Roman Generals > Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio

Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio

Punic Wars - Punic Wars Decoration

Background

Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Asina (lived 3rd century BC) was a Roman politician involved in the First Punic War. Scipio Asina was a patrician member of the Scipiones branch of the famous Cornelii, a family with a history as old as the Roman Republic itself. He was son of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus and brother of Lucius Cornelius Scipio (consul 259 BC). Elected senior consul for the year 260 BC, Scipio Asina had the honour of commanding the first Roman fleet launched to the Mediterranean Sea. While patrolling the waters of the Messina strait between Italy and Sicily with the first vessels, Scipio Asina received the information that Lipara, in the Lipari Islands, was about to change to the Roman side. Eager to secure such an important port and to cover himself with glory, he rushed to the islands without considering security. It is not sure if the Carthaginians planned the whole affair, but the Roman fleet was trapped in the harbor by Hannibal Gisco. Without naval warfare experience, the crews panicked and escaped to land, leaving the ships unattended and Scipio Asina to be made prisoner by the Carthaginians. Although there was hardly any fighting, the encounter is known as the Battle of the Lipari Islands. His mishap earned him the pejorative cognomen of Asina ("ass", literally "female donkey", in Latin), given by political opponents. Neither the humiliation, nor his loss, ended his career; in 254 BC, Scipio Asina was elected consul for the second time and, with his co-consul Aulus Atilius Caiatinus, succeeded in the conquest of Panormus (Palermo, now capital of Sicily).

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources