Posted in History & Literature

Hannibal’s Cane

Hannibal was the greatest commander of Carthage, who threatened the Roman Empire and is considered “The Father of Strategy” after his brilliant tactics. He is most famous for the Second Punic War around 200 BC, where Carthage ultimately failed to conquer Rome. However, if it was not for a single cane, Hannibal may have destroyed Rome and Carthage may have dominated the history of Europe.

There is a scene in the epic Roman poem, Punica, where Hannibal’s forces are crossing the Alps. This was considered an impossible feat back then and in modern terms, it is as if China was to tunnel below the Pacific Ocean to reach USA soil. This kind of out-of-the-box thinking, charismatic leadership and brilliant military tactics and strategies allowed Hannibal to become one of the greatest threats in Roman history. However, the Alps still proved challenging even for him, and the journey was highly dangerous.

One day, Hannibal’s army reached a valley known as Certain Death, but the soldiers’ morale was too low for them to want to cross it. Hannibal tried to lead them through by using his cane to knock on the snow they stood on, proving that it was solid and safe. But the shock from this action triggered a massive avalanche that struck the army. It devastated the army equipped with advanced weapons and elephants, destroying almost two-thirds of his army (18,000 out of 38,000 soldiers were killed) and a quarter of his cavalry. 

This army that was destroyed so by the Alps managed to fight the war for 16 years, hassling Rome in every way, even producing great outcome such as the infamous Battle of Cannae, considered the greatest tactical feat in military history. One cannot help to wonder whether Hannibal would have completely crushed Rome with a full-size invasion force.

This shows how something as small as a cane can decide the flow of a war.

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