1902 Encyclopedia > Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus the Younger

Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Numantinus
(also known as: Scipio Aemilianus; Africanus the Younger)
Roman soldier
(185-129 BC)

PUBLIUS CORNELIUS SCIPIO AFRICANUS THE YOUNGER.—This Scipio, also one of Rome's greatest generals, was the younger son of Aemilius Paullus, and he fought when a youth of seventeen by his father's side at Pydna, 168,—the battle which decided the fate of Macedonia and made northern Greece subject to Rome. He was adopted by the eldest son of Scipio Africanus the Elder, and from him took the name Scipio with the surname Africanus. In 151, a time of defeat and disaster for the Romans in Spain, which as yet had been but very imperfectly subjugated, he served with credit in that country and obtained an influence over the native tribes similar to that which the elder Scipio, his grandfather by adoption, had acquired nearly sixty years before him. In the next year an appeal was made to him by the Carthaginians to act as arbiter between them and the Numidian prince Masinissa, who, backed up by a party at Rome, was incessantly encroaching on Carthaginian territory. Rome's policy in Africa was to hold the balance between Masinissa and Carthage, and, when it was seen that Carthage, as the result of several years of peace, was again becoming a prosperous and powerful city, there grew up a feeling at Rome that the Numidian king must be supported and their old rival thoroughly humiliated. Marcus Cato and his party would hear of no compromise ; Carthage, they said, must be destroyed if Rome was to be safe. It was easy to find a pretext for war in the disputes between Carthage and Masinissa. In 149 war was declared, and thè Carthaginians felt it to be a life-and-death struggle : every man and every woman laboured to the uttermost for the defence of the city with a furious enthusiasm. The Roman army, in which Scipio at first served in a subordinate capacity, was utterly baffled. In the following year he was elected consul, while yet under the legal age, for the express purpose of giving him the supreme command. After two years of desperate fighting and splendid heroism on the part of the defenders, the famished 'garrison could no longer hold the walls : Carthage was captured, and the ruins of the city were burning for seventeen days ; Rome decreed that the place should be for ever desolate. On his return to Rome Scipio became the subject of violent political attacks, against which he successfully defended himself in speeches (no longer extant) that ranked as brilliant specimens of oratory. In 134 he was again consul, with the province of Spain, where a demoralized Roman army was vainly attempting the conquest of Numantia on the Douro. Scipio, after devoting several months to the discipline of his troops, reduced the city by blockade. The fall of Numantia, which was utterly destroyed in 133, established the Roman dominion in the province of Hither or Nearer Spain, the eastern portion of that country. Rome meanwhile was shaken by the great political agitation of the Gracchi, whose sister Sempronia was Scipio's wife. Scipio himself, though not in sympathy with the extreme men of the old conservative party, was decidedly opposed to the schemes of the Gracchi. " Justly slain " (jure caesum) is said to have been his answer to the tribune Carbo, who asked him before the people what he thought of the death of Tiberius Gracchus. This gave dire offence to the popular party, which was now led by his bitterest foes. Soon afterwards, in 129, he was found dead in bed on the morning of a day on which he had intended to make a speech on a point connected with the agrarian proposals of the Gracchi,—"a victim of political assassination " Mommsen confidently pronounces him. The mystery was never cleared up, and there were political reasons for letting the matter drop.

The Younger Scipio, great general and great man as he was, is for ever associated with a hideous work of destruction at Carthage, which we feel he might have done more to avert. Yet he was a man of culture and refinement; he gathered round him such men as the Greek historian l'olybius, the philosopher Panaitius, and the poets Lncilius and Terence. And at the same time, according to Polybius and Cicero, he had all the good sterling virtues of an old-fashioned Roman, and steadily set his face against the increasing luxury and extravagance of his day. As a speaker he seems to have been no less distinguished than as a soldier. He spoke remarkably good and pure Latin, and he particularly enjoyed serious and intellectual conversation. There seems to have been nothing mean or grasping about him. After the capture of Carthage he gave back to the Greek cities of Sicily the works of art of which Carthage had robbed them. He did not avail himself of the many opportunities he must have had of amassing a fortune. Though politically opposed to the Gracchi, he cannot be said to have been a foe to the interests of the people. He was, in fact, a moderate man, in favour of conciliation, and he was felt by the best men to be a safe political adviser, while, as often happens in such cases, he could not help olfending both parties. (W. J. B.)

The above article was written by: Rev. W. J. Brodribb.

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