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17309.  Fri Apr 08, 2005 5:25 am Reply with quote

When he was crossing the Alps with elephants (to produce the world’s first eleph-alp), Hannibal’s multi-cultural army included some chaps known as Concanians. They seem to be mostly famous for their fast food. As Ross Leckie puts it in his novel Hannibal (Canongate, 1996): “And still they passed, Concanians who fed by opening the veins of horses for their food, Arbacians whose weapon is the flying dart ...” (I include that last, irrelevant line merely to prove to sceptics that the mighty dartist has always been a feared fighting man!)

Horace mentions them in an ode:
“I'll visit all unscathed the Britons, no friends
to strangers, the Concanian that delights in
draughts of horses' blood, the Geloni that
wear the quiver, and the Scythian stream.”
(Found that at

... and that is Google’s only offering for Concanian (nothing at all for Concanians). The word does not appear at all in the indexes of the few, very general, books I have on the ancient world.

Is there a classicist in the house? I’m intrigued: surely an entire race of martial horse-vampires cannot have virtually vanished from the world’s imagination? There again, I suppose if sucking blood from ponies is the only fact known about them, that in itself would be quite interesting ...

17310.  Fri Apr 08, 2005 5:38 am Reply with quote

It Seems like there is a place known as Concania in Guinea Bissau – although even that seems to be an alternative spelling!

17311.  Fri Apr 08, 2005 6:04 am Reply with quote

A google for “concania” as well as throwing up some Guinea-Bissau references, gives this page.

Unfortunately it’s in Spanish, which is not one of the 1 languages I am fluent in.

So I used an online translator, which threw out a load of gobbledegook, including the following sentence which implies that the site may contain useful info:

Saying itself of those broken earth that in very past times had constituted the heart of the primitive Concania and that the present amievenses are the pure and direct descendants of ferocious concanus, the one of the legendary feats of the Mons Vindius and the Rock of Pelayo ".

So is there someone out there who can come up with a better translation?

17365.  Sun Apr 10, 2005 8:30 am Reply with quote

I can't conceive of a better translation than that one.

17366.  Sun Apr 10, 2005 8:40 am Reply with quote

If the Horace is the only reference to Concanians, then it doesn't suggest any link with Hannibal. Is it possible that Ross Leckie invented that association? Hannibal crossed the Alps in 218 BC; Horace's dates are 65 - 8 BC.

The two main sources for the crossing are Polybius and Livy, who appear to draw on the same source as each other:

Frederick The Monk
17421.  Mon Apr 11, 2005 5:54 am Reply with quote

It just so happens that an old friend of mine, Bernie Frischer, was in charge of the excavations at Horace's villa so I dropped him a line about the quote from the Odes. He responds:

The commentaries on Horace's Odes tell me that the Concani were a Cantabrian tribe in N.W. Spain. Virgil says it was the Gelon (a Scythian tribe)i, not the Concani, who drank milk mixed with horses' blood (Virgil, Georgics 3.463).

There seem to be only two references to the Concani in Latin literature (this passage in Horace and another in Silius Italicus). Neither mentions their service in Hannibal's army. In Livy, book XXI.22-25, there is a discussion of the makeup of Hannibal's army in Spain prior to crossing the Alps. Again, there is no mention of the Concani nor of the Cantabri.

s: Prof. B. Frischer pers comm.

17438.  Mon Apr 11, 2005 11:55 am Reply with quote

Some Zulu people in Africa still live off cow's blood mixed with milk, don't they?

Frederick The Monk
17453.  Mon Apr 11, 2005 5:21 pm Reply with quote

Indeed - the Masai. For a picture story of them doing just this have a look here.


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