previous next

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus in Spain, B.C. 210-206. His Character

Being about to narrate the exploits of Publius Scipio
A common mistake to Scipio's character.
in Iberia, and in fact all the achievements in his life, I think it necessary to direct my readers' attention, to begin with, to his moral and mental qualities. For as he is perhaps the most illustrious man of any born before the present generation, everybody seeks to know what kind of man he was, and what advantages from natural ability or experience he enjoyed, to account for a career so crowded with brilliant achievement; and yet is compelled to remain in the dark, or to entertain false opinions, because those who write about him have not kept to the truth. The soundness of this assertion will be rendered evident in the course of my narrative to all who are capable of estimating the noblest and most gallant of his exploits. Now all other writers represent him as a man favoured by fortune, who succeeded in his undertakings contrary to rational expectation, and by the mere force of circumstances. They consider apparently such men to be, so to speak, more godlike and worthy of admiration, than those who act in every case by calculation. They do not seem to be aware of the distinction between credit for good fortune and credit for good conduct in the case of such men; and that the former may be assigned to any one however commonplace, while the latter belongs to those alone who act from prudent calculation and clear intelligence: and it is these last whom we should look upon as the most god-like and god-beloved.

Now it seems to me that in his character and views Publius was very like Lycurgus the legislator of the Lacedaemonians.

Scipio's use of religion compared with that of Lycurgus.
For we must not suppose that it was from superstition that Lycurgus continually consulted the Pythian priestess in the establishment of the Lacedaemonian constitution; nor that Publius depended on dreams and ominous words for his success in securing empire for his country. But as both saw that the majority of mankind cannot be got to accept contentedly what is new and strange, nor to face dangers with courage, without some hope of divine favour,—Lycurgus, by always supporting his own schemes by an oracular response from the Pythia, secured better acceptation and credit for his ideas; and Publius, by always in like manner instilling into the minds of the vulgar an opinion of his acting on some divine suggestion in the formation of his designs, caused those under his command to confront dangerous services with greater courage and cheerfulness. But that he invariably acted on calculation and with foresight, and that the successful issue of his plans was always in harmony with rational expectation, will be evident by what I am about to relate.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Theodorus Büttner-Wobst after L. Dindorf, 1893)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Spain (Spain) (2)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: