Velleius Paterculus, ‘Scipio destroys Carthage’ (contributed by Terry Walsh)

Velleius’ history is an epitome, or summary, and necessarily clipped at times, but it has an unpretentious and sonorous simplicity. The apparently clumsy contrast here is between the qualities of Scipio and the swift inexorability of his campaign; I have tried to bring this out in my translation.

Terry Walsh

Et sub idem tempus, magis quia volebant Romani, quidquid de Carthaginiensibus diceretur credere quam quia credenda adferebantur, statuit senatus Carthaginem exscindere. ita eodem tempore P. Scipio Aemilianus, vir avitis P. Africani paternisque L. Pauli virtutibus simillimus, omnibus belli ac togae dotibus ingeniique ac studiorum eminentissimus saeculi sui, qui nihil in vita nisi laudandum aut fecit aut dixit ac sensit, quem Paulo genitum, adoptatum a Scipione Africani filio diximus, aedilitatem petens consul creatus est. bellum Carthagini iam ante biennium a prioribus consulibus inlatum maiore vi intulit (cum ante in Hispania murali corona, in Africa obsidionali donatus esset, in Hispania vero etiam ex provocatione, ipse modicus virium, inmanis magnitudinis hostem interemisset) eamque urbem magis invidia imperii quam ullius eius temporis noxiae invisam Romano nomini funditus sustulit fecitque suae virtutis monimentum, quod fuerat avi eius clementiae. Carthago diruta est, cum stetisset annis sexcentis septuaginta duobus, abhinc annos centum septuaginta tres Cn. Cornelio Lentulo L. Mummio consulibus.

And about that time, more because the Romans wanted to believe anything that was said about the people of Carthage than because there was anything credible, the Senate decided to annihilate Carthage. So, at that same moment, Publius Scipio Aemilianus, a man most worthy of the qualities of his grandfather Publius Scipio Africanus and of those of his father Lucius Aemilius Paulus, gifted with every quality of peace and war, and the most eminent of his time in natural and acquired abilities, a man who never did, said or felt anything which was not praiseworthy, a son – as I said – of Paulus, adopted by Africanus’ son, although he was merely standing for the aedileship, was elected consul.

From the previous consuls he took over with greater vigour the war which had already been raging for two years against Carthage – already he had won a mural crown in Spain, an obsidional in Africa, and in Spain had even challenged and killed, although himself a man of normal stature, an enemy of enormous size – and that city absolutely detested by the Romans, more out of imperial envy than for any offence committed at the time, he destroyed utterly, making it the monument of his courage, as it had been the touchstone of his grandfather’s clemency. Carthage was levelled, although it had stood for six hundred and seventy-two years, in the consulship of Lentulus and Mummius, one hundred and seventy-three years ago…..


Ruins of Carthage

Chosen and translated by Terry Walsh.

Terry also recommends the LOEB translation, available at the Lacus Curtius site.

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