On August 2, 216 BCE, at Cannae in southern Italy, the Carthaginian warlord Hannibal Barca and his army of veteran African, Spanish, and Gallic mercenaries destroyed the largest force ever fielded by the Roman Republic. Since then, Cannae has been studied by scholars and soldiers as a tactical masterpiece—a perfect battle. It remains a byword for slaughter, for the total annihilation of an army. For Hannibal, Cannae confirmed that he was one of the greatest captains in military history. It also brought him to the brink of final triumph over Rome. For the Roman Republic, Cannae was its darkest hour.
This episode begins by examining Rome and Carthage and how they came into conflict. Then it traces the rise of Hannibal Barca. It follows him and his superb army as they march across western Europe, storm over the Alps, and fall upon Italy like a thunderbolt. The episode next plunges into the fighting at Cannae, which culminates in the horrific slaughter of the Roman legions. It concludes by explaining how Hannibal won a great victory but did not know how to use it.
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