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Scipio Africanus
11.16.2018 749436725000

Prepare for war, since you have been unable to endure a peace. —Scipio Africanus, spoken to Hannibal before the Battle of Zama


(Note: this is a previously-unreleased chapter from my book BADASS: ULTIMATE DEATHMATCH, but I get a ton of requests for Scipio and the website doesn't feel complete without him in here.  Also, you should buy my book and leave me a nice review on Amazon.)

The Second Punic War is the story of two of the greatest and most badass military commanders who ever lived—Hannibal Barca and Scipio Africanus. As far as ultimate mecha blood feud death rivalries go, these two warmongering hardasses were like the Manning–Brady, Kobe­–LeBron, or Aunt Jemima–Mrs. Butterworth of the third century BC, and their epic struggle bashing each other repeatedly about the head and neck with a vast assortment of increasingly deadly instruments ultimately altered the course of ancient history forever.

The chest-cavity-eviscerating unpleasantness all started when the insane-o megabrilliant military general Hannibal thought it would be totally xtreme to the max to leave his homeland, the incredibly wealthy North African city-state of Carthage (located in present-day Tunisia), march a tremendously huge mercenary army across Spain, invade Italy, and burn Rome to the ground as a way of showing them that they weren’t nearly as badass as they thought they were. This crazy bastard assembled a multinational force of fifty thousand soldiers from across Gaul, Spain, and North Africa, equipped them with ten thousand horses and a couple hundred gigantic angry war elephants, and somehow crossed with this motley crew of battle-hungry warriors over the mighty Rhone River on homemade rafts so freakishly sweet that they’d give Bear Grylls a boner. Hannibal then led his mercenaries, warriors, and pachyderms up into the Alps, crossing one of the deadliest, tallest, and most dangerous mountain ranges on Earth in the middle of the frigid winter and attacking Rome from the direction they least expected an African invasion to come from.

 

 

I don’t know how well versed you are in the sociopolitical makeup of ancient civilizations, but I probably don’t need to point out that the Romans weren’t the sort of folks that melodramatically blubbered like they’d lost American Idol just because some kooky jerk with a sword rode a couple of elephants into town and told everyone to suck his nards. No, when word went around that a new Carthaginian challenger had appeared and was currently rolling down the mountains toward them, the Romans responded the same way they responded to anything—with excessive, brutal, over-the-top violence. The Senate dispatched Rome’s most senior military commander, a dude named Tiberius Sempronius Longus, with orders to take Rome’s legions, batter this annoying invasion force into a miserable slurry of entrails and failure, feed Hannibal’s battered corpse to his own elephants, and then have the elephants crucified.

Unfortunately for Rome, Tiberius Sempronius Longus was an almost comically incompetent dickweed, and this witless numbnuts decided that it would be a magnificent idea to display his encyclopedic ignorance by just riding out and attacking Hannibal straight on like a dumbass—a tactic that quite shockingly did not work out so hot for him. Hannibal, being the diabolical evil-genius-grade mastermind that he was, saw this insane frontal attack, laughed a single terrifying laugh, cracked his knuckles so loudly it generated a mushroom cloud, and then wiped out two-thirds of Tiberius’s army in a single day at the Battle of the Trebia. When Rome dispatched two more legions and four thousand cavalry to reinforce Tiberius’s shattered ranks, Hannibal ambushed the relief column at a place called Lake Trasimene, riding his cavalry downhill through a thick fog, crashing into the Roman flank, and utterly deballing them with an ice cream scoop in a battle that lasted less than three hours and left fifteen thousand Romans dead or dying on the field.



After making Rome’s best and brightest military commanders look like ten pounds of crap stuffed into a five-pound bag, Hannibal marched on over to a gigantic food depot the Romans had conveniently left unguarded and threw a massive keg party to celebrate his awesomeness. The Romans, desperately seeking any way to put an end to Hannibal’s serrated gonad-wrecking African rampage and save the largest source of grain in the republic, marched out their last hope—a massive force consisting of the last eighty thousand fighting men in Rome, personally commanded by both of its two consuls (the highest-ranking political officials in the republic – this is like the President and Vice-President picking up weapons and leading the troops on the front lines). Rome's last hope faced off against Hannibal's Carthaginians in an all-or-nothing deathmatch at a little place known as Cannae.

Hannibal was badly outnumbered and facing a disciplined Roman army twice his size, but he didn’t even pretend like he gave a crap. In one of the all-time most horrific military depantsings ever recorded, the Carthaginian God of Face-Smashing Badassitude charged his battle line ahead, engaged the enemy, faked a withdrawal, lured the Roman army into a trap, completely encircled them with a move known as the double envelopment, and then gave them all atomic wedgies so hard that it ripped a hole in the universe. Nearly the entire Roman force was hemmed in so tightly the men could barely swing their swords (the centurions resorted to biting and punching, according to some sources), and while they were crammed in like sardines by a solid wall of enemy shields Hannibal’s cavalry came up from behind and hamstrung them until all that remained of was a giant pile of legless corpses with career-ending injuries. Hannibal lost eight thousand men. Rome lost fifty thousand, including both consuls.

 


Hannibal teabagging his enemies' corpses

 

Rome suddenly realized it was pretty much totally screwed. This Hannibal character was evidentally the real deal, and by single-handedly orchestrating three of the greatest one-sided tactical victories in human history he'd caused the death of something on the order of two hundred thousand veteran Roman legionaries in the course of a year and a half of nonstop unholy asswhompings and then ate their brains with a side of fava beans. 

But this is where the story gets weird. You see, even though Hannibal had all but assured Carthaginian dominance of the Italian peninsula, from this point on the African warlord was kind of stuck in a bizarre limbo—two years of constant battle had taken its toll on Hannibal’s forces, leaving him with a depleted army that was too small to lay siege to the Eternal City itself, yet for some utterly incomprehensible reason the douchebag brain trust in Carthage still stupidly refused to send their greatest hero any reinforcements. Frustratingly trapped in Tuscany with nothing to do and no one left to kill, Hannibal just spent the next ten years (!) wandering aimlessly around the Italian countryside beating up random people for their lunch money and dreaming of the day when he’d finally have enough men to assault Rome itself.

 


Well, with every other human being in Italy pissing their togas at the mere mention of Hannibal’s name, there was only one Roman asskicker who decided he wasn’t just going to sit around on his chaise longue being fed grapes by beautiful women while some bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling ran around dropping his countrymen crotch-first onto an electric fruit-juicing machine. Publius Cornelius Scipio had been there from the beginning of this ungodly carnage—as a sixteen-year-old cavalry officer he’d fought alongside his father at the Battle of Ticinus and had been cited for bravery for slicing his way through a Carthaginian horde to save his dad’s life. Scipio had also been there on the battlefield when the Roman legions got their teeth kicked out through their urethras at Cannae, and as one of the few survivors of that humiliating debacle this Roman officer became more and more irate every miserable day that passed in which Hannibal wasn’t getting a much-deserved boot to the hogchoker. Finally, one day Scipio snapped. He got up, stormed into the Senate, and told them it was time for vengeance—someone needed to stick it to Hannibal, and Scipio was the man who was going to bring the pain.

But Scipio’s plan wasn’t to take the fight directly to Hannibal.  Forget that.  Scipio was perfectly content to let that Carthaginian knucklehead wander around like a hobo playing grabass with his buddies in the Italian wilderness—while Hannibal was sitting around on his thumbs waiting for reinforcements, Scipio was going to drill the Carthaginians with an old-school reach-around rabbit punch to the kidneys when they least expected it. Scipio turned west, emptied his 2 Fast 2 Furious Vin Diesel nitro tanks in a frothing-at-the-mouth charge toward Spain, and flying-sidekicked the Carthaginian-controlled province in the bozak with a daring amphibious sneak attack that caught the enemy completely off guard. Before anybody actually even realized what the sweet mother hell was going on, the Carthaginian forward base at Cartagena had already fallen to the Roman invasion, and the overconfident defenders were fleeing in disarray. Hannibal’s two kid brothers (both of whom had been cavalry commanders at Cannae) rode out with armies to confront him, but Scipio kicked the snot out of Hannibal’s bros by single-handedly bludgeoning them all into bone dust with a giant mallet he’d carved from the skeleton of a sea monster (or something like that) in two separate battles against vastly-superior forces that outnumbered him and had him almost completely surrounded in unfamiliar territory. When he was finished turning Hannibal’s stooge brothers his chew toys for his rotweilers Scipio crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa, marched toward Tunisia, deposed the ruler of Namibia, and then defeated yet another Carthaginian army that had been hastily thrown together in a half-assed attempt to slow down this Roman Republican Vengeance Machine. When the Carthaginian government finally got their heads unglued from their rectums and realized what the crapballs was going on they immediately got on the horn and ordered Hannibal to get his ass back home to save them from the unstoppable assbeating that Scipio was about to lay upon them.

 

 

Hannibal was a man of action, and if there was one thing this guy could do, it was move a lot of troops very quickly, through impossible terrain, and murder everyone he found on the other side. So when he heard the news of Scipio’s raid, the Carthaginian tactician immediately facepalmed at the idiocy of his political leadership, built some ships, burned rubber back home, and in 202 BC he and Scipio finally met mano-a-mano in an epic battle just 105 miles from the gates of Carthage. Scipio, the best thing that happened to Rome in twenty years, found himself suddenly outnumbered and facing a brilliant general who had spent the better part of two decades standing triumphantly on top of heaping piles of Roman corpses rubbing his balls on their legionary eagles, but this guy had come to North Africa seeking this exact matchup, and now that the opportunity to achieve sweet delicious revenge had been fortuitously placed directly in front of him he wasn’t about to waste the opportunity.

Hannibal started out the battle by positioning a few hundred super-cantankerous war elephants at the head of his army and then charging his organic T-34s trunk-first into the Roman legions like those wacky Elf-smashing oliphaunts running amok in The Return of the King. The Carthaginian commander understandably believed that this onslaught of tusked ferocity would probably cause most of Scipio’s infantry to obey their natural self-preservation instincts and run screaming away from the rampaging two-ton armored pachyderms, but this time it was the great Hannibal who underestimated the will of the Romans—the grizzled veterans of Cannae were bitter as hell, and these tenacious buzz saws of fury were race cars in the red just itching for an opportunity to kick their ferocity into overdrive. These guys weren’t going to back down just because some monstrous war elephants were getting ready to flatten them into giant bloody smears on the dirt with their gigantic creepy circular feet. Instead, the legionaries responded by screaming insults as loud as possible, clanging their swords and shields together, and blaring trumpet music at volumes that bordered on possibly being cranked up to eleven. The megaloud noise and hurtful profane insults completely freaked the elephants out, and instead of the Romans it was THE ELEPHANTS who turned and ran for it in terror, trampling the holy hell out of the Carthaginian ranks in their desperate attempt to escape the lividly pissed Romans. With the enemy lines shattered by the Classical Age equivalent of an own goal and Hannibal’s warriors now being violently crushed by thirteen thousand pounds of irony and elephant meat, Scipio then charged forward, crashed into the enemy lines, turned Hannibal’s flanks, and took his revenge. On the battlefield at Zama, Scipio lost three thousand men while inflicting twenty-five thousand casualties on the enemy. Hannibal’s force was shattered, the path to the gates of Carthage now lay unguarded, and the Second Punic War was effectively over.

 

 

Despite all the pain Carthage had inflicted on his people, Scipio spared the city-state from the ultimate drunk-shaming humiliation that most Romans felt it deserved, refusing to burn the city or wipe out the populace no matter how bad the Senate wanted him to. He returned home in heroic triumph, received the honorific title of “Africanus” (which basically means “He who kicked ass in Africa”), was elected consul like a dozen times, and is still remembered today as one of Rome’s greatest heroes and one of the most badass military commanders to ever live.

Of course, as a side note, Scipio’s adoptive grandson wouldn’t be as laid back toward the Carthaginians—a few years later the Carthaginians would get all uppity again, and Scipio’s grandkid (also known as Scipio Africanus) would stomp their balls in the Third Punic War, sack Carthage, sell its entire population into slavery, burn everything to the ground, urinate on the ashes, and salt the earth so that no crops could ever grow there again. And that, as you can probably imagine, was the end of that.



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Tags: Head of State | Italy | Military Commander | Rome | Soldier | Tunisia | War Hero | Warrior

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