Great Captains of Antiquity

By Richard A. Gabriel | Go to book overview

6

Scipio Africanus

(236–183 B.C.E.)

The great animal pulled hard at the reins, anxious for the fight. The young cavalry officer used all his strength to restrain the excited horse. The heat of the animal’s body against his legs helped ward off the deep chill of the December day. Snow and sleet swept the hill on which he and his men waited obscuring his view of the battle raging in the valley below where 2,000 Roman cavalry were locked in deadly combat with their Carthaginian foes. The sounds of mortal struggle, swords clashing against shields, men yelling, animals screeching from the pain of freshly-inflicted wounds, carried over the ridge of the valley raising excitement in the heart of the young Roman officer in command of the cavalry troop. He was angry. Anxious for his first battle, he had instead been sent out of harm’s way by the Roman commander himself. He had not dared to protest, for the consul was his senior officer, and the first thing a young 17-year-old Roman officer learned was to obey orders. So here he sat, safe, out of the fight, watching his father lead men into the thick of battle, risking his own life while safeguarding the life of his son.

The consul had led his cavalry across the Ticinus River in the Po Valley this day in search of Hannibal’s army and had stumbled into the advanced cavalry guard of the Carthaginians. Within minutes, both cavalry forces were engaged in ferocious fighting in which neither side possessed an advantage. For more than an hour the young cavalryman watched his father fight at the center of the slaughter, his men fighting beside him and protecting the great general and consul of Rome. Then, without warning, a Carthaginian pierced the bodyguard’s line and struck at the Roman commander, his spear finding its target in the general’s arm. A flash of hot pain rose in the general’s brain as the force of the blow struck him from his horse. From the hill above the battle the young officer

-147-

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Great Captains of Antiquity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Foreword xv
  • 1 - In the Beginning 1
  • 2 - Thutmose III of Egypt 19
  • 3 - Sargon II of Assyria 51
  • 4 - Philip II of Macedon 83
  • 5 - Hannibal 111
  • 6 - Scipio Africanus 147
  • 7 - Caesar Augustus 181
  • 8 - On the Origins of Great Captains 213
  • Notes 223
  • Selected Bibliography 227
  • Index 233
  • About the Author 243
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