This epic retelling of the legendary Carthaginian military leader’s assault on the Roman empire begins in Ancient Spain, where Hannibal Barca sets out with tens of thousands of soldiers and 30 elephants. After conquering the Roman city of Saguntum, Hannibal wages his campaign through the outposts of the empire, shrewdly befriending peoples disillusioned by Rome and, with dazzling tactics, outwitting the opponents who believe the land route he has chosen is impossible. Yet Hannibal’s armies must take brutal losses as they pass through the Pyrenees mountains, forge the Rhone river, and make a winter crossing of the Alps before descending to the great tests at Cannae and Rome itself.
David Anthony Durham draws a brilliant and complex Hannibal out of the scant historical record–sharp, sure-footed, as nimble among rivals as on the battlefield, yet one who misses his family and longs to see his son grow to manhood. Whether portraying the deliberations of a general or the calculations of a common soldier, vast multilayered scenes of battle or moments of introspection when loss seems imminent, Durham brings history alive.
Known for his novels of African-American life in 19th-century America (Gabriel's Story; Walk Through Darkness), Durham leaps continents and centuries to tell the epic story of Hannibal and his march on Rome in this heady, richly textured novel. After Hannibal assumes command of the Carthaginian army in Spain and conquers the Roman city of Saguntum, Carthage refuses to accept Rome's demand that it abandon the city, precipitating the Second Punic War. In 218 B.C., Hannibal begins his daring march toward Rome, leading an army of upward of 100,000 complete with elephants and cavalry over the Pyrenees, across the Rh ne and through the snowcapped Alps. Ill prepared for the frigid weather, pummeled by avalanches and harassed by Celtic tribes, the army arrives in Italy reduced to perhaps 30,000. Against all odds, Hannibal brings his soldiers through the tortuous marshes of the Arno, and traps and massacres a large Roman force at Lake Trasimene and again at Cannae. The novel's grand sweep is balanced by intimate portraits of Hannibal, his family, his allies and his enemies, as well as by the stories of two humble characters: Imco Vaca, a soldier, and Aradna, a camp follower, who meet and fall in love as the saga moves inexorably toward an account of the beheading of Hannibal's brother and Hannibal's eventual defeat at the gates of Rome. Durham weaves abundant psychological, military and political detail into this vivid account of one of the most romanticized periods of history.