The Scipio family is one of the most famous families of Ancient Rome. The family tomb, which was built in the 3rd century BC is now opened to the public after twenty years of restoration. Around the first century AD the tomb was abandoned and was not discovered until 1641. The most famous Scipio, Scipio Africanus, who defeated Hannibal in the Second Punic War, is not entombed in the family crypt. The Vancouver Sun reports on the opening.
The family’s sarcophagi are spread out along a series of underground tunnels dug out of a hill of volcanic tuff near the Baths of Caracalla on the outskirts of the eternal city, which criss-cross a site 11 metres across.
The tomb, which originally lay under a temple, was built at the beginning of the third century A.D [should be BC] by the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbato, whose elegant sarcophagus holds pride of place at the end of the central gallery.
Read the rest of the article at Ancient war heroes’ tomb reopens to public in Rome.
Historical clothing design of the day is Scipio Africanus. Each day a new design is chosen and an article is posted to highlight the historical significance of the design.
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (235–183 BC), also known as Scipio Africanus and Scipio the Elder, was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic. He was best known for defeating Hannibal at the final battle of the Second Punic War at Zama, a feat that earned him the agnomen Africanus, the nickname “the Roman Hannibal”, as well as recognition as one of the finest commanders in military history. An earlier great display of his tactical abilities had come already at the Battle of Ilipa.
In 205 BC, Scipio was unanimously elected to the consulship at the age of 31. Scipio intended to go to Africa, but some people in the Senate were envious of him and only let him to go to Sicily and did not give him an army. Even so, Scipio started a volunteer army when he was in Sicily.
This profile of a young Scipio Africanus the Elder is from a gold signet ring from Capua (late 3rd or early 2nd century BC) signed by Herakliedes
By this time, Hannibal’s movements were restricted to the southwestern toe of Italy. Scipio wanted to make the war in Africa, and his great name drew to him a number of volunteers from all parts of Italy. Interestingly, among these volunteers were the shamed survivors of the fiasco at the Battle of Cannae, eager to once again prove their worth as soldiers. Scipio turned Sicily into a camp for training his army.
Scipio realized that the Carthaginian, and especially Numidian superiority in cavalry would prove decisive against the largely infantry forces of the Roman legions. In addition, a large portion of Rome’s cavalry were allies of questionable loyalty, or noble equites exempting themselves from being lowly foot soldiers. One anecdote tells of how Scipio pressed into service several hundred Sicilian nobles to create a cavalry force. The Sicilians were quite opposed to this servitude to a foreign occupier (Sicily being under Roman control only since the First Punic War), and protested vigorously. Scipio assented to their exemption from service providing they pay for a horse, equipment, and a replacement rider for the Roman Army. In this way, Scipio created a trained nucleus of cavalry for his African campaign.
The Roman Senate sent a commission of inquiry to Sicily and found Scipio at the head of a well-equipped and trained fleet and army. Scipio pressed the Senate for permission to cross into Africa. The conservative branch of the Roman Senate, championed by Fabius Maximus, the Cunctator (Delayer), opposed the mission. Fabius still feared Hannibal’s power, and viewed any mission to Africa as dangerous and wasteful to the war effort. Scipio was also harmed by some senators’ disdain of his Hellenophile tastes in art, luxuries, and philosophies. The introduction (205 BC) of the Phrygian worship of Cybele and the transference of the image of the goddess herself from Pessinus to Rome to bless the expedition may have affected public opinion against Scipio as well. All Scipio could obtain was permission to cross over from Sicily to Africa if it appeared to be in the interests of Rome, but not financial or military support.
At the commissioners’ bidding, Scipio sailed in 204 BC and landed near Utica. Carthage, meanwhile, had secured the friendship of the Numidian Syphax, whose advance compelled Scipio to abandon the siege of Utica and dig in on the shore between there and Carthage. In 203 BC, he destroyed the combined armies of the Carthaginians and Numidians by approaching by stealth and setting fire to their camp, where the combined army became panicked and fled, when they were mostly killed by Scipio’s army. Though not a “battle,” both Polybius and Livy estimate that the death toll in this single attack exceeded 40,000 Carthaginian and Numidian dead, and more captured.
Historians are roughly equal in their praise and condemnation for this act. Polybius said, “of all the brilliant exploits performed by Scipio this seems to me the most brilliant and more adventurous.” On the other hand, one of Hannibal’s principal biographers, Theodore Ayrault Dodge, goes so far to suggest that this attack was out of cowardice and spares no more than a page upon the event in total, despite the fact that it secured the siege of Utica and effectively put Syphax out of the war. The irony of Dodge’s accusations of Scipio’s cowardice is that the attack showed traces of Hannibal’s penchant for ambush.
Scipio quickly dispatched his two lieutenants, Laelius and Masinissa, to pursue Syphax. They ultimately dethroned Syphax, and ensured Prince Masinissa’s coronation as King of the Numidians. Carthage, and especially Hannibal himself, had long relied upon these superb natural horsemen, who would now fight for Rome against Carthage.
Read More at Scipio Africanus on Wikipedia.com