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Scipio Africanus: Rome's Greatest General Hardcover – June 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


“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.”—Mordechai Gichon, professor emeritus of military history and archaeology, Tel Aviv University, and Fellow of the Society of Antiquities
(Mordechai Gichon 2008-05-30)

“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.”—David George, professor of classics senior fellow at the American School of Classics in Athens, Greece
(David George 2008-05-30)

“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.”—Steve Weingartner, editor of the Cantigny Military History Series and author of Chariots Like a Whirlwind
(Steve Weingartner 2008-05-30)

“Written in a fluid narrative style making it accessible to general readers as well as historians.”—Book News, Inc.
(Book News, Inc. 2008-11-21)

"Worth reading."—Ancient Warfare
(Ancient Warfare 2009-01-06)

“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.”—Choice
(Choice 2009-07-15)

About 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books; 3rd Printing edition (June 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597972053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597972055
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #798,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 79 people found the following review helpful By M. Cotone on August 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sharing Mr Gabriel's observation that no one has written a biography of Scipio which truly evaluates the man's place in Roman military history, and being myself something of a fan of the great Africanus, I was very much looking forward to reading this one, but could only struggle about halfway through before giving up in frustration and annoyance. The sources of both are many. While conceding that Gabriel's descriptions and speculations about Scipio's campaigns and battles are interesting--even when he overlooks his own earlier solutions to questions which he later poses--I found his projection of the modern political and military mindset onto Carthage and Rome most annoying. Both states emerge in his narrative as modern entities of some sort, in which a thought-out policy is established by the civilian government and entrusted to the military for execution. Such was certainly not the case with either city, and certainly not the case with the Barcids' activity in Spain, which was viewed with enormous suspicion by their political rivals in Carthage. Equally annoying is the author's habit of contradicting himself within a matter of lines, e.g., the Spanish city of Saguntum is identified as an independent city and half a paragraph later is said to revolt against Carthage; his obvious unfamiliarity with the Latin language and its terminology, e.g., his translation of "mare clausum" as the enclosing (instead of enclosed) sea and identification of the term "legion" as deriving from Romulus' primitive army instead of the word for "to pick" or "select"; and his tendency to the grandiose, e.g., describing the situation of Rome's allies as obliged to help her "for decades" against Hannibal, thirteen years after his arrival in Italy.Read more ›
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Froideterre on November 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Richard Gabriel has written what must be regarded as the definitive biography of Scipio and, in doing so, argues convincingly that Scipio was Rome's greatest general-was, in fact, one of the greatest captains of antiquity.

Augustin and Elissa de Cartago, however, are not persuaded by Gabriel's arguments. Augustin notes and implicitly agrees with Gabriel's view that "the brilliance of a general depends on the quality of his defeated opponents," but goes on to assert that "the only great opponent Scipio ever defeated was Hannibal at Zama, a victory scored by luck and the fortunate arrival of Massinissa's cavalry at the battlefield in the nick of time." He thus dismisses Gabriel's observation that the Carthaginian generals Scipio faced in Spain were quite competent, citing in particular "the bungling Hasdrupal Gisco" as "surely the sorriest excuse for a commander in the Wars." But how do we know that Gisco and his brethren were incompetent? Because they were beaten by Scipio!

What seems to have escaped Augustin's attention is that the quality of generals can only be assessed after the fact, by the outcome of the battles they fought and by their performance in those battles; or that, relatedly, the supposedly poor quality of Scipio's opponents might be a function of Scipio's talents. In universe of tautological thinking that Augustin inhabits, we know he Carthaginian generals lose because they're incompetent; and we know they're incompetent because they lose.

One imagines that Augustin is perplexed by Scipio's astonishing good luck in facing a succession of Carthage's incompetent generals. Where, one wonders, were the competent Carthaginian generals? Vacationing in the Balearic Islands? Lolling on the sands of Carthage's municipal beaches?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By H. Williams on January 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When historians and soldiers talk about the punic war,they mention a number of points.That it was key in Rome's rise as an empire,that the leading star was Hannibal,that key military concepts such as the Fabian strategy,the double envelopment,the battle of annhilation,of fighting on after losing the first couple of battles originated with this war.We often hear stories of how Hannibal crossed the Alps with his elephants or how he destroyed 3 different roman armies in 3 different battles (the last one ,Cannae is held as a tactical masterpiece).We hear how Fabius used a pseudo-guerilla strategy of avoiding battles with Hannibal and eroding his army through skirmishes or how the Battle of Metaurus is one of the decisive battles of world history where one Roman general after receiving intelligence of Hasdrubal (hannibal's brother ) arrival ,made a forced march to join up with another Roman general to launch a surprise attack on Hasdrubal ,destroying his army and killing him in the process and saving Rome.What we very rarely hear about the Punic war is the story of the most brilliant general to have fought in that war,Scipio Africanus.
In this masterpiece of a book,Richard Gabriel relates the story of this most brilliant of generals and makes a convincing argument that not only was he a great general but also a master grand strategist and one who had formidable political skills.Scipio ,haing survived a number of early battles went on to revolutionize the Roman army in terms of boldness,tactics,organization,weapons and the use of intelligence.
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