The War with Jugurtha, 43–47

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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43After the foul pact of Aulus and the foul flight of our army the consuls elect, Metellus and Silanus, had shared the provinces between them; Numidia had fallen to Metellus, a man of spirit, and, although he was an opponent of the popular party, of a consistently unblemished reputation. 2When he first entered upon his term of office, thinking that his colleague shared with him all the other business he devoted his attention to the war which he was going to conduct. 3Accordingly, being distrustful of the old army, he enrolled soldiers, summoned auxiliaries from every hand, got together arms, weapons, horses, and other munitions of war, as well as an abundance of supplies; in short, he provided everything which commonly proves useful in a war of varied character and demanding large resources. 4Furthermore, in making these preparations the senate aided him by its sanction, allies, Latin cities, and kings by the voluntary contribution of auxiliaries; in short, the whole state showed the greatest enthusiasm. 5Therefore, after everything was prepared and arranged to his satisfaction, Metellus left for Numidia, bearing with him the high hopes of the citizens, which were inspired not only by his good qualities in general, but especially because he possessed a mind superior to riches; for it had been the avarice of the magistrates that before this time had blighted our prospects in Numidia and advanced those of the enemy.

44But when Metellus reached Africa, the proconsul Spurius Albinus handed over to him an army that was weak, cowardly, and incapable of facing either danger or hardship, readier of tongue than of hand, a plunderer of our allies and itself a prey to the enemy, subject to no discipline or restraint. 2Hence their new commander gained more anxiety from the bad habits of his soldiers than security or hope from their numbers. 3Although the postponement of the elections had trenched upon the summer season and Metellus knew that the citizens were eagerly anticipating his success, yet, notwithstanding this, he resolved not to take the field until he had forced the soldiers to undergo the old-time drill and training. 4For Albinus, utterly overcome by the disaster to his brother Aulus and the army, had decided not to leave the province; and during that part of the summer when he retained the command he had kept the soldiers for the most part in a permanent camp, except when the stench or the need of fodder had compelled him to change his position. 5But his camps were not fortified, nor was watch kept in military fashion; men absented themselves from duty whenever they pleased. Camp followers and soldiers ranged about in company day and night, and in their forays laid waste the country, stormed farmhouses, and vied with one another in amassing booty in the form of cattle and slaves, which they bartered with the traders for foreign wine and other luxuries. They even sold the grain which was allotted them by the state and bought bread from day to day. In short, whatever disgraceful excesses resulting from idleness and wantonness can be mentioned or imagined were all to be found in that army and others besides.

45But in dealing with these difficulties, as well as in waging war, I find that Metellus showed himself a great and prudent man, so skilful a course did he steer between indulgence and severity. 2For in the first place he is said to have removed the incentives to indolence by an edict that no one should sell bread or any other cooked food within the camp, that sutlers should not attend the army, and that no private soldier should have a slave or a pack animal in camp or on the march; and he set a strict limit on other practices of the kind. Moreover he broke camp every day for cross-country marches, fortified it with a palisade and moat just as if the enemy were near, and set guards at short intervals and inspected them in person attended by his lieutenants. On the march too he was now with those in the van, now in the rear, often in the middle of the line, to see that no one left the ranks, that they advanced in a body about the standards, and that the soldiers carried food and arms. 3In this way, rather by keeping them from doing wrong than by punishing them, he soon restored the temper of his army.

46Jugurtha meanwhile learned through messengers what Metellus was about, and at the same time received word from Rome that his opponent was incorruptible. 2He therefore began to lose heart in his cause and for the first time attempted to arrange a genuine surrender. Accordingly, he sent envoys to the consul with tokens of submission,merely asking that his own life and those of his children be spared and leaving all else to the discretion of the Roman people. 3But Metellus had already learned from experience that the Numidians were a treacherous race, of fickle disposition, and fond of a change. He therefore separated the envoys and approached them one by one. 4When by gradually sounding them he found that they could be used for his design, he induced them by lavish promises to deliver Jugurtha into his hands, alive if possible; or dead, if he could not be taken alive. But publicly he bade them take back a reply in accordance with the king’s wishes.

5A few days later the consul with his army alert and ready for battle invaded Numidia, where he found nothing to indicate a state of war; the huts were full of men, and cattle and farmers were to be seen in the fields. The king’s officers came out to meet him from the towns and villages, offering to furnish grain, transport provisions—in short, to do everything that they were ordered. 6None the less, exactly as if the enemy were close at hand, Metellus advanced with his line protected on all sides, and reconnoitred the country far and wide, believing that these indications of submission were a pretence and that the enemy were seeking an opportunity for treachery. 7Accordingly, he himself led the van with the light-armed cohorts as well as a picked body of slingers and archers, his lieutenant Gaius Marius with the cavalry had charge of the rear, while on both flanks he had apportioned the cavalry of the auxiliaries to the tribunes of the legions and the prefects of the cohorts. With these the light-armed troops were mingled, whose duty it was to repel the attacks of the enemy’s horsemen, wherever they might be made. 8For Jugurtha was so crafty, so well acquainted with the region and so versed in military science, that it was not certain whether he was more dangerous when absent or when present, at peace or making war.

47Not far from the route which Metellus was taking lay a town of the Numidians called Vaga, the most frequented emporium of the entire kingdom, where many men of Italic race traded and made their homes. 2Here the consul stationed a garrison, both to see whether the inhabitants would accept his overtures and because of the advantages of the situation. He gave orders too that grain and other necessaries of war should be brought together there, believing, as the circumstances suggested, that the large number of traders would aid his army in getting supplies and serve as a protection to those which he had already prepared.

3While this was going on, Jugurtha with even greater insistence sent suppliant envoys, begged for peace, and offered Metellus everything except his life and that of his children. These envoys too, like the former ones, the consul persuaded to turn traitors and sent home, neither refusing nor promising the king the peace for which he asked and meanwhile waiting for the envoys to fulfil their promises.

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