Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236–183 BC), also known as Scipio the Elder and Scipio the Great, was a Roman statesman and a general in the Second Punic War. He was lauded as one of the greatest commanders in military history.
He joined the war against the Carthaginians at an early age, at a time when Rome had seen a string of defeats. From the time Scipio took command at the age of 25, he never lost a battle. His bravery and patriotism were widely lauded, and he was elected to a Senate office in his early 20s, despite being under the age threshold for Senate membership.
In 210 BC, he led a Roman offensive to Hispania (Iberia). No other candidates sought the office – it was considered a death sentence. Scipio however led a successful military campaign, and greatly expanded Rome's territory in Iberia.
In 205 BC, he was elected consul at the age of 31. In 203 BC, he destroyed the combined armies of the Carthaginians and Numidians, with a volunteer army. His defeat of Hannibal at Zama was the final battle of the Second Punic War, and paved the way for Carthage's eventual destruction in 146 BC.
Scipio was known as a man of great intellect and culture, a graceful orator, and a humane and fair leader. He was influenced by Greek styles, religion and culture – earning him condemnation from more conservative Romans, who feared that Greek influence was making Roman men effeminate.
Scipio is supposed to have been possessed of "second sight", and is said to have had prescient dreams in which he saw the future.
Scipio and Gaius Laelius were childhood friends. Laelius accompanied Scipio on his Iberian campaign, and contributed to Scipio's victories.