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Scipio Africanus Major
P. Cornelius Scipio, Africanus Major, was the son of that P. Cornelius Scipio who was defeated by Hannibal at the Ticinus. If it be true that at the age of seventeen Scipio fought in this battle, and rescued his wounded father, he must have been born in B.C. 235. He was in the battle of Cannae (B.C. 216) as a tribune, and was among those who, after the defeat, escaped to Canusium. Here the chief command of the remaining troops was unanimously entrusted to him and another. On this occasion it was owing to his presence of mind that the remnants of the Roman army did not, in their despair, quit Italy.
Generosity of Scipio.
Toward the close of the year B.C. 206, Scipio surrendered the command of the Roman forces in Spain to the proconsuls L. Lentulus and L. Manlius Acidinus, and returned to Rome. He delivered to the aerarium the immense treasures which he brought from Spain. He evidently wished for a triumph, but the senate paid no attention to his wishes, for no one had ever triumphed at Rome before he had held the consulship. In the year B.C. 205, Scipio was made consul with P. Licinius Crassus, who was at the same time pontifex maximus, and was consequently not allowed to leave Italy. If, therefore, a war was to be carried on abroad, the command necessarily devolved upon Scipio. His wish was immediately to sail with an army to Africa, but the more cautious senators, and especially Q. Fabius, were decidedly opposed to his plan, partly because Hannibal, as long as he was in Italy, appeared too formidable to be neglected, and partly because they were influenced by jealousy.
All that Scipio could obtain was that Sicily should be assigned to him as his province, with thirty vessels, and with permission to sail over to Africa in case he should think it advantageous to the republic. But he did not obtain from the Senate permission to levy an army, and he therefore called upon the Italian allies to provide him with troops and other things necessary for carrying on the war. As they were all willing to support the conqueror of the Carthaginians in Spain, he was soon enabled to sail to Sicily with nearly seven thousand volunteers and thirty ships. Soon after his arrival in Sicily he sent his friend Laelius with a part of his fleet to Africa, partly to keep up the connection which he had formed there, on his visit from Spain, with Syphax and Massinissa (for to the latter Scipio had sent back a nephew who had been taken prisoner in the battle of Baecula), and partly to show to his timid opponents at Rome how groundless their fears were. He himself employed his time in Sicily most actively, in preparing and disciplining his new army.
Massinissa, dissatisfied with the Carthaginians, was anxious for the arrival of Scipio in Africa, but Syphax had altered his policy, and again joined the Carthaginians. The enemies of Scipio at Rome at last got an opportunity of attacking him, and they nearly succeeded in depriving him of his post. Without being authorized by the Senate, Scipio had taken part in the conquest of Locri, in Southern Italy, and had left his legate, Q. Flaminius, as commander of the Roman garrison in that place. The legate treated the Locrians with such severity and cruelty that they sent an embassy to Rome to lay their complaints before the Senate. As Scipio, although acquainted with the conduct of Flaminius, had nevertheless left him in command, his enemies attacked him on this and other grounds, and Fabius Maximus even proposed that he should be recalled. A commission was sent out to inquire into the state of affairs and to bring Scipio home, if the charges against him were found true. Scipio proved that his army was in the best possible condition; and the commissioners were so surprised at what they saw, that instead of recalling the consul, they bade him sail to Africa as soon as he might think it proper, and to adopt any measures that he might think useful.
Scipio, in consequence of this, sailed in B.C. 204 as proconsul, with a large army, from Lilybaeum to Africa, and landed in the neighborhood of Utica. Here he made successful incursions into the neighboring country, and Hasdrubal, who attempted to prevent them, suffered a great defeat. But Scipio could not gain possession of Utica, which was of the greater importance to him and his fleet as the winter was approaching, and he was obliged to spend the season on a piece of land extending into the sea, which he fortified as well as he could. Toward the close of the winter the Carthaginians, united with Syphax, intended to make a general attack on Scipio's army and fleet, but being informed of their plans, he surprised the camps of Hasdrubal and Syphax in the night, and only a small number of the enemy escaped. Syphax withdrew into his own dominions, but was defeated by Massinissa and Laelius, and taken prisoner with his wife and one of his sons. Massinissa married Sophonisba, the wife of Syphax, who had formerly been engaged to him, but had been given to Syphax for political reasons. Scipio, fearing the influence she might have on Massinissa (for she was a Carthaginian), claimed her as a prisoner belonging to the Romans, and Massinissa poisoned her, to save her from the humiliation of captivity.
The fears and apprehensions of the Carthaginians now increased to such a degree that they thought it necessary to recall Hannibal from Italy, and at the same time they sued for peace. The terms which Scipio proposed would have concluded the war in a manner honorable to the Romans. The Carthaginians, however, whose only object was to gain time, made no objections to the conditions, but only concluded a truce of forty-five days, during which an embassy was to be sent to Rome. Before this truce was at an end, the Carthaginian populace plundered some Roman vessels with provisions, which were wrecked off Carthage, and even insulted the Roman envoys who came to demand reparation. Scipio did not resent this conduct and allowed the Carthaginian ambassadors, on their return from Rome, to pass on to Carthage unmolested. About this time (it was the autumn of the year B.C. 203) Hannibal arrived in Africa, and soon collected an army in numbers far exceeding that of Scipio. He first made a successful campaign against Massinissa. Scipio was at this time informed that the consul Tib. Claudius Nero would come with an army to co-operate with him against Hannibal.
Scipio, who wished to bring the war to a conclusion, and was unwilling to share the glory with anyone else, determined to bring Hannibal to a decisive battle. The Carthaginian at first avoided an engagement; but when Scipio, in order to deceive the enemy, hastily retreated as if he intended to take to flight, Hannibal followed him with his cavalry and lost a battle in the neighborhood of Zama. A tribune of Scipio soon afterward cut off a large convoy of provisions which was on its way to the camp of Hannibal, and this suddenly threw him into such difficulties that he began to negotiate with Scipio for peace. The conditions, however, which Scipio now proposed were so humiliating, that the Carthaginians would not accept them. Hannibal, therefore, though he saw the impossibility of gaining any further advantages, was compelled to decide the affair by a last and desperate effort. In a personal interview between the two generals Scipio was inexorable as to the conditions. Hannibal's army was in a bad condition; and in the ensuing battle, to the west of Zama, the victory of Scipio was complete. This defeat (in B.C. 202) was the death-blow to Carthage.
Scipio, on his return to Italy, was received with the greatest enthusiasm; he entered Rome in triumph, and was henceforward distinguished by the name of Africanus. He now for several years continued to live at Rome, apparently without taking any part in public affairs. In B.C. 199 he obtained the office of censor with P. AElius Paetus, and in B.C. 194 he was made consul a second time with Tib. Sempronius Longus, and princeps senatus, a distinction with which he had already been honored in B.C. 196, and which was conferred upon him for the third time in B.C. 190. In B.C. 193, during one of the disputes between the Carthaginians and Massinissa, Scipio was sent with two other commissioners to mediate between the parties; but nothing was settled, though, as Livy observes, Scipio might easily have put an end to the disputes. Scipio was the only Roman who thought it unworthy of the republic to support those Carthaginians who persecuted Hannibal; and there was a tradition that Scipio, in B.C. 193, was sent on an embassy to Antiochus, and that he met Hannibal in his exile, who in the conversation which took place, declared Scipio the greatest of all generals. Whether the story of the conversation be true or not, the judgment ascribed to Hannibal is just; for Scipio as a general was second to none but Hannibal himself.
In the year B.C. 190, some discussions arose in the Senate as to what provinces should be assigned to the two consuls, Laelius and L. Cornelius Scipio, brother of the great Africanus. Africanus, although he was princeps senatus, offered to accompany his brother, as legate, if the Senate would give him Greece as his province, for this province conferred upon Lucius the command in the war against Antiochus. The offer was accepted, and the two brothers set out for Greece, and thence for Asia. Africanus took his son with him on this expedition, but by some unlucky chance the boy was taken prisoner, and sent to Antiochus. The king offered to restore him to freedom, and to give a considerable sum of money, if the father would interpose his influence to obtain favorable terms for the king. Africanus refused; but the king, notwithstanding, soon after sent the boy back to his father, who just then was suffering from illness, and was absent from the camp. To show his gratitude, Africanus sent a message to Antiochus, advising him not to engage in a battle until he himself had returned to the Roman camp. After the great battle near Mount Sipylus, Antiochus again applied to Scipio for peace, and the latter now used his influence with his brother Lucius and the council of war, on behalf of the king. The conditions of the peace were tolerably mild, but they were afterward made much more severe when the peace was ratified at Rome.
The enemies of Africanus at Rome had now another charge against him. The peace with Antiochus, and the conditions proposed by Africanus and his brother Lucius, were regarded by the hostile party as the result of bribes from Antiochus, and of the liberation of the son of Africanus. A charge was therefore brought against the two brothers, on their return to Rome, of having accepted bribes of the king, and of having retained a part of the treasures which they ought to have delivered up to the aerarium. At the same time they were called upon to give an account of the sums of money they had taken from Antiochus. Lucius was ready to obey; but his brother Africanus with indignation snatched the accounts from the hands of his brother and tore them to pieces before the Senate. The tribune of the people, C. Minucius Augurinus, however, fined Lucius; and when he was going to be thrown into prison until he should pay the heavy fine, Africanus dragged him away; and the tribune Tib. Gracchus, though disapproving of the violence of Africanus, liberated Lucius from imprisonment. Africanus himself was now summoned before the people by the tribune M. Naevius; but instead of answering the charges he reminded the people that it was the anniversary of his victory at Zama, and bade them rather thank the gods for such citizens as he.
After these troubles he withdrew to his villa near Liternum, and it was owing to the interposition of Tib. Gracchus that he was not compelled to obey another summons. The estates of his brother Lucius, however, were confiscated (B.C. 187), but the sum produced by their sale did not make up the amount of the fine. His friends and clients not only offered to make up the sum, but their generosity would even have made him richer than he had been before; but he refused to accept anything beyond what was absolutely necessary for his support. Africanus never returned from his voluntary exile, and he spent the last years of his life in quiet retirement at his villa. He is said to have wished to be buried on his estate; but there was, as Livy says, a tradition that he died at Rome, and was buried in the tomb of his family near the Porta Capena, where statues of him, his brother Lucius, and their friend Q. Ennius, were erected. The year of his death is not quite certain; for, according to Polybius, he died in the same year with Hannibal and Philopoemen (B.C. 183); according to others, two years earlier (B.C. 185).
In judging of Scipio Africanus as a general, we may adopt the judgment ascribed to Hannibal; but as a Roman citizen he is very far from deserving such praise. His pride and haughtiness were intolerable, and the laws of the constitution were set at nought whenever they opposed his own views and passions. As a statesman he scarcely did anything worth mentioning. By his wife AEmilia, daughter of AEmilius Paullus, he had two daughters, one of whom married P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum, the other, the celebrated Cornelia, married Tib. Sempronius Gracchus, and was the mother of the two Gracchi, the tribunes of the people.
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