inizi100One of the supposed good things about working in a city is that you can get in a bit shopping in during your lunch hour, but it doesn’t really work like that, at least not for me. Lunch hours are almost what they say on the tin — hours to grab lunch, except it isn’t an hour, more like 30 minutes max with a sandwich or a healthy pasta salad from the nearby M+S food hall.

Lunch hours are almost what they say on the tin — hours to grab lunch, except it isn’t an hour, more like 30 minutes max with a sandwich or a healthy pasta salad from the nearby M+S food hall.

But there are only so many sarnies and healthy foodstuffs that you can take, so today saw me take one of my rare forays into Manchester. I was soon reminded why. There are about 25% of folk like me, time-limited, you know where you want to go — Debenham’s, HMV, maybe Dillon’s if I can make it, so get your feet moving, laser-guided precision.

Then there’s the others. The ones who have all day and no plans other than to meander around the streets getting in the way. You know what I mean, the sort that doesn’t walk up and down Market Street, but drift from side to side, gobbing chewing gum and tripping up those of us on a mission.

Today was one of those rare days. I had a bit of time on my hands and took myself down the shops. I didn’t make it into Dillon’s, but HMV was on the list. I had a look at the games on offer, more out of casual interest than intent to purchase.

One I pulled off the shelf was The Punic Wars — A Clash of Two Empires. I read the blurb on the back and thought it sounded okay. Hannibal has been a hero of mine ever since I read his biography by Ernle Bradford.

The thing about Hannibal is that he was a tactical genius and a strategic cretin. As his brother Hasdrubal had it, “You know how to win a victory, but you don’t know how to use it.” By which he meant that his bro’ terrorised Rome for 14 years, but couldn’t hit the knock-out blow.

Anyway, I flipped back to the front of the box to check the price. Ah, £1.99. What? One pound bloody ninety-nine? Which may mean it’s a dog, but I bought it. At that price, I reckon I only need about 30 minutes entertainment to get my money back. (See, less than the minimum wage and I’m happy.)

On which note, favourite Ernle Bradford quote: “Hannibal, the boy from North Africa, who grows up to dominate European history for sixteen years, seems to vanish like the mist rising off Lake Trasimene on that fateful day: or like the south wind, the sun and the dust, that blinded the Romans at Cannae.”

Great man, great general. Crap strategist. It would be an interesting ‘what if’ if he hadn’t been the latter. Had Europe not been dominated by Rome, but by the Cathaginians instead? I have my own thoughts, but I’d be interested in your’s.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • Mosher 13th June 2005

    Well, I don't know too much about the Carthaginians, but one positive upshot I could see is a smaller likelyhood of the Roman Catholic church coming into being.

    That's not a nasty shot at them in particular. More a reaction to their ludicrous influence over politics and civil liberties as of this weekend.

  • bigfatman 14th June 2005

    From the little I've read about the Carthaginians, they seem to have been more interested in trade than in war; they certainly traded with the natives well down the west coast of Africa. You could debate that like the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians may well have had no major interest in Empire building, certainly on the scale of the Roman Empire. (Not in my case though – I've ruled the world as Hannibal in Civ 2 and Civ 3 many times)

    It's been said by some that the Romans set out to civilise the world – which isn't true, because they set out to make the world Roman. The collapse of the Roman Empire has been described most commonly as the beginning of the Dark Ages in Europe, although there is evidence to indicate that cultures weren't as static and unimaginative as is commonly believed. I do know that when the Romans invaded Britain, they weren't met by the howling naked barbarians that most people imagine; the Celts had an alphabet, chariots, a road network and remarkable crafting skills. If the Roman Empire hadn't conquered so many other tribes and made them Roman, would we perhaps not have had the Dark Ages at all?

    Of course, the counterpoint to any argument on what cultures would've done if they hadn't been absorbed into or conquered by the Roman Empire is the line from Monty Python's Life of Brian: "All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"

  • Shooting Parrots 14th June 2005

    You're right about the Carthaginians trading credentials (weren't they descendants of the Phoenicians?)

    They did have some decent troops in the Sacred Band though, but they were a relatively small group of nobles — Carthage didn't go in for a citizen's army as Rome did, but relied on mercenaries and conquered armies instead. Not a bad strategy, especially if you have someone like Hannibal to lead 'em.

    But your comments about the Romans made me smile, reminding me as it did of The World According to Clarkson that I'm reading at the moment.

    It was a chapter on the genetic inability of men to a) ask for directions when lost, or b) actually listening if we do:

    When the Romans invaded England, they went home to celebrate and didn't come back for 80 years. Why? Because they couldn't find it and, if they did ask for directions in France, they didn't listen.

    How true that is, I couldn't say without more research. Certainly, it was an invasion of Britain, not England which simply didn't exist. But if it isn't true, it should be.


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