Hannibal in the Alps

About the Film

Secrets of the Dead: Hannibal in the Alps Premieres Tuesday, April 10 at 8-9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

Hannibal, one of history’s most famous generals, achieved what the Romans thought to be impossible. With a vast army of 30,000 troops, 15,000 horses and 37 war elephants, he crossed the mighty Alps in only 16 days to launch an attack on Rome from the north. For more than 2,000 years, nobody has been able to prove which of the four possible routes Hannibal took across the Alps, and no physical evidence of Hannibal’s army has ever been found…until now. In Secrets of the Dead: Hannibal in the Alps, a team of experts – explorers, archaeologists, and scientists – combine state-of-the-art technology, ancient texts, and a recreation of the route itself to prove conclusively where Hannibal’s army made it across the Alps – and exactly how and where he did it.


The famous crossing of the Alps occurred in 218 BC, a period when Carthage and Rome were competing for world dominance. Hannibal traversed the mountains–once thought uncrossable–with a force of more than 30,000 soldiers, 15,000 cavalry and most famous of all – 37 elephants.

Hannibal’s invasion over the Alps sent shockwaves through the ancient world – for 15 long years he waged a campaign of annihilation throughout Italy.

It took nine days to reach the high top of the mountain. On the climb, donkeys carried 220 pounds of hay, enough food to feed one horse for 20 days. But the numerous horses as well as the appetites of the elephants meant that food supplies quickly ran out. Many men and animals died on the final leg over the pass.

Secrets of the Dead: Hannibal in the Alps is a production of Lion Television in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Directed by Giulia Clark. Stephanie Carter is executive producer for Secrets of the Dead.

Support for Secrets of the Dead is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.