Customer Reviews: Hannibal Crosses the Alps: The Invasion of Italy and the Second Punic War
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on April 2, 2005
After reading David Anthony Durham's vivid novel "Pride of Carthage", a good follow-up for the reader interested in learning more about Hannibal and the Second Punic War is John Prevas' "Hannibal Crosses the Alps". Prevas has made the journey himself many times, so he is able to give accurate site reports of the various routes Hannibal is speculated to have taken over the Alps. Hannibal traveled with an army of tens of thousands of soldiers and as many as 37 war elephants. As Prevas makes his case for a crossing at Col de la Traversette, the reader is held in awe of Hannibal's tenacity and daring.

"Hannibal Crosses the Alps" is just the right size for the reader looking for a good snapshot of the Second Punic War: the book is not too short, but neither does it drown in detail. There is a good chronology in the front, some maps and photos, an extensive bibliography, and an index. More remarkable, though, is Prevas' case for Hannibal's route. The actual route has been lost to history, but Prevas has hiked though the region, and he painstakingly compares the natural features he observed to those recorded in Polybius and Livy. His conclusions are hard to refute, and baring future archeological finds, I believe his conclusions are very sound. His book will also help the reader of Durham's novel fit what is known into Durham's fictional account.
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on April 29, 2002
Never have so many books sprung from such meager sources. The exploits of Hannibal come to us from 1000-year-old translations of 2000-year-old lost manuscripts, Polybius and Livy being the main waterbearers here and highly recommended. I've been studying Hannibal for the past year now and have read dozens of books. This book by John Prevas is a worthy effort but feels flawed in many respects. Frankly, I felt that Mr. Prevas never let the facts stand in the way of a good story and took far too many liberties. For example, he frequently tries to tell us what Hannibal was thinking and how he felt at each juncture of the crossing when we don't even know what Hannibal looked like! There were many times when his summaries of the history leading up to the crossing varied from many of the other sources I've read. Who should I trust?
However, the heart of the book is the actual crossing of the alps and the route that Hannibal took. This section was excellent and backed up by five years of Mr. Prevas hiking in the alps and 8-10 pages of photos proving that Hannibal's route did NOT follow the Isere River, as most historians and books allege, but began on the Drome River and continued up the Durance toward the gorge where the second ambush by the Gauls occurred. This section felt authentic, for me, made the book well worth purchasing.
So, I recommend this book... as long as you also grab a copy of Lancel's Hannibal and Polybius and Livy. All three are good reads.
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on August 11, 2002
John Prevas has done some very fine research here and should be commended for giving so much evidence to his theory on the path that Hannibal took over the Alps. However, he continuously repeats himself many times in the book and this made it sometimes difficult to get through. All in all a very convincing theory of Hannibals pass over the Alps. Until a body or some other hard physical evidence is found that proves without a doubt where Hannibal actually crossed the Alps, I will stick with Mr. Prevas and his theory. Highly recommend the book for students of military history who do not want a whole lot of excitement with their reading, you will not find much action here. If you want action, read Caesers Commentaries. I give 4 stars for the amount of time and personal sacrifice that Mr. Prevas put into the work by going to the locations through a number of years of research and on site camping, must have been exciting to be where Hannibal had been.
Not a bad book but often times dry and unexciting.
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on June 25, 2006
In "Hannibal Crosses the Alps" John Prevas focuses on what the title suggests, which is the actual crossing of the Alps by Hannibal and his mercenary army. Three of the seven chapters deal with the crossing of the Alps, while the other chapters cover the prior history between Rome and Carthage, Hannibal's rise to power, the ancient sources from which we know this history, and the rest of Hannibal's campaign in Italy after his crossing. There is also an Epilogue in which he discusses what happened to Hannibal, and what happened between Rome and Carthage through the Third Punic War.

John Prevas traveled repeatedly through the Alps seeing for himself the terrain of the many possible routes that Hannibal may have taken in his search for the correct route. The route he pieces together he supports with as much evidence as he can, using the ancient sources as well as the visual information that he was able to gather on his trips. While his case is strong and very persuasive, he does temper his argument with the acknowledgement that as of yet there isn't any physical evidence in the form of remains as of yet to turn conjecture into fact.

While overall I enjoyed this book, there are definitely some weaknesses which could have easily been addressed but sadly were not. First of all, for a work which focuses so much on the routes traveled, there are surprisingly few maps to help the reader visualize things. You may want to arm yourself with an atlas of the ancient world, or even perhaps other books about Hannibal which do contain more maps to help compensate for this lack. In addition, while I do like his writing style, there are places where he repeats himself as well as contradict himself.

In an example of repetition and contradiction, he says more than once that none of the elephants perished on the march through the Alps, but he also says more than once that the finding of elephant remains would help determine the route. Clearly there cannot be remains if no elephants were lost. He also contradicts himself with regards to the climate where he first states that there is no significant difference in the snow levels in the Alps from Hannibal's time to ours (this is in support of his argument that the pass which Hannibal took must have been at a higher elevation than those usually selected by historians), and then later he talks about the receding ice and thawing out of areas which may help find supporting evidence.

I enjoyed reading this book; however, I don't think this would be the first book I would read on Hannibal or the Punic Wars. With some minor updates and rewrites this book could easily be four stars, but for now I can only give it three.
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on April 20, 2005
I recommend this book for anyone looking for an easy-to-read and yet informative introduction to Hannibal. The author focusses on one of Hannibal's most famous exploits - the crossing of the Alps. It's good material and looking at it closely definitely has rewards. I don't come away from the whole discussion of just which pass Hannibal used with definite opinions, but what's interesting is the process of comparing and contrasting the different passes and asking questions.

The book does manage to be about more than just the Alps crossing. It places the conflict, says something about Carthage and Rome, and gives a quick synopsis of how the war played out. Someone who knows a lot about Hannibal will learn a thing or two here. Readers not familiar with the subject could do worse than starting with this book. It should wet your interest and convince anyone that Hannibal is one of the greatest military minds to have walked the earth. Give it a try.

If you want more... For an indepth look at the war I suggest Nigel Bagnall's The Punic Wars, and for a great novel about it all check out David Durham's Pride of Carthage.
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on July 5, 2013
This was a fascinating first hand account of a scholar who traced the various routes that Hannibal may have taken over the Alps on his way from Spain to Italy to try to conquer that area. However, the author discusses many towns and Alps routes that are not readily knowledgeable to the reader, and it is essential to plot these place names on maps, which alas are not included but are required for the discussion. Otherwise, a very thorough and documented assessment of Hannibal's journey. MORE MAPS PLEASE!!!!
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on July 8, 2014
This book had less to do with the invasion of Italy and Rome than it did with which mountain pass Hannibal took crossing the Alps. Although well researched, the many editing problems made the book a chore to read. The genius of Hannibal was given only cursory attention as was the ultimate grand strategy in his expedition against Rome. There were excellent portions of the book but the overall content was comparable to reading a doctoral dissertation. This book is well suited to those needing a good source of reference material and not the casual history buff examining Rome's most feared adversary.
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on March 13, 2014
I actually became aware of this book when reading an action thriller. Being a sometime military history buff, I thought it worth the read. In my opinion, a history like this, containing a multitude of location and movement descriptions, needs maps to go with it. What there were were few and far between. There were some photos, again, a map or two would help put them into context. i also found similar events described several times in different locations of the book, making the chronology difficult to track. Much of the source material was from third and forth parties many years removed form the events, so the story is the author's bues judgement of who may have had the best rumor written down. Apparently there is little archaeological or physical evidence, particularly in regards to the approach to the Alps and it's crossing. The information about Hannibal's character and documented exploits is interesting though and was worth the time to read it.
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on April 2, 2006
Although an avid reader, I seemed to have avoided this period in history in general and Hannibal in specific. I came to the subject with a very sparse knowledge of Hannibal and went away with an improved understanding, not only of Hannibal, but also of the political/cultural make up of this period in history. Of particular interest, and well expounded in the book, is how Rome and Carthage related and how ultimately Rome won out.

I saw Professor Prevas speaking on C-SPAN in early February 2006 about his book on Alexander the Great (Envy of the Gods) and found his lecture to be very intriguing. As a result I picked up this book as well as his others. I also highly recommend his book about Xenophon's march of the Greek 10,000. All three are easy reads and very interesting.
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on March 5, 2016
Fascinating book! It covers most of Hannibals life but focuses mainly on his legendary crossing of the Alpine mountain range. Certain pages in this book gave me chills, and others made me realize just how much I take for granted in this life. Reading how he and his army struggled through the Alps has absolutely captivated me and have ranked Hannibal as my all time favorite general. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning who Hannibal was, what he did, and why he did it.
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