Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (priest)

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Publius Cornelius Scipio P.f. P.n. Africanus[note 1] (living circa 211 BC/205 BC–170 BC) was the eldest son of Scipio Africanus and his wife Aemilia Paulla.[note 2] He was chosen flamen dialis and was augur from 180 BC. Little information on him survives, as he did not stand for any of the high offices or have a public career of note. Cicero relates that he was in poor health, the particulars of which he refuses to mention, stating that "we ought not to reproduce ... their faults (of ancestors)."[1] Scipio died young from his poor health.

Scipio had no natural progeny. For remedy according to Roman custom he adopted as son and heir his first cousin Scipio Aemilianus (b. 185 BC) who was probably born Lucius Aemilius Paullus, second and younger surviving son of Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus by his first wife Papiria Masonis. This adoption probably took place after his brother Lucius died childless. Thereafter the son used the name Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus.

Cicero adds that the eldest son of Scipio Africanus had "more ample intellectual culture" than his father and that the state endured a loss in his not being able to seek high office.[2]


Fragments of his sarcophagus were discovered in the Tomb of the Scipios and are now in a wall of the Vatican Museums. Only the broken frontal plate survives, preserving the epitaph, written in Old Latin Saturnian meter:

A reproduction of the inscription given in Sandys.

The break obscures a few letters, marked by the brackets. The epitaph has been stated in modern upper- and lower-case script with the missing letters restored as:[3]

quei apice insigne Dial[is fl]aminis gesistei |
Mors perfe[cit] tua ut essent omnia | breuia
honos fama uirtusque | gloria atque ingenium
quibus sei | in longa licu[i]set tibe utier uita |
facile facteis superases gloriam | maiorum.
qua re lubens te in gremiu | Scipio recip[i]t
terra Publi | prognatum Publio Corneli.

and also transcribed in classical Latin verse as:[4]

...qui apicem insigne
Dialis flaminis gessisti, mors perfecit,
Tua ut essent omnia brevia, honos, fama,
Virtusque gloria atque ingenium quibus si
In longa licuisset tibi utier vita,
Facile superasses gloriam maiorum
Quare lubens te in gremium Scipio recepit
Terra Publi prognatum Publio Corneli

translated as:[5]

For you who wore the distinctive cap of a Flamen Dialis, death cut everything short – honour, fame and virtue, glory and intellectual ability. If you had been granted a long life in which to use these advantages, you would have far surpassed the glory of your ancestors by your achievements. Therefore Earth gladly takes you in her arms, Scipio – Publius Cornelius, son of Publius.

This inscription is number three of the so-called elogia Scipionum, the several epitaphs surviving from the tomb.


  1. ^ With the Roman acronyms expanded, the full name is Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Publii filius Publii nepos, translated as "Publius Cornelius Scipio son of Publius grandson of Publius." In modern times he is more popularly known as the flamen dialis because the title appears in his inscription of the elogia Scipionum.
  2. ^ The dates of Publius are uncertain, given that the dates of his parents's marriage are also uncertain. Some historians argue that Scipio Africanus married Aemilia after he returned from Spain in 206 BC, pointing to Scipio's reported comment about his betrothed wife in 209 BC (as reported by Livy). However, given that his younger brother was elected praetor in 174 BC, it is unlikely that either brother was so young as to be barely eligible for the Senate in that year. It is more likely that Scipio married Aemilia Paulla circa 212 BC or earlier, and that his two elder sons were born by 209 BC. This would make sense of the younger son's being captured by pirates circa 194–192 BC; if he was travelling to Greece or on military service, Lucius would be old enough.


  1. ^ De Officiis, I.121.
  2. ^ De Senectute XI; Brutus 77
  3. ^ Sandys, John Edwin. Latin Epigraphy: an Introduction to the Study of Latin Inscriptions. CUP Archive. p. 68. 
  4. ^ Ramsay, William (1859). A manual of Latin prosody (2 ed.). London and Glasgow: Richard Griffin and Company. p. 305. 
  5. ^ Moir, K. M. (1986). "The Epitaph of Publius Scipio". The Classical Quarterly, New Series. 36 (1): 264–266. doi:10.1017/s0009838800010764.