The War with Jugurtha, 56–62

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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56When the Roman general began to realize that he was being exhausted by the strategy of his opponent, who gave him no chance for battle, he decided to lay siege to a large city called Zama, the citadel of the part of the kingdom in which it was situated. He thought that as a matter of course Jugurtha would come to the aid of his subjects in distress and that a battle would be fought in that place. 2But Jugurtha, learning from deserters what was on foot, by forced marches outstripped Metellus; he encouraged the townspeople to defend their walls, and gave them the help of a band of deserters, who formed the strongest part of the king’s forces because they dared not be treacherous. He promised too that he would come himself in due season with an army. 3Having made these arrangements, the king withdrew to places as secluded as possible, and presently learned that Marius had been ordered to leave the line of march and go with a few cohorts to forage at Sicca, which was the very first town to revolt from the king after his defeat. 4Thither Jugurtha hastened by night with the best of his cavalry and engaged the Romans at the gate just as they were coming out. At the same time, in a loud voice he urged the people of Sicca to surround the cohorts in the rear; fortune, he said, gave them the chance for a brilliant exploit. If they took advantage of it, he would be restored to his kingdom and they would live for the future in freedom and without fear. 5And had not Marius hastened to advance and leave the town, surely the greater part of the townspeople, if not all of them, would have changed their allegiance; such is the fickleness with which the Numidians act. 6Jugurtha’s soldiers were held firm for a time by the king, but when the enemy attacked with greater force they fled in disorder after suffering slight losses.

57Marius went on to Zama. That town, situated in an open plain and fortified rather by art than by nature, lacked no essential, and was well supplied with arms and men. 2Therefore Metellus, making his preparations to suit the circumstances and the locality, completely invested the walls with his army, assigning to each of his lieutenants his special point of attack. 3Then, upon a given signal, a mighty shout arose from all sides at once, but without in the least frightening the Numidians; ready and eager for action they awaited the fray without disorder and the battle began. 4The Romans acted each according to his own quality: some fought at long range with slings or stones, others advanced and undermined the wall or applied scaling-ladders, striving to get at grips with the foe. 5The townsmen met their attacks by rolling down stones upon the foremost and hurling at them beams, pikes, and torches made of burning pitch and sulphur. 6Not even those of our men who had remained at a distance were wholly protected by their timidity, for very many of them were wounded by javelins hurled from engines or by hand. Thus the valiant and the craven were in like danger but of unlike repute.

58While this struggle was going on at Zama, Jugurtha unexpectedly fell upon the Roman camp with a large force, and through the carelessness of the guards, who were looking for anything rather than a battle, forced one of the gates. 2Our men were struck with a sudden panic and sought safety each according to his temperament; some fled, others armed themselves, nearly all were killed or wounded. 3But out of the entire number forty or less remembered that they were Romans. These gathered together and took a position a little higher than the rest, from which they could not be dislodged by the greatest efforts of the enemy, but they threw back the weapons which were thrown at them from a distance, and few against many could hardly miss. But if the Numidians came nearer, they then showed their real quality, charging them with the greatest fury, routing and scattering them.

4Meanwhile, Metellus, who was vigorously pressing the attack on the town, heard shouts like the melley of a hostile force behind him; then, wheeling his horse about, he saw that the fugitives were coming his way, which indicated that they were his countrymen. 5He therefore sent all the cavalry to the camp in haste and ordered Gaius Marius to follow at once with the cohorts of allies, begging him with tears in the name of their friendship and their common country not to allow any disgrace to stain their victorious army, and not to suffer the enemy to escape unpunished. Marius promptly did as he was ordered. 6As for Jugurtha, he was hampered by the fortifications of the camp, since some of his men were tumbling over the ramparts and others, endeavouring to make haste in the crowded spaces, were getting in each other’s way; he therefore, after considerable losses, withdrew to a place of safety. 7Metellus was prevented by the coming of night from following up his victory and returned to camp with his army.

59Accordingly, the next day, before going out to attack the town, Metellus ordered all the cavalry to ride up and down before that part of the camp where the king was likely to attack, assigned to the several tribunes the defence of the gates and their neighbourhood, and then himself proceeded to the town and assailed the wall as on the day before. 2Meanwhile Jugurtha suddenly rushed upon our men from ambush. Those who were stationed nearest the point of attack were terrified and thrown into confusion for a time, but the rest quickly came to their help. 3And the Numidians would not have been able to make a long resistance, had not their combination of infantry and cavalry done great execution in the melley; for the Numidian horsemen, trusting to this infantry, did not alternately advance and retreat, as is usual in a cavalry skirmish, but charged at full speed, rushing into and breaking up our line of battle; thus with their light-armed infantry they all but conquered their enemy.

60At the same time the contest at Zama continued with great fury. Wherever each of the lieutenants or tribunes was in charge, there was the bitterest strife and no one relied more on another than on himself. The townspeople showed equal courage; men were fighting or making preparations at all points, and both sides were more eager to wound one another than to protect themselves. 2There was a din of mingled encouragement, exultation, and groans; the clash of arms also rose to heaven, and a shower of missiles fell on both sides. 3But whenever the besiegers relaxed their assault ever so little, the defenders of the walls became interested spectators of the cavalry battle. 4As Jugurtha’s fortunes shifted, you might see them now joyful, now alarmed; acting as if their countrymen could see or hear them, some shouted warnings, others urged them on; they gesticulated or swayed their bodies, moving them this way and that as if dodging or hurling weapons.

5When Marius perceived all this (for he was in charge at that point) he purposely slackened his efforts and feigned discouragement, allowing the Numidians to witness their king’s battle undisturbed. 6When their attention was thus riveted upon their countrymen, he suddenly assaulted the wall with the utmost violence. Our soldiers, mounting on scaling-ladders, had almost reached the top of the wall, when the townsmen rushed to the spot and met them with a rain of stones, firebrands, and other missiles besides. 7At first our men resisted; then, as ladder after ladder was shattered and those who stood upon them were dashed to the ground, the rest made off as best they could, some few unharmed but the greater number badly wounded. 8At last night ended the combat on both sides.

61After Metellus saw that his attempt was vain, that the town was no nearer being taken, that Jugurtha would not fight except from ambush or on his own ground, and that the summer was now at an end, he left Zama and placed garrisons in such of the towns which had gone over to him as were strongly enough fortified by their situation or by walls. 2The rest of his army he stationed in the part of our province which lies nearest to Numidia, that they might pass the winter there. 3But he did not devote that season, as others commonly do, to rest or dissipation, but since the war was making little progress through arms, he prepared to lay snares for the king through his friends and to make their treachery his weapons.

4Now Bomilcar had been at Rome with Jugurtha, and then, after being released on bail, had fled to escape trial for the murder of Massiva. Since this man’s special intimacy with the king gave him special opportunities for deceiving him, Metellus tried to win his co-operation by many promises. 5First, he contrived that the Numidian should come to him secretly for a conference; then after he had pledged his honour that if Bomilcar would deliver Jugurtha into his hands alive or dead, the senate would grant him impunity and restore all his property, he persuaded him without difficulty; for he was treacherous by nature and besides feared that if peace should ever be made with the Romans, one condition would be his own surrender and execution.

62As soon as an opportune time came, when Jugurtha was worried and lamenting his fate, Bomilcar approached him. He warned the king and begged him with tears that he should at last take thought for himself, his children, and the people of Numidia who had served him so faithfully. He reminded him that they had been worsted in every battle, that his country had been ravaged, many of his subjects killed or taken prisoners, and the resources of the kingdom drained. He had now made sufficient trial both of his soldiers’ courage and of the will of fortune, and must take heed, lest while he hesitated the Numidians should take measures for their own safety. 2By these and other similar arguments he reconciled the king to the thought of a surrender. 3Envoys were sent to the Roman general to say that Jugurtha would submit to his orders and entrusted himself and his kingdom unconditionally to his honour. 4Metellus at once gave orders that all men of senatorial rank should be summoned from the winter quarters; with them and with such others as he considered suitable he held a council. 5He obeyed the decree of the council—thus conforming to the usage of our forefathers—and sent envoys to demand of Jugurtha two hundred thousand pounds’ weight of silver, all his elephants, and a considerable quantity of horses and arms. 6When these conditions had promptly been met, he ordered all the deserters to be brought to him in fetters. 7The greater part of them were brought as ordered, but a few had taken refuge with King Bocchus in Mauretania as soon as the negotiations for surrender began.

8Now, when Jugurtha, after being stripped of arms, men and money, was himself summoned to Tisidium to receive his orders, he began once more to waver in his purpose, and prompted by a guilty conscience, to dread the punishment due to his crimes. 9At last, after spending many days in hesitation, at one time so weary of adversity as to think anything better than war, and anon reflecting how great a fall it was from a throne to slavery, after having lost to no purpose many great resources, he renewed the war. 10Meanwhile at Rome, when the question of the provinces came up, the senate had assigned Numidia to Metellus.

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