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For A P R Í L, 1795.
Art. I. The Course of Hannibal over the Alps ascertained. By John
Whitaker, B. D. Rector of Ruan Lanyhorne, Cornwall. 8vo. 2 Vols. pp. 670. 123. Boards. Stockdale.
1794 T. he character of Mr. Whitaker for learning and ingenuity
is well establimed; and the subject of the present work is highly interesting, on account both of the great reputation of Hannibal, and of the fingular nature of the country through which he marched, and which exhibits, at every step, scenes of sublimity and wild magnificence : filling the mind with a kind of pleasing terror, and seeming to be a suitable accompaniment in the train of a warrior, whose foresight provided against every possible contingency, whose vigour surmounted every obstacle, and whose ambition aspired to the conquest of the world.
It has been observed that the first books, which we read with attention and pleasure, influence our taste and opinions ever afterward. There is scarcely a school-boy who has not been attracted by the archievements of Hannibal ; and the attachment which we feel for the great oames of antiquity has something in it of the nature of friendship: we are intereited in the most minute particulars relating to them; and, by an easy association of ideas, we are apt to regard with respect, and with reverence, even the places which have been the scenes of their molt remark. able actions.
It appears to be somewhat fingular that, notwithstanding the notoriety of Hannibal's march over the Alps, the two great historians Polybius and Livy, who record ihat extraordinary event, should differ very materially in the route which they allign to him. Later authors have written copiously on the subject, and, as is usual in questions of this fort, have formed themselves into parties; some following Livy, and others Poo lybius, as their leader : but Mr. Whitaker, who seems to have entered deeper into the inquiry than any of his predecessors, does not yield himself implicitly to the guidance of either of those historians. He endeavours to support his opinion by VOL. XVI.
matters of fact, and, where those fail, by probable conjecture :
Mr. W. informs us that
• An officer of our own army, who is at once an antiquary, a soldier, and a critic, the celebrated General Robert Melvill, in 1775 took pains to trace the route of the Carthaginians, one General investigating the course of another, by an actual survey of the ground, through the vallies and over the crells of the Alps. I am ambitious, therefore, of following the example of this amiable and friendly officer, who has not obligingly imparted the fubftance of all his notices to me ; but of following it in a different manner. I wish not to struggle in reality through the rugged Gullies, and to strain in reality up the steep ascents with him. I mean to act on an easier, and (I think) a more effectual plan, taking the histories of Hannibal into my hands : comparing them with the accounts of the Roman geographers and modern travellers; collating all again with incidental notices, in other historians among the ancients or among the moderns; and then deli. neating the courle of the Carthaginians from the whole.
• Nor will there be found, I trust, such a real uncertainty in their course, as the disputes of the moderns and the ancients seem to announce. The generality of mankind think little on any subject; even scholars are more apt to draw out their stores of learning, than to exert their powers of intellect. They frequently think as little as the merest of the mob, and my reader, who expects to walk only in the shades of twilight, or under the glimmer of a few ftars, will be agreeably surprised, I trust, to find clear light breaking in upon him, growing stronger and stronger as he advances, and at laft forming a full blaze of brightness.
• I first present myself as a guide to the Carthaginians, on the banks of the Rhone in Languedoc: here Hannibal passed this rapid river, but at what particular point did he pass it? he had marched from the Pyrenees; not along the grand road, which we see the Ro. mans afterwards using across the south of France; but along another, that was higher up in the country, and came to the Rhone at a greater distance from the sea. Almost all our knowledge of western Europe, is derived from the monuments of the Romans, and the roads of the Romans especially are our principal directors to the roads of the natives before them. That of the Romans led from the Pyrenees, to Narbonne, to Nismes, and to Arles: this last town was at the mouth of the Rhone, while Hannibal crossed the river almost four days march above. Hannibal, therefore, took a road to the north of this. One accordingly occurs among the Romans, that went over the Rhone at Vienne by a bridge, of which some appearances remain to this day. Yet this was too far to the north. Hannibal was only four days march from Arles in the south, as I have already noticed : but he was also four days march from Lyons in the north, as I fhall fhew hereafter. He was consequently about the middle point of the Rhone betwixt both:-Now we have one. Iter of the Romans, which gives us the distance on the road between Arles and Valence, and another 8
which measures equally the road from Valence to Lyons. The form mer carries us from Arles to Avignon, by two intermediate stages, twenty-three miles ; to Orange, by one itage, twenty, and to Valence, by five, seventy-one; in all one hundred and fourteen. The latter conducts us from Valence, through seventy-one miles, to Lyons: but these Iters obviously carry us off from the course of the Rhone, and lengthen the road greatly by diverting wide to the right. The real distance from Lyons to Arles, is about one hundred and fixty miles; and the middle point betwixt them, will fix us about eighty from each. This reasoning is decisively confirmed by Polybius, who ftates the place of Hannibal's passage over the Rhone, to be seventyfive below Lyons. We must therefore take our station many miles to the south of Valence; which in one of those winding Iters is seventy-one below Lyons, but in reality is about fifty-four only; and at Lauriol, near twenty miles to the south of Valence.'
At Lauriol in Dauphiny, then, Hannibal crossed the Rhone, and from this point we must now attend his army to the Alps : but Mr. Whitaker does not direct their march either by Mount Viso, Mount Genévre, Mount Cenis, or by any ways ad joining to any of them : for he says that
• Hannibal ranged up along the eastern bank of the Rhone, towards Valence, Vienne, and Lyons. He thus left the long wall of the Alps at a distance on his right, while he kept the Rhone close to him on his left._" He marched, (says Livy,) up the current of the Rhone towards the midland parts of Gaul; not because this was the direct road to the Alps, but because he thought the farther he advanced from the jea, the less likely he was to meet with the Romans, and he was inclined to avoid all encounters with them, before he had entered Italy.” Hannibal, according to Polybius, placed his elephants and horse in the rear of his army, “ and advanced at the head of them along the river, marching of from the sea, and pushing, as it were, for che midland parts of Europe." These passages are clear and peremptory, precluding all possibility of supposing, if we mean to be di. rected by history, that he left the Rhone, that he pushed directiy for the borders of Gaul, and the barrier of the Alps, and that he crossed either Mount Cenis, Mount Genevre, Mount Viso, or any other adjoining mountains, at all.'
• Hannibal now marched by Vienne to Lyons. This he reached on the fourth day from his passage over the Rhone. He therefore marched very expeditiously, in order to leave the Romans further behind him. He actually thews his apprehensions of their following and overtaking him, by inverting the usual order of his march, in ftationing those elephants and that cavalry for his rear, which at other times he ordinarily placed for his van. “ He thus came to an island, (says Livy,) where the Arar and the Rhone, running down from different parts of the Alps, and comprehending a portion of ground between them, unite together: to this ground they give the name of island.” “ He came, (adds Polybius,) to what is called an island, a region very populous and fruitful in corn, deriving its appellation from its circumstances; as here the Rhone, and there what is denominated the
Arar, Arar, running along either side of it, give a pointedness to its forma at their conjunction ; and it is very similar, in size and figure, to that region in Egypt which is called the Delta ; one side of the latter being bounded by the sea, and the Nile's currents, and one of the former being guarded by mountains of difficult ascent up the sides, of difficult landing upon the summit, and almost (I may say) inaccesSible.” The place, to which Hannibal was now come, is here point. ed out to us by the precisest of all fignatures in nature, the confluence of two rivers the Saone and the Rhone. These we all know to unite, immediately below the present city of Lyons.'
On his arrival at Lyons, Hannibal found the town in a high ferment of fedition. Brancus the king had an ambitious younger brother, who had made a grand struggle for the crown, and had drawn the lower ranks to his side. The two princes engaged at the head of their armies : but the timely aftistance which Hannibal afforded to the elder enabled him to obtain a complete victory, and to fuppress the rebellion. Mr. White aker considers this interference of Hannibal as imprudent in the highest degree: but, if we judge of his conduct by the event, nothing more foriunate could poffibly have happened : for Brancus, impressed with a juft sense of gratitude to his deliverer, supplied his army with corn and with other provisions, in abundance. To use Mr. W.'s words,
• He replaced all their old and broken weapons, with weapons new and Arong: he furnished the greatest part of them with new clothes, to guard their bodies againīt the cold of the Alps :- but what showed his gratitude more than all the rest, because of the trouble and toil which it gave him, and of the high encouragement which it lent by his absence, to the just-subdued populace of his capital; he resolved to attend Hannibal in person, and with a detachment of his own soldiery, a considerable way towards the Alps, and to do him all the service which he could among the tribes of his countrymen upon the road.'
Our author supposes that Hannibal set out from Lyons for the northern Alps, ftill marching along the Banks of the Rhone, and intending to mount up towards the spring head of
He therefore turned to the right, as now the Rhone makes a grand bend in its Channel, and forms nearly a right angle with the lower part of its course; and thus he recovered that line of his movements at Lyons, which he had been obliged to desert at his paslage across the Rhone. Having gained an altitude nearly sufficient for the Alps which he intended to cross, he shaped his march directly towards them; the Rhone being still on his left, bis companion and guide for the remaining as it had been for the previous part of his course.
According to Mr. W., Hannibal spent ten days in marching from Lyons to Geneva, and in traversing only about a hun.
dred miles. He then marched from Geneva about sixty miles, reached Martigny, and stood under the base of the Alps, and in the mouth of the pass into them. He prepared instantly to ascend them by it: but, as Livy tells us,
· The soldiery were greatly struck with the very near appearance of these wonderful mountains. 'Objects, that are indistinctly knowo to the mind, are generally exaggerated in the report. Obscurity of discernment gives free play to the imagination, and the clouds lend a higher altitude to the sky, than ever nature has lent it. They had heard many, and most formidable accounts, concerning the Alps; but now beheld them, rearing immediately before their eyes.
The mountains there are actually of a ttupendous height: they surveyed their rifing fides and elevated heads, they looked at the snows on their cops, almol mingling with the sky. They gazed at the ill fhapen houses, pitched upon the rocks along the lower and nearer parts of the mountains ; the locks and the herds there, rough with the cold, the men hairy and savage in their appearance, the animate and inanimate creation, all ftiffened over with ice.- The Alpine mountaineers were then mark, ed as they are to this day, by their long laggy hair, and by the wild appearance which this gives them.
• Bu: in general the Carthaginians fancied more than they law.Terror works upon the mind and upon the eye at once, so gives a double obscurity to the discernment, and consequently lends a double play to the imagination. Fancy thus heightened the scene, that vision presented - They therefore roughened up all the cattle with cold, and stiffened over all the objects with ice; when there could have been no ice, and even no cold amid the warm air of the Vallais ac this season, or within any reach of their eye light, in which they could distinguilh either the itiffening, or the roughness. All the lower parts of the Alps indeed, at this very point of Martigny, are aciually covered with rich pastures.-Hannibal's Alps too at this period of time, as we hall Soon dee, were in a high itate of cultivation for some miles upwards; and, as Livy himself intimates here, had locks and herds grazing upon them, But the eyes of the Carthaginians very naturally few over the lower parts at first, and fixed upon the more lofty pikes of the mountains.There they marked such a full display of wild and wintry grandeur, as might well strike strongly upon their feelings. - Then the eye drawing off from the painful object, endeavoured to reft upon the lower grounds; but saw them through the mists of those apprehenfions, which had been already excited, and so dreft them out in terribleness, that was merely derivative and imaginary.-They thus beheld fufficient, to set their imaginations more actively to work. The mind by brood ing over its own terrors, quickened and invigorated them, and both realicy and fancy united to carry their terrors to their hearts.'
At Martigny the hills rise by one continued ascent, for fix miles together, and open to the south of Martigny; the Open ing is about eighty paces broad, chiefly occupied by the river Drance, and bordered by the rocks of a hill : but the road itfeif runs in one narrow defile to the top of this first lediging of
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