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Scipio Africanus, Publius Cornelius – (237-183 BC) – Roman general
Scipio was one of the most celebrated generals of Roman history. This is because he finally and decisively defeated the hitherto unbeatable Hannibal (p. 26) who had, more or less, done as he wanted in Italy for nearly 20 years, during the Second Carthaginian War (221-202 BC).
Scipio came from an aristocratic and military family in Rome. His ancestors had commanded armies. His father was a competent general, who was, however, defeated by the superior strategy of Hannibal at the battle of the Trebia in 218, but who beat a Carthaginian fleet the following year. Scipio entered politics in the usual way open to young aristocrats and became an aedile, which is a junior magistrate, in 212. Then he hankered after army command and was sent to Spain where he proved his worth as a leader of men. In 205 he won the consular elections and the next year he took a Roman army over to Carthaginian territory in North Africa, where he defeated all forces sent against him. This prompted the Carthage government to recall Hannibal from Italy. At Zama, in 202, the two men met in battle, and after a long and arduous fight all day the Carthaginian ranks broke up.
Scipio’s peace terms for Hannibal and Carthage were on the whole reasonable and were put to Hannibal with generosity and good will. The victorious Roman then went home to a splendid triumphal reception. He was called Africanus in honour of his victory.
A few years later, Scipio accompanied his brother, Lucius, who was in command of the Roman army sent to Asia Minor to deal with Antiochus the Great (p. 26) and at Magnesia in 190 the two brothers utterly defeated the Syrian king and brought his power to an end.
Scipio Africanus, Publius Cornelius