Thursday, December 8, 2011

New additions to the library

The Punic Wars, by Nigel Bagnall.
The First Punic War, by J.F. Lazenby.
Hannibal's War, by J.F. Lazenby.

(Quick now: guess the common thread of these new books.)

These are older, but well-respected missives on the wars between Rome and Carthage that have been somewhat difficult to find at a decent price.  I'm glad I was able to finally track them down.

Bagnall was a British Army officer.  Based on my quick glance at his work here, it's more of a military analysis of the Punic Wars, which is right up my alley.

Both of Lazenby's books are considered must-haves for any collection on the Punic Wars, but what has me excited of this bunch is The First Punic War.  While the First Punic War, the one that started it all, is given some discussion in Roman and military history books, it hasn't been given a dedicated history of its own.  That's somewhat understandable: The First Punic War isn't nearly as well-documented by contemporary sources as the Second. 

Usually it is given a general history that runs something like this: Rome and Carthage fight over Messana in particular and Sicily in general; Rome defeats the Carthaginian navy at sea using the corvus ("raven") boarding spike but loses an incredible number of its own ships to storms (probably because of the corvus); Roman legions under Marcus Attilius Regulus land in Africa but are defeated by a force of Liby-Phoenicians, (gasp!) actual Carthaginians and some panzer pachyderms under the mercenary Spartan genral Xanthippos; Hamilcar (nicknamed "Barca" or "thunderbolt") ties up Rome in Sicily but is forced to surrender when Rome cuts him off from Carthage, Hamilcar swears vengeance on Rome and forces his son Hannibal to do the same.  That's generally about it. They tend to leave out how Hamilcar fought the war in Sicily with mercenaries then tried to screw them out of their pay after the war, resulting in "The Truceless War," a particularly brutal affair between Carthage and is own mercenaries.

Lazenby purports to put some actual meat on these bones.  Judging by the quick look I've taken at The First Punic War so far, he succeeds.  Should be a fun read.

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