Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus (properly Asiagenes; 3rd century BC – after 183 BC) was a general and statesman of the Roman Republic. He was the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio and the younger brother of 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.
Lucius belonged to the patrician gens Cornelia, one of the most important gentes of the Republic, which counted more consulships than any other. He was the son of Publius, the consul of 218 who died against the Carthaginians at the Battle of the Upper Baetis in 211, and Pomponia, the daughter of Manius Pomponius Matho, consul in 233. Lucius also had an elder brother, Publius, better known as Scipio Africanus, who was the leading man of his generation and the vanquisher of Hannibal at the Battle of Zama in 202. Lucius was very close to his brother throughout his career, but had a conflicting relationship with his cousin Scipio Nasica since both of them were born circa 228, and therefore fought for the same magistracies at each stage of their cursus honorum.
Lucius' wife is not known.
Lucius served under his brother in Spain during the Second Punic War, defeating the Carthaginian commander Larus in a famous duel, 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. He was curule aedile in 195 BC, 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.
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.
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. Upon his return to Rome, he celebrated a triumph (189 BC) and requested the title "Asiaticus" to signify his conquest of Western Asia Minor.
Towards the end of his brother's life, Lucius was accused of misappropriating some of the funds collected from Antiochus as an indemnity. Africanus, then Princeps Senatus, was outraged, going so far as to destroy 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, 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. 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.
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.
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- Briscoe, p. 392.
- Etcheto, Les Scipions, p. 166.
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- Broughton, vol. 1 pg. 340.
- Liv. 35.24.4-5.
- Liv. xxviii. 3, 4, 17, xxxiv. 54, 55, xxxvi. 45, xxxvii. 1.
- 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.
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- This Gracchus, later a consul and censor, was father of the famous politician of the 130s. He would later marry Asiaticus's niece Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi.
- Liv. xxxviii. 60.
- Liv. xxxix. 22, 40, 44.
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