Friday, October 28, 2016

Hannibal and the Alps

From War History Online:
In 218 BC, Hannibal marched an army consisting of soldiers, mules, horses and elephants from Spain, over the Alps, and into Italy to attack the Romans at the start of the Second Punic War. His precise route through the Alps has been debated for years. Bill Mahaney, a geologist and professor emeritus at York University in Toronto, led a team that has found evidence supporting a route proposed by British biologist Sir Gavin de Beer. From their study, it appears that the army marched through the Col de la Traversette on the French-Italian border....

 Mahaney has been interested in classical history as a hobby for decades. He knew about the debate over Hannibal’s route and thought he might be able to determine it from descriptions of the geology in historical texts. As an example, the Greek historian Polybius mentions a two-tier rockfall in his account of the trek. While involved with an unrelated study, Mahaney kept an eye out for clues that matched those descriptions. Over time, he accumulated enough clues to venture a hypothesis as to where the army must have passed. There is a mire an area where rocky mountain terrain gives way to vegetation, with a stream below the Col de la Traversette that would make a good place to water animals and allow them to feed. (Read more.)

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