1902 Encyclopedia > Publius Cornelius Scipio

Publius Cornelius Scipio
Roman consul
(died 211 BC)





PUBLIUS CORNELIUS SCIPIO, the father of the Elder Africanus, was the first Roman general to encounter Hannibal in battle. He was consul in 218 B.C., the first year of the Second Punic War, and, having Spain for his province, he went with an army to Massilia (Marseilles) with the view of arresting the Carthaginian's advance on Italy. Failing, however, to meet his enemy, he hastened back by sea to Cisalpine Gaul, leaving his army under the command of his brother Cneius Scipio, who was to harass the Carthaginians in Spain and hinder them from supporting Hannibal. In a sharp cavalry engagement in the upper valley of the Po, on the Ticinus, he was defeated and severely wounded, and it is said he owed his life to the bravery of his son, then a mere stripling. Again, in the December of the same year, he witnessed the complete defeat of the Roman army on the Trebia, his colleague Sempronius having insisted on fighting contrary to his advice. But he still retained the confidence of the Roman people, since his term of command was extended, and we find him with his brother in Spain in the following year, winning victories over the Carthaginians and strengthening Rome's hold on that country, till 212 or 211. The details of these campaigns are not accurately known to us, but it would seem that the ultimate defeat and death of the Scipios were due to the desertion of the Celtiberi, bribed by Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother.






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