Saturday, February 7, 2004

Hannibal by Ross Leckie

This is a historical novel written from the point of view of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who took elephants and an army across the Alps in the wintertime in an attempt to conquer Rome. It was a good read. One of the things that comes out quite starkly in the book is how violent and perverse the society of the powerful in Hannibal’s time was. Hannibal himself had had enough people impaled in order to know how to do it so the person would die slowly or die quickly. Hannibal’s father had given his 14-year-old daughter away in a political marriage, only to have her die of an infection caused by her husband stuffing her vagina full of ripe plums to provide a more sensuous cavity for his penis. Crucifixion was a regular punishment for cowardice or failure in battle and prisoners were routinely beheaded or buried alive. After the Battle of Cannae in 216 B.C., in which Hannibal wiped out an entire Roman army by allowing his line to bend in on itself, creating a concave pocket in which to trap his opponents with his cavalry, Hannibal had the hands cut off all the Roman corpses and sent back to Rome to show them the damage he had done. When the hands of the dead did not add up to a full legion, he had an appropriate number cut from the living prisoners to round out the group, and then forced the mutilated men to haul the tribute back to Rome themselves.

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