Reading for the Weekend – The Punic Wars

The Punic WarsJumping again from the Napoleonic era down to famous conflicts in more ancient setting. This time it is The Punic Wars – Rome, Carthage and the Struggle for the Mediterranean by Nigel Bagnall (ISBN# N/A). 2nd Punic War is probably most vividly described and well known conflict in history and Hannibal is a name that was so deeply imprinted into the minds of people that his name carried terror ing after he deceased. While 2nd Punic War has been well researched, documented and analyzed, it is very nice to have someone to look at the whole series of conflicts that that was only part of. Namely the momentarily checked Roman expansion in north and ever building southern desires and the Carthaginian expansion westwards.

Book starts from the first Punic war covering the events that led to the war in Sicily and Africa. Then book moves on to the Carthaginian political upheaval after the war, elaborating the years between first and second Punic wars and Carthaginian Barcid rule over Spain and following border frictions. Second Punic war foundations are explained in decent detail. Major part of the book goes on then to cover 2nd Punic War and Hannibal’s Italian tour and political consequences, including Rome’s transition from republic to empire. Third part covers the third Punic war that was essentially little more than siege and eventual downfall of Carthage. Both sides have their military system elaborated, weakness and strengths highlighted. Author dives relatively deep into the military thinking, or lack of, highlighting many aspects that shed light to otherwise incomprehensible outcomes.

Nigel Bagnall adds a whole new dimension to the conflict, not that there is anything revolutionary that someone would not have thought before, but rather doing the momentous work to organize everything in a single concise volume. Unlike too many books about ancient history, The Punic Wars is not only list of dates, rulers, commanders and events but actually accessible, informative and well constructed story that sets it apart from so many others.

However, there is one thing that troubles me as  a reader. I know it is hard, but certain cultures it is normal that certain names appear again and again, without referring to the same individual, or even person who lived in same century and distinguishing between each is mandatory for understanding the events. Sometimes one gets lost with certain Hasdrubal’s that come and go – and albeit I was aware of the whereabouts of the brother of Hannibal, I almost thought that I had it wrong since Hasdrubal was very common name then.

If one would ever desire for reference book about punic wars from the military and political side of matters, The Punic Wars would be it. Writing is good and language accessible and everything is neatly laid into larger context. Now, if someone would like to perform similar task for certain events that occurred in the east, one would greatly appreciate that.

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