ANCIENT HISTORY ESSAY
Word Count: 1067
Hannibal??™s March to Italy in 218 BC was a significant event in which it showed how brave and courageous the Carthaginian army and Hannibal was, and also to an extent was a cause of the Second Punic War against the Romans. Hannibal??™s crossing of the Alps has been recorded by two ancient historians; Polybius and Livy. These two ancient historians recorded the crossing in accounts, with both similarities and differences between them. The backgrounds of the two historians, method of inquiry, influence on their work all would have influenced both historians writing and ultimately show in the differences and reliability of the two accounts.
Polybius was a Greek historian born in Arcadia in approximately 200BC and was the son of Lycortas, a Greek historian. Polybius was one of the one thousand noble Achaens in 166BC who were transported to Rome as hostages. However he was liked by Aemilius Paulus a Roman counsel through his tuition to his son, and in 150BC Polybius obtained leave to return home. Polybius remained on terms of the most pleasant friendship after Roman victory in Pydna and remained a counsellor to the man who defeated the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War by routing them. Livy was a Roman historian born in Patavium in Northern Italy in 59BC. Livy moved to Rome in 30BC and from this time on he lived and worked mainly in the capital. During this time, Livy served no military service and took no part in politics. As Livy is Roman, he tends to patronise the Romans more in favour rather than the Carthaginians. This leads to the difference and the reliability of the two accounts.
It is known that Livy wrote his account on the crossing approximately two hundred years after the actual event whilst Polybius wrote his account approximately seventy years after. Polybius and Livy both used the same eye witness account written by Sosylus of Lacedaemon. Polybius used the original text written by Sosylus himself and Livy used the account indirectly. Polybius states in his book, that he had questioned people who were at the march, explored the country and cross the Alps himself beforehand to obtain information and evidence. Polybius writes,??? I have questioned men who were actually present on these occasions about the circumstances, have personally explored the country, and have crossed the Alps myself to obtain first-hand information and evidence.??? However Livy has not and has written his account based on the account written by Sosylus. The reliability of the accounts can be questioned and the differences are clear and are shown through their method of inquiry and sources.
There are similarities and differences within the two versions of the crossing of the Alps. An example which both accounts share and include is about how Hannibal and the Carthaginian army cross the river. It is especially similar in how both accounts describe how the elephants were transported across the river. Both accounts describe the rafts by giving the dimensions, the appearance and how it operated and the order in which elephants boarded. Both accounts have a similar description of the river crossing and especially in the transport of the elephants. Secondly Hannibal and the Carthaginian army would have had to cross the river either ways to get to the Alps. Hence this event is highly likely in its occurrence and would have happened. Another example which the two accounts share and include is how the Carthaginian army were attacked by the natives during their march. Both Livy and Polybius describe that the enemy were on higher ground, and attacked them by either rolling rocks down the hill or by hurling stones. The reaction made by the Carthaginian army is again, the same in both accounts. The Carthaginian army go frantic and especially the horses get frightened causes much more chaos. Again this event would have been true because firstly it was stated in both accounts, secondly told roughly at the same time in their accounts and thirdly describes how the Carthaginian army were attacked and how they reacted. Hence this event is also highly likely in its occurrence and would have happened.
There are also differences within the two versions of the crossing of the Alps. An example is when Livy mentions that the Carthaginian army used vinegar to cut rocks when they were red hot and that the army carried the vinegars in barrels. Livy says, ???When the rock was red hot they poured vinegar upon it to disintegrate it.??? Firstly it is unlikely to be able to set a fire at the summit of the mountain; secondly no army would take barrels of vinegar up mountains. Secondly in mountains like the Alps carrying barrels filled with vinegar would have been extremely hard to carry. Thirdly it is impossible for vinegar to cut through any rocks even if it is red hot. Hence this event would have been highly unlikely to have happened, and is unreliable. Another example is during Hannibal??™s speech at the arrival at the summit. Livy mentions that Hannibal pointed out to the land of Italy and the Po plain, however Polybius mentions that relied mainly on the view of the plain and Italy. It is highly unlikely that Hannibal and the Carthaginian army could see the plain of Po and Italy at the top of the Alps during winter time were snow heavily falls and would never be able to see such clear views.
The differences in the two accounts would have been from how they used their own sources and how they gathered their information. Polybius has a better and a stronger perceptive of the whole march, direct knowledge of the Alps, he uses original sources, and understands army manoeuvres and situations far more. Livy??™s account of the crossing of the Alps is very precise and detailed in its chronological order. Livy is more condensed; his account advances in a masterly dramatic style. Compared to Livy, in Polybius??™s account there is no surprise or scenery, and informs the reader beforehand. Hence the differences in the two accounts appear.
The two accounts share similarities but differ. Polybius has a better and a stronger understanding of the whole march, firsthand knowledge of the Alps, utilises original sources, and understands army manoeuvres and situations far more. Livy??™s account of the crossing of the Alps is very precise and detailed in its chronological order but lacks precision and detail and patronises the Romans and is fairly bias towards them. Therefore Polybius is more reliable than Livy since he is neutral to both sides, non bias and explains the march clearly compared to Livy.
ANCIENT HISTORY ESSAY