Hannibal brought ‘War Elephants’ through the Alps

Hannibal brought ‘War Elephants’ through the Alps

Wait who was Hannibal again? Hannibal was up there with Julius Ceasar and Alexander the Great as one of the great military leaders in history. He fought for the Carthaginian Empire (Carthage is now Tunisia) against the Roman Empire.

Born in 247BC, from the age of 9 he went on campaigns with his Dad who was a general in the army and together they marched through North Africa, Spain and France conquering vast swathes of land as they went and Hannibal honed his skills in war.

“According to Polybius and Livy, Hannibal’s father Hamilcar Barca made the 9-year-old Hannibal dip his hand in blood and swear an oath of hatred against Rome.”

So what about the elephants in the Alps?

After conquering Southern France, with 38,000 infantry, 7,000 cavalry and 37 war-elephants they reached the river Rhone and crossed it by constructing rafts for the elephants.


Then they had to cross the Alps to get to Italy and fight the Romans where they lived.

On the way up the army were attacked from all sides by hordes of guerilla mountain tribes who set traps and dropped boulders on them. The path was narrow and treachorous and could only be traversed in single file.

The Alps are steeper on the Italian side and the paths were even more narrow with sheer drops on each side. The snow made it difficult to see where the edge was and many men who fell to their doom.

The path was too narrow for the war-elephants and Hannibal had his men construct a road or them. It took 3 days and by the end his men and animals were freezing and starving but ultimately most survived.