Cornēlius Scīpiō Africānus, Publius

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 b. 236 bc, is said to have saved his father's life at the battle of the Ticinus in 218 and, as military tribune, to have rallied the survivors of the battle of Cannae. He was curule aedile 213, and in 210 was appointed by the people to the command in Spain, the first person to have received consular imperium without having previously been consul or praetor. In 209 he captured Carthago Nova, the main Carthaginian supply base in Spain, by sending a wading party across the lagoon, which, he had discovered, normally ebbed in the evening. In 208, he defeated Hasdrubal Barca at Baecula. When Hasdrubal escaped towards the Pyrenees and the route to Italy, he decided not to pursue him. In 206 he defeated Mago and Hasdrubal at Ilipa. Thereafter only mopping‐up operations remained in Spain; a mutiny in his army was quelled, and the ringleaders executed. Scipio crossed to Africa to solicit the support of Syphax, and met Masinissa in western Spain.

Elected consul for 205, Scipio wanted to carry the war to Africa. Opposition in the senate was led by Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, but he was assigned Sicily with permission to invade Africa if he saw fit. Denied the right to levy new troops, he crossed to Sicily accompanied only by volunteers, returning to south Italy to recapture Locri Epizephyrii. In 204 he landed in Africa, began the siege of Utica, and wintered on a nearby headland. Hasdrubal and Syphax encamped a few miles south. In the course of feigned peace negotiations Scipio discovered the details of their camps, which were made of wood or reeds, and in the spring of 203 a night attack led to their destruction by fire and the death of large numbers of Carthaginian troops. Later Scipio defeated Hasdrubal and Syphax at the battle of the Great Plains, c.120 km. (75 mi.) west of Carthage. He now occupied Tunis but was forced to use his transport ships to block a Carthaginian attack on his fleet at Utica, losing 60 transports. During an armistice, peace terms were agreed, and accepted at Rome, but in the spring of 202 an attack by Carthage on Roman ships, and then on envoys sent by Scipio to protest, led to the resumption of hostilities. Hannibal had now returned to Carthage, and after further abortive peace negotiations Scipio defeated him at the battle of Zama; peace was concluded on Rome's terms. Scipio received the cognōmen ‘Africanus’ and returned to Rome to celebrate a triumph.

Scipio now enjoyed great prestige at Rome. The capture of Carthago Nova, when Scipio is said to have told his troops that Neptune had appeared to him in a dream and promised him help, led to the belief that he was divinely inspired. The Iberians had saluted him as a king, but there is no evidence that he ever envisaged playing other than a traditional role in Roman politics. His success, however, meant that he had many enemies among the nobility, some alarmed by the stories circulating about him, others merely jealous of his success. He was elected censor in 199, but his tenure of the office was unremarkable: he became princeps senatus, a position confirmed by the following two pairs of censors. Consul for the second time in 194, he wanted to succeed Quinctius Flamininus in Greece, believing that a continued military presence was necessary as security against the Seleucid Antiochus III, but the senate voted that the army should be withdrawn. As an ambassador to Africa in 193 he failed to settle a dispute between Carthage and Masinissa. In 190 he volunteered to go to Asia as a legate under his brother Cornelius Scipio Asiāgenēs. He rejected the bribe which Antiochus offered him in order to secure a favourable peace; shortly before the battle of Magnesia Antiochus returned his captive son. He took no part in the battle itself because of illness, but was chosen to present the Roman peace terms after Antiochus' defeat. At Rome there now began a series of conflicts between the Scipio brothers (and their allies) and their opponents, among whom Porcius Cato 1 was prominent, culminating in the much debated ‘trials of the Scipios’. The accusations involved the embezzlement of public funds. It is probable that Publius was attacked in the senate in 187, and Lucius put on trial, and that Publius was accused in 184, but avoided trial by retiring into voluntary exile on the Campanian coast, where he died the following year.


Subjects: Classical Studies.

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