The War with Jugurtha, 33–42

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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33Accordingly Jugurtha, exchanging the pomp of a king for a garb especially designed to excite pity, came to Rome with Cassius; 2and although personally he possessed great assurance, yet with the encouragement of all those through whose power or guilt he had committed the numerous crimes that I have mentioned he won over Gaius Baebius, a tribune of the commons, by a heavy bribe, that through this officer’s effrontery he might be protected against the strong arm of the law and against all personal violence. 3But when Gaius Memmius had called an assembly of the people, the commons were so exasperated at the king that some demanded that he should be imprisoned, others that if he did not reveal the accomplices in his guilt, he should be punished as an enemy after the usage of our forefathers. But Memmius, taking counsel of propriety rather than of resentment, quieted their excitement and soothed their spirits, finally declaring that, so far as it was in his power to prevent it, the public pledge should not be broken. 4Afterwards, when silence followed and Jugurtha was brought out, Memmius made an address, recalled the king’s actions at Rome and in Numidia, and described his crimes against his father and brothers. He said to him that although the Roman people were aware through whose encouragement and help the king had done these things, yet they wished clearer testimony from his own lips. If he would reveal the truth, he had much to hope for from the good faith and mercy of the Roman people, but if he kept silence, he could not save his accomplices and would ruin himself and his hopes.

34When Memmius had finished and Jugurtha was bidden to reply, Gaius Baebius, the tribune of the commons who, as I just said, had been bribed, thereupon bade the king hold his peace. And although the populace, who were gathered in assembly, were greatly excited and tried to intimidate the tribune by shouting, by angry looks, often by threatening gestures and all the other means which anger prompts, yet his impudence triumphed. 2Hence the people left the assembly after being made ridiculous, while Jugurtha, Bestia, and the others who were fearful of conviction, recovered their assurance.

35There was in Rome at that time a Numidian named Massiva, a son of Gulussa and grandson of Masinissa, who had taken sides against Jugurtha in the quarrel of the kings and had fled from Africa after the capture of Cirta and the death of Adherbal. 2This man was persuaded by Spurius Albinus, who was holding the consulship with Quintus Minucius Rufus the year after Bestia, to ask the senate for the throne of Numidia, since he was descended from Masinissa and since Jugurtha was feared and hated for his crimes. 3For the consul was eager to make war, and preferred a state of general confusion to inactivity. 4He had drawn Numidia as his province, while Minucius had Macedonia. When Massiva began to push these designs, Jugurtha found little support in his friends, some of whom were hampered by a bad conscience, others by ill repute and fear. He therefore directed Bomilcar, his nearest and most trusted attendant, to bring about Massiva’s assassination by the use of money, through which the king had already accomplished so much. He asked him to do this secretly, if possible; but if secrecy were not possible, to slay the Numidian in any way he could.

5Bomilcar hastened to carry out the king’s orders and through men who were adepts in such business he kept track of Massiva’s comings and goings; in short, found out where he was at all times. Finally, when the opportunity came, he set his trap. 6Thereupon one of those who had been hired to do the murder attacked Massiva somewhat incautiously; he slew his victim, but was himself caught, and at the solicitation of many, in particular of Albinus the consul, he made a full confession. 7Bomilcar was brought to trial rather from the demands of equity and justice than in accordance with the law of nations, inasmuch as he was in the company of one who had come to Rome under pledge of public protection.

8Jugurtha, however, although he was clearly responsible for so flagrant a crime, did not cease to resist the evidence, until he realized that the indignation at the deed was too strong even for his influence and his money. 9Therefore, although in the first stage of the trial he had given fifty of his friends as sureties, yet having an eye rather to his throne than to the sureties, he sent Bomilcar secretly to Numidia, fearing that if he paid the penalty, the rest of his subjects would fear to obey his orders. A few days later he himself returned home, being ordered by the senate to leave Italy. 10After going out of the gates, it is said that he often looked back at Rome in silence and finally said, “A city for sale and doomed to speedy destruction if it finds a purchaser!”

36Albinus meanwhile renewed hostilities and hastened to transport to Africa provisions, money for paying the soldiers, and other apparatus of war. He himself set out at once, desiring by arms, by surrender, or in any possible way to bring the war to an end before the elections, the time of which was not far off. 2Jugurtha, on the contrary, tried in every way to gain time, inventing one pretext for delay after another. He promised a surrender and then feigned fear, gave way to the consul’s attack and then, that his followers might not lose courage, attacked in his turn; thus baffling the consul now by the delays of war and now by those of peace.

3There were some who thought that even then Albinus was not unaware of the king’s design, and who found it impossible to believe that the ease with which the king protracted a war begun with such urgency was not due rather to guile than to incompetence. 4Now when in the course of time the day of the elections drew near, Albinus sailed for Rome, leaving his brother Aulus in charge of the camp.

37At that time the Roman commonwealth was cruelly racked by the dissensions of the tribunes. 2Two of their number, Publius Lucullus and Lucius Annius, were trying to prolong their term of office, in spite of the opposition of their colleagues; and this strife blocked the elections of the whole year. 3Because of this delay Aulus, who, as I just said, had been left in charge of the camp, was inspired with the hope of either finishing the war or forcing a bribe from the king through fear of his army. He therefore summoned his soldiers in the month of January from their winter quarters for active duty in the field, and making forced marches in spite of the severity of the winter season, reached the town of Suthul, where the king’s treasure was kept. 4He was unable either to take the town or lay siege to it because of the inclemency of the weather and the strength of its position; for all about the walls, which were built along the edge of a steep cliff, was a muddy plain, of which the winter rains had made a marshy pool. Yet either with the idea of making a feint, in order to frighten the king, or because he was blinded by a desire to possess the town for the sake of its treasure, he brought up the mantlets, constructed a mound, and hastily made the other preparations for an assault.

38Jugurtha, however, well aware of the presumption and incapacity of the acting commander, craftily added to his infatuation and constantly sent him suppliant envoys, while he himself, as if trying to avoid an encounter, led his army through woody places and by-paths. 2Finally, by holding out hope of an agreement, he induced Aulus to leave Suthul and follow him in a pretended retreat into remote regions; thus, he suggested, any misconduct of the Roman’s would be less obvious. 3Meanwhile through clever emissaries the king was working upon the Roman army day and night, bribing the centurions and commanders of cavalry squadrons either to desert or to abandon their posts at a given signal.

4After he had arranged these matters to his satisfaction, in the dead of night he suddenly surrounded the camp of Aulus with a throng of Numidians. 5The Roman soldiers were alarmed by the unusual disturbance; some seized their arms, others hid themselves, a part encouraged the fearful; consternation reigned. The hostile force was large, night and clouds darkened the heavens, there was danger whichever course they took: in short, whether it was safer to stand or flee was uncertain. 6Then from the number of those who had been bribed, as I just said, one cohort of Ligurians with two squadrons of Thracians and a few privates went over to the king, while the chief centurion of the Third legion gave the enemy an opportunity of entering the part of the fortification which he had been appointed to guard, and there all the Numidians burst in. 7Our men in shameful flight, in most cases throwing away their arms, took refuge on a neighbouring hill. 8Night and the pillaging of the camp delayed the enemy and prevented them from following up their victory. 9Then on the following day, Jugurtha held a conference with Aulus. He said that he had the general and his army at the mercy of starvation or the sword; yet in view of the uncertainty of human affairs, if Aulus would make a treaty with him, he would let them all go free after passing under the yoke, provided Aulus would leave Numidia within ten days. 10Although the conditions were hard and shameful, yet because they were offered in exchange for the fear of death, peace was accepted on the king’s terms.

39Now, when the news of this disaster reached Rome, fear and grief seized upon the community. Some grieved for the glory of the empire, others, who were unused to matters of war, feared for their freedom. All men, especially those who had often gained renown in war, were incensed at Aulus, because with arms in his hands he had sought safety by disgrace rather than by combat. 2Therefore the consul Albinus, fearing odium and consequent danger as the result of his brother’s misconduct, laid the question of the treaty before the senate; but in the meantime he enrolled reinforcements, summoned aid from the allies and the Latin peoples; in short, bestirred himself in every way.

3The senate decided that no treaty could be binding without its order and that of the people; as indeed was to have been expected. 4The consul was prevented by the tribunes of the commons from taking with him the forces which he had raised, but within a few days left for Africa; for the whole army had withdrawn from Numidia according to the agreement and was wintering in that province. 5But although Albinus on his arrival was eager to pursue Jugurtha and atone for his brother’s disgrace, yet knowing his soldiers, who were demoralized not only by their rout but by the licence and debauchery consequent upon lax discipline, he decided that he was in no condition to make any move.

40Meanwhile, at Rome, Gaius Mamilius Limetanus, tribune of the commons, proposed to the people a bill, in which it was provided that legal proceedings should be begun against those at whose advice Jugurtha had disregarded decrees of the senate; against those who had accepted money from him while serving as envoys or commanders; against those who had handed back the elephants and deserters; and against those who had made terms of peace and war with the enemy. 2Preparations for obstructing this bill were made both by all who were conscious of guilt and also by others who feared the dangers arising from factional hatred; but since they could not openly oppose it without admitting their approval of these and similar acts, they did so secretly through their friends, and especially through men of the Latin cities and the Italian allies. 3But the commons passed the bill with incredible eagerness and enthusiasm, rather from hatred of the nobles, for whom it boded trouble, than from love of country: so high did party passion run.

4Upon this the rest were panic stricken; but in the midst of the exultation of the people and the rout of his party, Marcus Scaurus, who, as I have already said, had been Bestia’s lieutenant, took advantage of the political confusion to have himself named as one of the three commissioners authorized by the bill of Mamilius. 5Nevertheless the investigation was conducted with harshness and violence, on hearsay evidence and at the caprice of the commons; for then the commons, as so often the nobles, had been made insolent by success.

41Now the institution of parties and factions, with all their attendant evils, originated at Rome a few years before this as the result of peace and of an abundance of everything that mortals prize most highly. 2For before the destruction of Carthage the people and senate of Rome together governed the republic peacefully and with moderation. There was no strife among the citizens either for glory or for power; fear of the enemy preserved the good morals of the state. 3But when the minds of the people were relieved of that dread, wantonness and arrogance naturally arose, vices which are fostered by prosperity. 4Thus the peace for which they had longed in time of adversity, after they had gained it proved to be more cruel and bitter than adversity itself. 5For the nobles began to abuse their position and the people their liberty, and every man for himself robbed, pillaged, and plundered. Thus the community was split into two parties, and between these the state was torn to pieces.

6But the nobles had the more powerful organization, while the strength of the commons was less effective because it was incompact and divided among many. 7Affairs at home and in the field were managed according to the will of a few men, in whose hands were the treasury, the provinces, public offices, glory and triumphs. The people were burdened with military service and poverty. The generals divided the spoils of war with a few friends. 8Meanwhile the parents or little children of the soldiers, if they had a powerful neighbour, were driven from their homes. 9Thus, by the side of power, greed arose, unlimited and unrestrained, violated and devastated everything, respected nothing, and held nothing sacred, until it finally brought about its own downfall. 10For as soon as nobles were found who preferred true glory to unjust power, the state began to be disturbed and civil dissension to arise like an upheaval of the earth.

42For example, when Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, whose forefathers had added greatly to the power of the republic in the Punic and other wars, began to assert the freedom of the commons and expose the crimes of the oligarchs, the nobility, who were guilty, were therefore panic stricken. They accordingly opposed the acts of the Gracchi, now through the allies and the Latin cities and again through the knights, whom the hope of an alliance with the senate had estranged from the commons. And first Tiberius, then a few years later Gaius, who had followed in his brother’s footsteps, were slain with the sword, although one was a tribune and the other a commissioner for founding colonies; and with them fell Marcus Fulvius Flaccus. 2It must be admitted that the Gracchi were so eager for victory that they had not shown a sufficiently moderate spirit; 3but a good man would prefer to be defeated rather than to triumph over injustice by establishing a bad precedent.

4The nobles then abused their victory to gratify their passions; they put many men out of the way by the sword or by banishment, and thus rendered themselves for the future rather dreaded than powerful. It is this spirit which has commonly ruined great nations, when one party desires to triumph over another by any and every means and to avenge itself on the vanquished with excessive cruelty. 5But if I should attempt to speak of the strife of parties and of the general character of the state in detail or according to the importance of the theme, time would fail me sooner than material. Therefore I return to my subject.

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