Three brothers cycle on the trail of ancient warrior Hannibal. On the east coast of Spain, they pass through Elche's palms, Benidorm's beaches and Valencia's zoo.
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We're setting off on a ten-week journey, cycling 3,500km
on the trail of the great Carthaginian warrior Hannibal.
Over 2,000 years ago, Hannibal marched his army from the south of Spain,
across the Alps and into Italy.
He launched a spectacular assault on the heart of Roman power.
Hannibal's brothers, Hasdrubal and Mago, were his generals.
I'm Danny Wood. I'm a journalist and like Hannibal, I'm travelling with my brothers.
Ben, a computer expert, and Sam, an archaeologist.
Hannibal marched with over 100,000 soldiers armed with swords, spears...
and 37 elephants.
We're armed with three bikes...
-and a bike-cam.
We'll ride wherever Hannibal marched his troops and elephants.
Across rivers and over the Pyrenees and the Alps.
And we'll discover how he won some of the greatest victories in history,
bringing Rome to the brink of destruction.
Cartagena in southern Spain.
Hannibal's march on Rome started here.
And over 2,000 years later, the locals haven't forgotten him.
We've been invited to a party thrown by the local Carthaginians and Romans Society.
Every year, they dress up and celebrate the days
when their city was called New Carthage, ruled by Hannibal and his family.
And Hannibal and his two brothers, Hasdrubal and Mago, are here tonight.
So you're Hannibal. What do you think Hannibal was like?
Do you have any advice for us?
Do you have any advice for when we march to Rome?
Don't leave any Roman alive!
-We'll do our best.
-Thanks. We'll need it.
Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.
'As the night wears on, we all get more and more into the Carthaginian spirit.'
First night and we're in a hotel.
It could be the last time we're in a hotel for a while.
But, er, the Carthaginians and Romans dinner was absolutely fantastic.
Danny, Ben and I got to meet Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Mago,
the three guys we're following in history,
but these were the modern versions, who were dressed up and it was really odd, but it was excellent.
It really kind of brought it to life early on.
I'm equipped with Hasdrubal's coin.
He was very nice, Hasdrubal, at the dinner tonight.
Hopefully it'll be a good luck charm cos I think it's going to be very difficult.
Not just the riding,
but the filming. But I'm very, very excited about it, too.
With thicker heads than is wise at the start of a 3,500km bike ride, we're ready to leave Cartagena.
Our Carthaginian friends have come to cheer us on our way.
Hannibal set out on his long journey to Rome in May 218 BC.
He was 30 years old and ruler of much of Spain, which was then part of the mighty Carthaginian Empire.
So it's the first day of our ride
and we've just passed through a town called Dolores, which in Spanish means pain, or pain in plural.
And I'm sure we'll be experiencing a lot of that over the next ten weeks.
It's so amazing to be on the road.
We've been thinking about this for two years and planning it.
And we're coming to about our 50th kilometre of 5,000,
so I hope that feeling will last.
I can remember as a kid of three or four being dragged round the ruins of Delphi in Greece
and really from that age I've been pretty fascinated with things ancient,
and the idea of following Hannibal, Rome's greatest enemy,
is just to me something that is spectacular and fantastic.
Oh, well. First night in the tent.
It was a bit of an initiation by fire today.
The riding was very hot, it was much, much longer than we expected.
Got here at last.
A day which started quite early this morning ended about half an hour ago and we've just put up our tents and
we've all done a pretty bad job of it, especially by looking of the side of my tent.
It's pretty hard actually, getting into a tent
when it's dark and you arrive at a campsite and you've got to set it up.
I'm sounding a bit like a whinger, but it's tougher than I thought,
and...yeah, I just hope we get a good night's sleep in these things.
Day two and Ben is chief navigator.
So, we're using a lot of modern technology to find our way along Hannibal's trail.
We plot our route online and transfer it to our little GPS units
and trust that they'll tell us the right way to go.
Now, of course, this is completely different to how Hannibal would
have navigated his way through enemy territory.
He had guides, and this is our little guide.
The ancient town of Elche.
These palm trees were already growing here when Hannibal passed through.
A vital part of the local economy, they were cultivated for their dates and used as a building material.
This place was under Carthaginian control,
so Hannibal would have been welcome here.
One of Hannibal's greatest challenges was how to feed such a vast army.
He needed a constant supply of food and wine.
Friendly places like Elche were a godsend.
It gave him the chance to stop, take stock and re-supply before continuing the long march north.
Not much is known for sure about Hannibal's story,
but luckily for us, we do have the work of two ancient historians,
Polybius and Livy, to guide us.
Polybius was a Greek soldier and historian.
He was writing about 50 years after Hannibal and like us, he followed in the great commander's footsteps.
But the great thing is, he was able to speak to people who took part in the war.
Livy, on the other hand, was writing about 150 years after Polybius. He was a Roman and very anti-Hannibal.
He didn't hesitate to accuse Hannibal of inhuman cruelty and a disregard of truth and honour.
Sometimes the accounts of the two historians differ,
but one of the things Polybius and Livy do agree on is why Hannibal was so determined to defeat Rome.
His father, Hamilcar, had ingrained in him a deep hatred of the Romans.
When Hannibal was just nine years old,
his father took him to a temple where he was preparing a sacrifice.
He led the small boy to the altar, and made him lay his hands on the sacrificial lamb
and swear an oath to the Carthaginian God Baal
to prove himself as soon as he could an enemy of the Roman people.
For Hannibal and his father, this was personal.
In Hamilcar's day, the Carthaginian Empire stretched across north Africa,
the Mediterranean islands and the south coast of Spain.
Rome only held central and southern Italy, but was beginning to flex its imperial muscles.
These two great superpowers clashed over domination of the Mediterranean.
The Romans drove Carthage out of Sicily and Sardinia.
Hannibal's father, Hamilcar, vowed vengeance.
He was determined to re-build Carthaginian power and influence and he chose Spain to do it.
He was remarkably successful. Within ten years, he'd conquered
many of the local tribes, including the Turdetani and the Contestani.
So Hamilcar transformed southern Spain into a Carthaginian power base.
It was from here that Hannibal would launch his strike at the heart of Rome.
Livy described Hannibal as a man with the devil in his heart and a torch in hand.
Once he was in charge in Spain, war with Rome was inevitable.
Before hitting the road again, we bump into some fellow cyclists on a special journey of their own.
Sarah and Chris, what are you doing in Elche?
We got married two days ago, so for our honeymoon we're cycling from Alicante to Gibraltar.
You're cycling for your honeymoon?! Hundreds of kilometres?!
-And we're camping as well.
-So are you still recovering from your wedding?
Yes. I lost my voice, unfortunately, through over-ceilidh-ing and
disco-ing and lots of raucous behaviour.
So you guys sound like very experienced touring cyclists.
We're actually following Hannibal's route from Cartagena over the Alps.
Brilliant. That's absolutely superb.
What sort of advice would you have for a ten-week cycling trip?
-Get rid of any excess luggage.
-Just send it all home.
You don't need much, we can assure you.
All you need is a toothbrush and a pair of underpants.
And you'll be able to cut the handle off the toothbrush.
To reduce weight, yes. Really, you need to cut back.
This morning we were on a beautiful wind-y road, snaking its way up the coast.
Now with no other choice, we're stuck on one of Spain's one-lane highways.
This is the Costa Blanca, or the Costa del Concrete, as it should be called.
As we pass through Alicante, we come across a modern army.
An army of cyclists.
This is La Vuelta, Spain's largest bike race, and it's just arriving in town.
A fellow Australian is in the leading team.
So you guys were coming first?
Yeah. Um, with a good team leader it provides
good motivation to keep that going, which hopefully we can until the end, and it's really exciting.
We noticed earlier when you were being handed your bike
-by the mechanic and he basically lifted it up with one finger.
So, Matt we've both got very long rides ahead today. We were thinking we could possibly swap bikes.
What do you think of lifting this?
I think I would've gone home sick after stage two.
That is incredible.
Yeah. This is incredible, too.
-Yeah, it's amazing. The lightness of this.
-That makes me feel like an absolute peasant.
It's just very different.
A different style of riding. See you later.
Yeah. Good luck.
'Well, it was worth a try.'
As Matt and La Vuelta head south, we continue north along the beaches of the Costa Blanca.
Hannibal would have laid waste to vast swathes of countryside as he marched through here.
And there's been a more recent invasion force.
Just riding along the promenade here in Benidorm. Quite difficult.
I have to dodge a lot of the British tourists here.
It's possible that Hannibal's soldiers were here along this beach more than 2,000 years ago.
Now it's the favourite place for thousands of British people who come here every year.
I'm going to give you a bit of a look at them. They're down there on the beach.
Benidorm. This place used to be a quiet fishing village in the 1960s.
Now it has the highest number of skyscrapers in all of Spain.
Like Hannibal and his army, we're camping along the way whenever we can.
I go camping quite a bit and I've worked on a lot of excavations
where you have to camp for kind of months in a row.
So I'm kind of used to it.
I'm the most used to it out of the three of us, I suppose.
It's very hard to get these tent pegs in, but nature has provided us with tools.
I don't think they're working very well.
-That's why we built houses.
-Here you go, Danny.
Danny hasn't really done much camping.
Or much riding, actually. So we're sort of breaking him in.
But he's doing very very well.
You can probably see his tent's...
I'm the last one to get mine up, so he's obviously doing something right.
Hannibal's army must have been ravenous after a long day's marching.
We certainly need a carb overload every night.
Unlike Hannibal, we have things very easy.
We go to the supermarket to find our food, whereas he would be fighting through hostile
territory and raiding farms and sending foragers ahead to find food and it wasn't given up easy.
He also had to feed tens of thousands of mouths.
We're just three. We've got it so easy.
The next morning we continue north, riding along the coast towards Valencia.
It's a lovely place for a ride.
Rice paddies and very flat.
So we've just come 25 kilometres today and Danny, Sam and I have just made a quick calculation
that we think that perhaps Hannibal's army may have been as long as 25 kilometres
if you give each soldier a metre and they march four abreast.
Um, and that's not even including the baggage train, the elephants, the cavalry, and the camp followers.
It's still the early days of our expedition, but already
I'm beginning to feel like one of Hannibal's soldiers must have felt.
My legs feel more like leaden pylons than legs
and I just feel a tiredness all the time.
I'm still pedalling, which is great and I still feel reasonably OK, but at least physically this is what
it must have been what it was like for Hannibal and his men, marching day in, day out.
But some of Hannibal's men got an easy ride.
They hitched a lift on the 37 elephants Hannibal took with him on his trek.
The elephants are the most well-known thing about Hannibal's march.
They've inspired artists across the ages.
In Hannibal's day, elephants were often used in warfare.
Alexander the Great had been the first western leader to use them, a century beforehand.
They were a powerful and frightening weapon.
They struck fear in the hearts of the enemy.
Infantry would be scattered and crushed, horses would flee at the scent of them.
They were the ancient world's version of tanks.
We're stopping at Valencia Zoo.
We've come to meet the elephants...
and their keeper.
Can you imagine turning these nice, peaceful animals into something that would actually kill a Roman solider?
They are very good learners.
They are not very difficult animals to train to do something.
They will do whatever you say them they have to do it.
-Even killing soldiers?
You teach an elephant to push, and then you say him, "Push him."
Hannibal had an extremely long journey to get to Rome.
Do elephants like going on long journeys?
In the nature, elephants have migrating routes from the northern Africa to southern,
from eastern Africa to western Africa.
They walk all Africa round, so for them to walk lot of hundred kilometres is normal.
They are ready.
How do you feel? They're lovely creatures, how do you feel?
Do you feel upset by the idea that Hannibal made nearly 40 elephants go to battle?
No, no, I mean, you cannot think in the...
This is the past, so you have to think in the mind they have in those days.
They didn't know a lot of things about the elephants, so you have to put in the place of that people.
I think it should be an amazing experience.
I wish I could be there then.
These are African Savannah elephants,
but it's likely that Hannibal went into battle with smaller elephants
native to the forests that once covered much of North Africa.
The elephants, like the forests, are now long gone.
The elephants were ridden by a driver or Indian, as Polybius liked to call them.
If the driver lost control of his elephant due to injury, or it panicked during battle,
he was under orders to kill it by driving a blade through the nape of its neck with a mallet,
killing the poor thing instantly.
I'm looking for a present for my little boy Jack.
Ah, very difficult choice.
A kangaroo, or the elephant.
I'll take the elephant.
# Nellie the elephant packed her trunk
# And said goodbye to the circus
# Off she went with a trumpety-trump
# Trump, trump, trump. #
Well, it's been a very hot day's riding so far and we've
decided to turn in off the coast because it's just pretty unpleasant.
There's lots of traffic. The buildings are not much to look at.
I fell off my bike at a stop sign.
So now we're going into what we hope will be a pretty, scenic route in the mountains.
Just inland from the coast of Spain.
This is more like it.
The cycling up here's amazing and gives us our first real taste of the mountainous riding to come.
Roll on the Pyrenees and the Alps!
Time for a swim. Nothing better after a long ride.
We've been away a week now, but it already feels like a month.
Hannibal would have been on the road for three weeks by the time he got here.
He'd left his wife Imilce, a Spanish princess, back in Cartagena.
We're also thinking about the people back home.
It's funny how being in a tent by yourself brings home the realities of what you're missing.
I've just been up for a shower in the bathrooms here at the campsite
and got propositioned by a prostitute who lifted her dress at me.
someone trying to break into my tent. That's pretty odd!
Um, yeah, and now I'm back here and realising what I'm missing,
like my ten-week-old son and fiancee Isabelle.
So yeah, I hope they're going all right.
Better get some sleep.
Next stop - the walled city of Sagunto.
It was called Saguntum back then and lay in the Carthaginian sphere of influence.
Hannibal stopped here because the city had formed an alliance with Rome.
This was a huge insult to Carthage.
In revenge, Hannibal stationed his troops outside the city walls and began to lay siege.
We're now standing inside the ancient walls of Saguntum.
When Hannibal arrived here over 2,000 years ago, things would have looked very different.
What we can actually see the remains of are a Moorish castle and Roman defensive walls.
When Hannibal arrived he would have seen an Iberian fortress which was very, very pro-Roman.
For Hannibal, this was like a red rag to a bull.
Hannibal justified the siege by claiming he was liberating the town from Roman oppression.
He said it was an ancestral Carthaginian tradition
always to take up the cause of the victims of injustice.
He was casting himself as a principled freedom fighter, a kind of classical Che Guevara.
But attacking Saguntum made military sense.
It effectively disabled the Romans by knocking out their one foothold in Spain.
It also sent a powerful message to the local Iberian tribes -
obey us or we'll do this to you.
Hannibal's siege of Saguntum was long and bloody.
He set up huge siege works - towers, battering rams
and catapults that hurled rocks and fire against the city walls.
The Saguntines had a terrifying weapon of their own - the falarica,
an outsized javelin with a deadly three-foot-long sharpened tip.
The shaft was smeared with pitch and sulphur and set alight before being hurled down at the enemy.
Hannibal fought back. Leading by example, manning the siege-works, cheering on his men.
He regularly put himself in the line of fire.
Livy notes that he was seriously wounded by a javelin to the thigh.
So where were the Romans?
They betrayed their allies in Saguntum and sent no army to save the city.
Hannibal's siege was beginning to succeed.
After eight months, the situation in Saguntum was desperate.
The inhabitants, driven by starvation, were forced to eat the corpses of their relatives.
Finally the city caved in.
The survivors then set fire to their own houses and threw
themselves and their families into the flames, rather than surrender.
Hannibal issued orders that no man be spared.
Vicious? Perhaps. But these were the ancient rules of war.
Hannibal had demonstrated that he had an army strong enough to challenge Rome.
The Romans sent a diplomatic delegation to the Senate in Carthage.
They demanded Hannibal's immediate surrender.
The Carthaginians refused to give up their great commander.
The Roman ambassador was steely.
He clutched a fold in the fabric of his toga, and announced, "I have here peace or war.
"I will let fall whichever of the two you choose."
The Carthaginians replied, "Whichever you please".
The Roman shot back, "We give you war!"
For Hannibal's army, now there was no going back.
In the next episode - crossing the River Ebro.
Two of the world's most vibrant cities - ancient and modern.
And across the Pyrenees into France.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
History and travel series in which three Australian brothers - Danny, Ben and Sam Wood - set out cycling on the trail of Hannibal, the ancient warrior who marched from Spain to Rome at the head of an invading army accompanied by elephants.
The brothers hit the road, cycling up the east coast of Spain, passing through the palms of Elche, the beaches of Benidorm and Valencia's zoo before arriving at Sagunto, where Hannibal's war against the Romans truly began. On the way, they meet Australian cycling champion Matthew Lloyd and they talk to the elephants - and their keepers.