History, Military History Buffs Alike Will Appreciate ‘SOTD: Hannibal In The Alps’

June 14, 2018 by: admin

Courtesy: PBS

By Philip Sayblack

The journey of Carthaginian General Hannibal Barca along the French Alps en route to his conquest of Rome, which included 30,000 troops, 15,000 horses and 37 war elephants, is one of the most talked about stories in history.  While the perilous journey has been well documented and talked about over the course of thousands of years, one thing has not been known about that fateful journey is how exactly he and his forces made it across the Alps.  That is until now.  PBS delves into that story in a new episode of its hit history-based series Secrets of the Dead.  Originally aired this past April, the roughly 50-minute program follows a group of researchers as the group works to tell once and for all how Hannibal and his forces managed to cross the Alps in just 16 days en route to the noted attack.  The story of the team’s research, which lies at the center of this episode of SOTD, is its cornerstone, and gives viewers more than enough reason to watch.  While the story of the team’s research on Hannibal’s journey goes a long way toward making this doc well worth the watch, it is missing at least one key element – the answer as to why Hannibal took his chosen path.  It is a minor detail, but still would have added even more depth to the story.  It will be discussed later.  The program’s overall pacing rounds out the program’s most important elements.  It will also be discussed later. Each noted element is important in its own right to the whole of Secrets of the DeadHannibal in the Alps.  That will be proven through a discussion on each topic.  All things considered, the noted elements make this episode of SOTD one that will interest military history aficionados and history buffs in general.

Secrets of the DeadHannibal in the Alps is a fully engaging new episode of PBS’ hit history-based series.  It is a presentation that is certain to appeal just as much to military history aficionados as it is to students and lovers of history in general.  That is proven in part through the story at the center of this program.  The program’s central story focuses on researchers’ efforts to determine which route Hannibal Barca took with his troops over the French Alps in order to attack Rome.  Over the course of the program’s roughly 50 minute run time, viewers learn that the records of Hannibal’s perilous journey were indeed true.  They also learn the route in question.  What’s more, viewers learn that General Barca and his forces had not one, but at least four different routes from which to choose to get through the intimidating mountain range.  That is a little tidbit that is rarely if ever taught about Hannibal’s journey in schools.  It adds its own depth to the story, and in turn makes the story that much more interesting.  There is also ground research that proves in the long-term that route as well as an interesting revelation about why the war elephants were chosen in the first place.  Hint: It had to do with their feet and their ability to adapt to the weather.  That’s all that will be given away there.  There is even note of the losses incurred over the journey because of its danger.  That note is shared as one member of the research team follows the exact path taken by Hannibal thousands of years ago.  Yes, one of the team actually traces Hannibal’s path.  That is a key addition to the story, too.  Between that addition and everything else shared throughout the story, viewers get here, a presentation that is certain to keep military history buffs and history buffs in general completely engaged from start to end.  That being the case, it forms a solid foundation for the program.  Of course for all that the story presented here does for the program, it is lacking in one key area – the question of WHY Hannibal chose the path that he chose.

The question of why Hannibal chose the path that he chose is answered to a point at the presentation’s finale.  However, the answer isn’t necessarily an answer as it is more or less one of the team speculating than actually stating known fact.  In defense of those behind this program, maybe not enough information has ever been available as to why Hannibal chose the most difficult route possible.  Though, if said information is or has been available, then one is left scratching one’s head as to why this topic was not covered as part of the overall discussion on Hannibal’s journey.  That’s especially important to note because the program does note that the other paths that Hannibal could have taken were much easier than the one that he opted to take.  Regardless of whether or not the information was available to the researchers, the fact that the program largely ignores this key question detracts from the program’s viewing experience – not enough that it makes the program unwatchable, but it certainly would have been nice to at least have someone say that the noted question was researched, but no information was recorded in reference.  With any luck, maybe another episode of SOTD will focus more directly on that question so as to put the finishing touch to the story that was so sadly lacking here.  Moving past this, the doc’s sole con, the program’s pacing rounds out the program’s most important elements, and it does so to its own positive end.

Given, Hannibal’s journey through and over the Alps took only 16 days.  Maybe that is why he took the most difficult route.  Maybe it was the shortest route, albeit the most difficult.  Getting back on track, this program goes into quite a bit of depth as it shows the efforts to determine which route Hannibal took through the Alps.  There is even the noted tracing of Hannibal’s route.  Keeping that in mind, there is a lot of ground covered here both literally and figuratively speaking.  Even as much ground is covered here, at no point does the program ever get ahead of viewers or leave them lost.  Rather, just enough time is spent on each portion of the research with just the right emphasis on each element to keep the doc moving forward solidly.  Coming full circle, that solid pacing ensures each portion of the program gets its own share of attention.  The end result is pacing that does just as much good for the presentation’s whole as the story itself.  In reality, both elements work hand in hand.  When they are coupled, they make Secrets of the DeadHannibal in the Alps a presentation that, again, will appeal easily to history and military history buffs alike.

Secrets of the DeadHannibal in the Alps is a strong new episode of PBS’ hit history-based series.  It is a presentation that is certain to reach plenty of audiences especially now that it is available on DVD.  That is proven in part through the story of the research team’s efforts to figure out how Hannibal and his forces made their way through the French Alps en route to their attack on Rome.  The pacing of the story ensures even more, viewers’ engagement.  When those two elements are joined, they do plenty to make up for the lack of one key element – the answer to the key question of why Hannibal decided on his specific route.  Each element is important in its own right to the whole of Secrets of the DeadHannibal in the Alps.  All things considered, it serves as another reminder of why Secrets of the Dead is one of PBS’ best series and why history and military history buffs alike will appreciate the program.  Secrets of the DeadHannibal in the Alps is available now.  More information on this and other episodes of Secrets of the Dead is available online now at:




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