If you think 2020 has been tumultuous, thank your lucky stars you weren’t a Roman solider in 200 B.C. In The Ghosts of Cannae (Random House, 2011), the American military historian Robert L. O’Connell provides an easy-to-read and detailed account of how the Carthaginian general Hannibal went on his extraordinary – and extraordinarily destructive – decades-long trip around the ancient Mediterranean. The jaunt included traversing the Italian alps with a large army in tow and slaughtering almost 50,000 Romans on a single day in his most famous victory at Cannae.

While a somewhat bloody read, it does provide a fascinating insight into the people and politics of the period, and a good understanding of a figure many have heard of but may not know much about. There’s also plenty of points that can be used in business, such as the importance of your position on the battlefield (market); how size doesn’t always win and can even become a liability; the value of visibility (data); and the importance of ensuring your team always has a good breakfast before a vigorous day of fighting (meetings and emails).

By Grant Butler


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