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The tale which in Grecian history is told of Olympias, wife of king Philip and mother of Alexander, is also recorded of the mother of that Publius Scipio who was the first to be called Africanus. For both Gaius Oppius 1 and Julius Hyginus, 2 as well as others who have written of the life and deeds of Africanus, declare that his mother was for a long time thought to be barren, and that Publius Scipio, her husband, had also given up hope of offspring; that afterwards, in her own room and bed, when she was lying alone in the absence of her husband and had fallen asleep, of a sudden a huge serpent was seen lying by her side; and that when those who had seen it were frightened and cried out, the snake glided away and could not be found. It is said that Publius Scipio himself consulted soothsayers about the occurrence; that they, after offering sacrifice, declared that he would have children, and not many days after that serpent had been seen in her bed, the woman began to [p. 5] experience the indications and sensation of conception. 3 Afterwards, in the tenth month, she gave birth to that Publius Scipio who conquered Hannibal and the Carthaginians in Africa in the second Punic war. 4 But it was far more because of his exploits than because of that prodigy that he too 5 was believed to be a man of godlike excellence. This too I venture to relate, which the same writers that I mentioned before have put on record: This Scipio Africanus used often to go to the Capitolium in the latter part of the night, before the break of day, give orders that the shrine of Jupiter be opened, 6 and remain there a long time alone, apparently consulting Jupiter about matters of state; and the guardians of the temple were often amazed that on his coming to the Capitolium alone at such an hour the dogs, 7 that flew at all other intruders, neither barked at him nor molested him. These popular beliefs about Scipio seemed to be confirmed and attested by many remarkable actions and sayings of his. Of these the following is a single example: He was engaged in the siege of a town 8 in Spain, which was strongly fortified and defended, protected by its position, and also well provisioned; and there was no prospect of taking it. One day he sat holding court in his camp, at a point from which there was a distant view of the town. [p. 7] Then one of the soldiers who were on trial before him asked in the usual way on what day and in what place he bade them give bail for their appearance. Then Scipio, stretching forth his hand towards the very citadel of the town which he was besieging, said: “Appear the day after to-morrow in yonder place.” And so it happened; on the third day, the day on which he had ordered them to appear, the town was captured, and on that same day he held court in the citadel of the place.
1 Fr. 2, Peter2.
2 Fr. 4, Peter2; p. 37, Bunte.
3 A similar story is told of Augustus (Suet. Aug. xciv. 4) as well as of Alexander the Great (§ 1 and Livy, xxvi. 19. 7).
4 At Zama, 202 B.C.
5 As well as Alexander and Augustus; see note 1.
6 The name Capitolium was applied to the southern summit of the Capitoline Hill, and also to the temple of Juppiter Optimus Maximus. The temple contained three shrines, to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.
7 The temple was guarded at night by dogs, as were doubtless other similar places, and as it is said that the ruins of Pompeii are to-day. Geese were also used for the purpose; see Cic. pro Sex. Rose. 56, anseribus cibaria publice locantur et canes aluntur in Capitolio, ut significent, si fures venerint.
8 According to Valerius Maximus, iii. 7. 1, the town was Badia.
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