Interesting historical notes … by George Laidlaw

George Laidlaw is a novelist and President of the Ottawa Independent Writers.

How the new Roman god Ridiculous stopped Hannibal

Do you know that the word Ridiculous is the name of an ancient Roman god created by a desperate Roman city in a fight to stop Hannibal?

The English language is not proud; it will take words from any civilization and incorporate them into its vast array of words.  Sometimes it's a history lesson worth knowing to learn when and why a word originated.

For military historians Hannibal (210 BC) was considered a military genius and even Napoleon studied all of Hannibal's battles when he took the war between Carthage and Rome into the centre of Italy.

Hannibal concluded that the only way Carthage had a chance to defeat the Romans (having lost the first war) was to  take the war inside Italy so he did something that even today is remarkable. With his army, his cavalry, and his battalion of elephants he crossed the Pyrenees in France and crossed the Alps into Italy in wintertime.

For nineteen years without receiving significant support from Carthage he won every battle against superior numbers and against the best centurions Rome could field. He used his elephants like we use tanks today and punched holes in the Roman lines and followed up with his troops. Without receiving support from Carthage he took his supplies from the cities he captured.

Needless to say the presence of his army in front of any city caused the city fathers distress. One city created a new god and called it Ridiculous and waved it in front of Hannibal from the battlements.

This god was to make a person back down or change his mind. Incredible as it may seem for us now, Hannibal stopped his siege and the city was saved.

So today in the English language we use 'ridicule' and 'ridiculous' handed down to us from the time of Hannibal when we ridicule someone to make him look ridiculous so that he’ll back down.

To find more about this remarkable story and Hannibal read Hannibal’s Elephant Boy by George Laidlaw  Vol. 31 of The Large Adventures of the Incredible Smalls. A young adult book.