The War with Jugurtha, 63–73

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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63At about that same time it chanced that when Gaius Marius was offering victims to the gods at Utica a soothsayer declared that a great and marvellous career awaited him; the seer accordingly advised him, trusting in the gods, to carry out what he had in mind and put his fortune to the test as often as possible, predicting that all his undertakings would have a happy issue. 2Even before this Marius had been possessed with a mighty longing for the consulship, for which he had in abundance every qualification except an ancient lineage: namely, diligence, honesty, great military skill, and a spirit that was mighty in war, unambitious in peace, which rose superior to passion and the lure of riches, and was greedy only for glory. 3Nay more, having been born and reared at Arpinum, where he had spent all his boyhood, he had no sooner reached the age for military life than he had given himself the training of active service, not of Grecian eloquence or the elegance of the city. Thus engrossed in wholesome pursuits his unspoiled nature soon matured. 4The result was that when he first sought the office of military tribune from the people, the greater number did not know him by sight; yet his deeds were familiar and he was elected by the vote of all the tribes. 5Then, after that success, he won office after office, always so conducting himself in each of them as to be regarded worthy of a higher position than that which he was holding. 6Nevertheless, although he had up to that time shown himself so admirable a man (for afterwards he was driven headlong by ambition), he did not venture to aspire to the consulship; for even as late as that time, although the commons could bestow the other magistracies, the nobles passed the consulate from hand to hand within their own order. 7No “new man” was so famous or so illustrious for his deeds, that he was not considered unworthy of that honour, and the office, so to speak, sullied by such an incumbency.

64Now when Marius perceived that the words of the soothsayer pointed to the goal towards which his heart’s desire was urging him, he asked Metellus for a furlough, in order to become a candidate. Now, although Metellus possessed in abundance valour, renown, and other qualities to be desired by good men, yet he had a disdainful and arrogant spirit, a common defect in the nobles. 2At first then he was astonished at the unusual request, expressed his surprise at Marius’ design, and with feigned friendship advised him not to enter upon so mad a course or to entertain thoughts above his station. All men, he said, should not covet all things; Marius should be content with his own lot and finally, he must beware of making a request of the Roman people which they would be justified in denying.

3After Metellus had made this and other similar remarks without shaking Marius’ resolution, he at last replied that as soon as the business of the state allowed he would do what he asked. 4Later, when Marius often repeated the same request, Metellus is said to have rejoined: “Don’t be in a hurry to go to Rome; it will be soon enough for you to be a candidate when my son becomes one.” That young man at the time was about twenty years old and was serving in Numidia on his father’s personal staff; hence the taunt resulted in inflaming Marius not only with greater desire for the honour to which he aspired, but also with a deep hatred of Metellus. 5Accordingly, he allowed himself to be swayed by the worst of counsellors, ambition and resentment; he hesitated at no act or word, provided only it could win him popularity; he was less strict than before in maintaining discipline among the soldiers under his command in the winter quarters, and talked about the war to the traders, of whom there were a great number in Utica, at the same time disparagingly and boastfully. He declared that if but half the army were put in his charge, he would have Jugurtha in fetters within a few days. His commander, he said, was purposely protracting the war, because he was a man of extravagant and tyrannical pride, and enjoyed too much the exercise of power. 6And all this talk appealed the more strongly to the traders, because they had suffered pecuniary loss from the long duration of the war, and for greedy spirits nothing moves fast enough.

65Furthermore, there was in our army a Numidian named Gauda, a son of Mastanabal and grandson of Masinissa, whom Micipsa had made one of his heirs in the second degree; he was enfeebled by ill-health and was consequently of a somewhat weak mind. 2This man had petitioned Metellus that he might be given the privilege accorded to royalty and allowed to sit beside him, and afterwards also requested a squadron of Roman knights as a bodyguard. Metellus denied both requests: the honour, because it belonged only to those on whom the Romans had formally conferred the title of king; the guard, because it would have been an insult to Roman knights to make them the attendants of a Numidian. 3While Gauda was brooding over this refusal, he was approached by Marius, who urged him to avenge himself on the general for his affronts and offered him his help. In flattering terms he lauded this man whose mind was weakened by illness, declaring that he was a king, a mighty hero, the grandson of Masinissa; that if Jugurtha should be taken or killed, he would without delay be made ruler of Numidia; and Marius asserted that this would very soon come to pass, if only he were made consul and sent to the war.

4In this way Marius induced Gauda and the Roman knights, both those who were in the army and those who were doing business in the town, some by his personal influence, the most by the hope of peace, to write to their friends in Rome in criticism of Metellus’ conduct of the war and to call for Marius as a commander. 5As a result many men supported Marius’ canvass for the consulship in a highly flattering fashion; moreover, just at that time the nobles had been given a check by the bill of Mamilius and the commons were striving to advance “new men.” Thus everything favoured Marius.

66Meanwhile Jugurtha, having abandoned the idea of surrender and having resumed hostilities, was making all his preparations with great care and despatch. He was levying a new army, trying either by intimidation or by offering rewards to win back the cities which had revolted from him, and fortifying advantageous positions. He was making or buying arms, weapons and other things which he had sacrificed to his hope of peace, tempting the Roman slaves to revolt, and trying to bribe even those who formed the Roman garrisons. In short, he left absolutely nothing untried or undisturbed, but kept everything in commotion. 2As a result of his efforts the Vagenses, in whose town Metellus had placed a garrison at first, at the time when Jugurtha was suing for peace, yielded to the entreaties of the king, towards whom they had always been well disposed, and the leading men of the town entered into a conspiracy. As to the commons, they were of a fickle disposition, as is usually the case and as is particularly true of the Numidians, prone to rebellion and disorder, fond of change and opposed to peace and quiet. Then, after arranging matters among themselves, they appointed the third day from that time, because it was observed as a holiday all over Africa and promised entertainment and festivity rather than danger. 3However, when the appointed time arrived, they invited the centurions and military tribunes and even the prefect of the town himself, Titus Turpilius Silanus by name, to their several homes. There all except Turpilius were slain while feasting. The conspirators then fell upon the common soldiers, who were strolling about unarmed, as was natural on such a day, when they were off duty. 4The commons joined in the massacre, some at the instigation of the nobles, others inspired by a natural fondness for such conduct; for although they knew neither what was being done nor its purpose, they found sufficient incentive in mere revolution and disorder.

67The Roman soldiers, being bewildered by this unexpected peril and not knowing what to do first, were thrown into disorder. They were cut off from the citadel of the town, where their standards and shields were, by hostile force, and from flight by the gates, closed beforehand. Moreover, women and boys from the roofs of the houses were busily pelting them with stones and whatever else they could lay hands on. 2It was quite impossible to guard against the double danger and brave men were helpless before the feeblest of opponents. Side by side valiant and cowardly, strong and weak, fell without striking a blow.

3During this merciless slaughter, although the Numidians were in a frenzy and the town was completely closed, Turpilius the commander, alone of all the Italians, escaped unscathed. Whether he owed this to the mercy of his host, to connivance, or to chance I have been unable to learn; at any rate, since in such a disaster he chose to live disgraced rather than die with an unsullied reputation, he seems to me a wretch utterly detestable.

68When Metellus learned what had happened at Vaga, for a time his grief was such that he would see no one. Then, when anger was mingled with his sorrow, he devoted all his thoughts to prompt vengeance for the outrage. 2No sooner had the sun set than he led out the legion with which he was wintering, and as many Numidian horse as he could muster, all lightly equipped; and on the following day at about the third hour he arrived at a plain, which was surrounded on all sides by somewhat higher ground. 3At that point, finding that his soldiers were worn out by the long march and were on the point of mutiny, he told them that the town of Vaga was only a mile away. They ought, he said, patiently to endure what toil remained, for the sake of avenging the unhappy fate of their brave fellow-citizens. He also made generous promises about the booty. 4When he had thus roused their spirits, he ordered the cavalry to take the lead in open order, while the infantry followed in the closest possible formation and with their standards hidden.

69When the people of Vaga perceived that an army was coming their way, at first they closed their gates, thinking that it was Metellus, as in fact it was. Later, seeing that the fields were not being laid waste and that the horsemen in the van were Numidians, they changed their minds, and taking the newcomers for Jugurtha, went out full of joy to meet him. 2Then on a sudden the signal sounded and some of the cavalry and infantry began to cut down the crowd which was pouring from the town; others hurried to the gates, while a part took possession of the towers; anger and desire for booty triumphed over their weariness.

3Thus it was only two days that the people of Vaga exulted in their treachery; 4then their rich and populous city in its entirety fell a victim to vengeance and plunder. Turpilius, the commandant of the town, who, as I have already said, had been the only one to escape, was summoned by Metellus before a court martial, and being unable to justify himself was condemned to be scourged and put to death; for he was only a Latin citizen.

70At this same time Bomilcar, who had induced Jugurtha to begin the negotiations for surrender which he later discontinued through fear, being an object of suspicion to Jugurtha and himself looking on the king with suspicion, was desirous of a change of rulers; he therefore began to cast about for a stratagem by which to effect the ruin of Jugurtha, and racked his brains day and night. 2Finally, while trying every device, he won the support of Nabdalsa, a man of rank, wealth and distinction, who was very popular with his countrymen. This man was in the habit of exercising a command independently of the king and of attending to all business which Jugurtha could not transact in person when he was weary or engaged in more important duties; 3in this way he had gained fame and power. 4He and Bomilcar accordingly took counsel together and chose a time for their plot, deciding to arrange the details on the spot according to circumstances. Nabdalsa then went to the army, which by the royal command he kept between the winter quarters of the Romans, for the purpose of preventing the enemy from ravaging the country with impunity. 5There, however, he took fright at the enormity of the proposed crime, and since he did not appear at the appointed hour, his fears thwarted the attempt. Therefore Bomilcar, being at once eager to carry out his design and also fearing that the timidity of his accomplice might lead him to abandon their former plan and look for a new one, sent a letter to him by trusty messengers. In this he upbraided the man for his weakness and cowardice, called to witness the gods by whom he had sworn, and warned him not to exchange ruin for the rewards offered by Metellus. Jugurtha’s end, he said, was at hand; the only question was whether he should succumb to their valour or to that of Metellus. Nabdalsa must therefore consider whether he preferred rewards or torture.

71Now when this letter arrived, it chanced that Nabdalsa, fatigued by bodily exercise, was resting on his couch. 2On reading Bomilcar’s message, he was at first troubled, and then, as is usual with a wearied mind, sleep overcame him. 3He had as his secretary a Numidian whom he trusted and loved, a man whom he had made acquainted with all his designs except this last one. 4When this man heard that a letter had arrived, he thought that as usual his services or advice would be needed. He therefore entered the tent where his master was sleeping, took the letter, which Nabdalsa had carelessly left on the pillow above his head, and read it; then perceiving the plot, he went in haste to the king.

5When Nabdalsa woke up a little later and did not find the letter, realizing exactly what had happened, he first made an attempt to overtake the informer, and failing in that went to Jugurtha in order to pacify him. He declared that he had been anticipated by his faithless dependant in doing what he himself had intended. Bursting into tears, he begged the king by his friendship and his own faithful service of old not to suspect him of such a crime.

72To these words the king made a courteous reply, disguising his real feelings. After putting to death Bomilcar and many others whom he knew to be implicated in the plot, he restrained his anger, for fear that the affair might cause a rebellion. 2But from that time forward Jugurtha never passed a quiet day or night; he put little trust in any place, person, or time; feared his countrymen and the enemy alike; was always on the watch; started at every sound; and spent his nights in different places, many of which were ill suited to the dignity of a king. Sometimes on being roused from sleep he would utter outcries and seize his arms; he was hounded by a fear that was all but madness.

73Now when Metellus learned from deserters of the fate of Bomilcar and the discovery of the plot, he again hastened to make all his preparations, as if for a new war. 2Since Marius constantly asked for a furlough, he sent him home, thinking that a man who was at once both discontented and at odds with his commander, would be of little service. 3At Rome, too, the commons, on hearing the letters which had been written about Metellus and Marius, had readily accepted what was said in them about both men. 4The general’s noble rank, which before this had been an honour to him, became a source of unpopularity, while to Marius his humble origin lent increased favour; but in the case of both men their own good or bad qualities had less influence than party spirit. 5More than this, seditious magistrates were working upon the feelings of the populace, in every assembly charging Metellus with treason and exaggerating the merits of Marius. 6At length the commons were so excited that all the artisans and farmers, whose prosperity and credit depended upon the labour of their own hands, left their work and attended Marius, regarding their own necessities as less important than his success. 7The result was that the nobles were worsted and after the lapse of many years the consulship was given to a “new man.” Afterwards, when the tribune Titus Manlius Mancinus asked the people whom they wished to have as leader of the war with Jugurtha, they chose Marius by a large majority. It is true that the senate had shortly before this voted Numidia to Metellus, but their action was to no purpose.

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