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Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca, was born in 248 BC. His father commanded the Carthaginian land forces during the later stages of the First Punic War.

He kept his army intact and led a successful guerrilla war against the Romans in Sicily. As soon as he was old enough, Hannibal joined his father's army in the invasion of Hispania.

Hamilcar Barca died in battle in 228 BC. Hannibal's brother-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair succeeded to his command of the army with Hannibal serving as an officer under him.

Hasdrubal signed a treaty with the Romans where Carthage promised not to expand north of the Ebro River. Hasdrubal also endeavored to consolidate Carthaginian power through diplomatic relationships with native tribes. This included arranging the marriage between Hannibal and an Iberian princess named Imilce.

Hasdrubal the Fair was assassinated by a Celtic assassin in 221 BC. Hannibal was now proclaimed commander-in-chief by the army.

In 218 BC Carthage decided to hit back. Defeated at sea, the Carthaginians decided this time to attack Italy by land from their base in Hispania. Hannibal led an army made up of 30,000 Spanish infantrymen, 9,000 African cavalry and a team of elephants. To attack Rome from Hispania meant that Hannibal had to take his soldiers and animals over the snow-covered Alps.

The Romans did not believe it was possible and were taken by surprise. However, the journey had taken its toll and by the time Hannibal reached Italy, he only had 26,000 men left alive.

The first battle between the two sides took place at Trebia in 218 BC. Although they had many more men, the Romans were heavily defeated by the Carthaginians. One of the reasons for this was that the Romans had trouble coping with Hannibal's elephants. The elephants were used at the front of the Carthaginian forces (similar to the way tanks were used in the First World War). Because of the elephants' size and trumpeting, the Romans had great difficulty in persuading their horses to charge Hannibal's forces.

The Romans tried several different tactics against elephants. They were extremely difficult to kill, so the main aim was to make them panic and run amok amongst the Carthaginians. They tried to do this by killing their driver or by stabbing them with javelins in the soft skin under the tail. The Romans also discovered that elephants were frightened of the sound of squealing pigs. Therefore pigs were covered in tar, set alight and let loose amongst the elephants. The Carthaginians attempted to counteract this tactic by giving wine to the elephants before battle and stabling them with pigs so that they would get used to the squealing.

Although Hannibal's elephants survived the Battle of Trebia, most of them died soon afterwards from the cold weather. However, the lack of elephants did not stop Hannibal inflicting a series of defeats on the Romans. The most important of these was at Cannae where over 50,000 Roman soldiers were killed and a further 19,000 were captured. Hannibal, on the other hand, lost less than 6,000 men.

Even though they suffered these losses, the Romans refused to surrender. As Hannibal was never strong enough to attack Rome itself, he failed to obtain a total victory over the enemy.

The Roman Senate responded to these military reverses by ordering an attack on Carthaginian held Spain. This was a success, and Scipio Africanus, who organised the campaign, became a national hero. Scipio now started to plan an attack on Carthage, and Hannibal was forced to abandon the territory he controlled in Italy in order to defend his homeland.

Scipio and his troops landed in Africa in 204 BC. Instead of attacking Carthage, Scipio visited King Masinissa of Numidia, whose cavalry had played such an important part in Hannibal's victories over the Romans. In exchange for promises of Carthaginian territory, King Masinissa agreed to join forces with Scipio.

The Battle of Zama took place in 202 BC. Hannibal had 40,000 men and 80 elephants while Scipio had 25,000 Romans and 11,000 Numidians. Hannibal started the battle by ordering an elephant charge. However, the Romans had learnt by bitter experience how to deal with elephants. Instead of pigs they now used men blowing trumpets. The noise frightened the elephants and many of them turned and stampeded, trampling to death large numbers of Carthaginians. Hannibal's troops were scattered and they were gradually hunted down by the Numidian cavalry.

The Romans were extremely harsh on the defeated Carthaginians. All but ten of their ships were destroyed, vast amounts of money had to be handed over and all overseas territories had to be abandoned. Carthage also had to promise that in future it would gain permission from Rome before forming alliances or going to war with other countries.

Hannibal now decided to become a politician and he was elected as suffete, or chief magistrate. He reformed the way Carthage was governed, stipulating that membership of the Hundred and Four be chosen by direct election rather than co-option. He also changed the term of office from life to a year with a term limit of two years.

The Romans became concerned by Hannibal's growing power and in 195 BC they demanded he retired from office. Hannibal moved to Ephesus, where he met Antiochus III of Syria and later became his military adviser.

In 190 BC Hannibal was placed in command of a Seleucid fleet but was defeated in a battle off the Eurymedon River. He fled to Crete, before seeking refuge with King Prusias I of Bithynia, who was engaged in warfare with Rome's ally, King Eumenes II of Pergamon. Hannibal went on to serve the Bithynians in this war.

The Romans became concerned about Hannibal's naval victories and demanded that Prusias I hand him over. Hannibal was determined not to fall into his enemies' hands and at Libyssa he took poison.

Hannibal is the man for whom Africa was too small a continent... Now Spain swells his empire, now he surmounts the Pyrenees... Nature throws in his path high Alpine passes, blizzards of snow: but he... moves mountains... "We have accomplished nothing," he cries, "till we have stormed the gates of Rome, till our Carthaginian standard is set in the City's heart."

The dreadful vision was now before their eyes; the towering peaks, the snow-clad pinnacles soaring to the sky... the people with their wild and ragged hair, stiff with frost... There was great confusion and excitement amongst the men, and still more among the terrified horses... the horses were soon out of control... In the confusion many men were flung over the sheer cliffs which bounded each side of the pass, and fell to their deaths thousands of feet below. But it was worst for the pack-animals. Loads and all, they went tumbling over the edge almost like falling masonry.

A number of solidly built rafts were constructed... The elephants were accustomed to obey their Indian mahouts until they arrived at the edge of the water, but they would on no account venture into it. Then they led the elephants along with two females in front, whom the rest obediently followed. As soon as they were standing on the last rafts, the ropes holding these were cut... At this the animals panicked and at first turned round and began to move about in all directions, but as they were by then surrounded on all sides by water, their fear eventually compelled them to stay quiet. In this way... they managed to get most of the animals over on these rafts, but some became so terror-stricken that they fell into the river when they were half-way across. The drivers of these were all drowned, but the elephants were saved, because through the power and the length of their trunks they were able to keep these above the surface and breathe through them, and spout out any water which had entered their mouths.


1. Select passages from source A that helps to explain Juvenal's opinion of Hannibal.

2. How does source A help to explain what is being described in source B?

3. Livy and Polybius were not with Hannibal when he crossed the Pyrenees in 218 BC. In fact, they did not write their accounts of the march until over a hundred years after the event took place. What kind of sources of information would Livy and Polybuis have probably looked at before writing their accounts of Hannibal crossing the Pyrenees?

Hannibal Lecter

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a character created by novelist Thomas Harris. Lecter is a serial killer who eats his victims. Before his capture, he was a respected forensic psychiatrist after his incarceration, he is consulted by FBI agents Clarice Starling and Will Graham to help them find other serial killers.

Lecter first appeared in a small role as a villain in Harris's 1981 thriller novel Red Dragon. The novel was adapted into the film Manhunter (1986), with Brian Cox as Lecter. Lecter had a larger role in The Silence of the Lambs (1988) the 1991 film adaptation starred Anthony Hopkins as Lecter, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Hopkins reprised the role for 2001 adaptation of the 1999 novel Hannibal, which sees Lecter evading recapture, and for a second adaptation of Red Dragon in 2002.

The fourth novel, Hannibal Rising (2006), explores Lecter's childhood and development into a serial killer. He was played in the 2007 film adaptation by Gaspard Ulliel. In the NBC television series Hannibal (20132015), which focuses on Lecter's relationship with Graham, Lecter was played by Mads Mikkelsen, who won a Saturn Award for the performance.

In 2003, Lecter (as portrayed by Hopkins) was named the greatest villain in American cinema by the American Film Institute. [1] In 2010, Entertainment Weekly named him one of the 100 greatest characters of the preceding 20 years. [2] In 2019, Lecter (as portrayed by Mikkelsen) was named the 18th greatest villain in television history by Rolling Stone. [3]

Hannibal Lecter's foundational childhood tragedies

Hannibal Lecter was born on January 20, 1933 in the southeastern region of Lithuania to a family of great wealth and noble bloodline on both sides. His Lithuanian father, Count Lecter, was a direct descendent of Teutonic warlord Hannibal the Grim, and his Italian mother's ancestors ruled Milan for over two centuries. With such a refined and renowned family, Hannibal's education began early, and his teachers quickly discovered his prodigious intellect as well as a gift for learning languages. By the time he was 10 years old, Hannibal could speak Lithuanian, German, English, and Italian, and was on the road to being fluent in Latin. In 1939 his sister Mischa was born Hannibal was extremely protective of her, and cared for her more than anyone else.

It wasn't long after Mischa's birth that the first tragedy befell Hannibal and his family. In 1941, Nazi troops invaded the Lecter castle, forcing the family to escape into their cabin hideaway in the woods. A small group of Nazis, lead by a brutish sadist named Vladis Grutas, found the Lecters and killed the parents in front of their children. Mischa and Hannibal were kidnapped and held prisoner in the cabin until they ran out of food. Grutas butchered Mischa and cooked her in a stew in front of Hannibal, who was fundamentally traumatized by being forced to eat her as well. Still in shackles, Hannibal managed to escape into the woods. He was only eight years old.

Hannibal - History

The Sauk (Sac) and Fox tribes wintered in northeast Missouri for many centuries after spending summers further north in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The river was called misi-ziibi ("Great River") by the Ojibwe (Chippewa) tribe who also were found in this area.

In June of 1673 Father Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit priest, led the first known expedition of the Upper Mississippi Valley. Seven years later another explorer, Father Louis Hennepin, would be the first white man to come ashore in the area now known as Hannibal. Don Antonio Soulard, a Frenchman working for the Spanish government, mapped this area in 1800 and named the small tributary flowing through the area "Hannibal" after the famed Carthaginian general.

In 1819, the first log cabin in Hannibal was built by Moses D. Bates at what is now the intersection of Main and Bird Streets. In this exhibit you'll learn how the New Madrid Earthquake and the failed settlement of Marion City affected the fledgling river town of Hannibal and how Bates single-handedly put the small village on the map.

In 1825, Moses D. Bates purchased his first steamboat, the General Putnam, and began to make regular rounds between Galena, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri, always stopping in Hannibal on his trips. Soon, other steamboats began to appear on the levee and brought great prosperity to Hannibal's shore. 1839 became a watershed year in Hannibal's history with the arrival of the Clemens family with four-year-old Sam in tow. Upon its completion in 1859, the Hannibal-St. Joseph Railroad would change the landscape of northeast Missouri. Pork packing, flour mills and grocers were major industries of this period. The transition from a village to a town to a city and the events in Hannibal leading up to the outset of war are explored in this exhibit.

During the Civil War, Hannibal was truly a border town in a border state. The town was deeply divided between confederate sympathizers who had migrated to the area from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia and Abolitionists who worked clandestinely to help slaves escape across the Mississippi River to the free state of Illinois. In an effort to keep the Hannibal-St. Joseph railroad open to move troops and supplies, the Union Army occupied Hannibal throughout the war. The darkest day of the Civil War in Hannibal was October 18, 1862, the day of the Palmyra Massacre, when five men from Hannibal and five from Palmyra were executed on the grounds of the Marion County Courthouse in retribution for the abduction of a Union sympathizer. Slavery in northeast Missouri is also discussed in this area.

Throughout the Reconstruction years the lumber yards in Hannibal were producing more than 200 million linear feet of lumber per year. Numerous major lumber firms set up mills in Hannibal, buying logs from Wisconsin and Minnesota and floating enormous rafts of timber here for milling. Once the lumber was ready it was shipped either south by steamboat or west by train via the Hannibal-St. Joseph to new settlements being built in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. The men who had the foresight to set up these huge operations, now referred to as the Lumber Barons, became millionaires who were responsible for building Hannibal into one of the most prosperous, wealthy cities in Missouri. Learn more about the innovations created in Hannibal during those years and the remarkable men whose names still resonate today.

By the turn of the century, the lumber industry began to fade the forests up north had been completely exhausted and the railroads had splintered into every direction. Anticipating the economic impact of the loss of this major industry, Hannibal's prominent businessmen worked quickly to lure new industries to Hannibal. Beginning in 1898, Roberts, Johnson and Rand, who owned the International Shoe Company, began operations in Hannibal and would grow to become the largest employer in Hannibal (more than 5,000 employees at its peak). Cast iron stove foundries, the Portland Cement company in nearby Ilasco, grain mills, and wheel manufacturers would also contribute to Hannibal's industrial complex during this period. Railroads were another major employer of Hannibalians throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

The heroine of the Titanic disaster, the 'Unsinkable' Molly Brown

The inventor of the Lear Jet and founder of Motorola, Bill Lear

The famed vaudevillian, singer, Broadway and Hollywood star and the voice of Walt Disney's Jiminy Cricket, Cliff Edwards

Baseball Hall of Famer Jake Beckley, who played during the Dead Ball era and still holds several records today

Admiral Robert E. Coontz, who united the Atlantic and Pacific fleets with the completion of the Panama Canal

However, the Romans eventually became concerned about Hannibal&aposs growing power and in 195 B.C. demanded that he retire from office. Hannibal moved to Ephesus (Turkey) and became a military adviser. In 190 B.C., he was placed in command of a Seleucid (Greek) Empire fleet and engaged in war with Rome&aposs ally Pergamon. Hannibal&aposs army was defeated, and he fled to Bithynia. The Romans demanded he be turned over to them, but he was determined not to fall into enemy hands and fled. 

In approximately 183 B.C., at Libyssa, near the Bosporus Straits, Hannibal took his own life by ingesting a vial of poison.

General Hannibal Barca was a Black African

Hannibal's celebrated feat in crossing the Alps with war elephants passed into European legend: detail of a fresco by Jacopo Ripanda, ca. 1510, Capitoline Museums, Rome.

Hannibal Barca was probably a black Carthaginian military commander he became famous for his crossing of the Alps, his strategic brilliance before taking on major campaigns, his tactical genius on the battlefield, and his operational prowess during combat.

He was one of the greatest military commanders in history. During the Second Punic War, Hannibal inflicted crushing defeats on Roman armies, particularly in the battle of Cannae where 70,000 Romans died following the engagement. When his army marched toward the city of Rome, he was unable to conquer the city because his army lacked the siege equipment and reinforcement necessary to take it. In 202 BCE, Hannibal was called back to Africa to defend Carthage against invading Roman military forces, and there he was finally defeated by Scipio Africanus at the battle of Zama.

Hannibal Barca’s Ethnicity

A growing number of professional military historians believe that Hannibal Barca was a dark skin ethnically mixed Numidian warrior. Carthage was a mixture of indigenous black Africans, Berber tribesmen, Semitic Arabs, white Celtic Germanic warriors, Greek sojourners, and white Libyan tribesmen that existed when many Phoenician cities and colonies decorated North Africa.

Although the Carthaginians were a mixed population, the Carthaginian military was dominated by Numidians, which was a mixture of a black Africans, Nubians, and Berber extract that lived among the Carthaginians and who were prevalent in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and elsewhere throughout North Africa. The Barca family originated from the celebrated Numidian warriors.

Hannibal Barca Coins

European archaeologists have found eight coins portraying Hannibal’s Carthaginian features. The coins do not resemble each other. Of the eight coins, only five coins are not recognized by European archeologists and historians. The five coins not recognized portray Hannibal with strong West African ethnic features.

One of coins found in Italy, near the battle site of Lake Trasimene where Hannibal’s Carthaginian Army defeated the Romans, shows an African man on one side with the characteristic strong African features such as curly hair, thick lips, and full nose on the coin’s opposite side shows an elephant. All the black African looking coins have been carbon dated around the time that Hannibal was alive, but the Semitic looking coins are dated roughly a century or more after Hannibal’s death.

The carbon dating of the coin is 217 BCE. Since the coin’s male image is shown in the way Apollo, the Roman and Greek sun god, was depicted, indicates that he wasn’t a common warrior riding a war elephant, but he was a high ranking military commander. This coin is the best representation of Hannibal. Hannibal was inclined to the god, Apollo.

Since the coin was found near Lake Trasimene where Hannibal defeated the Romans, this fact offers good confirmation that coin’s image resembled Hannibal’s real ethnic appearance because one of way of celebrating a victory in ancient warfare was to have a coin minted in your honor and showing yourself as your enemy’s deity. This act would have an incredibly psychological impact on the surrounding Roman population in those days.

Analysis: Carthaginians and Hannibal Barca

Because Carthaginians kept no written chronicles of Hannibal’s life, historical knowledge of Hannibal was based upon Carthaginian oral traditions and entirely on Roman written records. Legend suggests that before he embarked upon the Spanish campaign, Hannibal’s father (Hamilcar Barca) required the nine year old Hannibal to pledge his ever-lasting hatred of Rome. Carthaginians celebrated Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with coins that depicted his face on one side and an elephant on the other.

Conquering the Alps

First of all, crossing the Alps with an army was very difficult due to the harsh conditions on the mountains. This, however, was not the only challenge faced by Hannibal, as they also had to deal with hostile enemies. According to Polybius, whilst Hannibal and his army were traversing across the plains between the Rhone River and the Alps, a tribe known as the Allobroges, who inhabited that area, initially left them alone. When Hannibal began to ascent the Alps, however, they assembled an army, and occupied strategic positions on the route that the Carthaginians had to march through during their ascent.

The Allobroges intended to ambush Hannibal, and destroy his army in the Alps. Fortunately for the Carthaginians, they were forewarned of the Allobroges’s plan. Consequently, although the Allobroges inflicted heavy damage on the Carthaginians, they received more casualties themselves.

Polybius notes that the entire march took five months, 15 days of which were spent crossing the Alps. The historian also reports that by the time Hannibal had crossed the Alps, his army was reduced to about 20,000 infantry, and less than 6,000 cavalry.

Even though Hannibal had lost many men, he was still able to descend into Northern Italy and defeat the Roman force waiting for him on the plain to the west of the River Ticinus. In December 218 BC, about a month later, the Carthaginians again defeated the Roman army which met him on the west bank of the Trebia River. The Battle of the Trebia is considered as the first major battle of the Second Punic War, and was a grave defeat for the Romans. Hannibal’s victory at this battle convinced the local tribes of Gauls to join the Carthaginians in their war against Rome.

“. Tha nk you for the wonderful tour. we did many things while we were in Missouri, but we all agreed that it was one of the highlights of our vacation! What a great experience!" W. Loffer, Michigan

“Thanks again for the wonderful memories. next time we are exploring an old mine or ghost town cemetery out here in Utah - we will think of you and Hannibal.” F. Giordano, Utah

"My kids and I had a great time on our personalized Hannibal tour. As we reflected on our Hannibal trip, each of us concluded this was our favorite part. Thanks for sharing your insight into the history, events, buildings, and people of Hannibal. I'm excited to share with others the details of our tour and look forward to returning!” S. Kalfus

"Thanks for the tour. It was one of the highlights of our trip!! I recommend that anyone visiting Hannibal not miss the Haunted Hannibal Tour. " J. Sternberg via Facebook

"Your tour was our favorite thing we did in Hannibal! I feel like I learned so much about the town's history. " S. Wyen

"Highly recommend this tour as part of any Hannibal trip!" S. Bennett

I can’t wait to come down again and do another ghost tour. ” D. Blaesing

“We enjoyed the tour very much and found the history and haunting of Hannibal very interesting and spooky…Thank you for a truly interesting and wonderful time in Hannibal.” N. O’Loughlin

". loved every minute of it . we will definitely be taking their tour again!" M. Walton

Your hospitality was wonderful and hope to come back again soon. Thanks for the wonderful tour.” M. Taylor

Tons of Steel ProductsProduced Annually

The inventor of TubeRack, Andrew Kirby, worked with the design team at Hannibal Industries to develop the first innovation in pallet rack design in more than 50 years. TubeRack takes advantage of structural steel tubing along with a patented engineering design that works together to be able to use heavier loads with less steel on lighter slab

With Growth in Key Areas, Hannibal is Thriving

April 12, 2021 – Los Angeles – Hannibal Industries, one of the largest steel pallet rack manufacturers in the U.S., announced today that in spite of the unforeseen challenges of 2020, the company.
READ MORE Hannibal Industries Sees Significant Growth with eCommerce Boom

Hannibal Safely Moving Forward

See what Hannibal Industries is doing to keep their employees safe as.

December 23, 2020 [Los Angeles, Calif.] –Today, Hannibal Industries, the leading pallet.

LOS ANGELES, October 21, 2020 –Hannibal Industries, one of the largest manufacturers.

“Throughout our history, Hannibal Industries have seen challenging and constructive times, as.

June 22, 2020 [Los Angeles, Calif.] – Today, Hannibal Industries, the North.

How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps?

Chris Allen perches on a ledge of the Col de la Traversette, thinking hard, listening to silence, looking at the unseen. As pale as paper and nearly as thin, the 50-year-old microbiologist has spent the better part of this midsummer morning climbing the narrow mountain pass that lies at the border southeast of Grenoble in France and southwest of Turin in Italy. And now, staring into the mists of antiquity, he imagines a scene that may have unfolded here 2,235 years ago: the Carthaginian general Hannibal mustering his downcast troops during their brazen invasion of the Roman Republic at the start of the Second Punic War.

On Allen’s left, a cutting wind scythes across a row of rock needles and down to the valley on the Italian side, nearly 10,000 feet below. To his right, Mount Viso—the twin-peaked colossus—looms against a bowl-blue sky. Allen reaches into his rucksack, withdraws a copy of Polybius’ Histories and reads a passage aloud: “Hannibal could see that the hardship they had experienced, and the anticipation of more to come, had sapped morale throughout the army. He convened an assembly and tried to raise their spirits, though his only asset was the visibility of Italy, which spreads out under the mountains in such a way that, from a panoramic perspective, the Alps form the acropolis of all Italy.”

The moment hangs in the air. “What road led Hannibal to Rome?” Allen asks a visitor from America. The vexed question is one of those problems on the borderline of history and geography that are fascinating and perhaps insoluble. Much ink has been spilled in pinpointing the route of Hannibal’s improbable five-month, thousand-mile trek from Catalonia across the Pyrenees, through the Languedoc to the banks of the Rhone, and then over the Alps to the plains of Italy. Many boots have been worn out in determining the alpine pass through which tens of thousands of foot soldiers and cavalrymen, thousands of horses and mules, and, famously, 37 African battle elephants tramped.

Speculation on the crossing place stretches back more than two millennia to when Rome and Carthage, a North African city-state in what is now Tunisia, were superpowers vying for supremacy in the Mediterranean. No Carthaginian sources of any kind have survived, and the accounts by the Greek historian Polybius (written about 70 years after the march) and his Roman counterpart Livy (120 years after that) are maddeningly vague. There are no fewer than a dozen rival theories advanced by a rich confusion of academics, antiquarians and statesmen who contradict one another and sometimes themselves. Napoleon Bonaparte favored a northern route through the Col du Mont Cenis. Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was said to be a fan of the Col du Montgenèvre. Sir Gavin de Beer, a onetime director of what is now the Natural History Museum in London, championed the Traversette, the gnarliest and most southerly course. In 1959, Cambridge engineering student John Hoyte borrowed an elephant named Jumbo from the Turin zoo and set out to prove the Col du Clapier (sometimes called the Col du Clapier-Savine Coche) was the real trunk road—but ultimately took the Mont Cenis route into Italy. Others have charted itineraries over the Col du Petit St. Bernard, the Col du l’Argentière and combinations of the above that looped north to south to north again. To borrow a line attributed to Mark Twain, riffing on a different controversy: “The researches of many commentators have already thrown much darkness on this subject, and it is probable that, if they continue, we shall soon know nothing at all about it.”

A relative newcomer to the debate, Allen insists that until now no hard material evidence has been presented that would indicate the most likely path. “Nada, zero, zip, zilch,” he says. “Everything has been guesswork based on readings of the classical texts.” He believes that he and his team of collaborators—led by Canadian geomorphologist Bill Mahaney—recently unearthed the first compelling clues, thanks to a massive patty of ancientmanure.

Embedded 16 inches deep in a bog on the French side of the Traversette is a thin layer of churned-up, compacted scat that suggests a large footfall by thousands of mammals at some point in the past. “If Hannibal had hauled his traveling circus over the pass, he would have stopped at the mire to water and feed the beasts,” reasons Allen. “And if that many horses, mules and, for that matter, elephants did graze there, they would have left behind a MAD.” That’s the acronym for what microbiologists delicately term a “mass animal deposition.”

By examining sediment from two cores and a trench—mostly soil matted with decomposed plant fiber—Allen and his crew have identified genetic materials that contain high concentrations of DNA fragments from Clostridia, bacteria that typically make up only 2 or 3 percent of peat microbes, but more than 70 percent of those found in the gut of horses. The bed of excrement also contained unusual levels of bile acids and fatty compounds found in the digestive tracts of horses and ruminants. Allen is most excited about having isolated parasite eggs—associated with gut tapeworms—preserved in the site like tiny genetic time capsules.

“The DNA detected in the mire was protected in bacterial endospores that can survive in soil for thousands of years,” he says. Analyses by the team, including carbon dating, suggest that the excreta dug up at the Traversette site could date to well within the ballpark of the Punic forces’ traverse.

Since Allen’s conclusions at times rest on the slippery slopes of conjecture, what they add up to is open to considerable interpretation. Andrew Wilson, of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, maintains that the date range doesn’t follow from the data presented, and that the MAD layer could have accumulated over several centuries. Allen, a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, is unfazed. “I believe in hypothesis-driven science,” he says. “Naturally, some people are going to be skeptical of our deductions and say they are—for lack of a better word—crap. Which is perfectly healthy, of course. Skepticism is what science is all about.”

(Margaret Kimball)

Allen’s long, ascetic face, with narrow eyes and raised eyebrows, lends him an expression of perpetual seriousness that belies his sardonic good humor. This is an Englishman whose appreciation of pathogenic bacteria derived in part from Monty Python (Q: What’s brown and sounds like a bell? A: Dung!) and who named the goldfish in his backyard pond Nosey, Scrumpy, Motley, Blind Pew, Spunky and William. “I hand-feed William peas and garlic,” Allen says. “He won’t eat mealworms. He’s too discerning.”

He was delighted last year when the Belfast Telegraph headlined a front-page feature about his research team: QUEEN’S DUNG BOFFINS GET TO BOTTOM OF HANNIBAL ALPS RIDDLE IN PIECE OF 2000-YEAR-OLD POO. (“Boffin,” Allen kindly explains, is British slang for a scientist with technical expertise.) The accompanying cartoon depicted him holding an enormous roll of toilet paper. “Ever since that article appeared, people all over the world have been mailing me fecal samples,” Allen says. He pauses. “I’m only kidding!”

He learned to jest as a lad in Bristol, hometown of the great conceptual jokester Banksy. “I was a rather confused child,” Allen says. He toyed with the idea of becoming a paratrooper and then a train driver before deciding that “a career in science would be cool.” His earliest memories of scientific endeavor include designing a burglar alarm for his bedroom (age 6), leaving homemade stink bombs on his neighbor’s doorstep (age 8) and “looking at bits of unpleasant things” under the microscope (age 9). “Little did I know that the latter would later become my main source of income,” he says.

While in college—he has a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Warwick—Allen realized that he could have a lot of fun and generate research pay dirt by “doing things that other people hadn’t thought of yet”: Hence his current research interests are as diverse as understanding the microbial ecology defining the Anthropocene, corpse microbiology, hunting for microbial genetic signatures associated with ancient comet impact events and, of course, solving the Hannibal Enigma through metagenomics—the study of micro-organisms by direct extraction and cloning of DNA.

Allen is the latest British boffin to argue for the Traversette. The earliest was a naturalist named Cecil Torr, who in his 1924 book Hannibal Crosses the Alps tells us that as a teenager he set out, fruitlessly, to find traces of vinegar used, after fires were set to heat rock, in fracturing boulders that blocked the Carthaginian army. (A procedure, notes Cambridge classical scholar Mary Beard, “which has launched all kinds of boy-scoutish experiments among classicists-turned-amateur-chemists.”) Still, Torr was branded a Hannibal heretic and the route he recommended was dismissed as untenable. His theory was largely ignored until 1955, when Gavin de Beer took up the cause. In Alps and Elephants, the first of several books that the evolutionary embryologist wrote on Hannibal, he displayed something of the Kon-Tiki spirit with the claim that he’d personally inspected the topography. For centuries only traders and smugglers had used the Traversette scholars avoided it not just because the climb was so dicey, but due to what de Beer called “the ease with which triggers are pulled in that area.”

Watch the video: Hannibal. Glitter u0026 Gold (December 2022).

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