Polybius’ ‘previous landslide’: Proof that Hannibal’s invasion route crossed the col de la traversette

W. C. Mahaney*, C. C R Allen, P. Pentlavalli, Randy Dirszowsky, Pierre Tricart, Leslie Keiser, Peeter Somelar, Brian Kelleher, B. Murphy, P. J M Costa, S. Jordan, S. O'Reilly, P. Juligj

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Both Polybius and Livy described a landslide/landslip that blocked the Punic Army’s exfiltration from a high col on the water divide in the Western Alps. The landslide, more aptly termed rockfall, has been a source of contention amongst classicists for centuries despite the fact that only two cols—Clapier and Traversette—exhibit rockfall debris on the lee side of the Alps. While the Clapier rockfall is too small and too young to have provided blockage, the Traversette debris is nearly as Polybius described it when he retraced the invasion route some 60 years after the event. His ‘two-tier’ description of the deposit, a doublet of younger and older rock rubble, including measurements of width and volume are close to modern measurements and prove that he knew, in advance, the route Hannibal had followed. It would take a practiced eye to correctly identify the stratigraphic complexity inherent in the Traversette Rockfall. Here we present weathering ratios, soil stratigraphic, mineral, chemical and microbiological evidence in support of Polybius’ observations as a considerable background database for future geoarchaeological exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-94
Number of pages18
JournalMediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Hannibalic invasion
  • Physico-mineral-chemical correlation to ancient texts
  • Traversette Rockfall

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


Dive into the research topics of 'Polybius’ ‘previous landslide’: Proof that Hannibal’s invasion route crossed the col de la traversette'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this