«The Legend of Scipio» in Ancient Historical Tradition

Bobrovnikova T. A.

The paper re-considers all the sources having to do with the so-called «Legend of Scipio», including the data of comparative ethnography and folklore studies. The author comes to the conclusion that Polibius’ account was not based upon real facts. It is no more than a curious attempt to apply his historical idea of how religion is born in generally to the particular case of the «Legend of Scipio». Therefore, the wide-spread literary cliché depicting Scipio as one who could easily manipulate the mob and simulate divine inspiration is to be rejected. This image was created entirely by Polybius so that it could fit his theory. One common source lies under the accounts of Julius Hyginus, Appianus and Ammianus Marcellinus, namely Varro, who trusted the legend and interpreted it in the line of his Pythagorean-Platonic concept of daemones. The core of the legend was formed by Scipio’s own accounts (Scipio believed in his inspiration). The details added to the core were not due to the literary tradition and to the comparison with Alexander the Great (as some used to think), but were rooted in Italic folk tradition. The author puts forward a hypothesis that Scipio’s legendary image influenced Numa’s iconography in Rome in the 2nd century BC.

Keywords: ancient Rome, Polybius, «Legend of Scipio»