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Scipio Africanus (Paperback)

Greater Than Napoleon

Ancient History All Frontline Books

By Basil Henry Liddell Hart
Frontline Books
Pages: 281
ISBN: 9781473898080
Published: 17th July 2017

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Born in Rome in 236 BC, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, also known as Scipio the African, Scipio Africanus-Major (so named because of his military victories in Africa), Scipio Africanus the Elder, or Scipio the Great, is considered by many to be one of Rome’s greatest generals and one of the most exciting and dynamic leaders in history. As commander, he never lost a battle. Skillful alike in strategy and in tactics, he had also the faculty of inspiring his soldiers with confidence. As the author recounts, ‘Scipio’s battles are richer in stratagems and ruses – many still feasible today – than those of any other commander in history.’

Scipio was viewed as hero by the general Roman populace. He was, after all, the first Roman general to expand Roman territories outside Italy and the islands around the mainland. In military terms, he is particularly remembered for his command of the army that defeated Hannibal in the final battle of the Second Punic War in 202 BC. Yet it is his adversary, Hannibal, who has lived on in public memory.

Despite his achievements, Scipio had many powerful political enemies in Rome. In his later years, he was tried for bribery and treason, unfounded charges that were only meant to discredit him before the public. Disillusioned by the ingratitude of his peers, Scipio left Rome and withdrew from public life. At the approximate age of 53, Scipio died at his estate in Liternum, Campania (now Patria, Italy), circa 183 BC.

In this detailed and authoritative biography, the renowned historian B.H. Liddell Hart uncovers the story of Scipio’s astonishing rise to command in his early twenties, his charisma and inspirational leadership, and successes and achievements – revealing, in the process, just why this Roman general deserves a better place in history.

Remarkable biography.

Prétorien magazine, No. 45

Usually I prefer to read “up to date” history books, taking into account modern scholarship, archaeology and research.

This biography of Scipio Africanus was first published in 1926, as evidenced by the old-fashioned font, and slightly archaic language. Indeed, some expressions had me diving for the dictionary (eg. fugacious, halmawize). But the writing style is elegant and a pleasure to read.

The life and military exploits of this Scipio are quite amazing, and fully justify the comparison with Napoleon. But the book is fascinating on other levels. The author is clearly a military expert, having personally experienced the Western front of WW1. And he frequently compares the events of the ~200BC defeat of Carthage in the second Punic war, with the defeat of Germany and the resulting Versailles treaty, with its ultimate disastrous consequences.

There are no pictures in this book, but there are some good maps. No footnotes and just a brief bibliography of ancient sources. It is a book which I found to be satisfying and thought provoking. I absolutely recommend it.

Dr John Viggers, Freelance

About Basil Henry Liddell Hart

Born on 31 October 1895, Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart, commonly known throughout most of his career as Captain B.H. Liddell Hart, was a British soldier, military historian and military theorist who was known for his advocacy of mechanized warfare. Having enlisted in the Army in 1914, Liddell Hart served on the Western Front, being wounded on a number of occasions. Participating in the Battle of the Somme, he was hit three times without serious injury before being badly gassed and sent out of the line on 19 July 1916. The experiences Liddell Hart endured in the trenches profoundly affected him for the rest of his life. He passed away on 29 January 1970 aged 74.

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