Hannibal crosses the Alps



List the main events of Hannibal’s march TO the Alps 

a. The Truce at Iliberis

Having pacified northern Spain, Hannibal met the Gauls of southern France at Iliberis and negotiated safe conduct.

b. The Roman got ready (and the Boii rebellion)

In northern Italy, the Boii and the Insubres rebelled – the Senate sent an army under Manlius to subdue the Gauls, and Publius Cornelius Scipio by sea to intercept Hannibal. P. Cornelius Scipio landed at Marseilles, and was surprised to find that Hannibal had reached the Rhone..

c. Crossing the Rhone

Hannibal crossed the Rhone in the face of a large army of Volcae by sending Hanno upstream to outflank the enemy.

d. The Battle of the Scouting Parties

Hannibal’s scouting party fought a fierce battle with a Roman scouting party, suffering heavy casualties.

e. The Romans waited

Scipio sent Gnaeus Scipio to Spain, and returned to Italy to await Hannibal’s invasion.



List the main events of Hannibal’s march OVER the Alps 

a. Magalus and the Boii; Hannibal's speech

Hannibal made an alliance with Magalus and the Boii; he gave an exhortationary speech to his men.

b. The march to 'the Island'

He marched four days until he reached at a (disputed) river confluence at a place called ‘the Island’.

c. Marching up the ? – Isère? Aigues? Drome? Durance?

He turned east and marched up the river for ten days.

d. Safely through the foothills

He had made an alliance (or acted as arbitrator – Polybius and Livy disagree) which ensured him safe passage through the lands of the Gauls (perhaps the Allobroges – Polybius and Livy disagree).

e. Ambushed from above

Starting his ascent of the Alps, he was confronted by tribesmen from the heights/earthworks above; he captured the high points when the tribesmen went home for the night. When the tribesmen attacked in the morning he charged down and defeated them in a costly engagement.

f. A trick truce

On another occasion, an offer of truce by Alpine tribes turned out to be a trick attack, and for a night Hannibal was separated from the rest of his army. Again he beat off the attack, but guerrilla attacks continued.

g. Ninth day; a panorama of Italy

On the 9th day he reached the watershed, and raised his soldiers’ spirits by showing them a panoramic view of Italy.

h. The treacherous descent

The steep, icy descent was slippery, and blocked by a landslide; according to Polybius, Hannibal ordered his men to cut a new path across the rockface – according to Livy he burst a blockage of rocks by fire and vinegar and cut zigzags into the descent.

i. Rest and recuperation

He reached the meadows below and gave his men and animals time to recuperate.

j. Retrospectively – the journey and its losses

Both Livy and Polybous erroneously record that the whole journey had taken 5 months and the journey across the Alps had taken 15 days. Hannibal reputedly lost 36,000 men crossing the Alps.







The following web pages will help you complete the task:

This document contains the relevant sections of the set
OCR Textbook.

Hannibal's route across the Alps is also a topic of intense debate; you may wish to read Mr Clare's article on it.



  1.  Use these notes to write answers to the last two questions on the Start of the War worksheet.

 2.  Read the following passages from Polybius, and write answers to the questions which follow:

Livy, Book 21, Chapter 53
This time it was all too probable that Hannibal’s whole army would have perished if he had not, even now, suspected some such outcome. In anticipation of it and as a precaution, he had placed the baggage train and the cavalry at the front of the column and kept his hoplites as a rearguard.  Since they were fully alert for an attack, casualties were less serious and they were able to beat back the tribesmen’s attack. 
Nevertheless the final outcome of these events was the loss of a significant number of men, pack-animals, and horses.  The enemy were in control of the higher ground and advanced along the hillsides in parallel with the army and from there either rolled rocks at them down the slopes or pelted them with rocks thrown by hand.  All this caused such wholesale and potentially disastrous confusion that Hannibal was forced to spend the night in a strong position protected by bare rocks, in order to give cover to his cavalry and baggage-train, from which he had been separated. In the end it took them all that night to extract themselves with great difficulty from the gorge.

Describe what the people of the Alps did to attack Hannibal.    [4]

Explain why Hannibal lost so many men crossing the Alps.    [4]

In your opinion, how reliable is Livy’s account of Hannibal's crossing of the Alps?
Explain your opinion.  You must refer both to this passage, and to your knowledge of Livy as a writer.     [5]


'Hannibal's success in crossing the Alps was an achievement of genius.'  How far do the ancient sources support this opinion?


In your answer you should:

•  give a brief account of Hannibal's crossing of the Alps;

•  explain how Hannibal succeeded;

•  show knowledge of the relevant sections of Polybius and Livy;

  consider how reliable you think these sources are.                                       [30]