Cornēlius Scīpiō Aemiliānus Africānus (Numantīnus), Publius

Quick Reference

B. 185/4 bc as second son of Aemilius Paullus (2), adopted as a child by Cornelius Scipio, son of Cornelius Scipio Africanus. In 168 he fought under Paullus at Pydna. Back in Rome, he met Polybius, who became his friend and his mentor in preparing him for a public career. In 151, though asked by the Macedonians, as Paullus' son, to settle their problems, he instead volunteered for arduous service as a military tribune under Licinius Lucullus in Spain, thus persuading others to volunteer. In the fighting he won the corona mūrālis (see crowns and wreaths). When sent to request elephants from Masinissa, he renewed Africanus' patronal relations with him and vainly tried to mediate peace between him and Carthage after a battle he had witnessed. In 149 and 148 he served as a military tribune’ in Africa (see punic wars) and again distinguished himself both in the fighting, where he won the corona graminea, and in diplomacy, persuading a Carthaginian commander to defect. After Masinissa's death he divided the kingdom among his three legitimate sons according to the king's request. Coming to Rome to stand for an aedileship for 147, he was elected consul, contrary to the rules for the cursus honorum, by a well‐organized popular demand that forced the senate to suspend the rules. He was assigned Africa by special legislation and, after restoring discipline and closing off the enemy's harbour, he overcame long and desperate resistance and early in 146 captured Carthage after days of street‐fighting. After letting his soldiers collect the booty, he destroyed the city and sold the inhabitants into slavery. Anyone who should resettle the site was solemnly cursed. With the help of the usual senate commission he organized the province of Africa and after giving magnificent games returned to celebrate a splendid triumph, earning the name ‘Africanus’ to which his adoptive descent entitled him. He distributed some captured works of art among cities in Sicily and Italy.

In 140–39 he headed an embassy to the kings and cities of the east, with Panaetius as his companion. After his return he presumably guided senate policy in those areas, esp. towards Pergamum, the Seleucids, and the Jews. In 142 he was censor with Mummius, who mitigated some of his severity. They restored the pons Aemilius (see bridges) and adorned the Capitol.

In 136 he secured the rejection of the peace in Spain negotiated by his cousin and brother‐in‐law Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (2). This deeply offended Gracchus, even though Scipio saved him from personal disgrace. In 135, again by special dispensation and without campaigning for the office, he was elected consul 134 and sent to Numantia, with an army consisting chiefly of his own clients (see cliens) because of the shortage of military manpower. He starved Numantia into surrender in just over a year, destroyed it, and sold the survivors into slavery, returning in 132 to celebrate a second triumph and acquire the (unofficial) name ‘Numantinus’. By approving of Gracchus' murder he incurred great unpopularity. It was increased when, in 129, defending the interests of Italian clients holding public land, he was responsible for a senate decree that paralysed the agrarian commission by transferring its judiciary powers to the consuls, usually hostile or absent. When, soon after, he was found dead, various prominent persons, including his wife (Gracchus' sister) and Cornelia (Gracchus' mother), were suspected of responsibility, though the funeral laudation written by his friend Laelius specified natural death.


Subjects: Classical Studies.

Reference entries