digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















For the Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532-1625), see Sofonisba Anguissola. For the American activist Sophonisba Breckinridge (1866-1948), see Sophonisba Breckinridge.
The Death of Sophonisba, by Giambattista Pittoni (1730s)

Sophonisba (also Sophonisbe, Sophoniba; in Punic, 𐤑𐤐𐤍𐤁𐤏𐤋 Ṣap̄anbaʿal) (fl. 203 BC) was a Carthaginian noblewoman who lived during the Second Punic War, and the daughter of Hasdrubal Gisco Gisgonis (son of Gisco). In an act that became legendary, Sophonisba poisoned herself rather than be humiliated in a Roman triumph.


A celebrated beauty, Sophonisba had been betrothed to King Massinissa until 206. Massinissa was the leader of the Massylii (or eastern) Numidians. However, in 206, Massinissa allied himself to Rome and Hasdrubal, having lost this valuable alliance, started to look for another ally. He found one in Syphax, king of the Masaesyli (or western Numidians). As was normal in those days, Hasdrubal used his daughter to conclude the diplomatic alliances with Syphax, who had himself previously been allied to Rome.

Syphax was defeated and captured in 203 BC by Masinissa and Scipio Africanus in the Battle of the Great Plains at Bagradas. Masinissa fell in love with Sophonisba and married her. Scipio, however, refused to agree to this arrangement, insisting on the immediate surrender of the princess so that she could be taken to Rome and appear in the triumphal parade. Masinissa, upbraided by Scipio for his weakness, was urged to leave her.

Masinissa feared the Romans more than he loved Sophonisba. Thus, he went to Sophonisba and swore his love to her. He told her that he could not free her from captivity or shield her from Roman wrath, and so he asked her to die like a true Carthaginian princess. With great composure, she drank a cup of poison that he offered her.

Her story, probably much embellished, is told indirectly in Polybius (14.4ff.); and more concretely in Livy (30.12.11-15.11), Diodorus (27.7), Appian (Pun. 27-28), and Cassius Dio (Zonaras 9.11). Polybius, however, never refers to Sophonisba by name in his allusions to her marriage to Syphax, and in his extensive account of Laelius' maneuvers against Syphax. The historian had met Masinissa. Nevertheless, it has been proposed that Polybius' account provides the basis for the Sophonisba story.[1] When Polybius does refer to her, he uses the diminutive in a tone that may be less than flattering. In one passage, Polybius ridicules Syphax for being less courageous than his own "child bride".

In literature, art and film[edit]

Sophonisbe by Corneille, 1663

Petrarch elaborated her story in his epic poem Africa, published posthumously in 1396.

The playwright John Marston wrote The Wonder of Women a Roman tragedy based on the story of Sophonisba, in 1606 for the Children of the Queen's Revels.

There are a number of paintings of Sophonisba drinking her poison, but the subject is often very similar to that of Artemisia II of Caria drinking her husband's ashes, and the Rembrandt in the Prado and a Donato Creti in the National Gallery are examples of works where the intended subject remains uncertain between the two.[2]

Sophonisba became the subject of tragedies (and later operas) from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and, along with the story of Cleopatra, furnished more dramas than any other. The first tragedy is credited to the Italian Galeotto Del Carretto (c. 1470–1530) which was written in 1502, but issued posthumously in 1546. The first to appear, however, was Gian Giorgio Trissino's play of 1515 which, "in codifying the forms of Italian classical tragedy, helped consign Del Carretto's Sofonisba to oblivion."[3] In France, Trissino's version was adapted by Mellin de Saint-Gelais (performed in 1556), and may have served as the primary model for versions by Antoine de Montchrestien (1596) and Nicolas de Montreux (1601). The tragedy by Jean Mairet (1634) is one of the first monuments of French "classicism", and was followed by a version from Pierre Corneille (1663).

The story of Sophonisba also served as subject for works by John Marston (1606), David Murray (1610), Nathaniel Lee (1676), Daniel Caspar von Lohenstein (1680), Henry Purcell (1685), Antonio Caldara (1708), Leonardo Leo (1718), Luca Antonio Predieri (1722), James Thomson (1729), Niccolò Jommelli (1746), Baldassare Galuppi (1747, 1764), Tommaso Traetta (1762), Antonio Boroni (it) (1764), Christopher Gluck (1765), Maria Teresa Agnesi (1765), Mattia Vento (it) (1766), François Joseph Lagrange-Chancel, revised by Voltaire (1770), Christian Gottlob Neefe (1776), António Leal Moreira (1783), Joseph Joaquín Mazuelo (1784), Vittorio Alfieri (1789), Pietro Alessandro Guglielmi (1802), Marcos Portugal (1803), Ferdinando Paer (1805), Vincenzo Federici (1805), Luigi Petrali (1844), Emanuel Geibel (1869), Jeronim de Rada (1892), Giuseppe Brunati (it) (1904), Dimitrie Cuclin (1945), Vasco Graça Moura (1993), and others.

Sophonisba also appears in film, first in Giovanni Pastrone's 1914 silent film Cabiria and again in Carmine Gallone's 1937 epic movie Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal.

Some years after writing a play called The Tragedy of Sophonisba, the aforementioned James Thomson authored the still-current patriotic British song "Rule, Britannia!"; Sophonisba's proud defiance and refusal to submit to slavery might have inspired that song's famous refrain "Britons never, never will be slaves!".[original research?]

In the 1922 heroic high fantasy novel The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison, there is a character named "Queen Sophonisba", though her role in the book has little in common with the historic Sophonisba.



  1. ^ Sophonisbe[dead link]
  2. ^ Finaldi, Gabriele and Kitson, Michael, Discovering the Italian Baroque: the Denis Mahon Collection, p. 56, 1997, National Gallery Publications, London/Yale UP, ISBN 1857091779
  3. ^ Abstract of the article “Galeotto Del Carretto’s ‘Sofonisba’” by Lovaniano Rossi, in Levia Gravia (2000). Universities of Turin and of Piemonte Orientale.


Livy, Ad urbe condita libri xxix.23, xxx.8, 12-15.8

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophonisba — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
148 videos foundNext > 

Maria Teresa Agnesi: Overture II, Ulisse in Campania.La Donna Musicale.

Ulisse in Campania Overture II by Maria Teresa Agnesi La Donna Musicale. www.ladm.org Laury Gutiérrez, director Laura Gulley, Sarah Darling, and Emily ...

Purcell: Z 590/1. Beneath the poplar's shadow (Sophonisba) - Nelson (Hogwood)

Playlist (Incidental Music): http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=97CDDB2CC3E0CB84 Sophonisba, or, Hannibal's Overthrow, Z 590 Tragedy in five acts ...

Sammi Davis discusses her character, Sophonisba, for The Double Born

Sammi Davis discusses her character, Sophonisba, for The Double Born directed by Tony Randel.

Sophonisba, Z. 590: Beneath a poplar's shadow

Provided to YouTube by NAXOS of America Sophonisba, Z. 590: Beneath a poplar's shadow · Dorothee Mields Love's Madness ℗ 2012 Carus Released on: ...

Purcell: Sophonisba or Hannibal's Overthrow - original version, 1685 - Beneath the poplar's shadow

Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group International Purcell: Sophonisba or Hannibal's Overthrow - original version, 1685 - Beneath the poplar's ...

Sophonisba, Z.590: Beneath a poplar's shadow

Provided to YouTube by Warner Music Group Sophonisba, Z.590: Beneath a poplar's shadow · Nancy Argenta/Nigel North/Richard Boothby Purcell: Songs and ...

Carthage Resort - Sophonisba - www.carthageresort.com

Beneath the poplar's shadow (from Sophonisba or Hannibal's Overthrow) Z5901

Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises Beneath the poplar's shadow (from Sophonisba or Hannibal's Overthrow) Z5901 · Henry Purcell · Susan Rode ...

Sofonisba Anguissola and Michelangelo with Author Donna DiGiuseppe

A quick history lesson with Donna DiGiuseppe, author of Sophonisba Anguissola: Renaissance Painter, a Biographical Novel. Learn more at ...

Preliminary announcement

148 videos foundNext > 

187 news items

Scientific American (blog)

Scientific American (blog)
Tue, 29 Sep 2015 20:56:15 -0700

(1923 painting by Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer/Wikimedia Commons). To fill the void another way, Navy and merchant sailors dutifully began sending regularly recorded estimates of latitude and longitude, wind direction, wind speed and weather ...
The Independent
Sat, 05 Apr 2014 15:14:21 -0700

It's enough to give your average Ukip member a heart attack: traditional British first names are becoming extinct, according to a new study, which shows that some of the most popular names from a century ago are in danger of dying out. Girls' names are ...
Mon, 28 Sep 2015 02:11:15 -0700

P. Cifarelli, Lexique des émotions et syntaxe de l'émotivité dans la première Sophonisba française (1556). D. Cecchetti, Seneca nel Serraglio. La Soltane di Gabriel Bounin. M. Mastroianni, Roland Brisset traducteur/imitateur. Le modèle sénéquien dans ...

The Guardian (blog)

The Guardian (blog)
Mon, 31 Aug 2015 03:41:36 -0700

It does not matter to me if Terry Pratchett's final novel is a worthy epitaph or not, or if he wanted it to be pulped by a steamroller. I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to. Life's too short. No offence, but Pratchett is so ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 24 Aug 2015 06:54:24 -0700

'In hypnobirthing classes, we developed positive triggers to bring on a relaxed state when the time came.' Photograph: David Jones/PA. Monday 24 August 2015 09.54 EDT Last modified on Monday 24 August 2015 09.57 EDT. Share on Facebook · Share on ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:10:31 -0700

26 27. Ah the Tory 'LW'.. giving with one hand, take much more with the other. You must have blinked at some point Jonathan. They give with one hand and take back with both hands. Reply | Pick. Report. sophonisba Jonathan Lealand. 31 Aug 2015 21:47.

The Guardian

The Guardian
Wed, 02 Sep 2015 01:00:44 -0700

Bring on the truth-telling, as long as you feel contrite. Photograph: Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto/Corbis. Wednesday 2 September 2015 04.00 EDT Last modified on Wednesday 2 September 2015 06.23 EDT. Share on Facebook · Share on Twitter · Share via ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Tue, 25 Aug 2015 17:24:50 -0700

sophonisba · 25 Aug 2015 20:36. 3 4. The Barbican main house is a ghastly theatrical space and the only two productions I have seen that filled its ludicrously vast stage were "Red Noses, Black Death" and Deborah Warner's Julius Caesar. I pity any ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight