Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum

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Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum (died 141 BC) was a Roman statesman and member of the gens Cornelia.

Corculum was the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica (himself consul in 191 BC), and was thus a first cousin once removed of the Roman general Scipio Africanus.[1]

In 168 BC Corculum fought under Africanus's brother-in-law Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus in Macedon. He commanded one of the wings, as described by Livy.

Political career[edit]

Corculum became consul for the first time in 162 BC but he and his colleague Gaius Marcius Figulus abdicated when something went wrong with the auspices.[2]

Corculum was elected censor in 159 BC with Marcus Popillius Laenas despite his abortive consulship. During his censorship he decreed that no statues of public officials may be erected on the forum without public approval of the Senate or the people.

During his second consulship in 155 BC, Corculum defeated the Dalmatians and was granted a triumph.

He became pontifex maximus in 150 BC (after a two-year interregnum after the death of the previous pontiff Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (consul 187 and 175 BC) and princeps senatus in 147 BC. (Lepidus had served as both during his lifetime; Scipio Africanus had been chosen princeps senatus but was never a pontifex maximus).

During the period 159-149 BC, Corculum was a political opponent of Marcus Porcius Cato and pleaded that Rome not destroy Carthage. According to Plutarch's conjecture and Appian's later definite assertion, that was because Corculum feared that the destruction of Rome's main rival would lead to the decline of Roman morals and discipline. When Cato insisted "Carthago delenda est" (Carthage must be destroyed), Corculum responded that Carthage must be saved.[3] However, even as princeps senatus, Corculum lost political influence when Carthage plunged into war with Massinissa of Numidia, a war which was against the provisions of the fifty-year treaty signed that Rome considered permanent (but that Greek jurists considered had expired). The reality was that Rome wanted to destroy Carthage, seeing how rapidly the city had rebounded from severe fines and years of warfare, and thus encouraged the Numidians to repeatedly attack Carthaginian territory.[4] Nevertheless, Scipio Corculum was discredited as a champion of Carthage and his political opponent Cato was triumphant. Corculum lived through the Third Punic War (ended by his kinsman Scipio Aemilianus); Cato lived to see that war being declared.[5]

As Corculum was succeeded as pontifex maximus in 141 BC by his own son, it is reasonable to assume he died that year.


Corculum was married to his second cousin Cornelia Africana Major, eldest daughter of Scipio Africanus, with whom he was father of Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio (who became consul in 138 BC and who succeeded his father as Pontifex Maximus in 141 BC). No other children are known, nor is the date of the marriage or Cornelia's death. However, the marriage apparently took place around 184-183 BC, in the lifetime of her father Scipio Africanus.[6] This marriage between second cousins was the first known marriage that took place within a Roman gens.[7][8]

His son Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio became consul in 138 BC; his grandson Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica (IV) also became consul. The last consul in this line was his great-great-grandson Metellus Scipio (father-in-law of Pompey the Great). The last living descendant in the direct line was Cornelia Metella, widow of Pompey the Great. Other descendants, if any, are unknown.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mladjov, Ian. "Relationships Between Several Roman Noble Families" (PDF). Ian Mladjov's Resources. University of Michigan. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  2. ^ Plutarch, Life of Marcellus, 5; T. R. Broughton, The magistrates of the Roman Republic, p. 442.
  3. ^ Plutarch, Life of Cato, Section 27; Appian, The Foreign Wars, The Punic Wars, aka The History of Rome, Chapter 10, Section 69.
  4. ^ "Third Punic War". UNRV History. UNRV Team. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
  5. ^ Penny cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Volume 6. C. Knight. 1836. p. 376.
  6. ^ William Smith (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, says of Cornelia: "The elder daughter of P. Scipio Africanus the elder, was married in her father's life-time to P. Scipio Nasica. (Liv. xxxviii. 57 ; Polyb. xxxii. 13.)" "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-03. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
  7. ^ Friedrich Engels. Frederick Engels. Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State, "Chapter VI: The Gens and the State in Rome" states that there was an "[ob]ligation not to marry within the gens. This seems never to have become written law in Rome, but the custom persisted. Of all the countless Roman married couples whose names have been preserved, there is not one where husband and wife have the same gentile name. The law of inheritance also proves the observance of this rule. The woman loses her agnatic rights on marriage and leaves her gens; neither she nor her children can inherit from her father or his brothers, because otherwise the inheritance would be lost to the father's gens. There is no sense in this rule unless a woman may not marry a member of her own gens." This is clearly not true, because Scipio Nasica famously was married to Cornelia Africana Major, his second cousin and his patrilineal cousin. However, there are no earlier known marriages within the gens, although the names of most wives of prominent Romans before the Middle Republic are completely unknown. Engels however points that Theodor Mommsen claims "that the Roman women who belonged to a gens had originally been permitted to marry only within the gens, that the gens had therefore been endogamous, not exogamous." Engels however believes that this claim of Mommsen stems from a misreading of an ancient statute relating to a freedwoman who was granted the right to marry outside the gens; in Engel's view, this refers to a second marriage, which meant that property acquired by the first marriage could pass outside the gens. For Engels, the idea that Roman gentes were endogamous is not only fantastic, but contradicts the little-known history of Roman marriages. For example, Fabian women were known to marry prominent plebeians in the Early Republic. Lewis Morgan (1877) apparently relying entirely on Engels, also claims that marriage out of the gens was obligatory, but does not make his case either. What seems to be the case is that as late as 212 BC Scipio Africanus referred to a fellow Cornelian, apparently the future consul Marcus Cornelius Cethegus, as his brother; later in 193 BC, Scipio's rivals noted that he was pleading for the election not of his own brother but a mere "half-brother", a term apparently used for a cousin, namely Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica who eventually became consul in 191 BC. If fellow gentiles referred to each other as brothers, presumably they viewed the sisters of their gentilical agnates possibly as their sisters. Marriage to a gentilical "sister" might be viewed as incestuous. No article on Roman marriage online addresses this issue however.
  8. ^ The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia states "The members were united in worship of the common ancestor, and marriage within the gens was discouraged."[1]


  • William Smith (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1870.
Political offices
Preceded by
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and Manius Iuventius Thalna
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Gaius Marcius Figulus
162 BC
Succeeded by
Publius Cornelius Lentulus and Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus
Preceded by
Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Lupus and Gaius Marcius Figulus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Marcus Claudius Marcellus
155 BC
Succeeded by
Quintus Opimius and Lucius Postumius Albinus
(Suffect: Manius Acilius Glabrio)