1. C. Laelius
, was from early manhood the friend and companion of P. Corn. Scipio Africanus, and their actions are so interwoven, that it is difficult to relate them separately. (Plb. 10.3
; Vell. 2.127
.) Laelius first appears in history as the commander of the Roman fleet in the attack on New Carthage, B. C. 210. To him alone wasconfided the destination of the armament, which, in correspondence with the movements of the land forces, he conducted from the mouth of the Ebro to the haven of the Carthaginian capital of Spain. Laelius, during the assault, blockaded the port, after its capture occupied the city with his marines, and, for his services, received from Scipio a golden wreath and thirty oxen. (Plb. 10.3
; Liv. xxvi, 42, 48; Appian, Hispan.
20.) Having assisted in distributing the booty, the hostages, and the prizes of valour to the soldiers, he was dispatched to Rome with the captives and the tidings of victory.
He arrived thither early in B. C. 209, and, after reporting to the senate and the people the fall of New Carthage, and delivering up his prisoners-among whom were Mago, the governor of the city, fifteen members of the great council of Carthage, and two members of the council of elders,-he rejoined Scipio at Tarraco. (Plb. 10.18
; Liv. 26.48
.) Throughout the war in Spain, Sicily, and Africa, Laelius acted as confidential legatus to his friend, nor until B. C. 202, when the senate appointed him Scipio's quaestor extraordinary, had he any official rank or station. (Liv. 30.33
At the battle of Baecula, in the upper valley of the Guadalquivir, he commanded Scipio's left wing, B. C. 208 (Plb. 10.39
; Liv. 27.18
; Appian, Hispan.
25, 26); and in B. C. 206, a stormingparty, when Illiturgi, on the right bank of the Baetis, was taken (Liv. 28.19
); a detachment of the fleet, when Gades was expected to revolt, with which he defeated the Punic admiral Adherbal in the straits (Liv. 28.23
); and the cavalry, when Indibilis was routed (Plb. 11.32
; Liv. 28.33
). Twice he visited the court of Syphax, king of the Masaesylians, and the most powerful of the African princes, whose alliance was of equal importance to Carthage and to Rome.
The first time he went as Scipio's envoy, the next as his companion; and, many years afterwards, he related to their common friend, the historian Polybius (Plb. 10.3
), the particulars of that memorable banquet at which Syphax entertained at one table and on one couch two successive conquerors of Spain, the Punic Hasdrubal and the Roman Scipio. (Plb. 11.24
; Liv. 28.17
; Appian, Hispan.
After the Carthaginians had evacuated Spain, Laelius returned with Scipio to Rome, and was present at his consular comitia, in the autumn of B. C. 206. (Plb. 11.33
; Liv. 28.38
The completion of the second Punic war was naturally assigned to the conqueror of Spain; but while Scipio was assembling his forces in Sicily, Laelius, with a portion of the fleet, was despatched to the African coast.
He disembarked at Hippo Regius; the farms and vineyards of a populous and unguarded district afforded abundant spoil; the high road to Carthage was thronged with fugitives, and it was believed that Scipio himself, whose preparations were known and dreaded, had landed with the main army. At Hippo the Massylian chief Masinissa renewed his overtures to Rome.
He urged Laelius to hasten Scipio's invasion, and warned him to return without delay, since the Carthaginians had discovered their error, and were preparing to cut off his retreat. Laelius accordingly returned to Messana. His booty betrayed the wealth and weakness of Carthage, and whetted the appetite of the legions for the plunder of Africa. (Liv. 29.1
In the spring of B. C. 204, Laelius, with twenty war-gallies, convoyed the left division of transports from the harbour of Lilybaeum to the Fair Promontory. (Liv. 29.24
.) On the mainland he again ably seconded his friend. To hint and Masinissa was entrusted the burning of the Punic and Numidian camps (Plb. 14.4
; Liv. 30.3
); the pursuit of Hasdrubal and Syphax far into the arid wastes of Numidia (Plb. 14.9
; Liv. 30.9
, comp ib. 17; Appian. Pun.
26-28); and the capture of the Masaesylian king and his capital Cirta, for which services Laelius received for the second time a golden crown (Liv. 30.11
). At Cirta he asserted the severe discipline of Rome towards its most faithful allies, by tearing Masinissa from the arms of Sophonisba, the beautiful and unfortunate daughter of Hasdrubal Barca (Liv. 30.12
A second time also he was the usher of victory and of a train of illustrious captives -Syphax and his Masaesylian nobles-to the senate and people of Rome (30.16, 17).
He was detained in Italy until the last Carthaginian envoys had received their final answer, and rejoined Scipio in Africa in the latter months of B. C. 203 (30.22, 25).
At the battle of Zama in the following year, he commanded the Italian horse that formed the extreme left of the Roman line. His repulse and pursuit of the Numidian cavalry exposed the enemy's flank, and his cllarge at the close of the day, on Hannibal's reserve, determined Scipio's victory (Plb. 15.9
; Liv. 30.33
; Appian, App. Pun. 41
A third time Laelius was despatched to Rome: but he then announced not the fall of a city or of a single host, but the consummation of a war, which for sixteen years had swept over Italy, land risen to the barriers of Rome itself. (Liv. 30.35
The civil career of Laelius began after his military life had comparatively closed.
It was less brilliant, but his influence with the senate was at all times great. (Liv. 37.1
.) If, as seems probable, he was nearly of the same age with his illustrious friend, Laelius was born about B. C. 235 and may have been in his fortieth year when chosen praetor in 196. His province was Sicily (Liv. 33.24
He failed in his first trial for the consulship. Scipio's popularity was on the wane, and the old patrician party in the ascendant (35.10).
He was, however, elected consul in B. C. 190, two years after his rejection (Liv. 36.45
). Whether time and the accidents of party had wrought any change in their ancient friendship, we are not told; but it was through Scipio Africanus that Laelius lost his appointment to the province of Greece, and the command of the war against Antiochus the Great [ANTIOCHUS III.] (Liv. 37.1
; Cic. Philipp.
11.7), which he probably desired as much for wealth as for glory, since the Laelii were not rich (Cic. Cornel. ii. Fragm.
8, p. 453, Orelli).
He obtained instead the province of Cisalpine Gaul, where he remained two years, engaged in colonising the ancient territory of the Boians (Liv. 37.47
). In B. C. 174, he was one of a commission of three, sent into Macedonia to counteract the negotiations of Carthage (Liv. 41.22
), and in B. C. 170 he was despatched by the senate to inquire into certain charges brought against C. Cassius, consul in B. C. 171, by some of the Gaulish tribes of the Grisons.
The date of Laelius' death is unknown. (Zonar. 9.13
; Frontin. Strat.
1.1.3, 1.2.1, 2.3.16.)