Not many people in the world would be crazy enough or determined enough to invade the Italian peninsula by traveling over the Alps from what is now France. They certainly wouldn’t do it with an army traveling variously on foot, on horseback or on elephant-back. But the Carthaginian general Hannibal was that crazy, that determined – and that brilliant. Known as “the father of strategy”, Hannibal wasn’t just one of the greatest military tacticians of his age, he was one of the greatest of all time.
No one in Rome thought he’d be able to muster much of a force, having traveled overland fighting the Roman rearguard all the way from Spain. Hannibal led a force of 38,000 infantry, 8,000 cavalry, and 37 war elephants to the foot of the Alps, and crossed them with a massive loss of life, including almost all of the elephants. But the losses were not as high as his enemies had assumed they’d be. 20,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry survived, and the subsequent invasion of Italy was a bloodbath for the Romans.