Scipio Africanus: Rome's Greatest General

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The world often misunderstands its greatest men while neglecting others entirely. Scipio Africanus, surely the greatest general that Rome produced, suffered both these fates. Today scholars celebrate the importance of Hannibal, even though Scipio defeated the legendary general in the Second Punic War and was the central military figure of his time. In this scholarly and heretofore unmatched military biography of the distinguished Roman soldier, Richard A. Gabriel establishes Scipio’s rightful place in military history as the greater of the two generals. Before Scipio, few Romans would have dreamed of empire, and Scipio himself would have regarded such an ambition as a danger to his beloved republic. And yet, paradoxically, Scipio’s victories in Spain and Africa enabled Rome to consolidate its hold over Italy and become the dominant power in the western Mediterranean, virtually ensuring a later confrontation with the Greco-Macedonian kingdoms to the east as well as the empire’s expansion into North Africa and the Levant. The Roman imperium was being born, and it was Scipio who had sired it. Gabriel draws upon ancient texts, including those from Livy, Polybius, Diodorus, Silius Italicus, and others, as primary sources and examines all additional material available to the modern scholar in French, German, English, and Italian. His book offers a complete bibliography of all extant sources regarding Scipio’s life. The result is a rich, detailed, and contextual treatment of the life and career of Scipio Africanus, one of Rome’s greatest generals, if not the greatest of them all.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Provides a clear and concise account of Scipio’s military ventures.”

"Gabriel has crafted an energetic narrative that remains true to the evidence. . . . [He] does a superb job of connecting major conclusions to events on the ground, dealing with load capacities of ships, land battle formations, and the broader implications of such matters for Roman strategy and policy. . . . A vibrant addition to the corpus of materials on the Second Punic War."

"Gabriel has always been a great storyteller, and his biobraphy of Scipio Africanus continues that tradition. He presents the Roman general's life in a style that is interesting and easy to read."

“The prolific Gabriel . . . has specialized in writing well-researched, readable works on ancient military history as well as a number of very good military biographies. This worthy tome adds to both categories. . . . Overall, this biography is a well-crafted, much-needed examination of the Roman Republic’s most gifted commander.”

"Worth reading."

“Written in a fluid narrative style making it accessible to general readers as well as historians.”

“What Wellington was to Napoleon, Scipio was to Hannibal, a great captain of true genius and innovation, and the Republic’s greatest general. We have had to wait until now for a noted scholar to produce a complete and accurate account of Scipio’s military and political life in the detail that the subject deserves. Richard Gabriel’s biography of Scipio does just that and makes a unique contribution to our understanding of this great Roman general.”

“An exciting book from one of the country’s leading military historians. Gabriel has given us a well-written treatment of the life and military campaigns of one of Rome’s most important historical figures that will be enjoyed by military historians, classicists, and general readers alike. An important and original work of military biography, especially dealing with the day-to-day aspects of soldiering in antiquity.”

“A brilliant work of research and analysis from one of the country’s leading military historians. A comprehensive, original and important work of scholarship and military biography that is certain to become the definitive work on Scipio.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597972055
  • Publisher: Potomac Books
  • Publication date: 6/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 326
  • Sales rank: 540,881
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

RICHARD A. GABRIEL is a distinguished professor in the Department of History and War Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada and in the Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto. He is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than forty books, including Scipio Africanus, Thutmose III, Philip II of Macedonia, Hannibal, and Man and Wound in the Ancient World. He lives in Manchester, New Hampshire.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


1 The Man 1

Baptism by Fire 7

Cannae 10

Public Office 14

Selection for Command 15

Military Competency 18

2 The Strategic Setting 25

Carthaginian Strategy 28

The Battle of the Trebia River, 218 BCE 36

The Battle of Lake Trasimene, 217 BCE 39

The Battle of Cannae, 216 BCE 43

Spain 51

3 The Armies 55

The Carthaginian Army 55

The Roman Army 64

4 Scipio's Spanish Campaign 83

The Attack on New Carthage, 209 BCE 85

The Battle of Baecula, 208 BCE 102

The Battle of Ilipa, 206 BCE 115

5 The Strategist 125

Africa 126

Spain 129

The Battle of the Ebro River, 206 BCE 134

Return to Rome 139

6 The African Campaign 143

Invasion, 204 BCE 144

The Battle at the Tower of Agathocles, 204 BCE 157

The Burning of the Carthaginian Camps, 203 BCE 163

The Battle of the Great Plains, 203 BCE 166

Syphax's Defeat 172

Truce 174

7 Scipio and Hannibal 175

The Battle of Zama, 202 BCE 183

Pax Scipionis 198

8 Triumph and Fall 203

Scipio's Political Life 203

The Last Campaign 215

The Trial of Scipio 228

9 Scipio's Place in Military History 235

Notes 245

Bibliography 281

Index 291

About the Author 303

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2013


    A great work by a great historian

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