7.14.2009

More Thoughts on Scipio Africanus

Although the title of this post refers to Scipio, I'm more concerned now with his historians. In my previous Scipio-related post, I described B.H. Liddell Hart as "a good historian." Upon reading Dr. John Lewis' book review of another work on Scipio, I have my doubts as to how good he was.

Dr. Lewis reviewed Richard A. Gabriel's Scipio Africanus: Rome's Greatest Generalin the Michigan War Studies Review, and he has this to say about Scipio, Gabriel, and Hart:
Richard Gabriel, a retired U.S. army officer and a distinguished and prolific military historian, has set out to correct a historical injustice: the misunderstanding and neglect that is often the fate of great military commanders. There is a plethora of books on Hannibal, who launched a war of conquest and was defeated, but no current scholarly biography of the genius who defeated him. B.H. Liddell Hart's 1926 Scipio Africanus: A Greater than Napoleon was written in defiance of the anti-Scipionic, pro-Hannibalic works then flooding the market, but as Gabriel notes, that work is neither scholarly, accurate, nor comprehensive. ... Gabriel has crafted an energetic narrative that remains true to the evidence. He stresses Scipio's stature as "Rome's Greatest General," without falling into conjecture or unsupported encomium. [bold added]
So, while Scipio is still deserving of more positive treatment than he has generally received, it seems that the only historical work I have read about him was overly gushing and inaccurate in places.

Dr. Lewis notes that Gabriel's book "exposes inconsistencies in the major sources—Polybius gets some dressing down, while the poetic Punica of Silius Italicus is given a bit more credence than it deserves—and then presents commonsensical solutions to the problems that arise." I had intended to read Polybius next, but I think I'll get more out of Gabriel's treatment, and will then be better armed to tackle Polybius with a more critical eye.

Considering the positive review by a man I know to be an expert, it looks like I have another book to add to my reading list!

1 comment:

madmax said...

Oh wow. Thanks for this! I didn't know that Dr. Lewis had written a book review on the subject of Affricanus. Fascinating stuff.