. Pieces of temples, aristocratic mansions, and smaller establishments are all identifiable in the incredibly intact ancient site, among the best preserved in all of Spain. In the adjoining museum, one is granted insight into how this town had an existence of many centuries, even though it would never reach the size or significance of larger maritime cities such as Tarragona and Cartagena and, unlike those other sites, was originally a colony of settlers hailing from distant Greece. Here in Empuries, gods such as Serapis and Ascelpius, who would only take on a meaningful presence in Rome during the Imperial Period, were worshiped as patron deities from an early date, and a merchant elite prospered, technically independent of Roman control until the establishment of the Spanish provinces of the Republic. This community thrived for centuries uninterrupted, even as its Hellenistic roots were gradually subsumed by Roman settlers and influence. Testament to its lengthy, if small-scale, success is evident in the wealth of artifacts that we have inherited from the site, spanning across the centuries.

Empuries' idyllic beachfront location and natural harbor make it easy to see why the site would have held such appeal to ancient colonists.
Empuries’ idyllic beachfront location and natural harbor make it easy to see why the site would have held such appeal to ancient colonists.

Bringing it back to Hannibal, in the context of the Second Punic War  Empuries played a significant role as well. In 219 BC, it is altogether likely that Hannibal passed along the Costa Brava as he headed north from Barcino toward the Pyrenees. While neither Livy nor Polybius provides us any interactions between Hannibal and the locals, it seems probable that with an army the size of Hannibal’s, those occupying the town would have been hard pressed to refuse him supplies or shelter along the way, especially given that Rome’s forces were still nowhere in sight. However, the texts state in far less uncertain terms that some months later, in 218 BC, Roman legions would clank ashore here and open the Spanish theater of operations for the Second Punic War, in order to maintain Roman control over northern Spain and prevent Hannibal from receiving any supplies or reinforcements from his brother Hadsrubal, left in charge of Carthaginian Spain in Hannibal’s absence – a critical endeavor which ultimately proved quite effective in weakening Hannibal’s position in Italy over the years.

L’escala may be off the beaten path, but that makes it no less  a place worth exploring. From gorgeous Mediterranean coast and beaches, to a remarkable set of classical remains, this unassuming town has been one of the most delightful we have had the opportunity to visit

Barcelona: City of the the Barcas.

 

Barcelona's Medieval Cathedral
Barcelona’s Medieval Cathedral

You could go to just about any travel blog, website, or magazine, and you would probably find something about the city of Barcelona. Spain’s second largest city may be less than half the size of Madrid, but there is no comparison as far as tourist traffic goes: Barcelona received upwards of 8 million visitors in 2013,  by far more than Spain’s capital. It is considered one of the most iconic destinations in the entire world. Walking through the city’s bustling center, one hears Spanish only about as often as any other language, indicative of the sheer quantity of foreigners milling through the streets. Home to some of Spain’s most famous monuments, such as Gaudi’s legendary Sagrada Familia, Barcelona is a city that has come to be almost defined by its bustling international community. During this time of the year, the height of the 2014 World Cup season, as chance would have it, one can walk into a sports bar on one of Barcelona’s main thoroughfares and find natives of any country rooting for their home team. Thanks to its tourist population, Barcelona is a deeply international city- enlivened as much by its own natives as the countless visitors.

Due to its status as the world’s 10th most popular tourist destination, and thereby its eternally diverse community, one might expect that the natives of Barcelona would be particularly cosmopolitan. However, such is not the case- there is perhaps no city in all of Spain that is possessed of greater local pride than Barcelona. The capital of the northeastern province of Catalonia, a part of the country often at odds with the rest of Spain, Barcelona is fiercely independent and invested in its distinct identity. This regional affinity can be seen throughout the city: from omnipresent banners and advertisements for its legendary local soccer team, FC Barcelona, to signs being transcribed in both Spanish and more localized Catalan, Barcelona is a city entrenched in its Catalan heritage. This spirit infuses many of the things that make it such a popular global destination, from its parties and festivals, to its wildly distinctive arts and architecture scene (as exemplified by its symbolic landmark the audacious ‘Sagrada Familia’) much of what makes Barcelona so popular is its unapologetic drive to break away from the constraining norms that may apply to the rest of Spain, and present itself in a manner that offers something intriguing for virtually any traveler.

However, it is this self-same vibrancy that often causes certain aspects of Barcelona to be overlooked. In the rush to see Gaudi’s architecture or stroll down the famed La Rambla, Barcelona’s roots in antiquity are often left by the wayside. In following Hannibal’s footsteps, we would be remiss to make the same error- particularly in a city that happens to have one of the most remarkable connections to the Barcid Carthaginian dynasty. While Barcelona has many origin stories, perhaps the most common and well known links the metropolis to the most renowned of Carthage’s dynasties: the family of Hannibal himself. Supposedly founded in the third century BC, presumably after the end of the First Punic War, legend holds that the settlement that would one day become Barcelona (known in Roman times as Barcino) was created by Hannibal’s father, Hamilcar Barca, who named his new town after his family. While it is impossible to verify the authenticity of this story, the etymology of the name Barcino does bear striking resemblance to the Carthaginian Barca- a name which modern scholarship believes to have something to do with a bolt of lightning. Regardless of whether or not this truly was the city of the Barcas, and though it was hardly the metropolis of import that it is today, Barcino was a clear stopping point for Hannibal’s army as it marched northward into Gaul. Furthermore, according to Livy, it would play a significant role in the conflict that would rage between Carthaginian and Roman forces up and down the Iberian peninsula as Hannibal engaged them in Italy.

The Museum dedicated to Barcelona's Regional History, home to its Roman Foundations
The Museum dedicated to Barcelona’s Regional History, home to its Roman Foundations

What is left of Roman Barcelona lies beneath the teeming streets of its historic district, a region more commonly known for its cathedral and medieval sectors than its classical remains. To the careful eye however, there is much still to be found: fragments of an aqueduct stand near the cathedral, intact portions of the ancient wall have been incorporated into other structures, and a few columns of the city”s temple to the deified Augustus still remain upright. Such traces unassumingly dot the surface level, but it is beneath these tourist trodden streets that Roman Barcino comes alive. Within what would appear to be a relatively unremarkable museum dedicated to the city’s history, one can take an elevator to descend a few dozen feet, to find the stunningly intact remains of the ancient towns clearly thriving industrial district. From fish paste makers to wine crafters, the foundations of massive workshops, oftentimes complete with ceramic tools, stretch out all around the city’s underbelly, giving a view into just how busy a community like Barcelona’s was some two millennia ago. While it may not match the imperial splendor of its counterpart Tarragona to the south, Barcelona’s Roman remains are unique by the very virtue of their humble nature: here, almost forgotten underneath the streets of one of the Mediterranean’s most important cities, one can gain insight into the moving parts of how a community would have functioned beyond its grand festivities and religious ceremonies and how an average worker may have gone about their lives.

Roman foundations of commercial and industrial sectors of Barcino sprawl beneath the city's streets.
Roman foundations of commercial and industrial sectors of Barcino sprawl beneath the city’s streets.

Ultimately, we found that Barcelona is a city that lives up to the hype, but perhaps not for the reasons the traditional guidebook may ascribe. Whilst certainly, its atmosphere is distinctive, its food is delightful, and its Modernista structures impressive, it is beneath the streets, out of sight and mind of the average tourist, where some of Barcelona’s most remarkable gems lay. In a way, it is quite fitting for the same city that has almost forgotten the Hannibalic ties that are present in its very name to have some of its most remarkable components hidden away beneath its surface.

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Tarragona: Legacy of Roman Spain

The port city of Tarragona seems to be eternally sunny. Positioned at the southern end of the Costa Brava, a few hours south of modern Barcelona, it is easy to see why this town, adjacent to both a natural harbor of the Mediterranean and a river inland, held such appeal to Roman settlers in antiquity. Tarragona was a bustling port of tremendous significance, and the relics of its rich past as one of the most important cities in the Roman empire are omnipresent throughout the town today. As Cartagena was for Carthage, so would Tarragona become for the Romans. In Augustan times, this place would be the capital of the entire province of Hispania, and Augustus himself would spend two years here, helping the city to thrive and prosper as a provincial capital.

Massive passageways beneath Tarragona's streets- once a part of its enormous circus.
Massive passageways beneath Tarragona’s streets- once a part of its enormous circus.

In the era of Hannibal, Tarragona, or ‘Tarraco’ as the Romans called it, would play an integral role in the Second Punic War. Hannibal’s armies would indeed pass through the settlement, but as they continued their steady progress toward Italy, Tarraco would come to serve another important function. As mentioned previously, though Hannibal himself may never have engaged the Romans on Spanish soil, Spain was nevertheless a major battleground of the war. Thus, when Rome sent forth Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio to deal with the Carthaginian armies in Spain, and thereby prevent Hannibal from receiving reinforcements, Tarraco would serve as the Roman base of operations. From Tarragona, Rome would launch a variety of military actions by land and by sea throughout the course of the war. It, along with Cartagena, was one of the two principle locations around which the war in Spain would focus. Therefore, it is a critical locale to visit for any Hannibalic adventure.

Tarraco's Forum was apparently once one of the most sizable and splendid in the entire empire.
Tarraco’s Forum was apparently once one of the most sizable and splendid in the entire empire.

Tarragona today is a bright, sunny beach city, laden with the edifices of its Roman and medieval pasts. This far north, Moorish influence on the country, ubiquitous in its southern regions, begins to dwindle, and Spain’s Christian roots are brought ever closer to the fore. Tarragona’s medieval streets are crowned by a massive cathedral- one of the most magnificent on the entire Iberian peninsula. Wandering down avenues and tiny side streets one can get quite pleasantly lost within this city that oftentimes feels more like a small town despite its sizable population of nearly 150,000.

Sizable Roman remains occupying a busy modern square- a common sight in Tarragona
Sizable Roman remains occupying a busy modern square- a common sight in Tarragona

Though we were in Tarragona for only a few short days, the time we spent there was enough for us, like so many other visitors, to be awed by the magnificence of Tarragona’s Roman remains, indicators of the ability of Rome to leave its unmistakable mark hundreds of miles distant from the Italian peninsula. Tarragona’s massive amphitheater, circus tunnels, mighty walls, and splendid forum are all demonstrative of just the sheer level of influence and construction that Rome impressed upon its provinces. Though they are in varying states of decay, all of these sites are powerful windows into the sheer scale of Rome, and the extent to which it would forever alter the provinces it occupied. It is said that no empire before or since that of Romulus has left a greater impact on the western world’s civilization and culture, and standing in the streets of Tarrragona, seeing how a modern city seems to have grown out of the Roman monuments which still crown it today, one would be hard pressed to refute such a claim.

Valencia and Saguntum

Valencia's Hyper-modern "City of Arts and Sciences"
Valencia’s Hyper-modern “City of Arts and Sciences”

Valencia, Spain’s 3rd largest city, is one that is often overlooked by tourists in the rush to Madrid and Barcelona. In spite of this, Valencia arguably has a richer past and heritage than either of its two larger counterparts. Originally a Roman settlement of no great import, Valencia thrived under Moorish control for many centuries, but perhaps its greatest claim to fame is in its brief 11th century break from Muslim rule when the legendary Spanish knight and folk hero, Rodrigo Diaz “El Cid,” seized it from Berber control and ruled over its mixed Christian and Muslim population peacefully for nearly a decade. It would ultimately return to Spanish control permanently over the course of the Reconquista, and has remained a sizable city since that point.

Valencia's Cathedral Square
Valencia’s Cathedral Square

Valencia today provides much to fascinate the modern visitor. It is not overflowing with tourists like Madrid, but rather is a city that maintains its own distinctive spirit. Even in the city center, many restaurants offer only Spanish menus and servers. Its old quarter has begun to be blended into its modern, with the buildings of Valencia’s historic past being subsumed into the city’s thriving modernist movement. The great river which once ran through the city has been transformed into a massive park, the cathedral stands almost adjacent to a museum of modern art, and the audacious “i Ciudad de Las Artes Y Sciencias” – perhaps Valencia’s most well known tourist and nightlife hotspot- was only constructed in the last decade. The fact that these hyper-modern structures of twining steel and curving glass have come to supersede Valencia’s aged sites is a metaphor for the city as a whole: a city with a rich heritage, that is frenetically hurtling into the modern age.

While Valencia’s Roman past may be unremarkable, it is nevertheless a perfect stop for us in our pursuit of Hannibal, as it provides an excellent base for exploring the nearby town of Saguntum. Saguntum’s trajectory has almost been a mirror opposite of Valencia’s; once a thriving Roman metropolis, it was gradually eclipsed by Valencia in importance over the centuries, and today is little more than a small town on the outskirts of it. However, before even the Romans could colonize it, the town and its hilltop fortress already held a place in history, as the site of Hannibal’s siege that initiated the devastating Second Punic War.

In antiquity, Saguntum's natural location would have been difficult to assault.
In antiquity, Saguntum’s natural location would have been difficult to assault.

Before the Hannibalic war began, Rome and Carthage had signed an accord following the end of the First Punic War, granting Rome, the victors in that conflict, additional territories, including the land in Spain north of the Ebro river. In the accord, both states agreed not to attack the others allies wantonly, however Saguntum occupied the precarious position of being a Roman ally south of the Ebro, and had sworn allegiance to Rome after the treaty had been signed. On account of this, Hannibal asserted he had the right to seize it. Rome protested this as a violation of the treaty, and demanded the Carthaginian senate surrender Hannibal- a request which they refused, as Hannibal had been quite successful in Spain thus far, and furthermore, shortly after the treaty’s initial signing, Rome too had violated the treaty, seizing Carthaginian Sardinia before Carthage was ready to retaliate. In an enormously famous incident from the historian Livy, the Roman emissary stood before the Carthaginian Senate, and grabbed a handful of his toga, saying “In my hand I hold peace or war- choose from it which you will” to which the eager Carthaginians replied “Whichever you wish- we care not” and the ambassador let his toga fall, thus officially declaring the Second Punic War. Whether this anecdote truly occurred none can say, but Saguntum is without a doubt the spark that would ignite the war which would transform Hannibal into a legend.

Saguntum's Hilltop Remains
Saguntum’s Hilltop Remains

Atop the remains of Saguntum’s bastion, one can see for miles. The ruins of the fortresses that were built upon this site, including Roman, Moorish, and original Spanish, have blended together to the extent that one would expect they were once one and the same. The deserted fortifications, overlooking the tiny modern day village of Sagunto have a more palpable sense of history about them than any over the varied locales we have been. Standing at the summit, without another tourist in sight, one can look out over the surrounding fields and foothills and envision swarms of Carthaginians laying siege. One can place their hands on the crumbling stones, and feel the crushing blows that war machines must have dealt the walls over the months of assault. One can stare out towards the Mediterranean, and imagine the desperation that must have gripped the defenders as they prayed for Roman help that would never come. One can smell the air, fresh with sea salt, and imagine they are breathing in the same scent Hannibal once did when he stood at last triumphant over the city’s resilient inhabitants. Saguntum is an important place for understanding the Hannibalic, but it is much more than that. Listening to the soft breeze, standing atop the battlements under the summer sun, one comes to realize that Saguntum is a place where the events of times long gone feel as though they may have happened yesterday, a place where the Second Punic War feels contemporary rather than ancient, a place where Hannibal feels very much alive.

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From atop Saguntum’s fallen citadel, Hannibal too would have set his eyes out across the Mediterranean, where Italy awaited.

Cartagena: New Carthage, and the beginning of the Second Punic War

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The Theater of Carthago Nova

The beginning of Hannibal’s long march to Italy can be traced to Cartagena. The city on Spain’s southern coast has endured for over two millenia, undergoing periods of Carthaginian, Roman, and Moorish control before being reclaimed by Spain during its famed ‘Reconquista’ in 1245. Cartagena, often times a port city of major importance over the course of the centuries, is today a place that is steeped in the history of its many rulers. In Hannibal’s time, it was the most important Carthaginian city in all of Spain, and was appropriately dubbed Carthago Nova or ‘New Carthage.’ In the Winter of 219 BC, after the fateful siege of Saguntum, the conflict which ignited the Second Punic War (to be discussed in a later post), Hannibal wintered here. He would let his army disband, and return to their diverse homes including Spain, Libya, and Africa. It was here, too, where his army would rally again the following spring, to make ready for the war which would test Rome’s mettle like none before. Additionally, during the war, Spain was a major battleground, and it was New Carthage that served as the Carthaginian base of operations. All of these factors make it a worthy origin for our journey on Hannibal’s trail.

As we wandered Cartagena’s streets, we quickly came to realize how in tune the city was with its ties to antiquity. Posters advertising its Roman and Carthaginian past are present throughout the city, including several depicting Hannibal, saying “My treasure is my memory.” Archaeological sites, many only recently unearthed, can be found throughout the city. Remarkably, these locations are usually en situ, and are actually under the streets of modern Cartagena, giving unique perspective on how new civilizations routinely build atop the ruins and foundations of their predecessors. A temple to the deified Augustus can be found underneath a pharmacy, an ancient Roman house under a church. A large part of the local forum stands mostly intact, providing an incredible window into imperial Rome’s provincial influence. Looking out over Cartagena’s excellent natural harbor, with the undeveloped hillsides encircling it, one can almost envision the bustle of ancient ships making their way to and from this ancient port of note.

Discovering a poster of "Anibal" after stepping off the bus.
Discovering a poster of “Anibal” after stepping off the bus.

The citizens of Cartagena are deeply aware, and proud, of their resplendent past. Indeed, there is, perhaps, no modern city so deeply attuned to its Hannibalic legacy as Cartagena. Statues of the legendary Carthaginian seem to be omnipresent throughout the city, and everyone you ask is at the very least familiar with the ancient figure and his connection to their city’s heritage. However, there is perhaps no greater tribute to the city’s Carthaginian past than the 10 day festival held annually by its citizens, known as “Carthagineses y Romanos”. During the celebrations, the citizens put on massive re-enactments of major events from the Second Punic War in incredible detail, with many investing in their own complete sets of replica Roman and Carthaginian equipment. Many of Hannibal’s greatest battles, such as Cannae, Trebia, and Zama, have been performed in years prior. These festivities are emblematic of Cartagena as a whole- a modern city deeply entrenched in its past, and proud of its legacy.

Carthagineses Y Romanos- Cartagena's renowned festival
Carthagineses Y Romanos- Cartagena’s renowned festival

Madrid, Hamilcar Barca, and Carthaginian Spain

 

Alright, cards on the table. According to our historical sources, there is no indication that Hannibal ever went to Madrid, got near Madrid, or thought about Madrid- in large part because the land would not be settled (initially becoming the sight of a Muslim fort) until about a millennium after his fateful campaign. However, to arrive in Spain through Madrid, and spend no time in this vibrant European capital would have been an affront that we are quite sure would have caused even the stoic Hannibal to frown.

 

Madrid is a city that both embraces its past and thrives in its present. The city’s center is crowned equally with historic plazas and car-laden streets, illustrious art galleries and lively bars, magnificent palaces and boisterous nightclubs. It proudly recognizes and displays its rich imperial accomplishments from its famed golden age and teems with a life and vibrancy that few cities in the world can match.

Our heroes in Madrid's famed 'Plaza Mayor'
Our heroes in Madrid’s famed ‘Plaza Mayor’

During our time in Madrid, perhaps the single thing that was impressed on us again and again is the effort made by this highly modern capital to preserve the grandeur of its ‘Siglo del Oro.’ While it may have no Colosseum or Pyramids, no single, wondrous monument to its bygone glory, we came to realize exploring the streets of Madrid, that the very city itself is a love letter to Spain’s imperial past. Building after building, no matter how recent or shiny the construction, are designed in an architectural style that evokes the majesty of such an era: rooftops are studded with statues of bronze and marble, sweeping, columned terraces look out over the streets, and mighty staircases lead up to grand stone archways. Even though each structure may be quite distinctive from its neighbors in coloration, or the intricacies of its design, it is rare to see a departure from lavish and detailed ornamentation. There is virtually no trace of the modern forms that have become common place in the rest of Spain, and throughout the city one finds buildings often ostentatiously studded, standing as blatant reminders to those who view them that this is mighty Spain, and our glory days are far from over.

Though the city of Madrid would not be founded for more than a millenia after Hannibal’s death, his influence on the country of Spain can still be felt in its capital. In the Museo del Prado, Spain’s most prestigious art gallery, a number of works by some of Spain’s greatest masters focus on the events of the Second Punic War- such as a painting by the legendary Goya. These works are indicative of a fascination with Hannibal and his conquests that endured in the country for centuries, one which owes its roots, in large part, to Spain’s period under Carthaginian control.

In the third century BC, Hannibal’s father, Hamilcar, an eminent Carthaginian general, set out for Spain. Infuriated at the Carthaginian loss of the First Punic War (also fought against Rome), Hamilcar intended to build Carthaginian power to once again be capable of challenging Rome, via the consolidation of Carthage’s power in the southern part of the Iberian peninsula, and the professionalization of the Carthaginian army–a diverse force of mercenaries. Hannibal, only 9 at the time, pleaded to go with his father, and in one of the most famous stories from the histories of Livy, Hamilcar had his son swear on an altar before the gods that he would never be a friend to Rome.

As the world would remember, Hannibal would live up to this oath. But the fact remains that Hannibal could never have achieved what he did were it not for his father. Hamilcar provided him with first hand war experience from an early age, secured Carthage’s dominance over many of Spain’s southern tribes, and left his son with an army that was prepared and ready to follow his orders. And though Carthage’s grip over Spain would not endure more than a century, the significance of the peninsula as a centerpiece in Hannibal’s war can still be observed today in its largest city.

 

The Footsteps of Hannibal

 

In many ways, the history of Rome is demarcated by the individuals who helped define it. Names like Romulus, Augustus, and Caesar are eternal in the collective memory of western civilization. By and large, the long and winding narrative of Rome is characterized by the stories of its own sons. Many of the cities most famous conflicts were in fact civil wars, be it between Marius and Sulla, Augustus and Antony, or Caesar and Pompey. As Rome grew in power, fewer and fewer of its enemies presented real threats, and thus for the most part, the foreign leaders Rome contended with, kings and generals alike, are far less significant in Rome’s history than their nigh-legendary Roman counterparts. All save one.

The tale of Hannibal Barca is an extraordinary one. Were he born a Roman, his accomplishments and brilliance would have placed him amongst the paragon of its leaders. With the massive and practiced Roman armies under his command, who knows what a general of Hannibal’s capacity would have been able to achieve. Instead, as fate would have it, he born on the side of Carthage. And while Carthage would ultimately lose the Punic Wars, and through its destruction involuntarily set the stage for Rome to reach unprecedented heights of power in the Mediterranean, it has retained its legacy as the single greatest rival Rome ever faced. And that legacy, is, in large part, due to the incredible tactical brilliance of Hannibal. With a poorly supplied army consisting largely of foreign mercenaries at his disposal, Hannibal would terrorize Rome for over a decade, pillaging the Italian peninsula, and crushing the gargantuan armies the Romans tried to put in his way. He presented a threat like none the Republic had ever faced; a general with such extreme tactical acuity that ultimately Rome was forced to resort to a war of attrition, dragged out over many long years, to finally vanquish him.

Nevertheless, for centuries after his defeat at Zama, Hannibal’s name would echo throughout Rome. ‘Hannibal ad Portas’ or ‘Hannibal at the Gates!’ would become a commonplace expression, used by Romans whenever catastrophe struck. His standing as Rome’s greatest nemesis means we only gain insight into the man’s personality, leadership, and tactics through the eyes of the foes he routinely trounced with a patchwork battalion composed largely of mercenaries. Yet even before Hannibal laid waste to Rome’s vast armies with his inferior force, he had already achieved the impossible.

While military historians rightly examine Hannibal’s battlefield tactics as masterworks, even before his troops came into Italy and clashed with the forces of Rome, the Carthaginian general had already done the unthinkable. Circumnavigating the route all Romans thought he was to take, through the Roman city of Massilia, where a Roman army was waiting for him, Hannibal instead led his army north, and with his force of mercenaries, cavalry, and elephants, he proceeded to cross the supposedly impassable Alps in 16 days. He stunningly materialized with his force in the Po Valley, and in achieving this bewildering feat, brought the Second Punic War to the heart of Italy itself, where it would remain for over a decade.

Hannibal’s incredible crossing of the Alps is a deed which has taken on near mythological status in the eyes of scholars, who routinely underscore the miraculous and arduous nature of the task. It was a move so unprecedented and so staggering in its enormity that it left Rome reeling, and the psychological impact of it alone must have given Hannibal an advantage throughout the war that was to come. Given the ill-fated nature of his campaign, in many ways Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps is considered the great general’s crowning achievement. However, merely studying such a herculean task is a very different thing from experiencing it.

This summer, I have been given the opportunity to travel to the Mediterranean, and, to the best of my ability, with help from a variety of sources both ancient and modern, try and follow in the footsteps of this legendary figure, through Spain, France, and over the Alps into Italy. On this blog, I will be documenting the journey, and do my utmost to contemplate the history of the Hannibalic War and contextualize it with the locations I will be visiting. I want to try and transcribe the the essence of these locations beyond tactical significance or basic structure, so that the reader might have a greater understanding of what it would have been like millenia ago, during what was perhaps the most definitive war of Roman history. Visiting these locations, and seeing how they have transformed over those many centuries, I believe will enable me to reconcile Hannibal’s momentous achievements with an entirely new perspective and understanding, and I hope to translate that onto this blog. Of course, Spain, France, and Italy are all regions rich in history and culture beyond  classical antiquity, which I intend to take full advantage of. Cities like Barcelona, Lyon and Rome herself all lie along this grand route, and I will spend due time exploring all of them. If you’re interested, feel free to follow the journey! Thanks for reading!

-Chris