12. P. CORNELIUS SCIPIO AFRICANUS MAJOR, the son of P. Scipio, who fell in Spain [No. 9], was the greatest man of his age, and perhaps the greatest man of Rome, with the exception of Julius Caesar.
He appears to have been born in B. C. 234, since he was twenty-four years of age when he was appointed to the command in Spain in B. C. 210 (Liv. 26.18
; V. Max. 3.7.1
; Oros. 4.18
). Polybius, it is true, says (10.6) that he was then twenty-seven, which would place his birth in B. C. 237; and his authority would outweigh that of Livy, and the writers who follow him, if he had not stated elsewhere (10.3) that Scipio was seventeen at the battle of the Ticinus (B. C. 218), which would make him twenty-four when he went to Spain, according to the statement of Livy.
In his early years Scipio acquired, to an extraordinary extent, the confidence and admiration of his countrymen. His enthusiastic mind had led him to believe that he was a special favourite of the gods ; and from the time he had put on the toga virilis, he had never engaged in any public or private business without first going to the Capitol, where he sat some time alone, enjoying communication from the gods. For all he proposed or executed he alleged the divine approval; and the Roman people, who had not yet lost all faith in the powers of an unseen world, gave credit to his assertions, and regarded him as a being almost superior to the common race of men (Liv. 26.19
). Polybius, who did not possess a particle of enthusiasm in his nature, and who was moreover a decided rationalist, denies (10.2, 5) that Scipio had or believed that he had any communication with gods, and that his pretences to such intercourse were only a wise and politic means for obtaining a mastery over the minds of the vulgar.
But such a supposition is quite at variance with all that is recorded of Scipio's character.
He was, like Mohammed and Cromwell, a hero, and not an impostor; he believed himself in the divine revelations, which he asserted to have been vouchsafed to him, and the extraordinary success which attended all his enterprises must have deepened this belief, while such a belief, on the other hand, imparted to him a confidence in his own powers which made him irresistible.
P. Scipio is first mentioned in B. C. 218 at the battle of the Ticinus, where he is reported to have saved the life of his father, though he was then only seventeen years of age.
He fought at Cannae two years afterward (B. C. 216), when he was already a tribune of the soldiers, and was one of the few Roman officers who survived that fatal day.
He was chosen along with Appius Claudius to command the remains of the army, which had taken refuge at Canusium; and it was owing to his youthful heroism and presence of mind, that the Roman nobles, who had thought of leaving Italy in despair, were prevented from carrying their rash project into effect (Liv. 22.53
; V. Max. 5.6.7
He had already gained the favour of the people to such an extent, that he was unanimously elected aedile in B. C. 212. On this occasion he gave indications of the proud spirit, and of the disregard of all the forms of the law, which distinguished him throughout life; for when the tribunes objected to the election, because he was not of the legal age, he haughtily replied, " If all the Quirites wish to make me aedile, I am old enough."
In the spring of B. C. 211, his father and uncle fell in Spain, and C. Nero was sent out as propraetor to supply their place; but in the following year (B. C. 210), the Romans resolved to increase their army in Spain, and to place it under the command of a proconsul.
But when the people assembled to elect a proconsul, none of the generals of experience ventured to sue for so dangerous a command.
At length Scipio, who was then barely twenty-four, offered himself as a candidate, to the surprise of the whole people.
The confidence he felt in himself he communicated to the people, and he was accordingly chosen with enthusiasm to take the command. Livy places his election in B. C. 211, but it could not have been earlier than B. C. 210.
Upon his arrival in Spain in the summer of B. C. 210 Scipio found the whole country south of the Iberus in the power of the enemy.
The three Carthaginian generals, Hasdrubal son of Barca, Hasdrubal son of Gisco, and Mago, were not, however, on good terms with one another, and were at the time engaged in separate enterprises in distant parts of the peninsula, leaving the Carthaginian province almost without defence. Instead of attacking any one of them in detail, Scipio formed the project of striking a deadly blow at the Carthaginian power by a sudden and unexpected attack upon New Carthage.
He gave the command of the fleet to his intimate friend Laelius, to whom alone he entrusted the secret of the expedition, while he himself led the land-forces by inconceivably rapid marches against the town.
The project was crowned with complete success; the Carthaginian garrison did not amount to more than a thousand men, and before any succour could arrive the town was taken by' assault.
The hostages, who had been given by the various Spanish tribes to the Carthaginians, had been placed for security in this town, and these now fell into the hands of Scipio, who treated them with generosity and kindness; and the hostages of those people, who declared themselves in favour of the Romans, were restored without ransom. Scipio also found in New Carthage magazines of arms, corn, and other necessaries, for the Carthaginians had deposited in this city their principal stores.
The inactivity of the Carthaginian generals, meantime, is not explained by any of the ancient authorities. Scipio was allowed to return to Tarraco without molestation, where he remained quietly during the remainder of the year, as his forces were not sufficiently numerous to face the enemy in the field, and he was anxious to strengthen himself by alliances with the Spanish chiefs.
In this he was more successful than he could have anticipated.
The capture of Carthage, as well as his personal popularity, caused many of the Spanish tribes to desert the Carthaginian cause; and when he took the field in the following year, B. C. 209, Mandonius and Indibilis, two of the most powerful and hitherto the most faithful supporters of Carthage, quitted the camp of Hasdrubal, and awaited the arrival of Scipio. Hasdrubal was encamped in a strong position near the town of Baecula, in the upper valley of the Guadalquiver, where he was engaged in collecting money from the silver mines in the neighbourhood.
As he had now fully resolved to march to the assistance of his brother in Italy, he did not wish to risk the lives of his soldiers, and therefore avoided a battle; but Scipio attacked his camp, and gained a brilliant victory over him, taking, it is said, 22,000 prisoners, and killing 8000 of his men.
The victory, however, cannot have been so complete as the Roman writers represent, since Hasdrubal was able to take with him his treasures and elephants in safety, and to retire unmolested into northern Spain. Here he collected fresh troops, with which he eventually crossed the Pyrenees, and marched into Italy to the assistance of his brother Hannibal; while the other Carthaginian generals, Hasdrubal, the son of Gisco, and Mago, advanced against Scipio, and prevented him from pursuing their colleague. Scipio therefore remained in southern Spain during the remainder of that year.
In the following year, B. C. 208, the propraetor Silanus defeated Mago in Celtiberia [MAGO, p. 903], whereupon the latter marched into the south of the country and joined Hasdrubal, son of Gisco, in Baetica. Scipio advanced against them; but as the Carthaginian generals would not risk a battle, and distributed their army in the fortified towns, he was unable to accomplish anything of importance, and was obliged to content himself with the capture of the town of Oringis, which was taken by his brother Lucius. Next year, B. C. 207, Scipio gained possession of nearly the whole of Spain, by a decisive victory near a place variously called Silpia, Elinga, or Carmo, but the position of which is quite uncertain. Hasdrubal, son of Gisco, and Mago took refuge within the walls of Gades, which was almost the only place that still belonged to the Carthaginians; and all the native chiefs now hastened to acknowledge the supremacy of Rome.
But the victories of Scipio had had only a small share in winning Spain. His personal influence had won far more people than his arms had conquered; he had gained such an ascendancy over the Spaniards by his humanity and courage, his courtesy and energy, that they were ready to lay down their lives for him, and wished to make him their king.
The subjugation of Spain was regarded by Scipio as only a means to an end.
He seems for some time past to have formed in his own mind the project of transferring the war to Africa, and thus compelling the Carthaginians to recall Hannibal from Italy.
He therefore resolved, before returning to Rome, to cross over into Africa, and secure, if possible, the friendship and co-operation of some of the native princes. His personal influence had already secured the attachment of Masinissa, who was serving in the Carthaginian army in Spain, but whose defection from his ancient allies was for the present to remain a secret; and he trusted that the same personal ascendancy might gain the still more powerful support of Syphax, the king of the Massaesylian tribe of Numidians.
With only two quinqueremes he ventured to leave his province, and repair to the court of Syphax.
There he met his old adversary, Hasdrubal, son of Gisco, who had crossed over from Gades for the same purpose ; and the two generals spent several days together in friendly intercourse. Laelius, who accompanied his friend, related to Polybius that Scipio made a great impression upon Syphax, and that the latter even concluded a treaty of alliance with the Roman proconsul; but the truth seems to be that the Carthaginian general was more successful than the Roman; a success, however, which was in great part owing to the charms of his daughter Sophonisba, whom he gave in marriage to the Numidian king. Scipio did not remain long in Africa, and on his return to Spain was surprised to find that a formidable insurrection against the Roman power had broken out among many of the Spanish people.
The causes are not mentioned; but it is probable that as soon as Scipio's personal influence had been withdrawal, Mago, who was still at Gades, had not found it difficult to instigate the revolt.
The insurrection, however, was soon put down; and terrible vengeance was inflicted upon the town of Illiturgi, which had taken the principal share in the revolt. Scarcely had this danger passed away, when Scipio was seized with a dangerous illness. Eight thousand of the Roman soldiers, discontented at not having received their usual pay, and at being prevented from plundering the people, availed themselves of this opportunity to break out into open mutiny; but Scipio recovered in time to put it down; and in this difficult and delicate transaction, which is related at length by Livy, he showed his usual prudence and presence of mind.
He now crushed the last remains of the insurrection in Spain; and to crown his other successes, Gades at last deserted the Carthaginians, and went over to the Romans. Mago had quitted Spain and crossed over into Liguria to effect a diversion in favour of his brother Hannibal, and there was therefore now no longer any enemy left in Spain. Scipio accordingly surrendered the Roman army, in B. C. 206, to the proconsuls L. Lentulus and L. Manlius Acidinus, who had been appointed as his successors, and returned to Rome in the same year.
Scipio now became a candidate for the consulship. and was elected for the following year (B. C. 205) by the unanimous votes of all the centuries, although he had not yet filled the office of praetor, and was only thirty years of age. His colleague was P. Licinius Crassus, who was pontifex maximus, and could not, therefore, leave Italy. Consequently if the war was to be carried on abroad, the conduct of it must of necessity devolve upon Scipio.
The latter was anxious to cross over at once to Africa, and bring the contest to an end at the gates of Carthage; but the oldest members of the senate, and among them Q. Fabius Maximus, opposed his project, partly through timidity and partly through jealousy of the youthful conqueror. All that Scipio could obtain was the province of Sicily, with permission to cross over to Africa, if he should think it for the advantage of the republic; but the senate resolutely refused him an army, thus making the permission reluctantly granted of no practical use.
But the allies had a truer view of the interests of Italy than the Roman senate: what the latter, blinded by their fears and their jealousy, refused, the Italian allies generously granted; and from all the towns of Italy volunteers flocked to join the standard of the youthful hero, and to enable him to subdue Carthage without the aid of the Roman government.
The senate could not refuse to allow him to enlist volunteers; and such was the enthusiasm in his favour, that he was able to cross over to Sicily with an army and a fleet contrary to the expectations and even the wishes of the senate. While busy with his preparations in Sicily he sent over Laelius to Africa with a small fleet to concert a plan of co-operation with Masinissa, and to convince his opponents that the invasion of Africa was not such a mad and impracticable project as they supposed.
But meanwhile his enemies at Rome had nearly succeeded in depriving him of his command. Although he had no command in Lower Italy, he had assisted in the reduction of Locri, and after the conquest of the town had left his legate, Q. Pleminius, in command of the place.
The latter had been guilty of such acts of excesses against the inhabitants, that they sent an embassy to the Roman senate to complain of his conduct.
In the course of the investigation it was alleged that Scipio had allowed Pleminius to continue in the command after he had been fully informed of the misconduct of his lieutenant; and thereupon Q. Fabius Maximus and his other enemies eagerly availed themselves of the opportunity to inveigh in general against the conduct of Scipio, and to press for his immediate recall. Scipio's magnificent style of living, and his love for Greek literature and art, were denounced as dangerous innovations upon old Roman manners and frugality; and they asserted that the time which ought to be given to the exercise and the training of his troops was wasted in the Greek gymnasia or in literary pursuits. Though the senate lent a willing ear to these attacks, they did not venture upon his immediate recall, but sent a commission into Sicily to inquire into the state of the army; and if the charges against him were well founded, to order him to return to Rome.
The commissioners arrived in Sicily at the beginning of B. C. 204. During the winter Scipio had been busy in completing his preparations ; and by this time he had collected all his stores, and brought his army and navy into the most efficient state.
The commissioners were astonished at what they saw. Instead of ordering him to return to Rome, they bade him cross over to Africa as soon as possible.
Accordingly in B. C. 204, Scipio, who was now proconsul, sailed from Lilybaeum and landed in Africa, not far from Utica.
The force which he brought with him is stated so differently that it is impossible to determine what its numbers were, some accounts making it as low as 12,200, others as high as 35,000 men.
As soon as Scipio landed he was joined by Masinissa, who rendered him the most important services in the war.
With his assistance he obtained some advantages over the enemy [see HANNO, No. 23], but was unable to obtain possession of Utica, where he was anxious to establish his quarters for the winter.
He was therefore obliged to pass the winter on a projecting headland, which he fortified. Meantime the Carthaginians had collected a powerful army which they placed under the command of Hasdrubal, son of Gisco, Scipio's old opponent in Spain, and Syphax came to their assistance with a great force. Towards the close of the winter, in the early part of B. C. 203, Hasdrubal and Syphax meditated a general attack upon the land and sea forces of Scipio; but the latter, who was informed of their plan by some Numidians, anticipated them by an attack upon their two encampments in the night.
With the assistance of Masinissa, his enterprise was crowned with success; the two camps were burnt to the ground, and only a few of the enemy escaped the fire and the sword. Among these, however, were both Hasdrubal and Syphax; the former fled to Carthage, where he persuaded the senate to raise another army, and the latter retreated to his native dominions, where he likewise collected fresh troops.
But their united forces were again defeated by Scipio. Hasdrubal did not venture to make his appearance again in Carthage; and Syphax once more fled into Numidia. Scipio, however, did not give the Numidian prince any repose ; he was pursued by Laelius and Masinissa, and finally taken prisoner. Among the captives who fell into their hands was Sophonisba, the wife of Syphax, whom Masinissa had long loved, and had expected to marry when she was given to his rival. He now hastened to marry her; but the well-known story of the tragical termination of these nuptials is related elsewhere. [SOPHONISBA.]
These repeated disasters so alarmed the Carthaginians that they resolved to recall Hannibal and Mago from Italy.
At the same time they opened negotiations with Scipio for a peace.
The terms which Scipio offered were not objected to by the Carthaginians, and a suspension of arms for forty-five days was agreed to, while a Carthaginian embassy went to Rome.
It would appear, however, that the great mass of the Carthaginian people were not in reality anxious for peace, and only wanted to gain time till Hannibal's arrival in Africa.
Before the time had expired, a Carthaginian mob plundered some ships which were bringing provisions for Scipio's army, and then insulted the ambassadors whom he had sent to demand restitution.
As soon as Hannibal arrived, hostilities were re-commenced against the Romans. The Carthaginian army was numerically superior to the Romans, but inferior in discipline and skill. Still the presence of Hannibal gave the nation confidence, and they looked forward to a favourable termination of the war. Hannibal, however, formed a truer estimate of the real state of affairs; he saw that the loss of a battle would be the ruin of Carthage, and was therefore anxious to conclude a peace before it was too late. Scipio, who was anxious to have the glory of bringing the war to a close, and who feared lest his enemies in the senate might appoint him a successor, was equally desirous of a peace.
The terms, however, which the Roman general proposed seemed intolerable to the Carthaginians ; and as Hannibal at a personal interview with Scipio could not obtain any abatement of the hard conditions, he was forced, against his will, to continue the war. Into the details of the campaign, which are related very differently, our limits will not permit us to enter.
The decisive battle was at length fought on the 19th of October, B. C. 202, at a place called Naragra on the Bagradas, not far from the city of Zama. Scipio's victory was complete; the greater part of the Carthaginian army was cut to pieces; and Hannibal, upon his arrival at Carthage, was the first to admit the magnitude of the disaster, and to point out the impossibility of a further prosecution of the war.
The terms, however, now imposed by Scipio were much severer than before. Carthage had no alternative but submission; but the negotiations were continued for some time, and the final treaty was not concluded till the following year, B. C. 201.
Scipio returned to Italy in B. C. 201, and entered Rome in triumph.
He was received with universal enthusiasm; the surname of Africanus was conferred upon him, and the people in their gratitude were anxious to bestow upon him the most extraordinary marks of honour.
It is related that they wished to make him consul and dictator for life, and to erect his statue in the comitia, the rostra, the curia, and even in the Capitol; but that he prudently declined all these invidious distinctions (Liv. 38.56
; V. Max. 4.1.6
As he did not choose to usurp the supreme power, which it seems he might have done with ease, and as he was an object of suspicion and dislike to the majority of the senate, he took no prominent part in public affairs during the next few years.
He was censor in B. C. 199 with P. Aelius Paetus, and consul a second time in 194 with Ti. Sempronius Longus.
At the same time the censors conferred upon him the title of princeps senatus, a distinction which he had received from the former censors, and which was again bestowed upon him in B. C. 190. In B. C. 193, he was one of the three commissioners who were sent to Africa to mediate between Masinissa and the Carthaginians; and in the same year, according to a story related by Q. Claudius Quadrigarius, he was one of the ambassadors sent to Antiochus at Ephesus, at whose court Hannibal was then residing.
The tale runs that he there had an interview with the great Carthaginian, who declared him the greatest general that ever lived.
The compliment was paid in a manner the most flattering to Scipio.
The latter had asked, " Who was the greatest general?" " Alexander the Great," was Hannibal's reply. " Who was the second ?" " Pyrrhus." " Who the third ?" " Myself," replied the Carthaginian. " What would you have said, then, if you had conquered me?" asked Scipio, in astonishment. " I should then have placed myself before Alexander
, before Pyrrhus, and before all other generals." (Liv. 35.14
.) Whether the story be true or not, there can be no doubt that Scipio towered above all the Romans as a general, and was only second to Hannibal himself. Each of these great men possessing true nobility of soul, could appreciate the other's merits; and Scipio was the only member of the senate who opposed the unworthy persecution which the Romans chose to employ against their once formidable opponent. (Liv. 33.47
In B. C. 190 L. Scipio, the brother of Africanus, and C. Laelius were consuls. Each of the consuls was anxious to obtain from the senate the province of Greece, in order to have the honour of carrying on the war against Antiochus.
In order to secure it for his brother Lucius, Africanus offered to serve under him as legatus; and the senate thereupon granted Lucius the province which he desired.
In the war against Antiochus, the young son of Africanus, who accompanied his father, fell into the hands of the Syrian king.
The latter offered to restore his captive without ransom, if Africanus would obtain for him a favourable peace; but although the father rejected his proposal, Antiochus sent him back his son while he was absent from the army in consequence of illness. Africanus out of gratitude advised Antiochus not to fight till he himself had rejoined the army.
The object which he had in giving this advice it is impossible to say; it is quite inconceivable that Scipio meditated any treachery towards his own country; it is more probable that he hoped to induce Antiochus to consent to a peace before a defeat should expose him to harder and more humiliating terms. Antiochus, however, did not listen to his advice; and the decisive battle was shortly afterwards fought near Mount Sipylus, in which the Syrian king was totally defeated. Antiochus now applied again to Africanus, who used his influence in the king's favour with his brother Lucius and his council of war.
The terms of peace were severe, but they did not appear sufficiently severe to the Roman senate, who imposed much harder conditions upon the conquered monarch in the treaty which was finally made.
Africanus returned to Rome with his brother Lucius after the completion of the war in B. C. 189, but his remaining years were embittered by the attacks of his old enemies. Shortly after his return, he and his brother Lucius were accused of having received bribes from Antiochus to let the monarch off too leniently, and of having appropriated to their own use part of the money which had been paid by Antiochus to the Roman state.
The glory of his African victory had already grown dim; and his enemies availed themselves of the opportunity to crush their proud antagonist.
The accusation was set on foot by M. Porcius Cato, but the details of it are related with such discrepancies by the ancient authorities, that it is impossible to determine with certainty the true history of the affair, or the year in which it occurred.
It appears, however, that there were two distinct prosecutions, and the following is perhaps the most probable history of the transaction. In B. C. 187, two tribunes of the people of the name of Petillii, instigated by Cato and the other enemies of the Scipios, required L. Scipio to render an account of all the sums of money which he had received from Antiochus. L. Scipio accordingly prepared his accounts, but as he was in the act of delivering them up, the proud conqueror of Hannibal indignantly snatched them out of his hands, and tore them up in pieces before the senate.
But this haughty conduct appears to have produced an unfavourable impression, and his brother, when brought to trial in the course of the same year, was declared guilty, and sentenced to pay a heavy fine. The tribune C. Minucius Augurinus ordered him to be dragged to prison and there detained till the money was paid; whereupon Africanus, still more enraged at this fresh insult to his family, and setting himself above the laws, rescued his brother from the hands of the tribune's officer.
The contest would probably have been attended with fatal results had not Tib. Gracchus, the father of the celebrated tribune, and then tribune himself, had the prudence, although he disapproved of the violent conduct of Africanus, to release his brother Lucius from the sentence of imprisonment.
The property however, of Lucius was confiscated; and, as it was not sufficient to pay the fine, his clients and friends generously contributed not only a sufficient amount to supply the deficiency, but so large a sum that he would have been richer even than before; but he would only receive sufficient to defray his most pressing wants.
The successful issue of the prosecution of Lucius, emboldened his enemies to bring the great Africanus himself before the people. His accuser was M. Naevius, the tribune of the people, and if the date of his tribunate is correctly stated by Livy (39.52
) the accusation was not brought till the end of B. C. 185. When the trial came on, Scipio did not condescend to say a single word in refutation of the charges that had been brought against him, but descanted long and eloquently upon the signal services he had rendered to the commonwealth. Having spoken till night-fall, the trial was adjourned till the following day. Early next morning, when the tribunes had taken their seats on the rostra, and Africanus was summoned, he proudly reminded the people that this was the anniversary of the day on which he had defeated Hannibal at Zama, and called upon them to neglect all disputes and law-suits, and follow him to the Capitol, and there return thanks to the immortal gods, and pray that they would grant the Roman state other citizens like himself. Scipio struck a chord which vibrated on every heart; their veneration of the hero returned again; aud he was followed with such crowds to the Capitol, that the tribunes were left alone in the rostra. Having thus set all the laws at defiance, Scipio immediately quitted Rome, and retired to his country seat at Liternum.
The tribunes wished to renew the prosecution, but Gracchus wisely persuaded them to let it drop. (Liv. 38.50
; Gel. 4.18
; V. Max. 3.7.1
; Meyer, Orat. Roman. Fragm.
pp. 6-8, 2d ed.) Scipio never returned to Rome.
He would neither submit to the laws nor aspire to the sovereignty of the state; and he therefore resolved to expatriate himself for ever.
He passed his remaining days in the cultivation of his estate at Liternum (Senec. Ep. 86
); and at his death is said to have requested that his body might be buried there, and not in his ungrateful country. His request was complied with, and his tomb existed at Liternum in the time of Livy.
This appears to have been the more general account; but others related that he died at Rome, and was buried in the family sepulchre outside of the porta Capena, where a statue of him was erected alongside of the statues of his brother Lucius and the poet Ennius (Liv. 38.56
The year of his death is equally uncertain. Polybius and Rutilias related that he died in the same year as Hannibal and Philopoemen, that is, in B. C. 183. Livy and Cicero placed his death in B. C. 185, and Valerius of Antium as early as B. C. 187 (Liv. 39.52
; Cic. Cat. maj. 6
The date of Polybius is most probably the correct one.
Scipio married Aemilia, the daughter of L. Aemilius Paulus, who fell at the battle of Cannae [AEMILIA, No. 2], and by her he had four children, two sons [Nos. 14 and 15], and two daughters, the elder of whom married P. Scipio Nasica Corculum [No. 23], and the younger Tib. Gracchus, and thus became the mother of the two celebrated tribunes [CORNELIA, Nos. 4, 5]. (It is unnecessary to cite the numerous passages in Polybius and Livy relating to Scipio; those in Cicero in which he is mentioned are given by Orelli, in his Onomast. Tull.
vol. ii. p. 186; there are some interesting remarks on his character and the state of parties in Rome at his time, by Gerlach, in his treatise entitled P. Cornelius Scipio und M. Porcius Cato
, in the Schweizer. Museum