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‘The Warmaker,’ as narrative fiction,
follows from detailed analysis of the environmental aspects of one
of the greatest feats of military history—the alpine invasion
of Italia. The invasion itself, known mostly from documentation
left to us from Roman writers, has led to the postulation of one
of the great questions of antiquity, one that historians have attempted
to answer mostly from the comfort of armchairs — what was
Hannibal’s actual route across the Alps? Field work carried
out by Mahaney, and a close group of associates, led to field investigations
along the entire invasion route from Iberia to the Po River Plains
of Northern Italy. Aside from the scientific aspects — field
examination, sample collection and lab analysis — close examination
of environmental parameters and actual experience on the ground
led to a reconstruction — a fictional account of what Hannibal
actually felt as he organized and carried out what arguably is the
most unorthodox mountain military operation of all time.
The cover view shown at left is to the east from below
the Col de la Traversette at 2800 meters above the sea looking out
into Italia towards Milano. The rock outcrops are festooned with
lichens, the orange species fertilized by birds and lichens. A massive
stratus cloud hovers off in the distance and below a laced pattern
of rock and snow stretches off towards timberline at 1800 meters
elevation. In fall 218 BC the Punic Army under Hannibal crossed
over this col in one of the most ambitious and unorthodox military
operations of all time. Within a month as winter closed in Hannibal
reformed his army and prepared to meet the legions of Publius Cornelius
Scipio on the Po River Plains. Hannibal opened a northern front
in the Second Punic War, changing the military center of gravity,
and for years the Punic Army roamed up and down the peninsula inflicting
one grievous defeat after another on the Romans.
This is the backdrop that influenced the thinking
of Hannibal Barca as he wrestled with Roman domination of the Mediterranean,
weighing decisions that would rock the Mediterranean World.
What strategic model promised Carthage the possibility
of a triumph over Rome? Would a naval invasion of Sicily succeed
now, even though it failed in the first war? Would an invasion of
Italia across the Alps lead to the collapse and defeat of Rome?
These were some of the questions Hannibal faced while pondering
his strategic objectives after his rapid accession to command of
the Carthaginian Army. What would Rome do? What would the Carthaginian
Suffete do? What would you do if you were Hannibal?
And this was Hannibal, a man driven to plan one of
the most ambitious military operations of all time, the alpine invasion
of Italia in 218 BC. A man whose demons guided him in pursuit of
his enemies, hunting with the ruthlessness of a hired killer, planning
each disposition on a parabolic chessboard with far more than sixty-four
squares. Hannibal foretold Roman reactions to his every move, and
lured one field army after another into no-win situations, often
with devastating results. This was a commander with a magnetic personality
who led and mesmerized a polyglot force of mercenaries, soldiers
he moulded into the Carthaginian Corps, one of the most proficient
fighting forces of all time.
In The Warmaker, the legendary trek across the Alps
is recounted with as much historically-documented detail as possible,
interwoven with fictional events as they might have happened and
fictional characters as they may have interacted with Hannibal.
Nowhere in the military history of the world B even considering
the monumental exploits of Belisarius, Charlemagne, and Napoléon;
German mountain division (Alpenkorps) operations of WWI and II;
historical record of the U.S. Tenth Mountain Division in the Aleutians
and in northern Italy during WWII; and Patton’s epic march
to relieve Bastogne — has there ever been a military mission
to match Hannibal=s epic march and its aftermath, a tactical operation
studied by legions of military historians.
This first piece of narrative fiction on Hannibal
is followed by the factual story of the invasion —W.C. Mahaney,
2008. ‘Hannibal’s Odyssey: Environmental Background
to the Alpine Invasion of Italia,’ Gorgias Press, Piscataway,
NJ, 221 pp. ISBN 978-1-59333-951-7.