Darkness over Cannae – Tie-in website now online!

Head over to DarknessOverCannae.com to see the website I’ve put together for the new project! It’s like a tie-in appendix for the upcoming novel, with loads of goodies, artwork (more to come), and all sorts of thoughts concerning the Battle of Cannae.

If you know anyone who might be interested in the project, please share it! :)

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Also on Facebook!

Mago’s victory report in Carthage

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Livy reports that, after the Battle of Cannae, Hannibal’s brother Mago was sent home to Carthage to report of his brother’s great victory, pouring out “three pecks and half” of gold rings on the floor of the Carthaginian council. These rings had been taken from knights and senators who had fallen in the Battle of Cannae.

(Long historical rambling following. I had this thought today, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it voiced, so I need to pin it down before I forget it).

Usually, this gesture is seen as nothing but “Look at my bro’s awesomeness!” and its flourish is well enough in keeping with what we know of Hannibal’s general conduct, so that was most likely the overture. Mago then proceeds to demand support (money, grain and reinforcements) for his brother.

I actually think that the rings episode was one of Hannibal’s more brilliant ideas, and if anything could have worked, it was this. Alas, it didn’t, as so many other things after that time.

Why do I think there was more to it than a joyful victory report and a mandatory plea for reinforcements that was never implemented in a way that actually made a difference for the war?

Firstly, Livy says Hannibal did not send Mago straight away. The reason he gives is that some peoples in Italy had declared for Hannibal during that time, but there’s something else, something incredibly important, that happened in that time. Hannibal’s envoy he’d sent to Rome for negotiations was denied entry to the city. This must have been the instant in which Hannibal realised that his entire concept of the war threatened to collapse in itself. According to every rule of war in the Hellenistic world, Rome should have capitulated. It did not.

Secondly, Hannibal sent Mago. Perhaps his closest confidant after Maharbal. Granted, he couldn’t have known that Mago would never join him in Italy again; that the council would send him to Spain where he would never do much good. But the fact that it was Mago makes it clear that Hannibal wasn’t just reporting home. Mago had something important to say, something that Livy, in the speech he puts in Mago’s mouth, doesn’t record, but it’s highly likely that it was these three main points.

(I) My bro is awesome. Yes, there’s no way around that.

(II) These are the rings of senators. Old men in their fifties, who, as opposed to you, don’t sit in a council and debate on how many men to send where, who actually get on their horses or stand in ranks in a bloody field and die in their dozens.

(III) This is what we’re up against. We’re up against a nation whose very leaders bleed and die on the battlefields. A nation that, after its entire army has been annihilated. closes its city gates to peace talks. A nation that will not surrender unless it is crushed even more decisively than it already has.

And this is the point where we can’t really find fault with Carthage, or with Hannibal. Hannibal had played his hand. He saw affairs rather plainly. He might still hope to bring over Rome’s associates, and it’s highly likely that his successes in that regard fooled him and Carthage into believing it might be enough. But he knew that this Rome would not surrender in one battle. Had Carthage sent more men, it’s even possible he might have attempted a siege. But we can’t really fault Carthage for not sending as many as Hannibal would have needed (we’re talking at least another fifty to seventy thousand). Carthage could never have matched the insane numbers of soldiers that Rome sent into the field, and Carthage must have thought the very idea of it was completely insane, and that it had to be possible to win the war in another way.

Later, after the war, Hannibal’s political opponents put him on trial for not attacking Rome itself, and thereby losing the war. Hannibal defended himself by saying that Carthage itself had brought about its defeat by not sending him enough reinforcements. Both sides have been criticised – the council for leaving Hannibal hanging through ignorance or malice; Hannibal for originating such a stab-in-the-back-legend. The truth is that both acted as they had to. Hannibal probably had a clearer idea of the threat Rome posed – and its nature – than any of his contemporaries, while it would have been impossible for Carthage to grasp this idea. And even if they did grasp it, who can fault them for not resorting to the same means that their Roman counterparts employed?

Hannibal had been brought up far from Carthage, on his father’s Iberian campaigns. War was second nature to him, much more than to most other Carthaginians, and much more than any of the men sitting in council. In that, he probably understood Rome better than most of his fellow citizens. And he probably also understood this too – that he would not be able to make his fellow citizens see this, and act on his understanding.

Watercolour, 2013

You need to get that treated

In spring of 217, the year after Hannibal’s arrival in Italy, two new consuls are closing off the Apennine passes to stop Hannibal from leaving the north of the country. Hannibal has chosen an unguarded road, but due to flooding of the area round the river Arnus in Tuscany, his army is having a hard time getting to drier ground. Hannibal himself suffers from ophthalmia. Maharbal (right), the chief commander of his cavalry, has just returned from an extensive scouting mission.

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Maharbal returned just before sundown. Despite the late hour, the men weren’t setting up camp, instead standing where they were, some sitting on their packs, trying to catch some rest until an officer walked by and shouted at them to get their gear out of the mud. Some were too tired to shout. The only dry places where a man might sleep were dead mules. Many of the remaining pack animals and horses were in a bad way, and the men weren’t looking any better.

He found Hannibal with Hanno and Mago at the rear of the column; the strategos wore a bandage around his head, covering the inflamed eye. He looked terrible, even the left eye reddened from lack of sleep. Syrus, the last surviving elephant, stood close by, looking almost unperturbed in all the misery around him, but his flanks were sunken, the small ears beating pointlessly at the flies and mosquitos.

“Ah, finally. How much further?” Hannibal asked as he saw Maharbal approach.

“Five to seven hours. Probably closer to seven,” Maharbal amended, dismounting.  “There’s a place called Faesulae ten miles ahead, but we found a few estates on dry ground close to the swamp. The town is small and far enough away not to bother us. My men are taking care of the estates. The barns are well-stocked, and there’s enough cattle to keep the army fed for a while. We ought to be able to rest there for a few days.” He cast Hannibal a beseeching look at these last words.

Hannibal nodded, apparently oblivious to the plea. “We’ll march in an hour. Mago, you stay with the rear. Hanno – ride up to the van and tell the men we’ll be on dry ground before dawn; that’s as much comfort as they’re going to get here. Take Sedoc with you, so he can tell the Celts as well. I’ll be coming after you on Syros.” He grimaced and rubbed his eye under the bandage, watching as his nephew mounted a bedraggled-looking horse and laboured his way up the column again. “You’ve been thorough?” Hannibal finally asked Maharbal, who was watching his friend with worry written across his face. “Any news on the consuls?”

“Thorough? You know me. – Hannibal, you need to get that treated.”

“I am getting that treated, but look around. – The consuls?”

Maharbal caught Mago’s look that said, How many times do you think I’ve told him that? “Servilius is still in Ariminum,” the cavalry commander reported at length. “A couple of men from Faesulae we captured yesterday are definite that Flaminius is still in Arretium – perched on the road to Rome like Iuppiter Stator in person and wondering when and where we’ll be crossing the Apennines.” He grinned. “Baal Hammon, I wish I could see his face when he finds us right in front of him.”

“Enemy scouts?” Hannibal wasn’t smiling, his voice clipped in pain.

“None. Not a horse’s tail in two days. It seems our friend Flaminius doesn’t believe in such Punic treachery as ambushes, or scouting. A fine, stout Roman. Bah.”

“Perfect. Servilius is completely out of touch and Flaminius isn’t expecting us. We need to make sure it stays that way. What have you found out about the terrain?”

“Bad terrain for cavalry. Hills and woods for at least twenty miles, beyond Arretium.”

“Bad for cavalry, but an ambush might work,” Mago said. “Especially against a commander who doesn’t do much scouting.”

Hannibal nodded. “We’ll see about that. Tell your scouts to keep their eyes open.” He cursed under his breath and vigorously rubbed at the bandage, his face contorting in pain.

“Once we’re out of here, a couple of days’ rest will fix that up.” Mago didn’t sound convinced in the slightest.

“I told you, I don’t have a couple of days,” Hannibal said, his voice raw. “You heard Maharbal. We know Flaminius is eager to meet us, and we want to draw him along before Servilius realises what’s happening. Flaminius will be happy to tackle us without his colleague – more laurels to him – but if Servilius gets wind of where we are, he’ll move. The terrain might allow us an ambush of one consular army, but not two. Any delay may well get us crushed between hammer and anvil. We can’t risk that. Not now. Not if we can take out one of them without much trouble.”

Maharbal exchanged a glance with Mago. Hannibal’s logic was impeccable, but the unspoken question was whether the defeat of Flaminius would come at the price of the strategos‘ eyesight. He didn’t dare to voice it.

Pencil version:

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Watercolour, 2013

Confrontation

In the winter of 220/219, things between Rome and Carthage are headed for confrontation.

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Here’s my interpretation on what happened at that meeting, based on the accounts of Roman historians and some corrections by contemporary historians, such as Zimmermann, Seibert, Hoffmann or Christ.

Glossary:

byrsa: “castle”

Carthage: Karchedon in Greek, Carthago in Latin, Qart Hadasht in Punic. To make matters confusing, Qart Hadasht is the Punic name for both Carthage (in Africa) and Carthagena (in Iberia).

Ebro: a river in Spain, agreed on as a border north of which Punic forces are not allowed to cross.

Saguntum, Zakantha in Greek, an Iberian city south of the Ebro.

Torboletes: an Iberian tribe living next to Zakantha.

strategos: Greek for “commander”, the title that Hannibal holds among his Iberian allies.

Messana: modern Messina, a city in Sicily over which the First Punic War broke out. in this text, obviously, from a Carthaginian perspective, it’s called the Roman War.

Confrontation

The Roman delegation, Hannibal was told, had been put up in the byrsa. His brother Hasdrubal told him they had been growing impatient at Hannibal’s prolonged absence, sensing a deliberate slight.

“You told them, I hope, that I had a revolt to put down and couldn’t wait on the needs of a delegation from Rome.”

“Not in such plain words, but… yes. Somehow, they still didn’t seem delighted.”

Hannibal pondered. “Send them word I will receive them in two hours.” That was barely enough time to get cleaned up and presentable, and barely enough time to consider the situation. It did not take much imagination to work out what a Roman delegation was doing here in Qart Hadasht. The quarrels with Zakantha – which the Romans named Saguntum – had escalated over the previous year, as they all had known they must, and the situation had quickly come to the attention of the senate. This, too, had been plain from the start.

“Two hours?” Hasdrubal asked, his eyebrows raised. “They’ll think it another slight.”

“The alternative is receiving them in arms and smelling of horseshit. We’d have a war before dinner.”

***

The Romans did not appreciate the long wait after Hannibal’s arrival, but Qarthalo had finally made them see that the strategos wished to receive his guests in a state that would not cause an international incident all by itself.

Two hours later, Hannibal entered the council room, together with his brothers Hasdrubal and Mago, Qarthalo, who spoke Latin as well as Greek and Punic, and Sosylos, Hannibal’s former tutor and present advisor. The Roman delegation had been studying a large wall painting of the map if Iberia, and turned at their arrival.

Yes, thought Hannibal bitterly, look at it closely. I don’t know about map-makers in Rome, but in Iberia, we know that Zakantha is south of the Ebro. Does that surprise you?

There were four of them; two consuls of the previous two years, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, and Marcus Minucius Rufus, as well as two praetors, Gnaeus Servilius Geminus and Quintus Fulvius Curvus. Fulvius Curvus had lived in Qart Hadasht for ten years as a prisoner during the Roman War and acted as translator for the Romans when needed. Marcellus, a powerful, fleshy man around his fiftieth year, spoke Greek well enough to make translators unnecessary for the most part. He still used Latin names in his speech, pasting the Greek inflections to the Latin words, and Hannibal, deciding to give a little show of education, stuck to Greek. He noted Sosylos hiding a grin as he caught the strategos’ intention. Hannibal wasn’t sure the Romans did, but it was worth it just as a private joke.

“Our allies,“ said Marcellus, after the niceties had been observed,  “are worried about your… ah, activities around their territories.”

“I understand,” Hannibal replied, not batting an eye. “And your allies would be in…?”

“Saguntum,” supplied Rufus. “As you very well know.” He managed to make his Greek sound even harsher than Latin, if that was possible.

“May I remind you, Minucius Rufus,” Hannibal answered, “that Saguntum, or Zakantha, is south of the Ebro. Within the limits your senate so graciously granted my predecessor Hasdrubal.”

“It is a friend of Rome,” said Geminus.

“Is that why Zakantha has attacked my allies this past autumn?” Hannibal demanded. “Because it is a friend of Rome, and feels bolstered by its protection? Or are they so emboldened by the fact that Rome has executed members of the Karchedon-friendly party in the city?”

“Saguntum has reacted to transgressions on the part of Torboletes,” Marcellus said sharply. “The Senate has been called to help settle a dispute in Saguntum. Would Carthago have acted otherwise?”

There it is, Hannibal thought. A second Messana. As we knew it would be when it became clear Rome had suddenly found a new friend south of the Ebro. And just like Messana, Zakantha will be made a bone of contention first and a bridgehead into Iberia second, unless I prevent it.

“Karchedon aids its allies,” Hannibal said pointedly. “Zakantha has moved against my allies, in my territory. I would be a faithless strategos indeed if I left my friends to their fate.”

“Rome will not tolerate it if you threaten one of her friends.”

There, finally. Plain words. He had half-hoped for them. Ten years of Roman interference in Iberia; they had put up with it. His father had reacted with smugness, his brother-in-law with diplomacy. Both had been men over forty; in the eyes of the Romans, equals in terms of age. Here he stood, barely twenty-seven, most of his staff twenty to thirty years younger than the toga-clad dignity on the other side of the room, and they obviously felt he would watch helplessly as they slowly wrested Iberia from his grasp.

Enough was enough. No more smugness, no more diplomacy. “And I will not tolerate it if you threaten mine.”

There was a drawn-out silence in the room, as both sides assessed the meaning of those words.

“You would risk Rome’s goodwill so easily?” Marcellus finally said.

Hannibal head Mago’s sharp intake of breath behind him.

“Rome’s goodwill?” the strategos repeated, very slowly. “Tell me, Marcellus, what exactly constitutes Rome’s goodwill? Is it the theft of foreign colonies, the continued interference in foreign territory, the execution of people supporting Karchedon, or the instigation of aggression against me under my very nose?”

Both Geminus and Rufus  looked to be on the verge of angry words, but Marcellus stayed their retorts with a hand. “Are these the words of Hannibal, or of Carthago?” he asked, his mouth a thin hard line.

There’s the catch. As he very well knows. “In this case, the two are the same.”

Marcellus nodded. “Then Rome will hear the answer of Carthago.”

***

As soon as they had left the room, Rufus gave an incredulous snort. “The whelp thinks himself a conqueror,” he said, immediately reverting to Latin.

Geminus raised an eyebrow. “The whelp has conquered a larger portion of Iberia in less than two years than his predecessor did in eight. If he thinks himself a conqueror, he has good reason for it.”

“Don’t quarrel,” said Marcellus, cutting short Rufus’ reply. “He is young and imprudent; the impetuousness of youth. He will soon find that Rome will not be cowed as easily as Iberian tribes. But it does not do to underestimate him.”

***

Gnaeus Servilius Geminus, Consul 217 BC. Died fighting Hannibal at Cannae in 216 BC.

Marcus Minucius Rufus, Consul 221 BC, magister equitum 217 BC. Died fighting Hannibal at Cannae in 216 BC.

Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Consul 222, 214, 210, and 208 BC. Nicknamed “The Sword of Rome”, fought Hannibal in Italy for several years and conquered Syracuse before he fell in a skirmish against Hannibal’s troops at Venusia in 208.

Some sketches of Roman togas from several views:

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Togas are cool. Sorry Hannibal, but… togas are cool.

(Ignor

From the Alps to Metaurus

What’s a Hannibal obsession without a proper crossing-of-the-Alps picture? I have a large one in the works, but this scene begged to be done first. On their ninth day in the Alps, Hannibal hears loss reports over gruel. I’m working my way to the other important people in the story – the one bearing the bad news (and the curls) is Maharbal, Hannibal’s best officer and one of his closest friends. I was really fond of the pencil drawing; unfortunately, I wasn’t that happy with the colours, I’m glad I scanned it before colouring.

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The colour job is here. I brings home the cold – but dear me, I managed to bring out every anatomical flaw with it. O_o

Loss reports and gruel

Loss reports and gruel

Today, I dedicated a picture to Hasdrubal, Hannibal’s younger brother, who was left behind to hold Spain, was beaten by the Romans, scrounged together the rest of his army and crossed the Pyrenees, the south of Gaul, and the Alps (with fewer losses than Hannibal), and sent messengers to Hannibal in the south of Italy, with plan on where to join forces.

The message was intercepted by Roman troops, and Hasdrubal was met by two consular armies at the river Metaurus. When he realised that all was lost, he rode straight into a Roman cohort and met his death in battle.

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C. Claudius Nero, the Roman consul, had Hasdrubal’s corpse beheaded, and the head taken to Hannibal’s camp and thrown over the fence.

Watercolour, 2013

New sketchbook, new Hannibal

I love my new sketchbook! It’s a A4 watercolour sketchbook from Stillman&Birn, and the paper is almost too good to be true. It survives two dozen nose corrections with pencil and eraser and multiple layers of watercolour. Yay!

King Prusias of Bithynia. The man who sold Hannibal to the Romans (or would have, if the prize hadn’t committed suicide).

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Next, more elaborate illustration: “Letters from Qart Hadasht”. (Qart Hadasht, “Newtown”, is the Punic name for Carthage).

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Classical Antiquity is certainly broadening my colour choices.  But I need to rethink my standard skin tones… Burnt Sienna is great for Elves, but doesn’t cut it for Carthaginians.

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Concepts for Hasdrubal and Mago, the strategist’s brothers.

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