The War with Jugurtha, 20–26

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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20As soon as the deputies left Africa, after dividing the kingdom, and Jugurtha found, in spite of his secret fears, that he had gained the price of his crime, he felt convinced of the truth of what he had heard from his friends at Numantia, that at Rome anything could be bought. Accordingly, he began to covet Adherbal’s kingdom, spurred on besides by the promises of those whom he had shortly before loaded with presents. 2He himself was active and warlike, while his intended victim was quiet, peaceful, of a tranquil disposition, open to attack and rather inclined to fear than an object of fear. 3Therefore when Jugurtha suddenly invaded Adherbal’s territory with a large force, he took many prisoners, as well as cattle and other plunder, set fire to buildings, and raided several places with his cavalry. 4He then withdrew with his entire force into his own kingdom, supposing that Adherbal would be led by resentment to resort to force in order to avenge the wrongs which had been done him, and that this would furnish a pretext for war. 5Adherbal, however, realizing that in arms he was no match for his rival and putting more trust in the friendship of the Roman people than in the Numidians, sent envoys to Jugurtha to protest against the outrages; and although they brought back an insulting answer, he resolved to put up with anything rather than resort to war, which he had already tried with so little success. 6This, however, did not diminish the ardour of Jugurtha, who in his mind’s eye had already seized all Adherbal’s realm. 7He therefore began to wage war, not as before with a predatory band, but with a great army which he had got together, and to lay claim openly to the sovereignty of all Numidia. 8Wherever he went he laid waste cities and fields and drove off booty, thus inspiring his own followers with confidence and striking the enemy with fear.

21When Adherbal perceived that matters had gone so far that he must either give up his kingdom or retain it by force of arms, he yielded to necessity, mustered an army, and went to meet Jugurtha. 2At first the two armies encamped not far from the sea near the town of Cirta, but because it was late in the day they did not join battle. When the greater part of the night had passed but while it was still dark, the soldiers of Jugurtha on a given signal attacked the camp of the enemy, surprised them either half asleep or just taking up arms, and routed them. Adherbal with a few horsemen fled to Cirta, and if it had not been for a throng of Roman civilians, who held off the pursuing Numidians from the walls, the war between the two kings would have begun and ended on the selfsame day. 3Jugurtha thereupon invested the town and attempted to carry it by mantlets, towers and engines of all kinds, making all haste to anticipate the coming of the envoys, who, as he had heard, had been sent to Rome by Adherbal before the battle was fought.

4Now after the senate heard that they were at war, three young men were despatched to Africa, with instructions to approach both kings and announce in the name of the Roman senate and people that it was their desire and command that the combatants should lay down their arms and settle their disagreement by law rather than by war; that this was due both to the Romans and to themselves.

22The envoys soon arrived in Africa, making the more haste because, as they were preparing to leave Rome, word came that the battle had taken place and that Cirta was besieged; but the rumour failed to do justice to the reality. 2When Jugurtha heard their message, he rejoined that nothing had more weight and nothing was more precious to him than the will of the senate; from youth up he had striven to win the approval of all good men; it was by merit, not by baseness, that he had found favour with the great Publius Scipio, and it was for the same qualities that Micipsa had made him heir to a part of his kingdom, not because the king lacked children. 3But, he said, the more numerous his acts of virtue and courage had been, the less his spirit was able to brook wrongs. 4Adherbal had treacherously plotted against his life, and he had discovered and resisted the criminal attempt. The people of Rome would act neither justly nor rightly, if they denied him the privileges of the law of nations. In conclusion, he said that he would soon send envoys to Rome to explain the whole affair. 5Thereupon both parties separated; no opportunity was allowed of addressing Adherbal.

23Jugurtha waited until he thought that the envoys had left Africa, and then, finding himself unable to take Cirta by storm because of its natural strength, surrounded its wall with a rampart and a ditch. He built towers and filled them with armed men, attacked besides day and night either with force or craft, now offering bribes to the defenders and now threats, rousing his own men to courage by exhortations and displaying the greatest vigour in all his efforts.

2When Adherbal saw that all his fortunes were in jeopardy, that his enemy was implacable, that there was no hope of succour, and that because of lack of the necessities of life he could not endure a protracted war, he selected two of the boldest of the soldiers who had fled with him to Cirta. These he induced by many promises, and by dwelling upon his desperate plight, to make their way through the enemy’s lines by night to the nearest sea-coast, and from there to Rome.

24Within a few days these Numidians had carried out Adherbal’s instructions, and a letter of his was read in the senate, of which the substance was as follows:

2“It is no fault of mine, Fathers of the Senate, that I often address an appeal to you; on the contrary, I am constrained by the violence of Jugurtha, who is possessed with such a desire for my destruction that he regards neither you nor the immortal Gods, but above everything thirsts for my blood. 3Hence it is that I, though an ally and friend of the Roman people, have now for more than four months been held in a state of siege, and that neither the services of my father Micipsa nor your decrees avail me; whether sword or famine press harder on me I know not. 4My condition would dissuade me from writing more about Jugurtha; for I have already learned that little confidence is bestowed upon the unfortunate. 5Except that I feel sure that he is aiming at a higher mark than myself, and that he does not hope at the same time for your friendship and my kingdom. Which of these two he values the more highly is evident to everyone; 6for he first slew Hiempsal, my brother, and then drove me from my father’s kingdom. With my personal wrongs you have no concern, 7but it is your realm that he now holds by force of arms, and it is I, whom you made ruler of Numidia, that he is besieging. How much regard he has for the commands of your envoys is shown by my perilous state. 8What is there left but your might which can influence him? 9For my own part, I could wish that these words which I am now writing, and the complaints which I have already made in the senate, were false, rather than that they should be proved true by my own wretchedness. 10But since I was created merely to be a monument to Jugurtha’s crimes, I no longer pray to be spared death or unhappiness, but only that I may escape the tyranny of an enemy and bodily torment. As to Numidia, which is yours, take any action you choose, but save me from impious hands, I implore you by the majesty of your empire and by the loyalty of your friendship, if you retain any memory at all of my grandfather Masinissa.”

25Upon the reading of this letter some were for sending an army to Africa and rendering aid to Adherbal as soon as possible, recommending that in the meantime the senate should take cognizance of Jugurtha’s failure to obey the envoys. 2But those same partisans of the king to whom I have already referred used every effort to prevent the passing of such a decree. 3Thus, as happens in many instances, the public welfare was sacrificed to private interests. 4Nevertheless men of years and rank, who had held the highest offices of state, were sent to Africa, among them Marcus Scaurus, of whom I have already spoken, an ex-consul and at the time the leader of the senate.

5These men, influenced by the public indignation and also by the prayers of the Numidians, embarked within three days. Landing shortly afterward at Utica, they sent a letter to Jugurtha, directing him to come as speedily as possible to the Roman province, adding that they had been sent to him by the senate. 6When Jugurtha learned that men of distinction, whose influence at Rome was said to be powerful, had come to oppose his attempt, he was at first greatly disturbed and began to waver between fear and greed. 7He dreaded the senate’s wrath in case he disobeyed the envoys; at the same time his spirit, blinded by cupidity, urged him to consummate his crime. 8But in his greedy soul the worst counsel prevailed. 9Accordingly he surrounded Cirta with his army, and made a supreme effort to carry the town, having great hopes that by extending the enemy’s line of defence he might find an opportunity for victory either in force or in stratagem. 10But when he was disappointed in this and thwarted in his purpose of getting Adherbal into his power before meeting the envoys, he was unwilling by further delay to exasperate Scaurus, whom he particularly feared; he therefore came into our province with a few horsemen. 11But although terrible threats were made in the name of the senate because he did not abandon the siege, the envoys went away unsuccessful after wasting a deal of oratory.

26When this was reported at Cirta, the Italiotes, on whose valour the defence of the town depended, were confident that in the event of surrender they would escape injury because of the prestige of Rome. 2They therefore advised Adherbal to deliver himself and the town to Jugurtha, stipulating merely that his life should be spared and leaving the rest to the senate. But Adherbal, though he thought that anything was better than trusting to Jugurtha, yet because the Italiotes were in a position to use compulsion if he opposed them, surrendered on the terms which they had advised. 3Thereupon Jugurtha first tortured Adherbal to death and then made an indiscriminate massacre of all the adult Numidians and of traders whom he found with arms in their hands.

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