am 8. Februar 2000
Dodge's book was written over a hundred years ago. The author has traveled around the battlefields of the second Punic War and tried to work out from the existing historical sources what really happened. Dodge was an army officer who served in the American Civil War. As such he knows the difficulty of moving large bodies of men, of supplying them with food, the difficulties of feeding horses and keeping them in good condition.
The book establishes the greatness of Hannibal. Very little is left to tell us much of what Carthaginian civilization was like. Coins and sculpture suggest that the Greeks heavily influenced it. We know that Carthage was an oligarchy and that it was a city that traded extensively.
It seems that it was probably a city that depended on slavery to produce its agricultural produce. This led to Rome having a pronounced advantage in the conflicts between the two cities. Rome had a sizeable peasant class who were integrated into its civil life. The Roman peasant class formed the basis of its armies. Rome as well had built up a coalition of allied cities some of which shared the benefits of citizenship. This meant that in any conflict Rome was able to put in the field 750,000 soldiers. In addition it had considerable economic power. Thus in the first Punic war Rome was able to build a number of fleets to challenge the Carthaginians at sea. The Carthaginians did not have a large class of landed peasants who could be mobilized and they depended on mercenary armies. The history of Carthage prior to their first war with Rome was not a history of military brilliance. Carthage had considerable problems in maintaining their control over about a third of Sicily fighting a large number of wars with the Greek city of Syracuse.
Rome in addition to being able to raise large numbers of men had developed a superior military unit. The predominant military unit prior to the rise of Rome was an infantry formation called he phalanx. This was a Greek invention. Heavily armored men would stand shoulder to shoulder and advance in a mass. The phalanx was effective in crushing the more lightly armed Persian troops during the time of Alexander. The Romans developed he legion. Its troops were armed with a short stabbing sword rather than a spear. Each soldier stood further apart than the phalanx. The formation was more flexible and the more spread out nature of the Roman formation allowed them to outflank the more compact Greek formations.
The twin advantages of a large population meant that Rome would over the next 400 years win wars even when poor generals led it. It had a military organization that was would work even with generals of limited talents and if something went wrong the Roman state could put army after army into the field. The decline of the Roman empire occurred when the military organization of the state changed and peasant levies gave rise to mercenary armies.
It would seem that Hannibal's father Hamilicar was an extremely competent military commander. He fought a guerrilla campaign against the Romans during the first war. After the peace he put down a mercenary revolt in Africa with numerically inferior forces. He then went on to conquer Spain. The reason for conquering Spain was to provide an economic base for the conquest of Rome. His son Hannibal fought in Spain to consolidate his fathers conquests.
Hannibal's war with Rome is remarkable in many respects but the one which Dodge explains is that it was a private war. The Carthaginian State did not really have the resources to finance a war with Rome. The enterprise was based on revenue from Spanish mines as were most of the infantry. Spain was in effect the personal property of Hannibal. He made a decision to attack Rome and Carthage agreed this decision to as it did not mean that they had to contribute much to the war effort.
Hannibal realized that to defeat Rome he would have to break up the Roman confederation. His strategy was to invade Italy and by winning military victories to prize away Romes allies.
In the end the scheme failed. Rome lost army after army but she was always able to raise more. In the end the Romans held Hannibal at bay while conquering Spain and cutting off the chance of fresh troops. Hannibal had to retreat to Africa were he was at last beaten at the battle of Zama. Rome triumphed and went on to rule most of what is now Europe for 800 years.
Dodge rates Hannibal as one of antiquities greatest figures. Although in the end his career was a failure the challenges he had to face were immense. Alexander the Great inherited an army and faced enemies of much less caliber and steel than Hannibal did. Caesar was born into the Roman empire and was given command of armies which Hannibal could only dream of. Hannibal's achievement's were immense. He fashioned with his father a private state sufficiently rich to enable him to raise a private army. That army he trained and honed into one of the finest of its age. He won spectacular victories over what was to be the strongest power in Europe for hundreds of years. His campaigns were far sighted and he had enormous talents in keeping together for over ten years a mercenary army made up of many different peoples. In Italy he was one of the first to create an intelligence network to monitor the movement of Roman armies and to anticipate cities which might be willing to change allegiance to his side. Despite these many talents there is a limit to what an individual can do when faced by a nation.
Dodges book is readable and in its own way fascinating. His own war experience gives him a much richer understanding of the campaigns and the maneuvers between the battles. The histories which still survive are those written by Polybius, Livy and Plutarch. Dodge is of the view that Polybius had a grasp of military matters which Livy and Plutarch lacked. He has to reconstruct the movements of the various armies to get a real picture of what was happening.
All in all a fascinating book which conveys the nuts and bolts reality of warfare in the ancient world.
am 23. Februar 2000
Theodore Ayrault Dodge was an officer in the Union army during the civil war. He saw action at Gettysburg, among other places. As a soldier, Dodge gives a unique, in-the-trenches perspective to military history that can be lost amongst history professors who sometimes tend to view their discipline from the ivory towers of academia. Although this is the only book I have read on the life of Hannibal, I cannot fathom anyone writing a more thorough biography of this singularly extraordinary individual. Dodge does a great job of providing background information such as the critical error of the Greek general Pyrrhus (why Hannibal refrained from attempting to siege Rome after Cannae), as well as a first hand account of the most likely route that Hannibal chose to march his army thru the Alps (Dodge personally visited & inspected the various passages himself). He also furnishes us with detailed information on Hannibal's brother, Hasdrubal & his ultimate defeat by Nero.
At heart, however, this book is about the Second Punic War (also known as the war against Hannibal). Dodge gives us an exhilerating picture of how this man led a basically rag-tag army of mercenaries against the greatest fighting machine the world had ever known.....and somehow managed to win, anyway. From his infamous triumph over Varro at Cannae to his eventual defeat at Zama in 202 BC, Dodge chronicles the successes and tribulations of this important historical figure. It is no wonder that Virgil intentionally wrote allusions to him in The AEneid.
For those who enjoy this book, I would HIGHLY recommend the biography that B.H. Liddell Hart wrote on the life of Scipio Africanus for a glimpse of the "other side" of this struggle.
am 28. Februar 1998
I read the back of the dust-jacket and was hooked: "It was an excellent idea to reintroduce Americans to this 104-year-old book, which has never been bettered."
This is the sort of thing I have been looking for but just didn't know it. I have always been curious to learn the day-to-day details of life in the Roman legions. Colonel Dodge satisfied my wish-- providing just the sort of matter of fact, down-to-earth information I hungered for. How did the Legionaires stand in battle? What did their sandals look like? How much were they paid? What were their formations and signals? All accompanied by the author's own illustrations.
The author, a decorated veteran of the American Civil War, was the first scholar to actually go and visit all of the battlefields of Hannibal. And of course, any book about Hannibal must equally be about his Roman adversaries.
Although the text is over one hundred years old, it is still easy to read. I enjoyed the author's style-- very easy going, with occasional quaint lapses of grammar: For instance, when speaking of the Romans, he writes "Their tactics was simple."
At first I thought it was a typo, then I realized he was making a point-- the Legions has only ONE tactic: to always attack. Coming as it does at the end of a well-researched and charmingly presented chapter, I found it to be a delightful and unorthodox conclusion to a convincing argument. I'll leave it to you to discover other such gems on your own!
It's like having one of those old nineteenth century school professors come to life and then discover he is really funny and not at all boring and actually a pretty nice guy. Go ahead and buy this book-- for under twenty dollars it is a real bargain.
am 9. Mai 1999
I enjoy and trust the historians of the past more than the current(last 50 years). This is one of those times. Dodge does an outstanding job weaving the story of one of the greatest generals of history. He makes a credible case for Hannibal being THE BEST miltary genious of recorded history. I learned more about the Romans and Carthaginians in this book than all the previous books I've read combined. The book was first published in the 1890's and you can tell by the beautiful and intelligent writing. Dodge doesn't feel the need to "dumb down" to the reader like contemporary historians tend to do. My only complaint is that, due to this publish date, the maps and pictures are hand drawn and rudimentary. I will be ordering more books from T.Dodge in the future.
am 13. Dezember 1997
The book is great. Hannibal had the ability to conquer all of the Roman Empire if he had been properly supported by his homeland. You got to read about this historical leader who was the first to bring a large army through the Alps and then lay seige to the Roman Empire for over ten years. Also, he left a wife and son behind during this time, imagine being away from home, family, and kingdom for a decade. Also, check out Dodge's book on Alexander. These two books are fantastic!
am 2. September 1999
First of all, beeing a spaniard (sorry for my english) I was quite suprised to find this huge book in the darkest corner of the word (a little, very old, bookshop in Istambul, Turkey) But that surprise was nothing compared with what I (a wargamer that really loves ancient history) discovered beetwen the pages of this book. The real better author in military history i've ever found.
My only concern is that I paid almost twice the price of this book to the old turk bookseller who cheat in the worst way.
(¡anyway, the book deserves what I paid for it!)