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Absurd Premises of Other Historians

For could a more irrational proceeding on the part of a general be imagined than that of Hannibal, if, when in command of so numerous an army, on whom the success of his expedition entirely depended, he allowed himself to remain in ignorance of the roads, the lie of the country, the route to be taken, and the people to which it led, and above all as to the practicability of what he was undertaking to do? They, in fact, represent Hannibal, when at the height of his expectation of success, doing what those would hardly do who have utterly failed and have been reduced to despair,—that is, to entrust themselves and their forces to an unknown country. And so, too, what they say about the desolation of the district, and its precipitous and inaccessible character, only serves to bring their untrustworthiness into clearer light. For first, they pass over the fact that the Celts of the Rhone valley had on several occasions before Hannibal came, and that in very recent times, crossed the Alps with large forces, and fought battles with the Romans in alliance with the Celts of the valley of the Padus, as I have already stated. And secondly, they are unaware of the fact that a very numerous tribe of people inhabit the Alps. Accordingly in their ignorance of these facts they take refuge in the assertion that a hero showed Hannibal the way. They are, in fact, in the same case as tragedians, who, beginning with an improbable and impossible plot, are obliged to bring in a deus ex machina to solve the difficulty and end the play. The absurd premises of these historians naturally require some such supernatural agency to help them out of the difficulty: an absurd beginning could only have an absurd ending. For of course Hannibal did not act as these writers say he did; but, on the contrary, conducted his plans with the utmost prudence. He had thoroughly informed himself of the fertility of the country into which he designed to descend, and of the hostile feelings of its inhabitants towards Rome; and for his journey through the difficult district which intervened he employed native guides and pioneers, whose interests were bound up with his own. I speak with confidence on these points, because I have questioned persons actually engaged on the facts; and have inspected the country, and gone over the Alpine pass myself, in order to inform myself of the truth and see with my own eyes.

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