Elephants in the Alps: Livy’s Story of Hannibal’s Invasion of Italy

The tale of the second Punic War and Hannibal’s brilliant leadership has fired the imagination of composers, scholars, and historians for two thousand years. Still studied at military academies for tactical strategy, the exploits of this young Carthaginian general inspired both the creation of the Roman navy and Rome’s eventual conquest of the western Mediterranean: Sicily, Spain and finally Carthage itself. Livy’s dramatic account includes dialog as well as intimate details of Hannibal’s devotion to his family, loyalty to his country, and his astonishing tactics. The tale also deals with his ability to overcome enormous hardships and his unlikely victories. This larger-than-life portrait made him what the Romans called “A Worthy Enemy.” He became a standard topic of rhetorical debate in schools from Roman times through the Victorian age.

In this class we will read the relevant passages of Livy’s The War with Hannibal from Books 21 and 22. Around the edges we will explore the early culture and life around the Mediterranean Sea — including such mysteries as the lost city of Atlantis and the elusive “Sea People”. We will use the Penguin Classics paperback edition, ISBN: 978-014-044-1451. Since this is a close reading seminar, a commitment to attendance is especially important.

  • Group Leader(s): LEE BEHNKE
  • Days: Fridays
  • Times: 10 a.m. - noon
  • Start Date: 10/4/2019
  • End Date: 11/8/2019
  • Sessions: 6
  • Exceptions: none
  • Venue: King's Chapel Parish House
  • Teaching Style: Seminar
  • Weekly Preparation: None
  • Biography:

    Lee Behnke has taught classics and English at Buckingham Browne & Nichols, the University of Chicago, and more recently Phillips Exeter Academy. She received a B.A. magna cum laude from Smith College in English, an M. Ed. from Harvard in language acquisition, and an M.A. from Tufts University in classics. She has taught ancient civilization courses for the University of Chicago in Rome, Barcelona, and Athens, where she also coordinated the great books stream of the humanities requirement and directed the Undergraduate Latin Program. Her special interest is the classical tradition and its reception in later literature.

  • Address: 64 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108