Roman Consul, Scipio Africanus: Rome’s Savior in Its Darkest Hour

by Jefferson P. Webb

When engaged in a discussion of great military leaders of the ancient world, one cannot help but bring up the figure of Roman Consul Scipio Africanus (236 – 183 BCE).1 Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus proved to be exactly what Rome needed to break an ever increasing series of horrifying defeats at the hands of Carthaginian general, Hannibal Barca, during the Second Punic War, also known as the Hannibalic War. Until the war against Hannibal’s invasion of Roman Italy and Spain, the Roman army had been the masters of the battlefield.

Scipio Africanus

But facing what can only be described as tactical genius in the form of the leadership of Hannibal, Rome was losing tens of thousands of men in single battles like the battles of Lake Trasimine, and Trebia, among others. What was it about the leadership of Scipio that set him apart from his Roman peers, and earned him the honor of being the first Roman titled with a place-name, Africanus, relating to the location of his masterful victory over Hannibal?

Scipio was of one of the most powerful and well respected families in Rome, the Cornelii family. This family had been very influential in Roman politics and military affairs for generations having members of its family serve as consuls and magistrates.2 The first record of Scipio’s military career was while he was in service under his father’s command in Northern Italy, engaged in combat actions against the invading Carthaginian army under Hannibal’s command.3 This action may or may not have been Scipio’s first taste of combat as seventeen year old, but he is recorded and celebrated for his heroic actions. During the battle his father’s position was encircled and his force in grave danger. Scipio’s father, also named Scipio had been wounded and was in danger of being killed or captured by the Carthaginians. Without hesitation Scipio charged the Carthaginians, for a moment alone as the soldiers with him hesitated to attack, and rescued his father.4 Scipio was held in great esteem by the Romans for his act of heroism. Continue reading “Roman Consul, Scipio Africanus: Rome’s Savior in Its Darkest Hour”

Roman Consul Gaius Marius and the Marian Reforms

Although Consul Gaius Marius (157-86 BCE)1 of Ancient Rome is known as one of the most controversial players on the stage of Ancient Roman history, he is likewise perhaps the greatest contributor to the increased battlefield proficiency that became what people today think of when we think of the powerful Roman Army. In fact, in many ways Marius set the standard by which most future successful military forces were to operate on at the tactical and logistical levels.

The Marian Reforms played a pivotal
role in the future of the Roman military, economy, political and social cores of Roman society. While his Reforms took care of some problems, a whole new problem took hold. That problem came when
during the Jugurthan War in Numidia, Gaius Marius raised the first Roman volunteer army in 107 BCE.2 The army was made up of mostly poor, landless, and or unemployed men. He trained them and then defeated an enemy that had been fighting well against the Roman Army.Not only did this make Marius a hero because he defeated the enemy with his volunteer army, he managed to relieve a
great portion of Rome’s economic problem of rampant unemployment by accepting men for service that were previously not allowed into the Roman armed forces due to societal status. Ironically, some of these men had once been lower class land owners who farmed, and while away on military service their homes had been confiscated and sold off by the wealthier classes of Roman citizenry. Once they had served, but
now homeless, landless, and unemployed, without Marius they no longer were qualified for service. Marius changed that by allowing them into service in spite of their societal position. Continue reading “Roman Consul Gaius Marius and the Marian Reforms”

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