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Thread: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

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    Default "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project





    Hannibal ante portas!

    The Books and Artwork


    Contents




    What is "Hannibal ante portas"?

    As some of you may already know from FOE’s Preview Six, “Hannibal ante portas!” is a literary project. That’s a longer, more elaborate way of saying it is, to all intents and purposes, a book.

    A number of people more or less closely connected with the development of RTR and its ongoing mini-campaign, “Fate of Empires”, have decided to add another dimension to the experience of fans. As we were running short of tickets for the Time Machine with the destination Late Third Century BCE, we’ve decided the best way to bring this fascinating era before the community was through a literary excursion.

    The contributors have each produced a short story, encapsulating a decisive moment of the Hannibalic War. The battle of Cannae, the rebirth of the Roman army in Sicily under Scipio and its initial successes in Africa, Hannibal’s abandonment of Italy and the final battle of Zama are all narrated from the perspective of eye witnesses, be they generals or simple soldiers.

    The original version of the book is lavishly decorated, and the full-colour illustrations add particular flavour to the act of reading. It has been published independently, using the services of an on-line typography.



    Contributors

    Are you curious to know more about the people who have brought you this literary offering? Here they are, in their own words:

    Cristian Emilian Ghita (a.k.a. khshayathiya) is the author of the historical introduction, the short story “Ex ossibus”, as well as the general editor of the volume. The last bit of information means in fact that he is the sole author of any mistakes you may find. He is (still) postgraduate student in the field of Classics and Ancient History.
    This is what he has to say about the book:
    “Any book that causes enjoyment to the reader is sure to have provoked the author an equal or greater amount of pain, anguish and despair. Of the latter every contributor has had a great deal – being the editor, I made sure of that. I can only hope our readership will now reap the benefits.”

    Anthony Bowen
    (a.k.a. Tony83) is co-author of the short story “The other Cannae”. Currently living in South Wales and working for a department of local government, Tony is the unchallenged sultan of PR in RTR Land.
    This is his opinion of the book:
    “What can I say? My pride in having participated in a project such as this is only exceded in holding the finished article in my hand. It is a beautiful book: in construction, illustration and content. I think Hannibal would have liked a copy of this on his bookshelf.”

    Adrian Dumitru
    has authored the short story “They shouldn’t have killed the horses”. He is a PhD candidate with vast academic experience and a penchant for flamboyancy in expression.
    Of the book, these are his words:
    “When I was first asked to write a story about Hannibal, I was thrilled and puzzled. What could I possibly write about this man that hadn't already been written? Could I write - again - about how great a general he was and how consuming his hatred for Rome? Was I to look again at the son of Hamilcar Barcas, the one-eyed strategist, mounting his elephant and so on?...
    So, I tried to forget about Hannibal - just for a second, and think about something or somebody else. But that was impossble. I had to find Hannibal, therefore, through some fellows that were not Hannibal. He was there. And I loved every second of it.”

    Mark Walsh
    (a.k.a. MarcusCorneliusMarcellus) is the author of the final story, “Of lions and wolves”. He is a world traveller who has lived in over 12 countries and visited near 40. His experiences affect his consciousness, and it is from this state of mind that he writes about what he sees in the human experience. Trials and tribulations, stories of both humanity and horror, which we all know to exist side by side. History for him is alive; not to be relegated to some faded dust colored manuscript, but to be woven in to the fabric of life which binds us all together as human beings in this present age. Marc spends his time in both Europe and Asia.
    His opinion about the book is as follows:
    Hannibal ante portas! is about life, the circle of events that lead us ever forwards, to conclusions that we do not know, but must tread the path to find.

    Like Hannibal, some of us will find victory; like Hannibal, some of us will also find the truth and pain of loss, for as humans we know not what fate has in store for us. Hannibal ante portas! is about the human experience, that life is much much more than a series of random events, but a learning experience for us as well.

    Tread Hannibal's path with him, and learn what it is to be a man.”

    Catalin Daniel Ghita
    (a.k.a. Mephisto) has a special contribution, being the illustrator of the original book. He is a professional artist, having been educated at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Bucharest.
    This is what he thinks about the book:

    “It has been a challenge for me to bring to life an almost legendary age for a modern audience. The common inheritance of the Western culture has changed dramatically since then, while at the present time the borders of human imagination have been pushed ever further on by tremendous forces, like the unprecedented cultural dialogue or the digital revolution. So, treating an ancient subject with the tools of the present, speaking so to say an ancient language while still being understood by a modern audience has been a difficult, but tremendously rewarding task.”


    The Stories

    The first segment of the book consists of a Historical Introduction, designed to outline the development of the Second Punic War and, in the process, furnish the broader context of the stories that follow.

    “The other Cannae” opens the series of short stories. It tells of the experience of a certain Baalhanno, a former soldier who had seen service under Hannibal, now a simple peasant returned to his homeland. Assailed by financial difficulties, he nevertheless forgets about them when he finds out that his former general had died in far-off Bithynia and buys a book which promises to tell his story. Once home, nevertheless, he finds that the perspective of the Greek author is substantially different from his own memories. Which will win, then? The Carthaginian memory, or the memory of the victors?

    It was not the fact that he had only obtained forty shekels that made Baalhanno’s heart sink. It was not that Ashtartyaton was sure to slap him and curse him. No, it was something beyond these little miseries of little people.
    Hannibal was dead.
    The great man was no more.
    The news had been brought by a Bithynian merchant, who had come from Nicomedeia in search of fine Punic glass, bringing with him an armful of papyrus scrolls, neatly wrapped in elegant white linen.
    “You want to know what happened with truth in the great war between the Romans and Carthaginians fought, you read Zopyrion’s history. He has travelled the world, has talked to Scipio on his deathbed and with Hannibal before poisoned and extracted from them the full truth!”
    The merchant was speaking quickly in broken Punic, substituting broad gestures for what he could not express in words. A small crowd surrounded him quickly, giggling at the show. Baalhanno seemed to be the only one to grasp the catastrophic significance of his words.
    “Hannibal is dead?”
    “Dead. Great man, Hannibal, great man. Read Zopyrion’s book! Zopyrion verily greatest historian! Hannibal dead and buried at Libyssa, Bithynian village. He take poison, Romans not catch him! Great man! Read book!”
    ***

    “Ex ossibus” moves the perspective to the other side, as it tells the story of a Roman soldier, a survivor of Cannae who finds himself in Sicily, almost in exile. He battles for a long time with his own fears and with the shame of having survived that catastrophic defeat, while many of his friends and comrades had not. In the midst of this atmosphere the figure of Scipio rises slowly, as the general battles first against the suspicions of his soldiers, then against their deeply-rooted fears. Being the great general that he was, he managed to win both wars, and thus the first encounters on African soil witness a Roman army that left behind the stigma of Cannae. The avenger born from the bones to which the title alludes (after the famous phrase: “ex ossibus ultor”, “an avenger will be born of my bones”, uttered by Dido on the funeral pyre in Virgil’s masterpiece, the Aeneid) is none other than the Roman soldier, born anew from the depths of catastrophe and destined to rule the world.

    As they entered, they were welcomed by a fetid smell of wine, sweat and stale urine, fiercely repulsive to the untrained. The men, however, found it pleasant, since their experience of soldiers had taught them this smell carried with it the promise of bacchic liberation from worries and fatigue. It was quite early in the morning, so the tavern was almost deserted. They sat around two tables at the back, ordering wine again and again. As their bellies became imbibed with the divine liquor, the shackles of their tongues became loose. Fears and hopes, painful memories and desires were floating around the two tables of soldiers like thick clouds. They were doing battle again on the banks of the Aufidus and were setting up new battlefields in the heart of Africa. They were cursing that enemy of humanity, Hannibal, and swore to stand by their brothers in arms no matter the odds. In an uncertain world, a band of men were huddling together, seeking protection in comradeship and courage in boasts.
    ***

    “They shouldn’t have killed the horses” is in many ways an experimental piece of literature: mostly dialogic in form, it has auctorial interventions and spectacular changes of perspective. It rememorates the traumatic experience of Hannibal’s last gesture in Italy: the slaughtering of his own horses. Since the horse was the very symbol of Carthage, his act is charged with dramatic symbolism.

    “If you want to stay here, you should give some of that wine to your nanny. And a kiss from me, too.”
    There followed a short silence… Here he was, an old fool telling his stories to this lad, stories of a now distant war that he had barely witnessed himself, a war that was still remembered in the taverns by a few veterans and a bunch of wannabe strategists, seeking in the past the traces of a new Carthage they would have wanted to build. But couldn’t. Who could? Not even Hannibal. So why was he doing this? Why was he letting this kid, the son of his master, to ask him silly questions that he was so eager and impatient to answer? Who knows… maybe because his father was a cavalryman?

    When the boy came back, carrying a heavily and promising jar (Was it red wine? White wine? The humble narrator of the present story, though no less powerful than his admittedly omnipotent fellow narrators, admits that he is powerless to guess what was inside the jar without taking a close look and an even closer approach) and some piece of cheese, white as the moon in a winter night and as juicy as the lips of a beautiful slave girl. They sat. Bithyas looked for a slice of bread and some onions, for the cheese and for a cup. Then, his mouth full of food and words, he started to speak:
    “They killed the horses… and fine horses they were."
    ***

    “Of lions and wolves” is perhaps the most emotional piece of writing from the volume. It narrates the events around the crucial Battle of Zama. The dramatic tension comes from the fact it does not follow the perspective of the victor, but that of Hannibal. The tragic condition of this great general consists of his painful lucidity in front of the situation. Like Polyneikes in Sophokles’ “Oidipous at Kolonos”, he is engaged on a course to perdition that he cannot mitigate. “Ei khre, thanoumai”, announces Polyneikes (“if thus it must be, I shall die”), and Hannibal’s ‘And so I throw myself into the battle.’ serves the same purpose.

    ‘And so I throw myself into the battle.’
    If need be, I will sacrifice myself and put an early end to this, he thought, but each time he tried to step forwards and into the thickest fighting around him, his men pulled him back, beating off the Roman assault and paying dearly each time for their efforts.
    ‘Madness.’
    The already bent line continued to strain under the enormous pressure, gradually at first and them with greater purpose as time went on, the men exhausted and spent in the hot afternoon sun.
    And then he heard them, the thunder of hooves behind him, the faint shouts and cries growing louder as they thundered towards the rear of the Carthaginian line. He looked to the rear and saw the large flag that signalled the Numidian king’s arrival.
    ‘Massinissa!… It is the end. We are finished.’
    A rough hand grabbed him on his shoulder, and when he looked into that familiar face, he knew the man’s message even before he panted out the words.
    ‘General, for the sake of all of us, our families, wives and children, I beg you - leave now! We will stand and cover your escape.’
    Hannibal tried to respond, but the man shook him by the shoulder, ignoring his commander’s words.
    ‘There is nothing more to be done. The day is lost.


    The Artwork

    The original illustrations are the work of Catalin Daniel Ghita (a.k.a. Mephisto). They have all been made using digital means, but in technique, they sometimes mimic traditional techniques, such as ink, pencil or drypoint.
    Here are a number of his illustrations, accompanied by his comments:



    “Illustration for the Introduction to the volume "Hannibal ante portas!". Artist's impression of Hannibal while crossing the Alps: young and vigurous, fiercely determined to fight Rome. The fur he wears serves not only as a pragmatic indicator of situation, but is also symbolic of his representation in the minds of the Romans: a barbarian, a savage ally of the savage Gauls.”

    ***




    “Vignette for the short story "The Other Cannae", in the volume "Hannibal ante portas!". The figure of this moderately wealthy, but immoderately cupid merchant of Carthage in the era following Hannibal’s exile is emblematic for his fellow citizens: arrogance and opulence are transparent on his features. There is, however, also an unconscious sense of impending doom that adds untold melancholy to his eyes.”

    ***



    “Illustration for the short story "Of lions and wolves" in the volume "Hannibal ante portas!". It represents Hannibal in his old days, weathered and disillusioned, haunted by the memory of his fallen comrades and soldiers. The dead leaf is symbolic of his situation: although all hope of life has abandoned it, the rigid nervures still maintain its outward shape. Its unavoidable rigidity is its greatest flaw, for it invites the corollary of brittleness. The tragic condition of Hannibal is only enhanced by his cold understanding of his situation and his fate.”



    Reviews

    seleukosART
    The short stories in Hannibal ante Portas! tell the conflict between Carthage and Rome through the eyes of soldiers, fading veterans and finally Hannibal himself. They put the focus rather on a detailed and lively scenario and authentic character depiction than on the common heroism and objectivism. This way the stories bring back to life a very active ancient world that is to be discovered.

    However, as an artist, it is especially the overall layout and the beautiful artwork by Cătălin Daniel Ghiţă that drew my attention. Whether it is the coins reflecting the authors, the portraits, maps or interpretations of nightmares, the paintings and drawings happen to reflect certain moments visually and create a great atmosphere.

    I can recommend.

    Graham Clifford
    (a.k.a. Boomtown UK)
    Let's forget for a moment who wrote this book; it's engaging, captivating and thought provoking. It's truly an enjoyable read on one of the most interesting conflicts to ever occur in the ancient world. The entire story creates a miasma with tales of death, destruction and battle. It's also well written. Rich deep in beautiful imagery and descriptive detail and being well paced you're going to find it hard to put down.

    Getting back to the authors, it's hard to believe that this came from such an inexperienced group of people. It feels mature and professional. The artwork is fantastic and the books presentation is impressive. It's one for the history buffs and even for those who know little of the period.

    Read it to learn about the Punic Wars, read it for the enjoyment, but just read it because you won't regret it.


    Purchasing "Hannibal ante portas!"

    There are two versions of the book, both available for purchase here, from the Symposiastai Storefront.
    The original version is hardcover and boasts full-colour interior illustrations. It is, consequently, the more expensive version.



    Also available is a paperback, text-only version. Of more manageable dimensions (standard 6x9 inches), it is of simple, yet elegant design.




    Both versions can be purchased either in printed version or downloaded as PDFs.

    Why do they cost so much? Well, up to 87% of the price is made up of production costs and fees over which we, the authors, have no control whatsoever.

    That is why we thought about also releasing the B&W version (production fees are considerably lower), as well as allowing the download of PDF files. For the latter, there are no production costs (although hosting fees also apply), which explains the relatively low price. An added advantage in case you choose to purchase the electronic version is that you will be able to enjoy the book instantaneously (well, almost...)!

    If you so wish, you can also download for a modic fee the illustrations of the original version, in JPG format.

    Last edited by khshayathiya; March 11, 2009 at 07:13 AM.




  2. #2
    Opifex
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    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Very impressive! The paintings, which is the only thing I can see and judge here, are excellent.


    "If ye love wealth greater than liberty,
    the tranquility of servitude greater than
    the animating contest for freedom, go
    home from us in peace. We seek not
    your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch
    down and lick the hand that feeds you,
    and may posterity forget that ye were
    our countrymen."
    -Samuel Adams

  3. #3

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Nice to see Mephisto`s illustrations being put to good use. Great idea making the book and it`s good to see the rtr veterans are still working together! The enthusiasm, artistic talent and scholarship of the people involved in reviving the RTR legend back in the fall of 2006 deserved to be rewarded with such a release. It will surely get people in the right mood to play RTR. Congratulations to everyone involved!

  4. #4

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Thanks for the kind words, guys! Much appreciated!




  5. #5
    bessus's Avatar Civis
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    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    This is impressive stuff! I'd like to see more of this kind of work

  6. #6

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Edited the first post to include some excerpts from the stories.

    @ bessus: This is just a beginning. A decent one, we hope. For our part, depending on the feed-back we receive, we might produce something similar in the (not very near) future, but it would be excellent if others would feel inspired to produce their own books.




  7. #7
    bessus's Avatar Civis
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    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Quote Originally Posted by khshayathiya View Post
    Edited the first post to include some excerpts from the stories.

    @ bessus: This is just a beginning. A decent one, we hope. For our part, depending on the feed-back we receive, we might produce something similar in the (not very near) future, but it would be excellent if others would feel inspired to produce their own books.
    A decent one! I'd say! Anybody who turns their hobby into a work of art is doing something very special if you ask me!

  8. #8

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    More! I love this, very much so since I'm doing an essay on the Punic Wars! You sirs/ladies, have sold at least one of these books!
    Every time you :wub:, god kills another kitten.
    If you're gonna hire Machete to kill the bad guy, you better make damn sure the bad guy isn't YOU!

    'I understand, and I take the light into my soul. I will become the spear of Khaine. Lightning flashes, blood falls, death pierces the darkness.' , Dhrykna.

  9. #9

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Thank thee a lot, kind sir.

    Though I suggest using the book merely as "atmosphere inducer", rather than as historical source




  10. #10

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Congrats K and Mephisto!!

    Great to see you produce this class stuff.

    Cura ut Valeas,

    Q.

  11. #11

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Heh, well atmosphere is what I need, historical facts I have aplenty. I also find it funny that this is somewhat the same as what I had in mind for an aar, write stories on each of the Punic Wars, from different perspectives.
    Every time you :wub:, god kills another kitten.
    If you're gonna hire Machete to kill the bad guy, you better make damn sure the bad guy isn't YOU!

    'I understand, and I take the light into my soul. I will become the spear of Khaine. Lightning flashes, blood falls, death pierces the darkness.' , Dhrykna.

  12. #12

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    That sounds like material for "Hannibal ante portas! Pars secunda"

    I'd love to hear your opinion about the book as soon as you get a chance to look through it.




  13. #13

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Some ideas you could do:

    A punic shipbuilder, bemoaning his lot after the romans took away their fleet.
    A weaponsmith in Spain gearing up for war
    A roman slave joining up after one of the great defeats trying to win his freedom
    Any diplomats account (roman or punic)
    A historian following any of the great leaders.

    I could probably, if pushed think up a few more
    Semi-Retired RTR Developer and Researcher
    Dont get into a fight if there is nothing to win


  14. #14

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    The whole of Scipio's career seen through the eyes of his political adversaries in Rome, such as Fabius Cunctator. And leave things in suspense, as Cunctator died before the eventual success at Zama, leaving the readers to wonder - what would happen to Scipio?!




  15. #15

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    I'm short of words. the artwork is terrific (the example pages at the site) I'm really gonna ask my parents if I can have this.

    K you remain the history master mate!

    Cura ergo potissimum, ut valeas,

    Q.

  16. #16
    Indefinitely Banned
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    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    I know I'm biased but you have to get this book, 'cos it's a damned good read.

  17. #17

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    From what I've read so far, the Battle of Cannae, it's a good read. I spotted some minor spelling mistakes though. I'll write more elaborately on each story when I've read it.
    Every time you :wub:, god kills another kitten.
    If you're gonna hire Machete to kill the bad guy, you better make damn sure the bad guy isn't YOU!

    'I understand, and I take the light into my soul. I will become the spear of Khaine. Lightning flashes, blood falls, death pierces the darkness.' , Dhrykna.

  18. #18

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    its a good book, well done, read almost half way, made some points that i wouldnt have learnt about some aspects of hannibal


    RS Beta Tester - Rome

  19. #19

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Quote Originally Posted by khshayathiya View Post
    The whole of Scipio's career seen through the eyes of his political adversaries in Rome, such as Fabius Cunctator. And leave things in suspense, as Cunctator died before the eventual success at Zama, leaving the readers to wonder - what would happen to Scipio?!
    Hamilcar Barca teaching Hannibal about life in general and Rome in particular.
    Hannibals thoughts when roman envoys warned him to attack Saguntum.
    The thoughts of Hannibal's wife about the whole thing.
    A carthaginian officer struggling with the problems that arise in a multicultural army.
    Hannibal after the war, when he always had trouble with carthaginian aristocrats.
    A seleucid soldier under Hannibal's command.
    The encounter of Scipio and Hannibal at Antiochus' court.

  20. #20

    Default Re: "Hannibal ante portas!" A literary project

    Quote Originally Posted by The Sloth View Post
    The thoughts of Hannibal's wife about the whole thing.
    Why?

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