Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus

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Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus (3rd century BC–aft. 183 BC) was a Roman general and statesman. He was the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio and the younger brother of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. He was elected consul in 190 BC, and later that year led (with his brother) the Roman forces to victory at the Battle of Magnesia.

Although his career may be eclipsed by the shadow of his elder brother, Lucius' life is noteworthy in several respects.

Early career[edit]

Lucius served under his brother in Spain during the Second Punic War, and in 208 BC took a town on his own. In 206 BC, he was sent to the Senate with news of the victory in Spain.[1] He was curule aedile in 195 BC,[2] and praetor assigned to Sicily in 193 BC, helped by the influence of his brother. He was a candidate for consul in 191 BC, but lost to his first cousin Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica.[3]


He was finally elected consul in 190 BC with his co-consul being his brother's old second-in-command Gaius Laelius. According to Smith, the senate had not much confidence in his abilities (Cic. Phil. xi. 17), and it was only through the offer of his brother Africanus to accompany him as a legate that he obtained the province of Greece and the conduct of the war against Antiochus.[4] The loser was therefore his co-consul Gaius Laelius, who was not a rich man and who had hoped to make his family fortunes in the East.

He asserted himself against his brother by refusing the peace negotiated with the Aetolians by the latter. However, Publius insisted that as supreme commander at Magnesia Lucius should receive full credit for the victory over Antiochus.[5] Upon his return to Rome, he celebrated a triumph (189 BC) and requested the title "Asiaticus" to signify his conquest of Western Asia Minor.

According to some biblical commentators, Asiaticus is the "commander" referred to in Daniel 11:18, where it says that "a commander will put an end to his insolence" (NIV).[6]

Political fall[edit]

Towards the end of his brother's life, Lucius was accused of misappropriating some of the funds collected from Antiochus as an indemnity. Publius, then Princeps Senatus, was outraged, going as far as destroying the campaign's financial records while speaking in the Senate, as an act of defiance.

After his brother's death (c. 183 BC), Lucius was imprisoned for this alleged theft. He was eventually pardoned by the tribune Tiberius Gracchus,[7] although he was forced to sell his property and pay the state a lump sum. Roman historians report that he refused to accept any gifts or loans from his friends to pay the penalty.

During his brother's lifetime in 185 BC, Lucius celebrated with great splendour the games which he had vowed in his war with Antiochus.[8] Valerius of Antium related that he obtained the necessary money during an embassy on which he was sent after his condemnation, to settle the disputes between the kings Antiochus and Eumenes.

He was a candidate for the censorship in 184 BC, but was defeated by an old enemy of his family, M. Porcius Cato, who deprived Lucius of his Public Horse at the review of the equites.[9] It appears, therefore, that even as late as this time an eques did not forfeit his horse by becoming a senator.

His coins are the only ones of his family to survive.


Lucius had descendants, the Cornelii Scipiones Asiatici, the last of whom was the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus who had an adoptive son. This son passed into obscurity after 82 BC.

Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus II[edit]

Livy records that the quaestor Lucius Cornelius Scipio was sent to meet King Prusias II of Bithynia and conduct him to Rome, when this monarch visited Italy in 167 BC.[10] Smith reports that this quaestor is probably to be identified with the Lucius Cornelius Scipio, son of Lucius, grandson of Publius, who is commemorated in the elogia Scipionum from the Tomb of the Scipios in Rome. His father was the conqueror of Antiochus. The inscription is:[11]

Epitaph of Asiaticus II from the Tomb of the Scipios



A transliteration into modern upper and lower case letters with punctuation, with an understood letter in brackets, is:[12]

L. Corneli. L. f. P. [n]
Scipio, quaist.,
tr. mil., annos
gnatus XXXIII
mortuos. Pater
regem Antioco subegit.

A translation into classical Latin is:[13]

Lucius Cornelius Lucii filius Publii nepos Scipio. Quaestor Tribunis Militum annos natus XXXIII mortuus. Pater regem Antiochum subegit.

A translation into English is:[14]

Lucius Cornelius, son of Lucius, grandson of Publius, Scipio, quaestor, military tribune, died aged 33 years. His father conquered king Antiochus.

Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus III[edit]

He is only known from the Fasti Capitolini.

Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus IV[edit]

Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus is first mentioned in 100 BC, when he took up arms with the other members of the senate against Saturninus (Cicero pro Rabir. Perd. 7). In the Social War he was stationed with L. Acilius in the town of Aesernia, from which they escaped in the dress of slaves on the approach of Vettius Scato.[15] He belonged to the Marian party in the civil wars, and was appointed consul in 83 BC with C. Norbanus. In this year Sulla returned to Italy, and advanced against the consuls: he defeated Norbanus, but seduced the troops of Scipio to desert their general.

The latter was taken prisoner in his camp along with his son Lucius, but was dismissed by Sulla uninjured. He was, however, included in the proscription in the following year, 82 BC, whereupon he fled to Massilia, and passed there the remainder of his life. His daughter was married to P. Sestius.[16] Cicero speaks favourably of the oratorical powers of this Scipio.[17]


  1. ^ T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (1951, 1986) vol. 1, pg 300.
  2. ^ Broughton, vol. 1 pg. 340.
  3. ^ Liv. 35.24.4-5.
  4. ^ Liv. xxviii. 3, 4, 17, xxxiv. 54, 55, xxxvi. 45, xxxvii. 1.
  5. ^ Publius offered to serve as his brother's legate, which convinced the Senate to award the Asian campaign to Lucius, rather than to the more experienced Gaius Laelius who had been Scipio's second in command in Spain. Publius was reportedly ill during the campaign, and absent from the field on the actual day of battle. It is not known whether this was a new illness or a recurrence of his illness in 206 BC. The illness was certainly very convenient for his brother who was thus allowed to gain the credit for planning and executing the campaign.
  6. ^ Jordan, James B. (2007). The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel. American Vision. p. 561.
  7. ^ This Gracchus, later a consul and censor, was father of the famous politician of the 130s. He would later marry Asiaticus's niece Cornelia Africana, mother of the Gracchi.
  8. ^ Liv. xxxviii. 60.
  9. ^ Liv. xxxix. 22, 40, 44.
  10. ^ Liv. xlv. 44
  11. ^ Wordsworth, John (1874). Fragments and specimens of early Latin, with intr. and notes. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 161.
  12. ^ Egbert, James Chidester (1896). Introduction to the Study of Latin Inscriptions (revised with supplement ed.). New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company. p. 296.
  13. ^ Thompson, Henry (1852). History of Roman literature: with an introductory dissertation on the sources and formation of the Latin language (2, revised and enlarged ed.). London: J. J. Griffin. p. lxviii.
  14. ^ Flower, Harriet I. (2000). Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture (3, illustrated, reprint ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-19-924024-1.
  15. ^ Appian, B. C. i. 41.
  16. ^ Appian, B. C. i. 82, 85, 86 ; Plut. Sull. 28, Sertor. 6 ; Liv. Epit. 85 ; Florus iii. 21 ; Oros. v. 21 ; Cicero Philippicae xii. 11, xiii. 1 ; Cic. pro Sest. 3 ; Schol. Bob. in Sest. p. 293, ed. Orelli.
  17. ^ dicebat non imperite, Cicero, Brutus 47.


See also[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Manius Acilius Glabrio and Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Gaius Laelius
190 BC
Succeeded by
Gnaeus Manlius Vulso and Marcus Fulvius Nobilior