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VIRTUAL - Hannibal’s War Elephants

October 27, 2020 @ 6:00 pm Eastern Time

This is an online event.

AIA Society: Toronto

Lecturer: Patrick Hunt

Employing brilliant surprise tactics, Hannibal beat the Romans in quite a few decisive battles where he was outnumbered but increased his arsenal by weaponizing nature. At Trebbia he made the Romans cross the freezing Trebbia river in midwinter, thereby neutralizing them before battle; at Lake Trasimene he hid his ambushing forces in the summer fog off the lake and destroyed the marching Roman army by coming unchecked from several hidden unexpected directions in the above hills. At Volturnus, Hannibal created a diversionary army at night by tying wood between the horns of thousands of cattle and lighting it, then sending the cattle off in a different direction which the Romans chased, fooled into thinking the lights were Hannibal’s moving forces. At Cannae he forced the many Romans legions far outnumbering him into a narrow valley between a river and hills so they could not outflank him, but also had them face south to the blinding dust of an African summer sandstorm from the south, making it difficult to see his forces and irritating their eyes. Hannibal also may have been a pioneer of biological warfare on several occasions. These unusual tactics set the stage for many modern military uses of topography and the environment to gain an advantage over enemies, no doubt why Hannibal remains relevant and continues to be studied in detail by war colleges and military academies today.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Patrick Hunt. Hannibal. Simon and Schuster, 2017

Since the Roman poet Juvenal stated two thousand years ago that Hannibal would be eternally famous for bringing elephants over the Alps, history has proved him right: this seems the single most memorable fact history has recorded about Hannibal. What kind of elephants, how many and how they journeyed was not as recorded in detail, but this can be deduced as well from the writings of Polybius and Punic coins of the late third century BCE. It appears both African and Asian war elephants traveled with Hannibal’s army and this lecture details what facts we know about Hannibal’s elephants trained for Hellenistic warfare since Alexander the Great first encountered them in India a century earlier.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Patrick Hunt. Hannibal (Simon and Schuster, 2017).

Patrick Hunt. “Hannibal’s Elephants” Electrum Magazine, November 2017


Patrick Hunt. “Elephants, African” in Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Salem Press, 2011, 431-33.

Patrick Hunt. “Jumbo Journey” Monocle (Alpino) 02 Winter 2010-11, 20.

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October 27, 2020
6:00 pm
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