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Scipio Africanus: The Man Who Defeated Hannibal

Author(s): Leckie, Ross Pages: 347
Publisher: Regnery Publishing, Inc. Date of Publication: 1998
Reading Level: Genre:
Setting: Spain/Italy/Africa Period: ca. 220-180 BC (Code: 4a)
Rome Setting: y/5 Christian/Jewish/Pagan: p
Mystery: n First Person: yx2
Detective/Narrator: Scipio & Bostar
Subject: 'the amanuensis Bostar recounts his own fortunes after (evidently) leaving the service of Hannibal, and those of Scipio. The narratives are intertwined, though for what reason remains unclear since they have no impact upon one another, and the life of this Bostar is not all that interesting, or plausible (a Carthaginian, with a very Punic sounding name, successfully passing himself off as a Bithynian teacher from Chalcedon in the midst of Hannibal's invasion?). The Scipionic tales are told by Scipio himself in flashback as he awaits the results of the "trials" of the 180s. Leckie's Scipio is in a morose mood as he tells his life story, the details of which here seem amazingly dull. The trials themselves are glossed over as broadly damning to Scipio and his brother (who here commits suicide) but are not explored in detail. We are treated to intimate details of the young Scipio's sexual fantasies, but none of the mature Scipio's reported tendencies to commune with the gods (most notably Neptune and Jupiter). The depiction of the important battles is interestingly done, but the events of the war (especially the Spanish campaigns) are so drastically telescoped that they bear little resemblance to the tale as it is best known. ... Part of the problem resides in the countless small and large errors introduced by the author into the narrative. He does not know what a patrician is, for example, so Cato becomes one along with Scipio. He has evidently confused Fabius Pictor, the historian, with Fabius Maximus the general; at any rate, Pictor gets a lot of credit for senatorial policy and Maximus is not mentioned once in a book about the Hannibalic War. The opening campaigns are quite inaccurate, though once again the battles are well drawn. And the entire scope of the Roman war plan is drastically and unnecessarily compressed. There are also recurring and annoying mannerisms, such as a tendency to quote famous aphorisms, some ancient, some not, by putting them achronologically into the mouths of the characters. Most annoying of all is the portrayal of Cato, who becomes a virtually illiterate country bumpkin who speaks bad Latin with a hideous accent and has presumptions beyond his years and station (at the age of 17 or 18, for example, he is already giving Scipio and others a piece of his mind): he reminds me of the very young Widmerpool in Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time (though Widmerpool is better and more plausibly drawn). Over all, anyone familiar with the characters and the era is unlikely to admire this book. Perhaps those less familiar will find characterizations and episodes to enjoy.' James S Ruebel, Dept of Classics, Iowa State Univ jsruebel@iastate.edu
Unique Qualities: sequel to Leckie's Hannibal
Rating: 'anyone familiar with the characters and the era is unlikely to admire this book. Perhaps those less familiar will find characterizations and episodes to enjoy.' ( James S Ruebel, Iowa State Univ)

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