This is the book to read if you want to learn about the most brutal and bloodiest day of battle in history. At Cannae, Hannibal traps the Roman army (approx. 86,000) and the slaughter begins. The ghosts of Cannae refers to the few Roman soldiers that survived the battle and were banished for their failure/cowardice.
The book starts with what we know and how we know it. Robert L. O’Connell tells the story of the battle and the major players but he also delves into the mind set of Hannibal and the Romans (as best he could) to help us understand the “Hows and Whys” behind the war between Carthage and Rome.
At times the book feels a bit daunting with all the unfamiliar Latin names and through history the names of places have changed. Even though at times you feel like you are reading a history book O’Connell does an excellent job of personalizing the major players enough that the book tends to read like a novel. The story covers the entire “Second Punic War”. But the battle at Cannae is the center piece and the turning point of the war.
This is an impressively written story about a legendary battle, and the lessons learned from it are as relevant today as ever. I believe that Robert L. O’Connell has done his homework and has written about the most accurate version of this war as possible.