Guest post and giveaway: Robert M. Kidd, The Walls of Rome

In search of Hannibal, the man, the myth, and consummate master of disguise…

I’m delighted to welcome Robert M. Kidd to the blog today, sharing his thoughts on one of the complications for the historical novelist – sometimes, there’s simply too much information!

The Walls of Rome

218 BC. Sphax is seventeen and haunted by the brutal murder of his parents at the hands of Rome. After ten years of miserable slavery he will make his last bid for freedom and go in search of Hannibal’s army and his birthright. He will have his revenge on the stinking cesspit that is Rome!

Destiny will see him taken under the wing of Maharbal, Hannibal’s brilliant general, and groomed to lead the finest horsemen in the world – the feared Numidian cavalry that would become the scourge of Rome.

From the crossing of the great Rhodanus River, Sphax’s epic journey takes him through the lands of the Gaul to the highest pass in the Alps. This is the story of the most famous march in history. A march against impossible odds, against savage mountain Gauls, a brutal winter and Sphax’s own demons.

This is more than a struggle for empire. This is the last great war to save the beauty of the old world, the civilized world of Carthage, Greece and Gaul. The world of art and philosophy – before it is ground into dust by the upstart barbarity of Rome.

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Guest post

The last time I looked on YouTube there were 73 documentaries about Hannibal and his war with Rome. That was before I gave up counting! These ranged from serious BBC, Channel 4, and History Channel series with four or six episodes, to single histories by learned professors and military historians. Over the last two centuries the books written about Hannibal must run into several hundreds.  

Then there are the generals … Napoleon was obsessed by the man, and one of the first to conjecture which route he took over the Alps. Alfred Von Schlieffen, chief of staff of the German army and architect of the plan that almost overwhelmed France, Belgium and the BEF in 1914, based his entire ‘Schlieffen Plan’ on Hannibal’s famous manoeuvre at the battle of Cannae (he even wrote a treatise on the battle). I think I could easily justify a claim that Hannibal is the most written about general in all history. I could go on … but I think you’ve got the gist.

So, as a novelist, I should be drowning in information about the man, his appearance, character, loves, likes … down to his favourite pub in Carthage. But there’s a problem. All we know of him is from highly questionable, second-hand accounts written by his enemies, years after the actual events took place. We don’t even have an authenticated image of him. So Hannibal remains that gift to novelists – a blank slate.

For the novelist and historian alike, our chief sources are the Greek historian Polybius, and Livy, a chronicler of Roman history up to emperor Augustus. Let’s dismiss Livy out of hand; he invents tediously long speeches for Hannibal that would have bored the pants off his soldiers, and is writing 200 years after the events. That’s like me trying to write an eye-witness account of the Napoleonic Wars.

Polybius is harder to dismiss. He was in his cradle when Hannibal fought his last battle, and it was years after he’d taken poison to avoid the Roman death squad on his tail that Polybius began writing his histories. But it’s when we learn that Polybius was the teacher, adviser and client of Scipio Aemilianus that his objectivity begins to unravel. Aemilianus was the adopted son of Scipio Africanus, the man who defeated Hannibal at the battle of Zama in 202 BC. Smell a rat?

Only a general as eccentric and remarkable as Hannibal would take on campaign with him a Greek historian and a Greek philosopher and teacher. Sosylos and Silenos both wrote eye-witness accounts of Hannibal’s war. Livy and Polybius must have based their entire histories on their work. It’s all too easy to airbrush history. Just as Carthage was razed to the ground and the land ploughed by oxen to remove all memory of the city and its enslaved people, these two accounts, written by loyal followers of Hannibal, have also been conveniently lost to history. What would I give to read these histories! Victors always get to write their version of events, and it’s always wise to cover one’s tracks.

My favourite fact about Hannibal is that he was a master of disguise. A year into his campaign against Rome he suspects there’s a plot by the Gauls to assassinate him, so he begins to wear a selection of wigs and outrageous outfits he changes every day. He’s so good at it that he even fools the people closest to him! Hannibal is not a major character in The Walls of Rome – spoiler alert – but my hero Sphax develops a fraught and intense relation with him. So what’s my take on the man? I have him down as a charismatic intellectual; just as interested in Stoic philosophy as military strategy. Definitely Asperger’s, with a touch of bi-polar thrown in for good measure.  But Hannibal is very much a work in progress in a continuing story, so watch this space.

About Robert M. Kidd

When Cato the Censor demanded that ‘Carthage must be destroyed,’ Rome did just that. In 146 BC, after a three year siege, Carthage was raised to the ground, its surviving citizens sold into slavery and the fields where this once magnificent city had stood, ploughed by oxen. Carthage was erased from history.

That’s why I’m a novelist on a mission! I want to set the historical record straight. Our entire history of Hannibal’s wars with Rome is nothing short of propaganda, written by Greeks and Romans for their Roman clients. It intrigues me that Hannibal took two Greek scholars and historians with him on campaign, yet their histories of Rome’s deadliest war have never seen the light of day.

My hero, Sphax the Numidian, tells a different story!

When I’m not waging war with my pen, I like to indulge my passion for travel and hill walking, and like my hero, I too love horses. I live in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.

Giveaway to Win the A Hostage of Rome (Book 3) to be dedicated to the winner, & a signed dedicated copy too (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


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