Lucius Cornelius Scipio

A new year (259) brought in two new consuls, one of them being Lucius Cornelius Scipio. This Lucius Cornelius Scipio is not to be confused with his famous father Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, or Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus (the brother of Scipio Africanus), or the other Asiaticus… or any of the other Lucius Cornelius Scipio’s.  Anyways, despite the success of Gaius Duilius, the admiralty was given over to our Lucius Cornelius Scipio. The land forces in Sicily were left to his consular colleague Gaius Aquillius Florus. Interestingly, Polybius writes literally nothing of either consul during their time in command. Instead, we must look into secondary sources for accounts of these two consuls.

     Using his power over the fleet it seems that Scipio believed there was good reason to strike at Carthage a little more indirectly by assaulting the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. The Carthaginians had a presence established on the islands for quite some time, though there is little evidence that they could be called major naval bases to strike at Italy from. Still, with the struggle in Sicily altering back and forth Scipio sailed first to Corsica, the more northern island of the two.
     He took the most important port city of Aleria, situated on the eastern coast, by force. Even though Corsica had been in the Carthaginian sphere of influence for some time, it is likely that they had only a bare minimum presence on the island. This could be why Scipio chose to fight in Corsica first before Sardinia (which had a larger Carthaginian garrison). I do suppose it would be much easier to take a major town by force if there is little to no actual garrison defending it. This may also be why Zonaras describes how Scipio captured Aleria and “subdued the other places without difficulty.” (Zonaras 8.11)1 It is extremely unlikely that Scipio would have been able to take most of Corsica so quickly. He would have also faced resistance from the local Corsican population which would have definitely given him some “difficulty.”
     It is likely that Lucius Cornelius Scipio took Aleria after a brief struggle and secured the surrounding area of the port town. With Aleria secured as a naval base of operations Scipio was able to continue on south to the island of Sardinia. On route (which would literally be less than a day’s rowing) a Carthaginian fleet came within sight of Scipio’s. However, this fleet did not engage and Scipio continued on. Off the shores of Olbia, a town near the northeast corner of Sardinia, another Carthaginian fleet appeared (or perhaps the original fleet was more of a reconnaissance force that had now combined with the rest of its fleet) made an effort towards Scipio’s fleet. At this advance, Scipio balked and withdrew. Zonaras states that Scipio’s infantry was “insufficient.” (8.11)2  Presumably these were the marines that the warships carried. This begs the question that if Scipio had limited ground forces, how did he conquer so much of Corsica without difficulty?
     Unfortunately, the other sources we have don’t clarify the issue. Annaeus Florus writes in his Epitome of Roman History that both Olbia and Aleria were destroyed by Lucius Cornelius Scipio (1.18.16)3. However, Florus also states that Sicily at this point in the war was already a province of Rome so a little salt may be needed. Others state that he took the cities, not that he destroyed them. We also have some interesting sources for Lucius Cornelius Scipio in a triumphal account and in a Scipio family epitaph poem. His official fasti acoount records that he triumphed “over the Carthaginians, Sardinia, and Corsica.”4 So it does appear that Scipio accomplished something in Sardinia. Also, his funerary epitaph is recorded as follows, “Lucius Cornelius Scipio, son of Lucius, aedile, consul, censor.” And underneath another inscription added by a family member,  “This man Lucius Scipio, as most agree, was the very best of all good men at Rome. A son of Barbatus, he was aedile, consul and censor among you; he it was who captured Corsica, Aleria too, a city. To the Goddesses of Weather {Tempestates} he gave deservedly a temple.” (CIL 12 8-95 A shout-out goes to for making the triumphal records and the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum available on the web translated.) What is interesting here is that Corsica is not mentioned, though he triumphed officially for it.
     Perhaps then Lucius Cornelius Scipio did go to Corsica and “took” Aleria, perhaps without any major fighting. Then in regards to Sardinia he may have one some sort of victory, likely around or for Olbia. Here, especially if a naval engagement was involved, the weather may have aided Scipio in some sense. This would explain his dedication of a temple to a weather deity. At any rate, any threat of raiding from these two islands by Carthage would have been largely disrupted by this endeavor, though in the grand scheme of the war, these islands were more of a secondary theater of operations. Now we must turn to Scipio’s colleague Gaius Aquillius Florus who was commanding the forces in Sicily.
  1. Cassius Dio and Zonaras. Roman History. Translated by Earnest Cary. 1914.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Lucius Annaeus Florus. Epitome of Roman History. Translated by E. S. Forster. 1929.
  4. Fasti Triumphales.
  5. Latin Inscriptions: Epitaphs.