Scipio Africanus, Publius Cornelius,
(The Elder) (237 - 183 BC),
son of Publius Cornelius Scipio.
This is an expansion of the article on Scipio that I wrote for Brassey's
Military and Defense International Encyclopedia, vol 5, pgs 2370 - 2372
The Punic Wars
At the outbreak of the Second Punic War in 218 B.C. Publius Cornelius
Scipio, the father, was consul with Titus Sempronius Longus. He was ordered to
sail with his army from Pisa to Massilia on the Rhone to try to block
Hannibal's advance to Italy. Missing Hannibal at the Rhone by a day or two, P.
C. Scipio returned by sea to Cisalpine Gaul, but sent his army on to Spain
under his brother, Gnaeus. In Italy he advanced to met Hannibal as the latter
emerged from the Alps. In a cavalry engagement on the Ticinus River Scipio was
defeated and wounded. It was in this skirmish that the young P. C. Scipio
(later Africanus) first confronted Hannibal, while rescuing his father. Again
in December the elder Scipio and son saw the defeat of the Roman army on the
Trebia River, when T. Sempronius Longus would not listen to advice. While
Scipio (Africanus) remained in Italy, his father then went on to Spain.
Scipio (Africanus) in 216 was present at the Roman disaster at Cannae
where his father-in-law, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, the victor of the Second
Illyrian War, chose to stand and die rather than be dishonored. Scipio rallied
the survivors and sought to block Hannibal's route to Rome. During the next
several years his father and uncle won several victories over the
Carthagianians including the capture of Saguntum in 212. Also in 212, the
25-year-old Scipio (Africanus) won his first election, as Aedile, along with
his brother, Lucius. However, in 211 both the elder Scipios were killed in
battle in the Baetis River valley, being immediately replaced by C. Claudius
Nero and Gaius Marcius.
The year after his father's death in Spain (210), despite being too young and
politically ineligible, Scipio stood for the election as pro-consul for Spain.
When no one else would stand for the office, he was elected to command the new
army set to Spain. He sailed for Spain with 10,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry,
disembarking at Emporaiae in 210 or 209 to find all Spain south of the Ebro
River in Carthaginian hands. His first task was to win over the Celtiberian
hill tribes as well as gain the loyalty of the veteran troops.
In 209 he was at Tarraco with 28,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry. The three
Carthaginian commanders, Hannibal Barca's brothers Hasdrubal and Mago and
Hasdrubal son of Gisgo, each had about as many troops as Scipio, but they were
quarreling and would not cooperate. All three were at least 10 days march west
of their main base at New Carthage, which was garrisoned by only 1,000 trained
troops. Scipio suddenly conducted a rapid march south along the coast from the
mouth of the Ebro to surprise the city. He invested the city and launched
several assaults on the walls. On the third attempt, with the aid of his fleet
he captured the city. This gave him immense booty, war stores, and an excellent
harbor. His special treatment of the prisoners including a young princess
greatly endeared him to the Celtiberians and brought him significant aid.
Scipio immediately set about improving his army. He discarded the Italian
short sword and replaced it with the Spanish gladius. This weapon was
especially suited for the cut and thrust tactics favored by the Romans. He may
also have adopted the Spanish javelin as the pilum. He instituted a rigorous
schedule of training designed to improve the ability of his men to operate as
individuals and in small units. After strengthening the city's defenses and
leaving a strong garrison, he retired to Tarraco. He spent the winter of 209-8
letting the meaning of his victory sink in on the Celtiberians.
In 208 Scipio with 35,000 - 40,000 troops defeated Hasdrubal Barca with
25,000 troops at Baecula on the upper Guadalquivir River. However Hasdrubal was
actually trying to avoid a decisive battle in order to pass around the Romans
and march on Italy. This Scipio failed to prevent. (For description of this
battle, see separate essay.) The year 207 was spent in skirmishing as the
Carthaginians remained on the defensive while awaiting the outcome of Hasdrubal
Barca's march on Italy and Scipio did not consider more sieges worth while. The
defeat of Hasdrubal Barca in Italy changed the strategic situation
dramatically. There was no longer any need for Hasdrubal Gisgo to try to
protract things in Spain. Now he had to force the issue in order to help
Hannibal. Scipio likewise could now afford to storm towns one at a time in
order to gradually drive the Carthaginians out of Spain.
Therefore in 206 Hasdrubal left Gades and moved to Ilipa (near modern
Corduba) with 50,000 infantry, 4-5,000 cavalry, and 32 elephants. After gaining
help from more Celtiberian chiefs, Scipio also prepared for battle. He
concentrated about 45,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry, including the Celtiberian
allies, at Baecula. Not trusting his allies, Scipio executed an elaborate
deception plan over three days in order to win a decisive victory, which
resulted in the virtual loss of Spain by the Carthagianians. The ancient
descriptions of this battle are disputed by military analysts, however. If the
sources have any validity at all, it is clear that Scipio must have instituted
a remarkable transformation of the tactical maneuver capability of his legions.
(See separate essay.)
Scipio then visited the Numidian king, Syphax, in Africa to try to win him
to Rome's side. Syphax appeared interested and was considering his options when
Hasdrubal Gisgo played a trump in providing his extraordinarily beautiful
daughter to be the Numidian queen. Scipio returned to Spain to quell a mutiny
in his army and destroy as much Celtiberian resistance as possible, both with
exemplary brutality. In the center piece of this operation he destroyed a
22,500 man force on the Ebro River.
In 206 Scipio captured Gades to complete the Roman conquest of Carthaginian
Spain and returned to Rome for the election of 205. Hannibal's other brother,
Mago, meanwhile recruited another relief army in the Baleric Islands and sailed
Scipio won the election along with P. Licinius Crassus, and was assigned to
Sicily. With Hannibal blockaded in southern Italy by Crassus, Scipio wanted to
carry the war into Africa. He was strongly opposed by the Roman senate led by
Fabius Maximus. After much political struggle he was allowed to sail to Utica
where he landed in 205.
Syphax allied to Carthage in support of Hasdrubal Gisco and brought an army
against Scipio, forcing him to raise the siege and fortify his own camp on the
shore between Utica and Carthage. In 203 by launching simultaneous night
attacks and setting fire to their two adjacent camps, Scipio destroyed both the
Numidian and Carthaginian armies. The Carthaginians raised two more armies,
which were likewise destroyed in battle by Scipio and Syphax was captured,
deposed, and replaced by a Roman ally, Masinissa.
At this the Carthaginian government ordered Hannibal and Mago back to Africa to
defend the city. Mago died enroute from wounds, but much of his army joined
with Hannibal's remaining Italians in the fall of 203.
Scipio was in a difficult position on the coast awaiting his new Numidian
allies, while Hannibal was in position to block their junction. In a brilliant
strategic gamble Scipio began a campaign of destruction in the interior and
moved southwest to meet Numidian reinforcements under Masinissa, forcing
Hannibal to come out for battle before his army was fully ready, on the plain
west of Zama. Accounts of the battle are very confused. (Modern authors build
on the confusion by picking and choosing between parts of classical sources. I
find Delbruch's reconstruction more convincing than that of Dupuy, who mostly
follows Theodore Dodge.)
Apparently Hannibal deployed his forces in two main echelons behind a skirmish
line consisting of 12,000 Ligurians, Celts, Baleric islanders, and Moorish
mercenaries mostly from Mago's army - and his elephants. His tactical concept
was for the skirmish line to hold off the Roman legions until the greatly
superior Roman - Numidian cavalry could be lured away by the weak Carthaginian
cavalry, which was ordered to entice them away. Then the Carthaginian main
forces would attempt a double encirclement, as at Cannae. In the main position
the first echelon (line of battle) was 12,000 native Libyans, Carthaginians,
and a contingent of Macedonian mercenaries. The second echelon (battle line)
was 12,000 of Hannibal's own veterans from Italy.
The Roman army, consisting of about 25,000 Roman and Italian legionaries and
10,000 Numidians, also formed its usual three lines of infantry but with the
principes and triarii held back together as a second echelon. Scipio placed his
Italian cavalry on the left and Numidian cavalry on the right. While Scipio's
cavalry drove off the Carthaginian cavalry, his first line infantry drove back
the opposing skirmish line and mercenaries. These troops believing themselves
betrayed, then fought the Carthaginian first line phalanx, which nevertheless
also managed to disorder the Roman hastatii. Carthaginian elephants proved
worthless during this struggle. Scipio then brought up his principes and
triarii to extend his line to each flank. (He was not about to be surrounded as
the Romans were at Cannae.) Hannibal did likewise by merging his second and
third lines. Hannibal's infantry were gaining a slight edge in furious
fighting, when they were attacked in rear by the returning Roman cavalry. This
destroyed the Carthaginians who lost 20,000 killed and 20,000 captured to the
Roman losses of 1,500 to 2,500 total.
Scipio again pressed successfully for moderate or lenient peace terms against
the wishes of the Senate. He was given a triumph and the surname Africanus, but
refused may other honors. Then he lived in private life until 194, when he was
elected consul to fight the Ligurian Gauls in northern Italy. He was then one
of the commissioners sent to Africa to settle a dispute between Masinissa and
The campaign in Asia.
In 190 Scipio was sent as legate to his brother Lucius, who was consul in
command of the Roman army in the war against Antiochus III of Syria. Actually,
Scipio had engineered the election of both Lucius and Gaius Laelius in order to
insure for himself the effective command. The first project for the Romans was
to secure naval supremacy. This they did, with the considerable help of the
Rhodians and Pergamenians, and some aid from Carthage. The Syrian fleets were
defeated in three battles. In one of these, Eudamus, Hannibal had fought and
lost his first and last naval engagement.
Antiochus now blundered into withdrawing his garrisons from Lysimachia and
gave up the defense of the Hellespont. Scipio, meanwhile, had marched through
Greece with an army composed of Glabrio's old army plus two legions from Italy.
In addition, 5,000 veterans had volunteered to serve under their beloved
If Antiochus had chosen to contest the passage of the Hellespont, he, no doubt,
could have forced Scipio into winter quarters in a very disadvantageous
position. Having crossed his army, Scipio remained behind due to his religious
duties as high priest. Antiochus spent his time (as before Thermopoly) in
sensual pleasure at his court. When it was too late, he sent envoys to ask for
peace. Scipio replied that he might have accepted the king's terms while still
in Europe, but now that the Romans were in Asia, Antiochus would have to
surrender all Asia Minor.
The King returned Scipio's son, whom he had captured, and tried to bribe the
general, but to no avail. Even now the King might have had some success by
refusing battle and withdrawing into the interior. Instead he hastened to met
the trained Roman legions with his ill-organized mass of Asiatic levies.
Antiochus' force was about 80,000 strong, of whom 12,000 were cavalry. The
Roman army including Greek and Macedonian allies was less than half that
figure. Scipio fell sick and returned to the sea coast. The army was now
commanded by Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus.
Antiochus had difficulty squeezing his forces into the restricted space
available in the Hermus River valley, near Magnesia. In the first division he
placed his light troops, bowmen, mounted archers, Arabs, and scythed-chariots.
In the second were the heavy cavalry (cataphractae), the Gallic (Celtic) and
Cappadocian infantry, and the 16,000 man phalanx, which was his elite unit. His
54 elephants were located in the spaces between the phalanx and cavalry.
The Roman army formed with a small cavalry force on its left flank resting on a
river. In the center stood the legions. On the right were all the light
infantry and most of cavalry under command of Eumenes of Pergamum. Eumenes
opened the battle by using his bowmen and slingers to dispose of the scythe
chariots and Arab camel corps. This attack was so effective the left wing heavy
cavalry in the enemy second division was also disrupted. He then launched all
his Roman cavalry against the Gallic and Cappodocian infantry of the second
division and routed these also.
Meanwhile, Antiochus had led his right wing cavalry against the Roman left
flank and defeated it. However, he had not stopped there, but had continued on
to an attack on the Roman Camp, which was successfully defended. Thus the main
body of Syrian infantry, the phalanx, was deprived of cavalry support from
either right or left. It was now attacked by Eumenes' cavalry and forced to
halt and form front on both sides, as well as in front. In this position it was
assailed by the archers and slingers, who couldn't miss such as easy target.
The phalanx thereupon retired in good order until the elephants in its gaps
became frightened and disrupted the formation. At this, the whole army broke up
and was dully slaughtered. Antiochus escaped, but he left 50,000 men behind.
The legions had not even entered the battle. Total Roman losses in this
conquest of a sub-continent were 24 cavalrymen and 300 infantry.
Antiochus again sued for peace, and this time accepted the Roman terms, which
were the same as before. Gnaeus Manlius Valso replaced Lucius Scipio as
commander to carry out mop-up operations. Lucius returned to Rome, where he
conducted an even more elaborate and ostentatious triumph that his brother had
after Zama. Publius received the thanks of the Senate and the title
"principes Senatus". Lucius took the surname Asiaticus.
But all was not well for the Scipios. Party rivalries and jealousies stirred up
the opposition. Cato persuaded two tribunes to charge Lucius with
misappropriation of 500 talents of tribute from Antiochus. Publius was so angry
he tore up their account books on the floor of the Senate, although the records
would have shown them innocent. Thereupon, Lucius was found guilty, fined, and
almost sentenced to prison; but for the interposition of his tribune's power by
T. Sempronius Grachus.
Two years later, Publius was also prosecuted at Cato's instigation on charges
of leniency toward Antiochus after being bribed. Publius delayed the trial
until the anniversary of Zama and then broke up the proceedings by announcing
he was going to the Capitol to give thanks for the victory. The crowd followed
him leaving the prosecutors alone. The case was subsequently dropped, much to
Cato's disgust. He complained that the state was in danger when any man, no
matter how notable, could violate the laws and escape punishment by his hold on
the popular imagination. (How prophetic this turned out to be!!!)
This skirmish in the party struggles was enough for Scipio, however. He retired
to his estate at Liternum and died in 183 BC at age 53.
The same year Hannibal, who had fled after Magnesia, first to Crete and then to
Bithynia, committed suicide at the age of 67. The Roman Senate had felt it
beneath their dignity to harass an old man, no matter how implacable a foe, but
Flaminius, ever seeking personal glory, had arranged for assassins to
accomplish what numerous Roman armies had failed in. Hannibal chose to prevent
this last triumph for Roman arms.
The close relationships of the several Cornelii and Aemilii is typical of
the Roman aristocratic order. There were 30 consuls in the Cornelii gens over a
200 year period. Scipio's father, uncle, and father-in-law have been mentioned.
His wife was Aemilia, daughter of Aemilius Paullus. One of his daughters,
Cornelia, married Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, who was with him in Asia in 190
B.C., and thus was mother to the two famous Gracchi brothers. This T. S.
Gracchus was the son of the T. S. Gracchus who was master of the horse after
Cannae, victor over Hanno in 214, and proconsul killed at Lucania in 212.
Scipio's other daughter, also Cornelia, married Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica
Corculum, who was son of our Scipio's first cousin (Publius Cornelius Scipio
Nasica) the man declared by the Senate to be "the best man in Rome",
in 204 to fulfill the requirement of the oracle at Delphi that "the best
man" be the one to welcome the sacred image of Cybele, which the Romans in
their desperation had obtained from King Attalus of Pergamum.
His eldest son, Publicus Cornelius Scipio, adopted the younger of the
first two sons of his mother's brother, Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus
(victor at Pynda), the conqueror of Macedon, and this Scipio - Aemilianus,
Publius Cornelius, the Younger (185 - 129) was the final destroyer of Carthage
in the Third Punic War, gaining the surname Africanus as well. He married
Sempronia, sister of the Gracchi.
Scipio Africanus, Publius Cornelius, (The Elder) was one of Rome's
greatest generals, but for most of the Second Punic War was overshadowed by two
of the many much senior generals and consuls, Marcus Claudius Marcellus
(conqueror of Syracuse etc.) and Quintus Fabius Maximus (the dictator in 217,
victor at Tarentum in 209, etc.), both of whom died before the war ended. He
was not present at the decisive battle of the war on the Metaurus River, where
the consuls C. Claudius Nero and M. Livius Salinator killed Hasdrubal Barca.
Skilful alike in strategy and tactics, Scipio also inspired his soldiers
with confidence. F. E. Adcock comments that Scipio was "The first Roman
commander, in fact, of whom it can be said with certainty that he added
something to the art of war..." Adcock continues that as a strategist
Scipio was "far more daring than any other Roman general of the middle
Republic". But he notes that Scipio owed much of his success to the
incompetence of his enemies and the superior quality of his troops and
particularly faults him for failing to hold Hasdrubal Barca in Spain. He also
notes that Scipio's advantage lay in the exceptionally long term of his command
of one army and remarks that at Zama Scipio was longer in experience in war
than Hannibal was at Cannae.
In addition to facing Hannibal in battle at Ticinus, Trebia, Cannae, and
Zama; legends have it that Scipio may have had two personal meetings with the
great Carthaginian. A meeting in the field just prior to Zama is mentioned in
the primary sources, but Delbruch considers this a fable and literary artifice.
However, the other meeting, years later at the court of Antiochus in Syria, has
more historical plausibility. At least Hannibal was present as advisor to
Antiochus III during the campaign that ended at Magnesia. At the final meeting
Scipio is said to have asked Hannibal to name the world's greatest general, to
which the Carthaginian replied that first was Alexander. Scipio then asked who
was second, to which Hannibal replied, Pyrrhus. Then who was third, Scipio
persisted, to which Hannibal said, myself. At this Scipio asked, "What
would you say if you had defeated me?" Hannibal responded, "Ah, in
that case I should have placed myself first".
The legends about Scipio, which began growing during his lifetime, were
confusing enough, and they were then compounded by Polybius. Some legends, such
as the visit by a serpent, and Scipio's daily sojourn in the temple are late
additions, in the time of Augustus. (Cassius Dio) All agree that he was an
unusual person. The Greeks thought his luck a sign of favor by the divine
goddess, Tyche. Perhaps his soldiers also saw him as specially favored of the
gods - felicitas. He was a religious mystic, not just for public show. During
the campaign to Asia, he waited before crossing the Hellespont, because of his
priestly duties. He had an unusual sense of his personal destiny and extreme
self-confidence, believing himself to be favored by heaven. This trait appeals
to some and not to others among the commentators. Obviously, he was highly
ambitious. One commentator noted that his family tomb shows they were of
Etruscan stock and Scipio may have evidenced Etruscan thinking as well. He was,
of course, highly patriotic. (Although, Mommsen claims this was a sham.) He was
an aristocrat of aristocrats. Even though he appealed to the masses, he was not
a demagogue such as Flaminius or Varro. He is reported to have threatened the
Senate once with an appeal to the people, but this may be questionable. He was
able to instil loyalty in others and was loyal himself to friends, officers,
and men. He was generous also. (Again, Mommsen, says too generous, and for
Polybius called him clever and calculating as a manipulator of men. Others
say he merely knew the superstitious soldiers believed he was favored by the
gods and he simply did nothing to hinder them in this opinion. The episode in
which he captured New Carthage posed a particular problem for Polybius and
other commentators in deciding if it was due to luck or skill, divine or
natural in causation. Polybius had original sources including Laelius, and
Scipio's own letter, and Silenus' account of the battle, (all lost now). And he
also visited the place and talked with others in Spain. Appian also focused on
the question of real or pretended divine assistance. (One aspect centered
around the appearance that Scipio was able to predict the exceptional low tide
that was instrumental in his success.)
Machiavelli says too generous, also, but too much for his own good.
Nevertheless, Machiavelli takes Scipio as one of his model commanders and uses
him in comparison with Hannibal. (See, Prince, 17; and Discourses
III-21). Machiavelli contrasts the two in remarking that Hannibal's severity
and cruelty brought the same results as Scipio's humane treatment of friend and
foe. But Machiavelli points out that Scipio had trouble dealing with a mutiny
in Spain due to his own excessive kindness to disciplined citizen soldiers,
while Hannibal never had any mutiny even among mercenaries and allied troops of
highly doubtful character. Both were able to gain allies from among enemies -
Scipio the Spanish and Hannibal some Italian cities. Liddel Hart excuses this
mutiny, saying the troops were poor quality. Scullard makes note of it also,
considering Scipio too lenient. Mommsen too considers this a black mark against
Scipio was a devoted family-man in contrast to the sexually licentious
Caesar and the drunken and intemperate Alexander or the megalomaniac Napoleon.
Scipio was conservative in political outlook, but moderate on social issues. He
had great personal culture and wrote his own memoirs in Greek. He was a
graceful orator. To political opponents he was arrogant and tough, but to
others gracious and attentive.
Scullard sums up, "not merely a product of his age, but he was one of
those outstanding personalities who stand like rocks in the stream of history
and divert its course. He kindled a torch, which caused the shadow of Empire to
fall athwart the Republic." And Liddel Hart remarks, "weighed solely
by his character, apart from his achievements, Scipio has claims to be
considered the highest embodiment of the Roman virtues, humanized and broadened
by the culture of Greece, yet proof against its degenerate tendencies."
Ancient authorities state that his life was written by Plutarch, but, if
so, the text has not survived.
Before undertaking an evaluation of any historical personality, we must
concern ourselves with the questions of what sources are available to us from
which we can gather information. How accurate are these sources? Are they
biased in any special way?
Most of us are probably more familiar with American Civil War or
Napoleonic history than Roman and may not consider the special problems
involved in this field. Napoleon had hundreds of eyewitnesses on both sides. We
can get a pretty good picture if we are careful to evaluate the sources
accurately. But even so there is lots of argument. What about Scipio?
Our only primary sources for his career are the few fragmentary
inscriptions, coins, and archeological remains, which have so far been
uncovered. True, there were contemporary writers who recorded his exploits. His
family also kept detailed records. Scipio himself wrote a celebrated letter to
Philip V of Macedon, explaining his motives and strategy in the Hannibalic War.
However, all of this is lost.
The closest we can come to Scipio is the writing of Polybius, the eminent
Greek general and historian, who composed his history of Rome some 60 years
after Scipio's active career. That it was Polybius who wrote at this time, we
are fortunate, because he is one of the great historians of antiquity. However,
he is not without his limitations. Polybius was a general, the son of a
general, and follower of Greece's last great general, Philopomen. He was a
hostage in Rome and tutor to Scipio Aemelius Africanus. He accompanied his
pupil to Carthage in 146. He was eminently qualified to write a history of the
Punic Wars. He maintained a high standard of accuracy and was critical of his
own sources. He made it a point to visit all locations and to get a personal
knowledge of the terrain. He was, however, a Stoic. This philosophy insisted on
the rationality of the universe and the existence of natural causes for
historical events. This philosophy certainly helped him in comparison with the
more mystic ideas held by others, but in Scipio's case it caused Polybius
Polybius' sources besides the Scipio family and Laelius, were Greeks, on
both the Roman and Carthaginian side. These Greeks followed the school of
thought of Alexander the Great - that of a mystic leader. They were perhaps the
original "image makers". They liked to surround the idea of the
leader with a divine glow. If they could not explain something, they said it
was due to divine intervention. Hence they developed the Legend of
Scipio. Polybius was anxious to refute this legend. He admired Scipio as
his Stoic HERO, so made him a supremely rational genius. The result was a kind
of caricature, a cunning individual who purposely plays on the superstition of
his followers and uses religion for his own ends. Polybius makes it seem the
Scipio spread these ideas of his divinity himself, while disbelieving them.
The second remaining written source is Titus Livy's history, written 150 years
later. Livy relied more on the annalists and on Polybius. His account is more
literary than historical, more dramatic and careless. He was not very critical
of sources. In his effort to promote Roman patriotism he reduces Roman strength
and increases that of the enemy. As for his attitude toward Scipio, he did not
assume the mystical religion bit was purely "a cloak and tool". But
he was also a Stoic. His picture of Scipio is not very clear.
Unfortunately Plutarch's life of Scipio is lost. Appian of Alexandria wrote in
the time of Hadrian. Dio Cassius is incomplete.
Of modern commentators, Machiavelli, writing in the 16th century is an acute
observer of Rome and Italy. He is especially interested in personalities and
human character. He read all available classical authors, but relied most on
Livy and Polybius.
Theodore Mommsen, the greatest of the 19th century German scholars was a
classical liberal who favored the Republic. He opposed the trend to Empire,
hence he favored Cato and opposed Scipio. His is a fundamental work. But he
perhaps was mislead by Polybius, while strongly opposing the picture the later
Theodore Dodge considered Hannibal his great hero, hence he down-played Scipio.
Liddell Hart reversed the pair and made Scipio the great hero. Scullard remarks
of Hart charitably, "not very critical of sources". Hart says
Polybius is one historian we can follow without fear. He accepts the legends,
repeats the anecdotes, quotes verbatim speeches, somehow thinking Scipio's
eloquence will rub off. Hart ignores Scipio's baser aspects and sees only
evidence of careful planning and clear forecasting, and of good use of
psychology. Hart is so objectionably polemical that he inserts long tirades at
Scipio's detractors. (He compares the Celtiberians to American Colonials). But
Scipio is merely a foil for Hart in promoting his own favorite theories (the
strategy of the indirect approach). Hart cites the highest possible enemy
strengths and lowest Roman strengths.
Scullard has a very scholarly approach. He says Scipio was both mystic and
rational man of action. He notes that the existence of the Legend itself proves
something, there had to be something behind it. He thinks that Polybius did not
consider the possibility that the Legend was started by others who did not
Other modern writers focus more on the Roman army or on history in general and
mention Scipio only in the larger context. These include Parker, Adcock, Frank,
For classical sources see:
Livy, The War with Hannibal 1960. This is the translation by
Aubrey de Selincourt of books xxi-xxx of The History of Rome from its
Foundation, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England.
Polybius, The Rise of the Roman Empire 1979. Being the translation
of most of the surviving books of his Histories by Ian Scott-Kilvert,
Ed. F. Walbank. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England.
Aulus Gellius, iv.18;
Valerius Maximus, iii, 7;
Plutarch, "Life of Fabius Maximus" and "Life of
Marcellus", in Plutarch's Lives. (n.d.) trans. John Dryden, New
York, The Modern Library.
For modern sources see:
Adcock, F. E. 1960. The Roman Art of War Under the Republic,
Barnes and Noble, New York.
de Beer, Gavin, 1969. Hannibal, Viking Press, New York.
Delbrück, Hans, 1990. Warfare in Antiquity, trans. by Walter
J. Renfroe, Jr. Univ. of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
Liddell Hart, B. H. 1926. A Greater than Napoleon - Scipio
Africanus, London, England
Scullard, H. H. 1930. Scipio Africanus in the Second Punic War,
Scullard, H. H. 1961. A History of The Roman World, Methuen &
Co. London, England.
Scipio Aemilianus Africanus, Publius Cornelius, the
younger (185 - 129).
He was the younger of the two first sons of L. Aemilius Paullus, the
conqueror of Macedon. He fought at age 17 by his father's side at Pydna in 168.
He was adopted by P. Cornelius Scipio, the eldest son of Scipio Africanus (the
elder). In 151, when the Romans suffered disasters in Spain, he volunteered for
services there and gained an influence over the tribes similar to his
grandfather by adoption 60 years before. In 150 the Carthaginians appealed to
him to be arbiter between them and the Massinissa, who was encroaching on their
territory. In 149 war was declared by Rome.
At the start of the war, the Romans were losing. Scipio was a junior
officer but distinguished himself repeatedly and in 147 was elected consul,
while yet under official age, in order that he might hold the supreme command.
After a year of fighting and the heroism of the defending Carthaginians, he
captured the city and levelled it to the ground On his return to Rome he had a
triumph and received the surname Africanus.
In 142, during his censorship, he tried to stop the growing luxury and
immorality of the society. In 139 he was accused of high treason,
unsuccessfully, by his political enemies. He was again consul in 134 and in
Spain, where he restored the discipline to the defeated Roman army. In 133 he
captured Numantia on the Douro river and completed the Roman conquest. This
brought the additional surname Numantinus.
His wife was Sempronia, sister to the Gracchi. However he opposed the
reformers and spoke against the agrarian laws. He died in 129 under mysterious
conditions, probably assassinated.
He was cultured and was the patron of Polybius and other Greek prisoners,
as well as of the poets Lucillus and Terrence. He had all the virtues of the
old-fashioned Romans. He was a gifted orator. Politically, he was moderate,
supporting neither the Gracchi nor the Senatorial party.
See Polybius, xxxv, 4; xxxix;
Florus ii, 15,17,18;
Appian, Punica, 72, 98, 113-131; Hispanica 48-95;
Bellica Civica i, 19;
Plutarch, lives of Aemilius Paullus, 22, Tiberius Gracchus, 21;
Cicero, De Orator
Scipio, Publius Cornelius,
He was consul in 218, the first year of the Second Punic war.
He sailed with army from Pisa to Massilia to try to block Hannibal's
advance to Italy. Failing to meet him, he returned by sea to Cisalpine Gaul,
but sent his army on to Spain under command of his brother, Gnaeus. In Italy he
advanced to met Hannibal. In a cavalry engagement in the Po he was defeated and
Again, in December, he saw defeat of the Roman army on the Trebia, under
T. Sempronius Longus. He returned to Spain and defeated the Carthagianians
until 212 or 211, when he was defeated and killed.
Polybius iii, 40;
Appian, Hannibal 5-8; Appian, Hispanica 14-16.
The Cornelii were indeed a great military family. Here is the full list as
far as I have found them.
1. Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (nd)- consul in 298 BC; defeated the
Samnites at Sentinum. His son is #2
2. Lucius Cornelius Scipio (nd) curule aedile, Consul in 259 BC; Captured
Corsica, Censor in 258. He had 2 sons, #4 and #5.
3. Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio #2's cousin, Consul in 260 BC., killed at sea.
4. Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus (died 211) son of #2, brother of 5,
Consul 222 BC., Routed Insubres - Legate Spain 217 - 211 killed in action, his
son is #7.
5. Publius Cornelius Scipio (d. 211), son of #2, brother of 4, (married
Pomponia), Consul in 218, defeated at Trebia by Hannibal, Proconsul Spain 217 -
211. killed in action, his son is #8.
6. Publius Cornelius Scipio Asina, cousin of #'s 4 and 5, - consul in 221
7. Publius Corenlius Scipio Nasica (b. 227), son of #4, Curule Aedile 197 -
Praetor Spain 194 - Consul 191 - failed in election to Censor in 189 and 184,
his son is #13.
8. Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, (b 236/7 d. 183) first son of #5,
(married Aemilia Tertia daughter of Lucius Aemilius Paullus (# 10) (d 216)),
Curule Aedile - Military Tribune 210 - Consul 203 - Censor 199 - Legate to
brother Asiaticus (# 9) 190, his sons are #'s 14 and 15, and his daughters are
Cornelia, wife of #13, and Cornelia, wife of # 17.
9. Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus (date don't know), 2nd son of #5,
legate to (# 8) Africanus 207-2 - Curule Aedile 197 - Praetor Sicily 193 -
Consul 190 - Degraded by Cato in 184 - titular commander of forces in Asia
against Antiochus III, tactical command of army was Cnaeus Domitius, victory at
Magnesia in Dec 190.
10. Lucius Aemilius Paullus (d 216), Consul 219 defeated Demetrius in
Illyria, Embassy to Carthage 218 - Consul 216 - killed at Cannae. His son is
#11. His daughter, Aemilia Tertia, married #8.
11. Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus (b 229 d 160), son of #10, (married
Papiria first wife), Curule Aedile 193 - Augur 192 - Praetor 191 in Spain -
Consul 182 and 168 victor at Pynda Censor 164, His son is #12.
12. Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilius Africanus Numantinus (b 185 d 129)
(became a Cornelii by adoption of P.C. Scipio (# 14) the son of P.C Scipio
Africanus, #8) (NOTE #12 was not son of P.C.S. Africanus, but grandson by
adoption), He married Sempronia Sempronius Gracchus, daughter of # 17), He was
at Pynda in 168 with father - Military tribune Spain 151 - Military Tribune
Africa 149 - Consul 147 - Censor 142 - Consul 134 - Destroyed Carthage, (he was
found dead under mysterious circumstances in 129 probably related to his
support of T. S. Gracchus (# ) (see below)
To return to the Cornelii
13. Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum, son of #7, He married
Cornelia Scipio (daughter of P. C. S. Africanus #8) was Curule Aedile 169 -
Consul 162 - Censor 159 - Consul 155 - Pontifex Maximus 150 - and Principes
Senatus in 147, they had son # 18.
14. Publius Cornelius Scipio (n d), son of # 8, Augur in 180 ill health a
orator and writer, adopted # 12
15. Lucius Cornelius Scipio (n d), son of # 8, captured by Antiochus -
Praetor in 174.
16. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (d 212), Curule Aedile 216 - Master of
Horse after Cannae - Commanded 2 slave legions in 216 - Consul in 215 -
Proconsul in Sicily 214 - defeated Hanno - Consul in 213 and Proconsul again in
212 - killed at Lucania His son? or grandson? is # 17
17. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (d 154), married Cornelia, daughter of #8,
Augur in 204 - with Scipos in Asia in 190 - Tribune in 187 - Curule Aedile 182
- Praetor in Spain 180 - Propraetor 179-8, Consul Sardinia 177 - Censor 169 and
Consul again 163, their sons are #19 and 20, and daughter Sempronia is wife of
Jumping back again to the Nasica line:
18. Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum (or Serapio) (n d) was son of
P. C. S. Nasica Corculum (# 13) and Cornelia Scipio, Consul 138 - Pontifex
Maximus 133 - Optimate leader against his cousins, the Gracchii - killed
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (# 19) in 132
And to the Sempronii again:
19. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (b 163 d. 133/2), son of # 17, married
Claudia, daughter of Apius Claudius) - at Carthage 146 - Quaestor 137 - Tribune
133/2, killed in riot by P.C.S.N.C. #18. his sister was wife of P. C. S. A. A.
20. Gaius Sempronius Gracchus (b 153 d 121), son of # 17, married Licinia
(dau of Crassus Mucianus) - Quaestor in 126 - Tribune in 123 - Tribune in 122
also killed in riot.
So between them this family did much of the conquering for Rome - Spain,
Corsica, Carthage, Macedonia, Asia. And they were at the center of the
political struggle that ensued from this conquest.
Return to Xenophon