Hannibal's battle plan at Cannae became the mother of all great battle strategies - the first battle of encirclement that has been imitated (often to disastrous effect) endlessly over the past two thousand years. In this brilliant, long-overdue, and beautifully written account, Robert L. O'Connell gives listeners an epic account of one of the most dramatic battles of antiquity.
The Ghosts of Cannae is at once a book about a specific battle (the massive defeat of a huge but inexperienced Roman army in southern Italy by Hannibal in 216 BC) and also an interpretation of the larger course of the Second Punic War, as well as an assessment of the historical impact of Rome's storied rivalry with Carthage. What ties the book together is the fate of the survivors, their treatment by the authorities in Rome, and ultimately their vindication nearly two decades later, when they defeated Hannibal at the decisive battle of Zama in North Africa. With an unforgettable cast of heroes and villains, The Ghosts of Cannae is history at its finest.
©2010 Robert L. O'Connell (P)2010 Tantor Media
Many books that center on a specific event such as a battle tend to lack a global perspective. Robert O'Connell with Ghosts not only delivers all the blood and guts a body could hope for, not to mention a heavy dose of strategy and tactics, he neatly integrates this story into the greater story of man. He does what historians are supposed to do. He teaches lessons that shouldn't be learned the hard way. Ever since that hot day in August 216 BC, generals in every generation have been looking for their own holy grail; their own Cannae. Some were close, but no cigar. Rome's solution to the Hannibal problem would turn out to be their undoing. The days of the amateur generals were gone, and the professional armies turned power brokers were here to stay.
This is one of the best history audiobooks I've encountered. Rather than a meta-level analysis of the events, the author focuses on the narrative of what happened during the second punic war. In other words, the narrative is really the star here, which is fantastic because the events of the second punic war are so intriguing, so full of twists and turns and larger than life figures, that they easily carry the show.
First off, the narrator is amazing. Especially for the subject matter of this book. Secondly, I enjoyed that the beginning of this book details a brief history of how man first started to hunt and gather and form tribes. I thought it was a good book and the only detractors were when the author paused to argue that some people believe differently than the view he was expressing. I understand this for the scholary who he probably felt would test his work, but for the layman reader I just wanted to hear the account straight-up, with no intrusion. Still a good book. Very detailed.
An impressive book for fans of ancient roman history. The story covers the early wars between ancient Rome, through the defeat of Carthage by Scipio Africanus (the subsequent destruction of Carthage and exile and death of Hannibal is considered only briefly). As the title implies the fate of "the Ghosts of Cannae" - the Roman survivors of the battle- is well outlined. Overall the history is very well told. The principal criticism is one common to many military audiobooks - following the movements of battles without diagrams is next to impossible. The book also offers a plausible answer to a puzzling question: once the Romans at Cannae were surrounded and had no choice but fight to the death, why did they not kill a comparable number of Carthaginians?
I'm already a fan of this time in history, but the atmosphere, the events and ramifications were conveyed in logical, gripping way. Lots about roman history can be hard to hold in one's head when not reading the names and places in print, but that is not the case here. The story unfolds clearly....and what a story! The fate of the Western World was altered forever during the Second Punic, and the author makes a good case that it was in fact one battle in particular that created the conditions necessary for Julius Caesar, The fall of the Republic, the rise of the Roman Empire and the building blocks of the Western Civilization. All because Hannibal was a badass. Like I said, this time of history is fascinating to me, even if I find Greek culture more rewarding.
It was bloody, violent time and Alan Sklar's voice captures it perfectly. He sounds like a ruined statue and it's perfect.
I didn't listen to it in one sitting, but found it was broken up in such a way that taking a break for a day or two didn't effect my ability to pick the story back up.
Do you have any interest in Roman culture? Mediterranean history? This one is a no-brainer.
O'Connell's work is pretty good, but not great, to sum it up in a sentence.
This book is sort of a semi-biography of Hannibal, as well-done narrative of the Second Punic War.
"The Ghosts of Cannae" in the title refers to the Roman survivors of the battle, and O'Connell tells their story as well. This was the one really groundbreaking part of the book.
O'Connell does a fair job with this book and the audio/narration is excellent. But, the Second Punic War has been done to death by historians, and perhaps in greater detail (see Goldsworthy, Adrian).
This is really a great book and I enjoyed every minute of it. The analysis of the battle of Trasimene and Cannae were outstanding. There was a clear presentation of the battle tactics which ultimately enabled Rome to survive the devasting losses to Hannibal. The rehabilitation of the "Ghosts of Cannae" was an interesting aspect of the battle I was unfamiliar with. Everyone interested in military history and Ancient history should read this book. It will help if you have some knowledge of the geography of the Ancient world or have a historical atlas handy.
The subject is indeed sweeping and the focus on the defeated troops from Cannae is interesting but the writing is not worthy of the subject. The author mistakes slanginess for liveliness whereas in fact it grates on the ear.The book also fails to give any real sense of the characters he is writing about, even Hannibal. Granted this can be difficult when working with ancient sources but it is certainly not impossible. The ancient authors do a better job than he does. In general this is a disappointing book and it should't have been. Also, the narration is pompous and obtrusive.
Sweeping generalization laced with unsupportable assertions, tied together with the theory that if it had something in common with the Second Punic War, it must be a direct result of Cannae.
Cannae was a very dark day for the Roman Republic to be sure, but many of the trends O'Connell declares were a direct result were already well under way before Hannibal left Iberia.
Some of data regarding the organization and tactics of the Roman and Carthegean warriors is presented well, but it felt a little like digging through knee-deep mud in search of agates. I eventually gave up.
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