Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Microbiologists unmask the Hannibal route enigma

Microbiologists based in the Institute for Global Food Security and School of Biological Sciences at Queen's University Belfast have recently released results that may have answered one of ancient history's greatest enigmas: Where did Hannibal cross the Alps? 

Hannibal crosses the Alps on an elephant  [Credit: Nicolas Poussin] 

Hannibal was the Commander-in-Chief of the Carthaginian army during the Second Punic War with Rome (218 -201 BC). He famously led his troops (thirty thousand men, just thirty seven elephants and over fifteen thousand horses and mules) across the Alps to invade Italia - bringing the Roman army to its knees. 

While the great general was ultimately defeated at Zama in 202 BC, this campaign is rightly regarded today as one of the finest military endeavours of antiquity. We can say, in retrospect, that these events ultimately shaped the future Roman Republic, eventually with Caesar morphing into the Empire, and therefore into European civilisation as we know it.

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