Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus the younger (185 - 129 BC), was the younger son of Lucius Aemilius Paullus, the conqueror of Macedonia. He fought when a youth of seventeen by his father's side at the Battle of Pydna, which decided the fate of Macedonia and made northern Greece subject to Rome. He was adopted (see Adoption in Rome) by Publius Cornelius Scipio, the eldest son of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major, and from him took the name Scipio with the surname Africanus.
In 151, a time of disaster for the Romans in Spain, he voluntarily offered his services in that province and developed an influence over the native tribes similar to that which the elder Scipio, his grandfather by adoption, had acquired nearly sixty years before. In the next year an appeal was made to him by the Carthaginians to act as mediator between them and the Numidian prince Massinissa, who, supported by a party at Rome, was incessantly encroaching on Carthaginian territory. In 149 war was declared by Rome, and a force sent to besiege Carthage. In the early operations of the war, which went altogether against the Romans, Scipio, though a subordinate officer, distinguished himself repeatedly, and in 147 he was elected consul, while yet under the legal age, in order that he might hold the supreme command. After a year of desperate fighting and splendid heroism on the part of the defenders he conquered Carthage, and at the Roman Senate's bidding levelled it to the ground. On his return to Rome he celebrated a splendid triumph, having also established a personal claim to his adoptive surname of Africanus. In 142, during his censorship, he endeavoured to check the growing luxury and immorality of the period. In 139 he was unsuccessfully accused of high treason by Tiberius Claudius Asellus, whom he had degraded when censor. The speeches delivered by him on that occasion (now lost) were considered brilliant. In 134 he was again consul, with the province of Spain, where a demoralized Roman army was vainly attempting the conquest of Numantia on the Durius (Douro). After devoting several months to restoring the discipline of his troops, he reduced the city by blockade. The fall of Numantia in 133 established the Roman dominion in the province of Hither Spain. For his services Scipio received the additional surname of Numantinus.
Scipio himself, though not in sympathy with the extreme conservative party, was decidedly opposed to the schemes of the Gracchi (whose sister Sempronia was his wife). When he heard of the death of Tiberius Gracchus, he is said to have quoted the line from the Odyssey (i. 47), "So perish all who do the like again"; after his return to Rome he was publicly asked by the tribune C. Papirius Carbo what he thought of the fate of Gracchus, and replied that he was justly slain. This gave dire offence to the popular party, which was now led by his bitterest foes. Soon afterwards, in 129, on the morning of the day on which he had intended to make a speech in reference to the agrarian proposals of the Gracchi, he was found dead in bed. The mystery of his death was never solved, and there were political reasons for letting the matter drop, but there is little doubt that he was assassinated by one of the supporters of the Gracchi, probably Carbo, whom Cicero expressly accused of the crime.
The younger Scipio, great general and great man as he was, is forever associated with the destruction of Carthage. The horror he expressed at its fate was a tardy repentance. Yet he was a man of culture and refinement; he gathered round him such men as the Greek historian Polybius, the philosopher Panaetius, and the poets Lucilius and Terence. At the same time he had all the virtues of an old-fashioned Roman, according to Polybius and Cicero, the latter of whom gives an appreciation of him in his De republica, in which Scipio is the chief speaker. As a speaker he seems to have been no less distinguished than as a soldier. He spoke remarkably good and pure Latin, and he particularly enjoyed serious and intellectual conversation. After the capture of Carthage he gave back to the Greek cities of Sicily the works of art of which Carthage had robbed them. He did not avail himself of the many opportunities he must have had of amassing a fortune. Though politically opposed to the Gracchi, he cannot be said to have been a foe to the interests of the people. He was, in fact, a moderate man, in favor of conciliation, and he was felt by the best men to be a safe political adviser, while he unfortunately contrived to offend both parties.
See Polybius xxxv. 4, xxxix.; Veilerius Pat. i. 12; Florus ii. 15, 17, 18; Appian, Punica, 72, 98, 113-131, IIisp. 48-95, Bell. Civ. i. 19; Plutarch, Aemilius Paullus, 22, Tiberius Gracchus, 21, C. Gracchus, 10; Gellius iv. 20, v. 19; Cicero, De oral. ii. 40.
This article incorporates material from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.