The War with Jugurtha, 102–111

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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102After this the consul, now beyond all question victor, came to the town of Cirta, which had been his destination from the first. 2Thither came envoys from Bocchus five days after the second defeat of the barbarians, to ask of Marius in the king’s name that he should send him two of his most trusty officers; they said that Bocchus wished to confer with them about his own interests and those of the Roman people. 3Marius immediately selected Lucius Sulla and Aulus Manlius, and they, although they had been sent for by the king, decided to address him, with the view of changing his purpose, if unfavourable, or of making him more eager for peace if he already desired it. 4Therefore Sulla, to whom Manlius gave place, not because of his years, but because of his eloquence, spoke briefly to the following purport:

5“King Bocchus, it gives us much joy that the gods have led you, so great a man, at last to prefer peace to war; to refuse to contaminate yourself, one of the best of men, by association with Jugurtha, the very worst; and at the same time to relieve us of the bitter necessity of meting out the same treatment to your error and to his crimes. 6I may add that the Roman people from the beginning of their rule have preferred to seek friends rather than slaves, and have thought it safer to govern by consent than by compulsion. 7For you, indeed, no friendship is more desirable than ours: first, because we are at a distance from you, a condition which offers less friction than if we were near at hand, with no less power; and secondly, because we already have more than enough subjects, while neither we nor anyone else ever had friends enough. 8I only wish that you had felt thus disposed from the first! In that event, the favours which by this time you would have received from the Roman people would far outnumber the misfortunes which you have suffered. 9But since Fortune has the chief control of human destiny, and since it seems to have been her pleasure that you should experience both our power and our kindness, make haste now that she allows it and follow the course which you have begun. 10You have many opportunities easily to atone for your mistakes by good offices. 11Finally, let this thought sink into your heart, that the Roman people has never been outdone in kindness; its prowess in war you know by experience.”

12To these words Bocchus made a conciliatory and courteous reply, at the same time offering a brief defence of his conduct, declaring that he had taken arms, not in a spirit of hostility, but to protect his kingdom; 13for the part of Numidia from which he had driven Jugurtha, he said, was his by right of conquest and he could not allow it to be laid waste by Marius. 14Furthermore, he had previously sent envoys to Rome, but his friendship had been rejected. 15He waived the past, however, and if Marius would allow him, he would again send ambassadors to the senate. But after the consul had granted his request, the barbarian’s purpose was changed by some of his friends, whom Jugurtha had bribed; for he knew of the embassy of Sulla and Manlius and feared its effects.

103Meanwhile Marius, having settled his army in winter quarters, went with the light-armed cohorts and a part of the cavalry into the desert, in order to besiege a stronghold of the king, which Jugurtha had garrisoned with all the deserters.[*] 2Then Bocchus again, led either by the recollection of what had happened to him in two battles or by the warnings of other friends of his whom Jugurtha had failed to bribe, chose out of the whole body of his relatives five of those whom he knew to be faithful and of preeminent ability. 3These he ordered to go as envoys to Marius and then, if it seemed advisable, to Rome, giving them complete freedom of action and permission to make peace on any terms. 4These envoys left betimes for the Roman winter quarters, but on the way they were set upon and robbed by Gaetulian brigands and fled in terror and disgrace to Sulla, whom the consul had left in command when beginning his expedition. 5Sulla did not treat them as liars and enemies, as he might well have done, but received them with a sympathy and generosity which led the barbarians to think that the Romans’ reputation for avarice was unmerited and that Sulla because of his liberality towards them was really their friend. 6For even then many men did not know the significance of largess; no one who was generous was suspected of insincerity, and all gifts were regarded as indications of kind feeling. 7Therefore they confided to the quaestor what Bocchus had ordered and at the same time begged him to help them with his favour and advice. They exaggerated the wealth, integrity and might of their sovereign and everything else which they thought would help them or ensure kind treatment. Then, after Sulla had promised to do all that they asked and had instructed them how to address Marius and the senate, they tarried with him about forty days.

104After finishing the task which he had set himself, Marius returned to Cirta. There being informed of the arrival of the envoys, he ordered them to come from Utica[*] with Sulla; he also summoned Lucius Bellienus the praetor from Utica, as well as every member of the senatorial order to be found in all parts of the province. In consultation with these men he considered the proposals of Bocchus. 2Among these proposals the consul was asked to give the envoys permission to go to Rome, and in the meantime a truce was requested. This met the approval of the majority, including Sulla; a few hot-heads were for rejecting them, doubtless unaware that human affairs, which are shifting and unstable, are always changing for better or worse.

3Now when the Moors had obtained everything that they desired, three of them departed for Rome with Gnaeus Octavius Ruso, the quaestor who had brought the soldiers’ pay to Africa, while two returned to the king. Bocchus heard the report of the latter with joy, especially the friendly interest of Sulla. 4And at Rome his envoys, after urging in excuse that their king had made a mistake and been led astray by the wickedness of Jugurtha, asked for a treaty of friendship and received this reply: 5“The Senate and People of Rome are wont to remember both a benefit and an injury. But since Bocchus repents, they forgive his offence; he shall have a treaty of friendship when he has earned it.”

105Upon receiving news of this, Bocchus wrote to Marius to send Sulla to him with power to adjust their common interests. 2He was accordingly sent with a guard of horsemen and Balearic slingers, also taking with him the archers and a cohort of Paelignians, who wore light armour for the sake of speed and because they were as well protected by this as by any other armour against the weapons of the enemy, which are also light.

3On the fifth day of their march Volux, the son of Bocchus, suddenly appeared in the open plains with not more than a thousand horsemen; but since they were riding in disorder and widely scattered, they seemed to Sulla and all the rest much more numerous and excited fear of an attack. 4Therefore each man prepared himself, tried his arms and weapons, and was on the alert; there was some anxiety, but greater confidence, as was natural to victors in the presence of those whom they had often vanquished. 5Meanwhile the horsemen who had been sent to reconnoitre announced that the intentions of the newcomers were peaceful, as in fact they were.

106When he came up, Volux addressed the quaestor, saying that he had been sent by his father Bocchus to meet them and act as their escort. Then they went on in company that day and the next without any cause for alarm. 2Later in the day, when the camp was pitched and evening came on, the Moor on a sudden with a troubled countenance ran in terror to Sulla and said that he had learned from his scouts that Jugurtha was not far off; at the same time he begged and implored Sulla to make his escape with him secretly during the night. 3But the Roman boldly declared that he did not fear the Numidian whom he had so often routed and that he had absolute trust in the valour of his men; he added that even if inevitable destruction threatened, he would rather stand his ground than betray the men under his command, and by cowardly flight save a life that he might perhaps be fated soon to lose from natural causes. 4When, however, Volux recommended that they continue their march during the night, he approved the plan, ordered the soldiers to have their dinners at once, to build as many fires in the camp as possible, and at the first watch to withdraw in silence.

5And now, when all were wearied from the night march, Sulla was measuring off his camp at sunrise, when suddenly the Moorish horsemen reported that Jugurtha was encamped about two miles in advance of them. 6Upon hearing this, the Romans were at last seized with great fear; they believed that they had been betrayed by Volux and led into a trap. Some said that he ought to be put to death and not allowed to escape the penalty of such a crime.

107Although Sulla shared this opinion, he forbade them to harm the Moor. He urged his men to keep a stout heart, saying that often before a handful of valiant soldiers had worsted a multitude. The less they spared themselves in the fight the safer they would be. It was not seemly for any man who had weapons in his hands to resort to the help of his unarmed feet and in time of great fear to turn towards the enemy the defenceless and blind part of his body. 2Then calling upon great Jupiter to witness the crime and perfidy of Bocchus, he ordered Volux to quit the camp, since he was playing a hostile part. 3The young man begged Sulla with tears not to believe such a thing; he insisted that the situation was due to no treachery on his part, but to the cunning of Jugurtha, who had evidently learned from spies of their expedition. 4But since the Numidian had no great force and all his hopes and resources depended upon Bocchus, Volux was sure, he said, that he would venture upon no open attempt when the king’s son was present as a witness. 5He therefore advised that they should march fearlessly through the midst of Jugurtha’s camp; he said that he himself would accompany Sulla alone, whether his Moors were sent ahead or left behind.

6This plan seemed the best possible one under the circumstances. They set out at once, and because their action was unexpected, Jugurtha wavered and hesitated and they passed through unscathed. 7A few days later they reached their destination.

108There was in that place a Numidian called Aspar, who was on very familiar terms with Bocchus. He had been sent on by Jugurtha, after he heard of the summoning of Sulla, to plead for the Numidian and craftily spy upon Bocchus’ designs. There was also a certain Dabar, son of Massugrada, of the family of Masinissa, a man of inferior birth on his mother’s side (for her father was the son of a concubine), but dearly beloved by the Moor because of many good qualities. 2Having found Dabar faithful to the Romans on many previous occasions, Bocchus at once sent him to Sulla, to report that he was ready to do what the Roman people wished. He suggested that Sulla should select the day, place and hour for a conference and told him to have no fear of Jugurtha’s envoy, declaring that he was purposely maintaining friendly relations with the Numidian, in order that they might discuss their common interests more freely; in no other way could he have guarded against his plots.

3But I believe that it was rather with Punic faith than for the reasons which he made public that Bocchus beguiled both the Roman and the Numidian with the hope of peace, and that he pondered for a long time whether to betray Jugurtha to the Romans or Sulla to Jugurtha; that his inclination counselled against us, but his fears in our favour.

109Now Sulla replied to the king’s proposal, that he would speak briefly in the presence of Aspar, but would discuss other matters privately with Bocchus either with no one else present or before as few as possible; at the same time he instructed the envoys what reply was to be made to him. 2When the meeting had been arranged according to his wishes, Sulla said that he had been sent by the consul to ask of Bocchus whether he desired peace or war. 3Then the king, as had been arranged, directed him to return ten days later, saying that even yet he had made no decision, but would give his answer at that time. 4Then they both withdrew to their camps. But when a good part of the night had passed, Sulla was secretly summoned by Bocchus; both were attended only by trustworthy interpreters in addition to Dabar as mediator, an upright man who was trusted by both of them. Then the king immediately began as follows:

110“I never believed it possible that I, the greatest monarch in these lands and of all kings whom I know, should owe gratitude to a man of private station. 2And by Heaven! Sulla, before I knew you many have prayed for my help, which I gave often to their prayers, often unasked, needing no man’s help myself. 3At such a curtailment of independence others are wont to grieve, but I rejoice in it; let the need which I at last feel be the price that I pay for your friendship; for in my heart I hold nothing dearer. 4As a proof of this, take arms, men, money, in short whatever you like; use them, and as long as you live never think that you are repaid; for I shall always feel a fresh sense of obligation towards you. In short, there will be nothing for which you can wish in vain, provided your desires are known to me. 5For in my opinion it is less disgraceful for a king to be vanquished in war than to be outdone in gratitude.

6“Now hear a few words with regard to your country, as whose representative you have been sent hither. I did not make war on the Roman people and I never wished to do so; but I defended my realm with arms against armed invaders. 7Even that I now cease to do, since it is your wish. Carry on the war with Jugurtha as you think best. 8I shall not pass the river Muluccha, which was the boundary between Micipsa and myself, nor will I allow Jugurtha to do so. If you have anything further to ask which is honourable for us both, you shall not go away disappointed.”

111To these words Sulla replied on his own account briefly and modestly; he spoke at length about peace and their common interests. Finally, he made it clear to the king that the senate and people of Rome would feel no gratitude for his promises, since they had shown themselves his superior in arms. He must do something which would clearly be for their interests rather than his own. This would be easy, since he could get control of Jugurtha; if he would deliver the king into the hands of the Romans, they would be greatly indebted to him. Then friendship, alliance, and the part of Numidia which he now desired would freely be given him.

2At first the king refused, saying that relationship and kinship forbade, as well as a treaty; moreover, he feared that if he showed treachery he would alienate his subjects to whom Jugurtha was dear and the Romans hateful. 3At last, after many importunities, he gave way and promised to do all that Sulla desired. 4They also took the necessary steps for pretending to make the peace which was most desired by the Numidian, who was weary of war. Having thus perfected their plot, they parted.

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  • [*] [In later printings, "Jugurtha had garrisoned with all the deserters" becomes "Jugurtha had garrisoned with deserters only." — Lexundria Editor]

  • [*] [The 1921 text that serves as the principal basis for this digital copy reads "Tucca"; the reading "Utica" can be found, however, in later printings. — Lexundria Editor]