Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Major (236 – 183 BC) was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic. He was best known for defeating Hannibal of Carthage, a feat that earned him the agnomen Africanus, the nickname the Roman Hannibal and recognition as one of the finest commanders in military history.
- I am mindful of human weakness, and I reflect upon the might of Fortune and know that everything that we do is exposed to a thousand chances. But, just as I should admit that I were acting with arrogance and violence if, before I had crossed over to Africa, I were to reject you when you were voluntarily withdrawing from Italy and, while your army was already on shipboard, you were coming in person to sue for peace, so now, when I have dragged you to Africa, resisting and shifting ground as we almost came to blows, I am under no obligation to respect you. Therefore, if to the terms upon which peace was formerly about to be made, as it seemed, you are adding some kind of compensation for the ships loaded with supplies that were taken by force during the armistice, and for violence done to my envoys, I have reason to bring it before the council. But if that addition also seems too severe, prepare for war, since you have been unable to endure a peace.
- Reply to Hannibal's attempt to set terms for peace, prior to the Battle of Zama, as quoted in Livy. Books XXVIII-XXX With An English Translation (1949), Book 30, Ch. 31
- Variant translation:
- I am aware of the frailty of man, I think about the power of fortune, and I know that all our actions are at the mercy of a thousand vicissitudes. Now I admit that it would have been arrogant and headstrong reaction on my part if you had come to sue for peace before I crossed to Africa, and I had rejected your petition when you were yourself voluntarily quitting Italy, and had your troops embarked on your ships. But, as it is, I have forced you back to Africa, and you are reluctant and resisting almost to the point of fighting, so that I feel no need to show you any consideration. Accordingly, if something is actually added to the terms on which it seems probable that a peace could be concluded — some sort of indemnity for the forceful appropriation of our ships, along with their cargoes, during truce and for the violation of our envoys — then I have something to take to my council. But if you consider even that to be excessive, prepare for war, for you have found peace intolerable.
- Hannibal's War : Books Twenty-one to Thirty by Livy, as translated by John Yardley (2006), p. 600
- Prepare to fight — for, evidently, you have found peace intolerable.
- Let us make war, since evidently, you have found peace intolerable.
- Ingrata patria, ne ossa quidem habebis.
- Ungrateful fatherland, not even my bones shalt thou have!
- Epitaph ordered by Scipio to be placed upon his tomb in Campania, as quoted in Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men (Ticknor, 1887), p. 477
Quotes about Scipio
- The art of generalship does not age, and it is because Scipio's battles are richer in stratagems and ruses — many still feasible today — than those of any other commander in history that they are an unfailing object-lesson to soldiers.
- B. H. Liddell Hart in Scipio Africanus : Greater Than Napoleon (1926) Preface
- Scipio had a clear grasp of what is just dawning on the mind of the world today — that the true national object in war, as in peace, is a more perfect peace. War is a result of a menace to this policy, and is undertaken to remove the menace, and by the subjugation of the will of a hostile State. "to change this adverse will into a compliance with our own policy, and the sooner and more cheaply in lives and money we can do this, the better chance of national prosperity in the widest sense. The aim of a nation in war is, therefore, to subdue the enemy's will to resist with the least possible human and economic loss to itself."
- B. H. Liddell Hart in Scipio Africanus : Greater Than Napoleon (1926) Ch. X : A Violated Peace, p. 153, using a quote of himself from one of his previous works Paris, or the Future of War (1925)
- We cannot separate the nobility of Scipio's moral conduct, throughout his career, from the transcendent clearness of his mental vision — they blended to form not only a great general but a great man.
- B. H. Liddell Hart in Scipio Africanus : Greater Than Napoleon (1926), Ch. X : A Violated Peace, p. 162
- Cato tells us that Publius Scipio, who was called Africinus, used to say that he was never less at leisure than when at leisure, or less alone than when alone.
- Henry Morley, in Illustrations of English Religion (1877), p. 417; this has also become paraphrased as if it were direct quote: I'm never less at leisure than when at leisure, or less alone than when alone.