Scipio sĭp´ēō [key], ancient Roman family of the Cornelian gens. They were patricians. During the 3d and 2d cent. BC they were distinguished by their love of Greek culture and learning. Their wealth and extravagance were detested by the family of Cato the Elder, who worked hard to ruin them.
Cnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, d. 211 BC, consul in 222, was sent to Spain (218) to destroy the supply lines of Hannibal, who was invading Italy. He and his brother Publius defeated Hasdrubal (215) and captured Saguntum (212). They were killed in separate engagements. Publius Cornelius Scipio, d. c.211 BC, brother of Calvus, was consul in 218. He tried vainly to intercept Hannibal in Gaul, then rushed back to Italy, where he failed to hold the enemy at the Ticino River. He fought (against his judgment) at Trebbia, where Hannibal won (218) his great victory. The next year he joined Calvus in Spain. Publius was the father of the conqueror of Hannibal, Scipio Africanus Major. Africanus Major's wife was the sister of Aemilius Paullus, his daughter Cornelia was the mother of the Gracchi, and his eldest son was the adoptive father of Scipio Africanus Minor. Africanus Minor was the son of Aemilius Paullus. Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio, d. c.132 BC, consul in 138, and pontifex maximus, was a son of Africanus Major's daughter; despite the family connections he led the mob of senators that murdered Tiberius Gracchus. He left Rome to escape popular hatred. A descendant of Nasica Serapio was adopted by Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius (see under Metellus) and named Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio, d. 46 BC He early became a leader of the senatorial conservatives and was allied with Pompey from 53 BC, when he ran against Milo for the consulship. In 52, Pompey made Scipio his colleague in the consulship, and Scipio threw all his influence against Julius Caesar. He backed the measure in the senate of 49, designed to wrest the army from Caesar. In 49 BC–48 BC he was governor of Syria, where he displayed a rapacity unusual even in the Roman Empire. He commanded the center at Pharsalus and fled after the battle to Africa. He fought Caesar and lost at Thapsus and took to the sea to escape. He was met by a fleet under one of Caesar's lieutenants, and, foreseeing capture, he stabbed himself.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient History, Rome: Biographies