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Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon

Overview

Scipio Africanus (236–183 B.C.) was one of the most exciting and dynamic leaders in history. As commander he never lost a battle. Yet it is his adversary, Hannibal, who has lived on in the public memory, due mostly to his daring march through the Alps with his elephants. At the Battle of the Ticinus, Hannibal’s initial encounter with Roman arms, young Scipio first tasted warfare, rescuing his dangerously wounded, encircled father, who was also the Roman commander. By nineteen Scipio was the equivalent of a staff ...

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Overview

Scipio Africanus (236–183 B.C.) was one of the most exciting and dynamic leaders in history. As commander he never lost a battle. Yet it is his adversary, Hannibal, who has lived on in the public memory, due mostly to his daring march through the Alps with his elephants. At the Battle of the Ticinus, Hannibal’s initial encounter with Roman arms, young Scipio first tasted warfare, rescuing his dangerously wounded, encircled father, who was also the Roman commander. By nineteen Scipio was the equivalent of a staff colonel and in 210 B.C. he was placed in supreme command. In three years he destroyed Carthaginian power in Spain and, after being made consul, took his forces to Africa, where he conquered Carthage’s great ally, Syphax. Two years later he clashed with Hannibal himself, annihilating his army in the decisive Battle of Zama. For this triumph and his other exploits in the Punic Wars, Scipio was awarded the title Africanus.In his fascinating portrait of this extraordinary commander, B. H. Liddell Hart writes, ”The age of generalship does not age, and it is because Scipio’s battles are richer in stratagems and ruses—many still feasible today—than those of any other commander in history that they are an unfailing object lesson.” Not only military enthusiasts and historians but all those interested in outstanding men will find this magnificent study absorbing and gripping.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Reprint of the great military historian's original of 1926--under the title Greater Than Napoleon--with a new foreword by Michael Grant. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306805837
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 8/21/1994
  • Edition description: 1st Da Capo Press ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Captain Basil Henry Liddell Hart (1895–1970) was one of the foremost military theorists of our time. His many books include Scipio Africanus, Lawrence of Arabia, The Rommel Papers, and Sherman (all available from Da Capo Press/ Perseus Books Group).

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2001

    Extraordinary Book

    If you like Roman history this is a fascinating book. Very few historians can take apart war strategy and politics in the same book. Definitely a great read for those who like Roman history and a must read for those who want an alternate view of the Second Punic War. The book really comes down to a panegyric of Scipio and it is very convincing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2002

    a good book of a brilliant general, a great man, and a flawed final chapter

    First of all, I loved this book. In reading it, one can clearly see that Scipio is a high caliber general and an honorable man. It is an easy and relaxing read. However, after reading the last chapter I was misled into believing that Scipio is far greater than Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar. Scipio is made to seem faultless. Scipio made clear mistakes. Although he decisively defeated Hasdrubal Barca at Baecula, he allowed Hasdrubal to escape and cross the Alps. The whole reason of having an army in Spain was for the purpose of keeping a second ¿Hannibal¿ out of Italy. Had Hasbrubal met with Hannibal, Rome surely would have suffered a second string of defeats, which may have destroyed her. Scipio also missed a key opportunity to take a defenseless Carthage, but he instead took Utica. Despite these errors, Scipio still proved to be an excellent tactician and a good strategist, as his enhancement of the Roman horse proved. Hannibal is underrated and misjudged by Liddell-Hart. Hannibal faced incredible odds. The first of which, he never had any infantry to match the Roman foot soldier. These were the best trained and disciplined of their day. Hannibal had to rely on mercenaries, which are not as dependable. Hannibal is criticized for not marching on Rome. After Cannae, Hannibal had around 40,000 men with no siege equipment or engineers. The garrison of Rome alone had alone 40,000 men. Rome also had additional armies to call up. A siege of Rome would have would have sharply ended the war in Rome¿s favor. Instead, Hannibal, with his depleted army, remained the scourge of Roman armies for another twelve years! He had a severe lack of support at home, while the Romans heavily outnumbered him. His failure at Zama was inevitable. The majority of his troops were green, the depletion of his once invincible cavalry, the might of the Roman foot soldier, and the foresight of Scipio bought about this defeat. Quickly now, Alexander! The armies of Darius were not barbarian hordes. The Greeks/ Macedonians called anyone who wasn¿t Greek a barbarian. These armies were well organized with some of the best cavalry known even after Alexander¿s battles. Alexander defeated the Persians with excellent tactics and strategy. The accusation about rejecting Parmenio¿s plan for a night attack is foolish. That very night Darius had prepared for one. Alexander faced tough enemies with brilliance. The battle of Hydaspes clearly shows this. With 14,000 men Alexander crushed Porus¿s veteran army of 50,000. Still, Alexander made mistakes as well, mainly in a few marches. In the end, this book is excellent, but the last chapter generalizes the flaws of other generals into giant black marks. If you read this book, read on and be objective. Still, I believe that in the end that Scipio should not be among the ¿greats¿. He did not fight enough battles or campaigns for this to happen. He was brilliant and a man to be admired.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2000

    The First Amongst Romans

    One the greatest military biographies of all time, B.H. Liddell Hart's Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon stands as a testament to the noblest strategist Rome ever produced. Scipio's consecutive victories over some of the greatest generals of the ancient world (Mago, Hasdrubal, and Hannibal) are usually reduced to a blurb when most historians describe the 2nd Punic War. More often than not, Scipio's name is never even mentioned. The description generally simply reads: 'Hannibal beaten back by Roman forces.' However, the man directly responsible for saving Roma is robbed of his prestigious honors because he never fell prey to the despotic tendencies that lesser victories roused in other Roman commanders (Caesar for instance.) Here is a great captain who never lost a single battle; a great captain who won more with supreme strategy than the likes of Caesar ever won with vanity and tyranny. Hart's well balanced biography of Scipio Africanus truly brings the former's place in history to light. It is a well-paced, economically written account of the first (and possibly only) great general in service of a republic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2000

    Very good book; overlooks nothing

    A truly enjoyable book. Very comprehensive in terms of describing the tactics and reasonings of scipio, as well as his diplomatic strategies. For anyone who has never heard or heard very little of scipio africanus and is questioning the title, the author gives a very convincing argument; in essence, 'It's not how much you win, but who you win against.' Truly a brilliant tactician and an adept diplomat, I'm glad the story of the man who beat hannibal could be told. Highly recommened for anyone interested in roman or military history.

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