The Ghosts of Cannae

The Ghosts of Cannae

Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic

Book - 2011
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Robert L. O'Connell, one of the most admired names in military history, tells the whole story of Cannae for the first time, giving a stirring account of this apocalyptic battle of the Second Punic War, and its causes and consequences.
Publisher: New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2011.
ISBN: 9780812978674
Branch Call Number: 937.04 OCO
Characteristics: xvii, 310 p. : maps, plans ; 21 cm.


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Dec 21, 2018

I read this book over the last few days. The prose is lucid, and, easy to read. It literally gave me a refresher of the First, and the Second Punic Wars. With regard to this, the book is an excellent read.
However, the book generally underwhelms. I was expecting to read and learn more about the "Ghosts of Cannae". That never really happens. Their integration into the African invasion force of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, is given a few pages, at the end. I was expecting to read more about the social and cultural impacts of the systemic ostracization of these Roman soldiers by the Senate.
We are treated to a more modern interpretation of Livy and Polybius, and, that is great. But, the question you should ask, is what does this book bring to the table?
Giving it a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Oct 22, 2012

Remarkably little of this book actually deal with the battle itself but the narrative of the consequences for Rome, short and long term are logical and sound.

Like other offerings by Robert O'Connell, there is some dry humour and irreverence present in a deadly serious topic - he even manages a reference to Bugs Bunny at one point. None of this detracts from sound writing and placing Cannae in the context of cause and effect for the future of the Roman republic.

Those interested in ancient Rome, the Legionary and the over-hyped Cannae mythology that has come to us by way of some historians of the Great War should find much food for thought here.

Oct 18, 2012

a survey, in under 300 pages, of both the First and Second Punic Wars, the causes, the strategies, the battles, the consequences, and of course the several major players, all researched and duly investigated for equitable historical accounting, with lessons of course for our own time, Latin and Carthaginian names replace, with some disorientation, our own more easily retained modern common names, making it hard sometimes to remember who is who in the heat and blur of battles, though these are always thoughtfully recollected for our convenience by the author, who has consistently an easy, chatty, eager, and engaging delivery, however evidently supremely informed and comfortable he might be around his subject, making the journey for us throughout endlessly and utterly fascinating

May 20, 2011

I was disappointed by this book overall; rather than offering stunning new insights, it basically rephrased the known in terms that younger generations of readers can relate too, and the final chapter on Cannae's legacy on military thought and popular notions of victory felt rushed and cursorily researched. On the whole, it was a good survey of the history of the Punic Wars for newcomers to the subject, and does a good job hammering home its overarching theme of the fate of the unlucky survivors of the battle and their long wait for redemption.


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