story about an event that occurred in ancient times is always
difficult to tell with a high degree of certainty. The most
valuable sources of information have usually been lost over
the centuries, or what exists has been rendered suspect by alteration,
fragmentation or corruption. While ancient historians generally
wrote about events in considerable detail, often what the modern
writer has left to examine is not always sufficient to support the story
fully, or the sources are themselves subject to so much controversy,
contradiction and doubt that they are useless. The story about how
Hannibal crossed the Alps is no exception, for it has many of these
same problems when it comes to the source material.
Far and away the most convincing proof a writer can offer his
readers that an event occurred in history is hard archaeological evidence. Unfortunately, evidence regarding Hannibal and the crossing
of the Alps does not exist. No one has ever found a single piece of
archaeological evidence to prove conclusively that Hannibal ever even
set foot in Italy. So, how do we know that Hannibal crossed the Alps
and that his story is not just another legend? First, a number of
ancient Roman historians and writers tell us that Hannibal invaded
Italy in 218 B.C. and that he came very close to destroying their
republic. Second, numerous Greek writers confirm this when they
also wrote about the wars between Carthage and Rome, and especially about Hannibal's invasion.
It is an accepted fact that the city of Carthage existed and that it
controlled a vast empire in the western Mediterranean in the centuries between 800 and 200 B.C. The ruins of that once magnificent city still stand on the shores of North Africa for anyone to see, and
evidence of Carthaginian colonies can be found throughout Sicily,
Sardinia and Spain. There is enough evidence to enable archaeologists
to accurately date many of these ruins and formulate an image of
what the city must have looked like.' Traces of the Carthaginian legacy are evident in modern-day place names such as the Spanish cities
Cartagena (New Carthage) and Barcelona ("camp of the Barcas").
Examples of Carthaginian art and literature, unfortunately, are rare.
There is limited archaeological evidence that points to Hannibal's
being in Spain and Italy, but it is often inconclusive and the historical
context can be difficult to establish.
The majority of the evidence that exists about Hannibal is derived
largely from coins, and indirectly from a few inscriptions and carvings. Coins have always provided an important source of information
about people and events in the ancient world. There are many fine
examples from the time of the Punic Wars and these are helpful in
establishing approximate dates and some degree of chronological relationship with other objects and artifacts. Coins have been discovered
in Spain that bear the likeness of men who experts believe could well
have been Hannibal, his brother-in-law Hasdrubal, one or more of
his brothers and even his father, Hamilcar Barca.z Evidence such as
this yields important yet limited information about these rulerssuch as when they lived and died, significant events that occurred in
their reigns and how long they ruled. The quality of the silver and
gold in many of the coins is a reliable guide to the prosperity of an
area at the time they were issued, however, and can be an indication
of how peaceful or warlike the period might have been.
The designs on these coins often represent political or religious
themes and the symbols found on them can be guides to the policies
that certain rulers followed. Often the symbols reflect a persona that
a particular leader wanted to promote among his subjects. However,
to extract this information and apply it to events in the Punic Wars,
or to specific historical figures like Hannibal, requires a degree of specialization that is beyond the scope of this book. Numismatic evidence has to be formulated with considerable care and caution, and
the drawing of conclusions must be left to specialists.
Inscriptions and carvings taken from columns and monuments
are another valuable, if limited, source of information about Hannibal and the Punic Wars. Most examples that have survived are
Roman and yield considerable information on both public and private affairs in the ancient world. These inscriptions were written,
carved and displayed mostly on stone and metal such as bronze.
Some of the inscriptions and carvings were erected by individuals in
the form of epitaphs or dedications, while others were expressions of
thanks to the gods for completion of a long and potentially dangerous trip or perhaps a prosperous business venture. Other inscriptions
were made by public authorities in the form of regulations, decrees
and resolutions. Some inscriptions are found on rock walls or milestones. Carvings found on columns and monuments usually depict
battle scenes and military campaigns. From these carvings specialists
are able to extract considerable information about everything from
the size of the soldiers to the types of military dress and weapons they
Many inscriptions, however, are not closely dated, and when lettering and carvings are worn away by the elements over the centuries
they become difficult if not impossible to read. Many are so damaged
or worn that they are indecipherable. While many inscriptions and
carvings contribute substantially to the understanding of historical
events, they have their limitations, and often require, like numismatics, the application of special expertise to understand and utilize.
There is a great deal of archaeological evidence about Rome available to scholars that reveals everything from the construction of military fortifications and civilian habitats to the manufacturing and use
of a multitude of artifacts necessary to everyday life. There are the
remains of Roman roads (some with wheel-ruts), foundations of
buildings (many with inscriptions), rock-cuttings, utensils, weapons,
furniture, votive offerings and a variety of other antiquities. The evidence from these findings throws light on many aspects of Roman
life and history but unfortunately tells us precious little about
Carthage and Hannibal.
One area of fairly recent promise, nevertheless, is a series of
archaeological excavations being conducted in central Italy that indi care a Carthaginian presence there.' These are excavations of incineration pits and burial grounds located in the area of Lake Trasimene,
the site of one of Hannibal's greatest victories. Archaeological work at
these sites has shown that large-scale battles between the Romans and
the Carthaginians or a similar people took place there, but no evidence has yet been found that points conclusively to Hannibal's presence.
Another interesting source of information, perhaps more amusing
and intriguing than informative, comes from a number of contemporary stories that relate to Hannibal and the crossing of the Alps. They
are tales of archaeological objects that were allegedly found by chance
in the Alps and then lost. Among the more interesting of the stories is
one from the eighteenth century about a farmer in France who found
elephant bones while plowing in his field. The bones were buried in a
ritual manner with an unusual copper medallion at a place where
Hannibal could well have passed on his march to the Alps.' Unfortunately, both the bones and the medallion have become lost, so have
been of no help to modern scholars.
There are also scattered reports in the literature of the nineteenth
century about elephant bones found in an Alpine pass.5 Yet again,
nothing has survived to be examined and authenticated except the
stories. Finally there is the interesting tale of a tablet allegedly
inscribed with the name of Hannibal and found on a high and
remote Alpine pass toward the end of the nineteenth century. This
tablet, if it had survived, would have been the strongest proof ever
that Hannibal crossed the Alps. Yet it was lost when its enraged finder, a local inhabitant concerned more with profit than history, threw
it into a glacier when he could not extort a high enough price for its
The story of Hannibal has captured the imagination and inspired
people up to our own century to try a number of stunts to prove that
he went over the Alps. In the early 1960s someone attempted to take
an elephant over the Alps simply to prove that it could be done.
There have been scores of expeditions, from the professional to the
amateur, that have combed the mountains looking for Hannibal's pass. Generations of scholars from ancient times down to the modern
era have fixated on the story of Hannibal and devoted some of their
best efforts to proving it. Emperors and generals from Julius Caesar,
Pompey and Constantine to Napoleon have taken armies over the
Alps in attempts to duplicate Hannibal's feat.
The last and most dangerous place to search for evidence on
Hannibal is in the French Alps themselves. Largely unchanged over
time and standing as silent witnesses to the events of history, they
hold somewhere among their summits the answer to the question. All
that is necessary is for someone to be persistent enough, brave
enough and lucky enough to find it. Two thousand years is not a long
time in the context of Alpine history and scientists are sure that the
terrain over which Hannibal passed and the climatic conditions he
endured have not changed significantly in that period.
The main passes over the Alps today are essentially the same that
have been in use for thousands of years. Throughout the Middle
Ages, the thousand-year period from the fall of the Roman Empire to
the beginning of the Renaissance, the only routes over the Alps were
the ones established by the Romans.' There were, from the records
that exist, few new routes opened over the Alps in this medieval period, probably because the local governments lacked the financial
resources and a large pool of cheap labor comparable to that of the
Roman army and the slaves of the Empire. Engineering skill during
the Middle Ages may have been severely lacking as well. Evidence of
the Roman Alpine routes is reflected in the various milestones that
they carefully placed along their roadways to mark the distances
between towns. Inscriptions made by the Romans and others on walls
of rock, on the remains of Roman roads and on buildings can still be
found on or near some of the routes to the passes. One only needs to
go into the Alps and, with a great deal of patience, caution and time,
look for the evidence.
The possibility of discovering one conclusive piece of archaeological evidence is not as remote as one might think. For the Alps, once
so inaccessible and remote, have now become winter and summer
vacation spots for thousands of tourists each year. As these vacationing hoards descend on the mountains each season, someone, given the right set of circumstances and a little luck, may come upon the
physical evidence of Hannibal's passing.'
During no other period in history have scholars had the access to
the Alps that they have today. While still dangerous,10 modern conveniences and technological advances have made them accessible even
to amateurs for research purposes. Satellites, helicopters and airplanes
have allowed aerial surveys to be conducted that give views of the valleys, ridges and peaks never before available on such an accurate and
detailed scale. Developments such as metal detectors, inexpensive and
portable, allow professionals and amateurs alike to undertake investigations of more remote areas that heretofore would have been
deemed too difficult, inaccessible or expensive for traditional methods of archaeological excavation.
However, until the remains of an elephant or a Carthaginian soldier are found on some remote Alpine pass, scholars will have to rely
on sources other than archaeological to make their case. What remains is what the ancient historians wrote about Hannibal: the literary evidence. The works of these writers are the most reliable sources
of information available, yet they have their problems as well. The
task is to examine and evaluate what they had to say about Hannibal,
and how that information can be of use today in helping to determine his route over the Alps.
Nearly everything we know about Hannibal and his march over
the Alps comes to us by way of ancient Greek and Roman historians.
Some of them lived during and shortly after the time of the Punic
Wars, but most lived years and even centuries after the events. Yet
they were close enough to the events that their sources of information
can usually be accepted as reliable. While references to Hannibal
show up in many places and by various authors, they must all be
viewed cautiously since most of the works that have survived the centuries have a pronounced Roman bias.
While the earliest examples of physical manuscripts dealing with
Hannibal and the Punic Wars date from the tenth and eleventh centuries A.D.," the greatest quantity of them date from the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries. These are transcriptions of the original Greek and
Roman texts made during the Dark Ages by medieval monks and scholars. The original manuscripts were lost or destroyed centuries
earlier. All of what the ancient historians wrote about Hannibal and
the Punic Wars has been passed down to us over the centuries in the
form of these medieval transcriptions.
The problem with using these manuscripts as evidence is that over
the centuries they were transcribed by first one medieval editor, then
another. Modern scholars, unable to go directly to the original
sources, have had to rely on the accuracy of the transcriptions. For
centuries the accuracy of the medieval editors in preparing their transcriptions was accepted by later scholars with little question. Recently,
however, some scholars in the field have voiced concerns that the
medieval transcriptions may contain serious errors that have impacted the research conclusions of generations of scholars.12 With these
warnings in mind, we can now turn to an examination of the ancient
sources and what they had to say about Hannibal and the passage
over the Alps.
The most reliable account of Hannibal's crossing would have been
provided by someone, preferably a historian, who was actually with
the Carthaginian mercenaries and made the climb. Hannibal supposedly provided for just such an account of his march across the Alps to
be written, literally each day as it unfolded. The account was allegedly written by a Greek who accompanied the Carthaginian army as its
official historian. His name was Silenus and we know about him
through the writings of the later Romans who made references to his
work.13 The account of Silenus, however, was lost or destroyed centuries ago.
We also know that Hannibal studied Greek and possibly Latin
from another historian and teacher, Sosylus. This Greek wrote a biography of Hannibal but unfortunately it too was lost long ago. We
know of its existence only because, like the work of Silenus, Roman
and Greek historians referred to it in their own later works.14
A young Roman officer, Lucius Cincius Alimentus, provides
another source of information on Hannibal and the crossing of the
Alps. Though he was not an eyewitness to the crossing, he was taken
prisoner after one of the first battles between Hannibal and the
Roman legions in Italy. This Roman officer subsequently spent sever al years in the Carthaginian camp. There were many periods in the
course of the Second Punic War when the armies of both sides were
inactive because of poor weather conditions or other problems.
During one or more of these periods of inactivity, Hannibal apparently had the leisure to discuss with Alimentus, at length, the circumstances of his long march from Spain and the suffering his army
endured when it crossed the Alps. Hannibal allegedly described to
Alimentus how the Carthaginian mercenaries had struggled over the
hostile terrain of the Alps, fighting against both the mountain tribes
who lived there and the elements.
Alimentus was eventually freed and allowed to return home, but
so far as we know he did not write an account of his captivity by the
Carthaginians. He did pass on to others some of what he had learned
from Hannibal, and that information eventually made its way into
the writings of some of the later Roman historians. 'I
The most comprehensive and accurate history of the wars between
Rome and Carthage was written by a Greek who was born at the end
of the Second Punic War and lived throughout the Third. Polybius
(c. 200-118 B.C.) was a native of a mountainous region of southern
Greece called Arcadia. After the Romans conquered Greece, Polybius
was arrested along with a number of others because he had been
active both politically and militarily in this region. He was sent to
Italy in 168 B.C., where he remained in Rome under a loose form of
house arrest for nearly sixteen years, though he was never formally
accused of a crime.
While in Rome he had the good fortune to meet Publius Scipio, an
aristocrat who admired the Greeks and appreciated their civilization.
Both men shared a love of learning and this became the foundation
for a lasting friendship. Eventually Polybius was invited to live in the
household of Scipio, head of an influential Roman family, that was
involved in the politics of the Republic at the highest level and in the
struggle against Carthage. Members of this patrician family had led
the fight against the Carthaginians for generations, both from the
floor of the Roman Senate and on the battlefields of Italy, Spain and
Africa. Through his long association with both sides of Scipio's fam ily, the Aemilii Paulli and the Cornelii Scipiones, Polybius came to
know many of those who had made Rome the most powerful city in
the ancient world.
Fifty years after the end of the war with Hannibal, Polybius began
to write his comprehensive history of Rome. He drew upon a variety
of sources, many of which are no longer clearly identifiable. We know
that he used a wide range of documentary evidence, such as the
important treaties between Rome and Carthage, and that he also had
access to memoirs, minor treaties and other important documents in
the government and private archives of Rome. He must also have
made extensive use of the many conversations he had with some of
the leading men of the time. All these sources gave him important
information and a unique perspective on the course of historical
affairs in the ancient world.
During the lifetime of Polybius, Rome became the most powerful
and sophisticated capital in the ancient world, and as a result was visited by nearly everyone of importance. Thus Polybius had opportunities to interview many of those who had played key or crucial roles in
the events that he would later write about. Polybius relied on personal inquiry as his most important research tool and interviewed eyewitnesses to many of the events. He drew, in addition, on written
sources such as what other authors and historians had recorded as
well as the numerous treaties and correspondence between the
Romans and the Carthaginians. He also used published speeches of
senators. Further, Polybius visited many of the battlefields in Italy
and used information from an inscription that he found at the
Temple of Hera on the Lacinian promontory in the southeastern tip
of Italy (Cape Colonna).16
Polybius was eventually released from house arrest by the Roman
authorities, probably because of his close association with the family
of Scipio. He was allowed to leave Italy and he visited Africa, Spain
and Gaul. The Roman war with Hannibal had aroused great interest
in the ancient world and Polybius, as a historian, traveled to many of
the battle sites abroad to investigate for himself what had happened.
We know that while in Africa he met with the aged King of Numidia,
Masinissa. This tribal king had once been a close ally of Carthage and had fought with Hannibal in Spain. Toward the end of the Second
Punic War he saw the handwriting on the wall and joined with the
Romans. The Numidian king fought against Hannibal at the Battle
of Zama in 202 B.C., so there is little doubt that Polybius discussed
this climactic Carthaginian defeat with him at length when they met.
On his return from Africa, Polybius traced Hannibal's footsteps
over the French Alps in order to see for himself what the terrain was
like and the circumstances of the march.17 He reconstructed the route
of Hannibal from Spain, through France and into Italy for use in his
history of Rome. In the sections on the Punic Wars Polybius recounted the distances covered by the Carthaginian army as it moved
through Spain and France and he provided time frames for sections
of the march which enable us to reconstruct much of the route with a
high degree of probability. He interviewed witnesses to the events and
carefully recorded what he learned from them. He wrote in his histories that he sought out eyewitnesses and personally inspected the
Alpine route Hannibal followed, which at that time probably still
contained physical evidence of the march. 18 All these factors taken
together make this Greek historian probably the most valuable and
accurate ancient source available on Hannibal.
Moved by the events of the epic struggle between Carthage and
Rome, Polybius went to North Africa toward the close of the Third
Punic War to watch this historical drama play out it last act.
Aemilianus Publius Scipio, his former pupil and the son of his close
friend, had been given charge of the Roman army at Carthage, with
the task of besieging the city. Polybius was present when, after a three
year siege, the Romans finally breached the walls and began to obliterate both its people and its structures. He recorded the thoughts of
his friend Scipio as the two men watched the magnificent city burn
throughout successive nights. A city which had flourished for over
seven hundred years was coming to its tragic end and both men saw
in this the inevitable march of history and the poignant decline of
The era of Carthage had come to an end and the city of splendor
and luxury which had ruled a vast empire for so long was being
reduced to rubble and ashes. Scipio wept and lamented the fate of his enemy, for he saw in their misfortune the same fate for Rome. He
turned to his friend and tutor Polybius and commented on how, in
spite of the glory of the moment for Rome, he was seized within by a
fear and foreboding that someday the same fate would befall his own
city.'9 Scipio could not have realized how true his words would prove,
when six hundred years later Rome suffered the same fate at the
hands of invading barbarians.
As a historical source on the ancient world Polybius is unequaled
because of, among other things, the balanced perspective he brings to
his work. Polybius presented both the Roman and Carthaginian perspectives during the Punic Wars. The theme of Polybius in his History
of the Roman Republic is simple and straightforward. He wanted, as a
historian and philosopher, to understand how the Roman people had
succeeded in less than fifty years in bringing almost the whole of the
inhabited ancient world under their control. This was an accomplishment that he found to be without parallel in history20
Polybius believed that the expansion of Roman power throughout
the Mediterranean during those critical years was the product of a
conscious desire on the part of the Roman people to extend their
domination over the ancient world. Polybius was convinced that
decisions were made and policies formulated at Rome specifically
toward that end. What is sometimes in dispute is whether his view is
correct and accords with the facts that he provides. Because he was a
Greek, a captive of the Romans, albeit in a gilded cage, there is the
question of whether he really understood the Roman people and to
what degree his own nationalistic predilections colored his perspective on events. After all, Greece had been conquered by the Romans
during that same period and in some cases Greek cities had suffered
the same treatment as Carthage-burned to the ground and their
Polybius believed the Romans brought the ancient world under
their domination in such a short space of time because they were a
tenacious people gifted in the art of government. They could discipline others, Polybius wrote, because they had learned to discipline
themselves. The Romans were a people who, once they set their mind
to something, would not quit no matter how high the price of even tual victory. Polybius believed that civilizations were like men: they
went through periods of infancy, vigorous manhood and old age.
Carthage was thus destroyed simply because her time had come. An
"old man" by the Third Punic War, Carthage had to make way on the
stage of international politics for a younger and more vigorous challenger.
Polybius had devoted himself to the study of a time period that
began with the Second Punic War, about 220 B.C., and ended in 146
B.C. with the destruction of Carthage. His work originally comprised
forty books, although only a fraction of that number still survive.
Fortunately the books that deal with the Punic Wars, Volumes I to V
of his history, are intact and available to scholars.
From the fall of the Roman empire in about 400 A.D. until the
early fifteenth century, the work of Polybius disappeared, as did many
other ancient literary, scientific and historical works of the Greek and
Roman period. Little is known of what happened to the history of
Polybius and his other works; his writings simply fell into the abyss
that was the Dark Ages. Copies of his texts began to surface and circulate again only at the end of the medieval period, in the first light
of the Renaissance. The books initially appeared at Florence, then
gradually over large parts of Italy. With advances in printing, editors
began to publish the Latin transcriptions of his history in the fifteenth century. The sixteenth century saw a great flowering of interest
in the writings of Polybius, with translations from the Greek and
Latin appearing in French, Italian and German. The first English
translation appeared in 1568.
The works of Polybius became popular in the Renaissance and
were studied not only as a history of the ancient world but also for
the insights they contained into the philosophies of politics, war and
human nature. Polybius was regarded as an ancient teacher who
could offer valuable advice to medieval princes in the organization of
their armies as well as in the conduct of their lives.
Following Polybius, the next historian of importance for scholars
interested in the subject of Hannibal is Livy (c. 59 B.C.-17 A.D.). A
Roman, living at the apex of Roman power under the Emperor
Augustus, Livy devoted his life to the writing of a massive history of the Roman Republic.
Livy was born at Patavium (Padua) and then moved to Rome.
There he started on his history at about the age of thirty and continued to work on his magnus opus for the next forty years. When completed, the work came to number 142 volumes. Of that number 35
survive. Ten of the surviving books are devoted exclusively to the
Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage, which is essentially
the story of Hannibal. These ten have come down to us intact and
they are important because they provide descriptions of the route
Hannibal followed on his march from Spain to Italy, complete with
the names of places through which he passed. Livy gave a detailed
physical description of the pass by which Hannibal went over the
Alps, which we will examine in greater detail later.
From what we can determine, Livy was a reclusive scholar who
devoted nearly his entire adult life to the creation of his history of
Rome. Little is known about his personal life other than that he lived
in the relative stability of the golden age of Augustus and that he was
well known in Rome as a literary figure. In spite of his notoriety, Livy
was not active in public or military affairs but devoted himself entirely to scholarly pursuits.
The account that Livy wrote about Hannibal's crossing of the
Alps is a dramatic narrative, written by a scholar who believed that
there are lessons to be learned from history and that the lives of men
like Hannibal and his opponents provide important practical examples for the conduct of our own daily lives. Livy was able, more so
than Polybius, to bring the past to life and recreate the spirit of the
period in history when Rome faced her greatest challenge. This history of Rome is among the more imaginative, patriotic and creative historical writings, and there are few ancient historians who can compare with Livy in this regard.
In assessing the value of Polybius and Livy in advancing our
knowledge of Hannibal's crossing, it is important to note that there
has been throughout the centuries a tendency among scholars to view
Livy with a degree of caution, even somewhat suspiciously. This has
been largely because of the fear that this ancient Roman historian
might have been too heavily influenced by the earlier work of Polybius. While comparison of passages from the two histories may
cause one to suspect that Polybius was the main source for large
amounts of the material used by Livy,21 his history is still of exceptional importance. The primary importance of Livy is that he verifies
much of what Polybius wrote and provides information on the lost
sections of Polybius' history.
As a historian Livy has always been read in the shadow of his
Greek predecessor. Even though Livy wrote long after the events he
described, he had access to good firsthand sources in Rome. There
were records of senatorial decrees kept in the archives at Rome, as
well as the annales maximi (the annual records of state elections, ceremonies, state visits, etc.) which he no doubt utilized in writing his
In spite of the tendency to regard Livy in a dimmer light than
Polybius, there have been periods in history when his work has been
preferred to that of the earlier historian. The current trend, however,
is to view both sources as substantially in agreement on the details of
Hannibal's march and to use the them together to advance research
on the subject, especially concerning its geographical aspects. It must
be noted that there are contemporary historians who view the two
ancient authors as being at odds, and that their writings cause scholars to follow distinctly different routes over the Alps. A key question
to resolve is whether Polybius and Livy are writing about the same
route in their manuscripts or two different routes. We are fortunate
because the sections of both histories dealing with the Punic Wars are
intact and allow for comparisons to be made.
A Roman poet occupies the next place in the chronicle of ancient
sources on Hannibal. Silius Italicus was born in A.D. 26 in the same
town from which Livy had come, Patavium. He wrote an epic piece
on the Punic Wars22 and used many details from Livy's history. His
primary value to a modern scholar is that Silius serves as a check on
readings in extant manuscripts of Livy.
In addition, a Greek geographer named Strabo, born in 64 B.C.,
mentioned in his work the pass which Hannibal used to cross the
Alps, as did a Roman historian, Marcus Terentius Varro, born in 116
The impact of Hannibal was so great in Italy that no Roman historian could ignore the Punic Wars. References to Hannibal are
found in the works of such ancient authors as Diodorus, Dio
Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos in the first century B.C., Trogus
Pompeius in the first century A.D., Justin, and Appian in the second
and Eutropius in the fourth. Timagenes of Alexandria, a skilled historian and geographer, came to Rome in 54 B.C., where he caught the
attention of the young man who would become Emperor Augustus.
Little of his work has survived except some interesting fragments
quoted by other Roman historians such as Ammianus Marcellinus.
Timagenes included in his work a brief description of Hannibal's
march through the Alps, which is important because it gives the
names of the tribes through whose territories Hannibal passed.21
Unfortunately, what these ancient authors had to say about Hannibal
and his march across the Alps is slight and does little to shed additional light on the subject.
Another interesting source of information about Hannibal,
though indirect, comes from a number of archaeological finds of itineraries or lists of towns and way-stations on specified routes through
the ancient world.24 Among the most important are the Gaditanian
Vases, dating from the first or second century A.D., the Itinerarium
Antonini Augusti, the Itinerarium Burdigalense and the Tabula
Peutingeriana, from the third century A.D. The Tabula is the most
complete of all the ancient lists and is virtually a road map of the
ancient Roman Empire. The itinerary was based on surveys carried
out in the reign of Augustus and dated as far back as a map system
drawn up by a Greek geographer, Eratosthenes, during the time of
the Second Punic War.25 These itineraries are valuable because they
mention a number of passes in the French Alps and from them we
learn of at least thirteen that were known at the time of the Roman
Empire. It must be remembered, however, that Hannibal crossed the
Alps some three to four hundred years before these itineraries were
written and that his passage over the Alps was probably one of the
major factors that caused the Romans to explore the area. Prior to
Hannibal's coming over the Alps, the Romans knew little of the
mountains that separated Italy from Gaul. The itineraries nevertheless enable researchers to confirm that many of these routes and Alpine
passes were probably well known in Hannibal's time and that he
could have followed one or more of them on his march from Spain
' Serge Lancel. Carthage: A History.
2 Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. VIII, p. 14.
3 Mark Healy, Cannae 216 B. c., pp. 56-57.
'Sir Gavin deBeer, Hannibal's March. Report of elephant bones found buried
in a ritual manner in a farmer's field near the village of Maillane in 1777 were
noted by deBeer. The village is near the Rhone River, where Hannibal might
well have passed on his way to the Alps.
5 R. Bosworth-Smith. Carthage and the Carthaginians. Bosworth-Smith
reports on elephant bones found in the Little St. Bernard Pass in 1828.
6 R. Vaccarone, Ball del club Alpine Italiano. The magazine tells of a tablet
found on the Col d'Arnas and thrown into a glacier by an angry local who
could not get his price for its sale.
Washington Post, August 13, 1997, report of the Intergovernmental Panel on
World Climate Change.
8 W.W. Hyde, Roman Alpine Routes, p. 30.
Washington Post, October 15, 1992. The paper notes the discovery of a man
who had died over five thousand years ago preserved in a glacier.
10 The French authorities report that as many as two hundred people die in
the Alps each year from falls, exposure or other accidents.
" deBeer, Alps and Elephants, pp. 10-11.
12 deBeer, Hannibal's March, p. 33.
13 Cicero, De Divinatione, Bk. I, Sec. 24, and Lucius Coelius Antipater as
quoted in Livy, History of Rome, Bk. XXI, Sec. 38.7.
14 Cornelius Nepos, Vie d'Hannibal, Sec. 13.3.
15 Livy, History of Rome, Bk. XXI, Sec. 38.3, as found in the manuscripts by
Jacques Gronovius, Titi-Livii Patvini Historiarum, 1670, Paris, and Carlo
Sigonio, T. Livii Historiarum, 1555, also at Paris.
'6 Polybius, Bk. III, Sec. 33.
" Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire, Bk. III, Sec. 48.12, as found in the
manuscripts by Isaac Casaubon, Polybii, 1609 and 1617, Paris, and Vincent
Obropaeus, Polybii Historiarum, 1530, also at Paris.
18 Polybius, Bk. III, Sec. 48.
"Appian, Appian, Libyca, p. 132.
20 Polybius, Bk. I, Sec. 1.
'-Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. VIII, p. 9.
22 Silius Italicus, Second Punic War.
23Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum Libri. Bk. XV, Sec. 10.11
24 F. d'Urban, Recueil des itineraires anciens, Paris, 1845.
25 Hyde, p. 32.