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In their decling years Scipio met with Hannibal who he had vanquished and asked who in Hannibal's mind was the greatest general.
"Alexander" did Hannibal reply
"And second best?"
"Pyrrus"
"And the third?"
"Myself"
"And if you had beaten me?"
"Then I would have counted myself first" did Hannibal reply.
Scipio is without doubt one of the greatest military geniuses of antiquity and should deserve a better place in history. Liddle Hart presents a strong case in his favor but that is rather a weakness than a strength in this book.
For the most part the book reads like a good fictional novel, its text is smooth and you feel that you get to know Scipio quite well and his brilliance shines without Liddle Hart attempting his comparisons to other generals of old. I found his comparisons unneccessary and sometimes a bit too much, regardless of their truth. But the book is good enough that this is only a minor annoyance ans for the most part I found it quite good. I read it after reading Hannibal by Ernle Bradford and I found that they complemented each other very well. Easily 4 stars and for the low price it is well worth the buy.
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on 16 October 2001
Lidddell Hart has written firstly a very good biography of Scipio Africanus and also a good work of Military History. His understanding of battle tactics and the decisive actions that can make victory is testimony to his own great experience. However I agree somewhat with other reviewers - he belittles the achievements of Alexander and Hannibal (although not Caesar) and I don't believe a comparison with Napoleon is necessarily.
But the underrated brilliance of Africanus: his astonishing rise to command in his early twenties, his charisma, inspirational leadership and most of all his canny understanding of Strategy in an age where few could comprehend the concept is well illustrated.
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on 26 January 2003
As ever Liddell-Hart combines his vast knowledge of all things military with his distinctive writing style. Writing shortly after the mechanised horrors of World War I which he witnessed at first hand there is no little melancholy about the book, this is a quest for a golden age when generals displayed genius and originality rather than merely hurling wave after wave of young men against the machine of death that industrialised warfare had become. Sadly it seems Liddell-Hart seems to have used the more colourful writing of Livy as his main source, particularly when he talks of the Carthaginian forces massed at Zama for the final showdown between Scipio and Hannibal - the Army of Italy which had triumphed at Cannae this was not. However this is a masterpiece of military writing and a worthy tribute to one of the (almost) forgotten generals of history. Scipio's genius was that he learnt from a true master of the art of war and transformed Rome's military forever. Greater than Napoleon? Probably not, not even greater than Hannibal, yet militarily at least Scipio was ultimately triumphant. Hannibal stands above Alexander amongst the generals of antiquity, for all of Rome's military failings prior to his arrival in Italy, Rome and her allies, especially their total dominance of the sea, combined with the the inability of Carthage to fully support his Italian campaign meant that he faced vastly superior and far more determined opposition than Alexander ever would (sorry Alexander fans!). Hannibal did not lose the war any more than Scipio singlehandedly won it, but this is a terrific read and will greatly enhance the readers knowledge of tactics and strategy, but admirers of Napoleon should not take the title of the book as an insult, Liddell-Hart's Scipio, if not the real man, certainly surpasses any general in history. Peter Connolly and Ernle Bradford have both produced books that do more justice to the great Carthaginian and the Second Punic War and perhaps put Scipio in a truer light, a very gifted and innovative commander. The man who beats Napoleon hands down is the Mongol general Subodai, but that's another story...
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on 7 February 2008
Mr. Hart has a very compelling writing style and makes an excellent case in favor of Scipio Africanus. It's funny how some people (fans/fanatics) choose to ignore facts and simply dismiss Scipio as lucky or rather a victim of cirumstances. Why Scipio hasn't been more recognised is perhaps no wonder since he himself never tried to immortalize himself, unlike many other great leaders. If you also take into consideration the point in time at which he lived, it is easier to understand his relative obscurity.

It is interesting to think how Caesar would be portrayed by historians had he not written his own memoirs and been succeeded by his adoptive son; a despot and a tyrant who tried to over-throw (and nearly succeeded) the long successful republic that was the Roman Empire?

Clearly, the Roman senate was a body prone to jealousy and resentment. Yet another reason for Scipio's obscurity...

Napoleon and Caesar were doubtlessly greater statesmen than Scipio and their legacy therefore much greater, but as a military commander and strategist Scipio has few, if any, equals. The thing that amazes me the most is that his accomplishments were all made at a very young age, and unlike Alexander, he had no natural legitimacy but had to resort to persuasion and clever schemes to achieve his goals. His understanding of human psychology is very impressive indeed.

If you are a big fan of Hannibal, beware of this book as it may be a hard wake-up call. Not because Hannibal is portrayed as a poor commander but rather because Scipio is shown to be a better one. All other military enthusiasts should definitely give this book a read (or two).
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on 5 January 2003
Bearing in mind the forthcoming movie on Hannibal, the author is right to remind us that heroic failures tend to be remembered more than humble victors.
As with all Liddell-Harts writing, it's intelligent and yet an easy read. He conveys a lot of military history without boring the general reader.
Short and to the point, I would recommend this wholeheartedly.
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on 26 June 1999
Liddell-Hart has delivered a godsend for military enthusiasts & readers alike,by finely narrating the campaigns & quite convincingly the achievements of this brilliant & great but quite appropriately forgotten general.
One of the greatest crimes of this book is the way the author undermines the greatness of the other three immortals of military antiquity:Alexander,Hannibal & Caesar.Though I would not go into great length to prove this,point by point,I would humbly suggest readers that after reading this book,to please look for other sources on the great generals aforementioned,so one could compare & see things in a much better,clearer,more factual light.I strongly suggest reading Theodore Dodge's books on these men.For if one were to rely on this book as a main source,one would be terribly misguided into believing Scipio as the greatest man & general in history.Which is definitely not the case.When all is summed up,comparing him to his rival,the case paves to this irrefutable fact:Hannibal was the original,innovative master,& Scipo his greatest pupil.
My other criticism,in a more technical term,is the lack of more maps in the book to detail & highlight his campaigns.Maps detailing the maneuveres in the Battle of the Great Plains,the burning of the Carthaginian camps,the battle against Andobales in Spain,The Siege Of Cartagena,etc.,would have made it a more instructive & fulfilling book.
Other than these,I would say that this is the best book on Scipio ever written,a great contribution to humanity in fact,in the sense that it brings to every reader the importance & achievement of a great man who is almost forgotten in the annals of history.And convinces him.And for this alone deserves the highest merit.
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on 16 July 2015
After reading this book I definitely have a new found respect for Africanus and agree that he should be talked about in the same breath as the great generals of the ancient world. However the author does try to downplay the achievements of other greats stating that Caesar only beat useless tribes in Gaul and even hints that his victory over Pompey was nothing but dumb luck. The author even goes to say that all of his achievements were because of him building upon his uncle Marius victories. In a political sense Caesar did use this to gain votes but ever roman statesman used the achievements of their families to further their careers Africanus probably did the same at one point in his career. Alexander is also mentioned as beating opponents who could never really pose a threat to his army in battle. The author has convinced me of Scipio Africanus's greatness however everyone should read up on the other greats from other sources.
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on 17 June 1999
Hannibal's feat in crossing the Alps with his elephants and Africans will never again be replicated in actual war. He was a spectacular failure. There is something in all of us that lionizes the underdog, the loser, the man or woman who flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But in Scipio's case why do we not commemorate his victory? Liddel-Hart makes the case for Scipio's greatness. His nobility of spirit suffuses the pages. I'd think that a man as gifted, generous, and thoughtful as Scipio would be someone we could emulate. Scipio saved Rome from a defeat that may have profoundly affected the course of world history, yet he was treated like refuse by the ruling party in Rome. One would think that we'd identify with the heroic outsider, but I guess the cornicen hasn't been blown enough for Publius Cornelius Scipio africanus, a man for all seasons.
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on 28 January 1999
Drawing on the extant ancient histories told by the Roman, Livy, and Polybius the Greek, Hart makes a compelling argument for Scipio's greatness as both a military leader and a compassionate human being. Hart succesfully rebuts many historian's underated view of Scipio's abilties and convincingly esablishes him as one of the greater if not greatest military leaders of the western world.
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on 2 October 1998
Liddell Hart brings to life the savior of the Roman empire and conqueror of the legendary Hannibal. Scipio rises from a young, unknown quantity who is sent to salvage Rome's position in Spain to the consumate ancient general who forces Hannibal home, to Carthage, to defeat. By the end of the volume the reader could easily wonder why Scipio's name is not as familiar as Ceasar's.
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