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16th century fresco imagining Hannibal and his elephants crossing the Alps (left) and a Roman portrait of Hannibal (right)


Hannibal at the gates! are the words that Roman parents used to scare their kids and to conjure up an image of Hannibal as the Roman bogeyman. It were not just Roman kids, however, who were haunted by Hannibal; many centuries later, the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca still fascinates the European imagination and his trek over the Alps with three dozen elephants has been depicted myriad times in paintings and movies as well as novels, operas and theater plays. This course explores fact and fiction about the Carthaginian general and his life world, holding up historical and mythical records against hard archaeological evidence.

This course explores fact and fiction about the Carthaginian general and his life world: Carthage famously lost the three Punic Wars from Rome and as its history was written by Roman historians, it should not come as a surprise that Carthage and the wider Punic world of the West Mediterranean were depicted in often less than charitable terms. In this course we will compare the historical record against what recent archaeological research is showing us: we will examine the city of Carthage itself and its foundation, scrutinizing both the myth of Queen Dido and the actual archaeological evidence; we will investigate whether the Punic tophet offers evidence of child sacrifice; and we will consider the city's alleged colonial strategies and economic exploitation - all of this against the background of Hannibal and his world as Europe's bogeyman.



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The alleged site of child sacrifice: the tophet at Carthage after excavation



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