Despite thousands of years of hard work by brilliant scholars, the great enigma of where Hannibal crossed the Alps to invade Italy remained unsolved. But now it looks like we may just have cracked it – all thanks to modern science and a bit of ancient horse poo. As a microbiologist, I was part of the team that carried out the research.
Hannibal was the leader of the Carthaginian army during the Second Punic War with Rome (218-201BC). He famously led his 30,000 assorted troops (including 37 elephants and over 15,000 horses) across the Alps to invade Italy – bringing the Roman war machine to its knees. While the great general was ultimately defeated after 16 years of bloody conflict, this campaign is now regarded as one of the finest military endeavours of antiquity. We can say, in retrospect, that these events ultimately shaped the later Roman Empire and therefore the European civilisation as we know it.
For more than 2,000 years historians, statesmen and academics have argued about the route he took. Even Napoleon is known to have shown an interest. But until now, there’s not been any solid archaeological evidence. Read more.