The Ghosts of Cannae

Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
Narrated by: Alan Sklar
Length: 13 hrs and 14 mins
Categories: History, Africa
4.3 out of 5 stars (307 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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

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What listeners say about The Ghosts of Cannae

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Hannibal's Legacy

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.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic Narrative History

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.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Impressive record of the story of Cannae

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?

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

enjoyed

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.

3 people found this helpful

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Hardcore History

If you enjoyed Dan Carlin’s Punic Nightmares series on his Hardcore History podcast, then you must listen to this version of the story.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Adequate

The book provides an adequate coverage of Hannibal’s exploits for the general reader. It includes footnotes for continued reading. As to the Audible, Alan Sklar’s performance is over wrought, bombastic, oppressive. One has to take his voice in steady intervals.

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Sum is greater

In the moment I found some of this book and its performance to be... problematic. Assumptions were made which would appear to be unsupported, but which serve the narrative. A sense of cultural judgment pervades, even as the author notes that history is written by the victors (equivalent, in a way, to a cruel text or email that nevertheless ends in a smiley face emoji). And the narrative itself is like an ill-fitting box, its contents shoved in regardless of how they might be distorted. Which is probably overselling it - the narrative really only makes itself known periodically, as though afraid it had been forgotten, and then in the most overwrought of ways. As for the narration. I dunno. I just don’t know. There was nothing wrong with it? It just didn’t land with me, and felt like an 80s era documentary. Which isn’t necessarily bad? But after having sat with it a while, the things I didn’t much appreciate have sort of slipped into the background. I learned a lot (albeit with many pinches of salt), and the book did cover a wider variety of people, places, events, and time than I had expected. It was worthwhile. And had I gone in knowing what to expect, narratively, I’m sure I could have easily shrugged it off. So check it out. Albeit with one caveat. This book has a very odd proportion of jokes. Er, “jokes”. They pop up too often to be passing occurrences - clearly they were planned, and the author thought them clever - but not nearly often enough to think, well, here’s an author with a humorous take on life. And they’re fairly dated, too. So, here’s my rule of thumb for you: If the thought of a Fine Young Cannibals pun makes your eyes roll so hard that you think you might hurt yourself then, y’know... There isn’t exactly a shortage of books for you to check out instead is all I’m saying.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A Fascinating Read

So many histories are simply focused on the what but Ghosts of Cannae seeks out to try to explain the why. The book admitted starts out a bit slow and jumps around a bit but once it gets going it is a fantastic tour of a crtical juncture in Roman history.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Happy Ancient History Nerd

The Second Punic War is definitely one of my obsessions and this book gives a great account not only of the famous battle of cannae but the whole Second Punic War. It draws on multiple accounts to give an accurate and intriguing picture of Hannibal and his Roman enemies.

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Excellent

Though it didn't focus so much on Cannae's survivors as I hoped, the book nonetheless gave an excellent account of the 2nd Punic War and the legacy of Cannae.