Wednesday, March 20, 2013

2. Hannibal: Elephants in the Alps

Logisticians are dazzling masterminds who use ingenuity to transport cumbersome supplies across vast distances and over some of the world's most challenging terrain. These transportation experts used manpower and pure mechanical force to get things where they needed to be.

Long before UPS and third-party logistics companies, these historic logisticians were laying the groundwork that powers commerce today. Over the next several weeks I will unveil seven of history's most innovative logisticians as told by Philip Rudy a contractor for Diakon Logistics.

2. Hannibal: Elephants in the Alps
Shortly after the legendary exploits of Alexander the Great, Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca, was the dominant force in Europe and the Mediterranean.

Hannibal's daring use of war elephants made his entry into the Roman Empire one of the most iconic events in military history. Hannibal arrived on the Iberian Peninsula with 38,000 foot soldiers, 8,000 cavalry and 37 war elephants.

They covered 1,500 miles in five months at a rate of 12 to 19 miles per day. Climbing the Pyrenees and the Italian Alps weren't their only feats. The army spent two days planning and building rafts so that the elephants could cross the River Rhone.

In one instance, Hannibal spent five days planning for a conflict that lasted for several minutes. The army arrived in the heart of Roman territory with approximately 24 of the 37 elephants. His men lost the Second Punic War against Rome, but they went on to be extremely influential due to their innovative logistical skills.

In his day, Hannibal used the most innovative strategies and cutting-edge transportation systems available.

Read this great piece in the NY Times from 1984 on the mystery of where Hannibal found the elephants.

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