rogueclassicism review: Hannibal the Annihilator

Title: Hannibal the Annihilator

Series: Battles B.C.

Network: History Channel

Capitidicentes (epithets):

  • Richard Gabriel, PhD (Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario)
  • Mark Schwartz, PhD (Anthropology, Grand Valley State University)
  • Steve Weingartner (Author: Chariots Like a Whirlwind:The Saga of Chariotry and Chariot Warfare )
  • Matthew Gonzales (Assistant Professor of Classics, St Anselm College)
  • David George (Director, Institute of Mediterranean Archaeology)

Researchers:

None credited

Official description of episode:

Hannibal’s merciless attacks on Roman soil dealt a near fatal blow to the soon-to-be Empire. Sworn by his father to a blood oath against the Romans, Hannibal of Carthage does the unthinkable… he marches 40 war elephants and a massive army over the Alps to gain an element of surprise. In three key battles–Hannibal uses terrain, intimidation and his iron will to annihilate the Roman Legions, killing every Roman soldier that he possibly can.

Summary:

The program begins in medias res with the Seige of Saguntum, then proceeds to give a good overview of the seeds of that conflict (i.e. Punic War I) and some background to Hannibal (how he came to power and that famous oath) and life in the Carthaginian army. There is a good presentation of Hannibal’s crossing of the Rhone and how Hannibal was pretty much forced to go across the Alps, elephants and all. After a digression on Gallic treachery and the ethnic makeup of Hannibal’s army, we get into the three big battles (i.e Trebia, Trasimene, Cannae).

Comments:

As this is my first review, I should explain that I usually classify television programs about the ancient world into two categories. In the one category are those programs where the producers set things up as a conflict of opinions, usually between an “author” and one or more scholars with “conventional” views. In the other category are programs where no such “conflict” is set up, but the producers try to sensationalize it by focussing on salacious details or some other way (sometimes with good effect, sometimes without). In the case of Hannibal the Annihilator, we have a program which leans toward the latter category, with good effect and very good information. In this case, the ‘sensation’ is caused by making the visuals very 300-like and the comic book influence is also clear in the fonts used on the maps which depict battle formations and the like. That is not to say that it shouldn’t be taken seriously, although more than once I guffawed at the very buff Hannibal riding/walking shirtless through the snow. Outside of that, the information is very good and could be very usefully used to give a decent introduction to Hannibal and Punic War II. There are good comments  by folks who clearly know what they’re talking about on conflicts between commanders and on Hannibal’s military tactics and the graphics are combined in a useful way to explain how the battles unfolded. Definitely worth watching.