The War with Jugurtha, 74–79

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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74By this time Jugurtha had lost all his friends, having himself slain the greater part of them, while others through fear had taken refuge either with the Romans or with King Bocchus. Therefore, since he could not carry on the war without officers, and at the same time considered it dangerous to trust to the fidelity of new friends when old friends had proved so treacherous, he lived in doubt and uncertainty. There was no measure, there was neither plan nor man that he could fully approve. He changed his routes and his officials from day to day, now went forth to meet the enemy, now took to the desert; often placed hope in flight and shortly afterwards in arms; was in doubt whether to trust less to the courage or to the good faith of his countrymen: thus, wherever he turned, he faced adversity.

2While the king was thus procrastinating, Metellus unexpectedly appeared with his army; whereupon Jugurtha made ready and drew up his Numidians as well as time allowed. Then the battle began. 3Wherever the king was present in person, there was some show of resistance; everywhere else his soldiers broke and fled at the first charge. The Romans captured a considerable number of standards and arms, but few prisoners; for in almost all their battles the Numidians depend more upon speed of foot than on arms.

75Reduced to even deeper despair by this defeat, Jugurtha took refuge with the fugitives and a part of the cavalry in the desert, and then made his way to Thala, a large and wealthy town in which the greater part of his treasure was kept, and his children were being brought up in grand style. 2As soon as Metellus learned of this, although he knew that between Thala and the nearest river lay fifty miles of dry and desolate country, yet in hope of ending the war by getting possession of so important a town he undertook to surmount all the difficulties and even to defeat Nature herself. 3Accordingly, he gave orders that every pack animal should be relieved of all burdens except a ten days’ allowance of grain, and that in addition to this only skins and other vessels for carrying water should be taken. 4Moreover, he scoured the fields to find as many domestic animals as possible and upon them he loaded utensils of every kind, but especially wooden ones, which he obtained from the huts of the Numidians. 5Besides this, he ordered all the people who dwelt near by (they had surrendered to Metellus after the flight of the king), to bring each as much water as he could, naming the day and the place where they were to appear. 6He himself loaded his animals from the river which, as I have already said, was the nearest water to the town, and with this supply began his march for Thala. 7When Metellus had reached the place which he had appointed with the Numidians and had pitched and fortified his camp, suddenly such an abundance of rain is said to have fallen from heaven that this alone furnished the army with water enough and to spare. 8The amount also which was brought to him was greater than he anticipated, since the Numidians, as is common just after a surrender, had more than done their duty. 9But religious motives led the soldiers to prefer the rain water and its fall added greatly to their spirits; for they thought that they enjoyed the favour of the immortal gods.

The next day, contrary to Jugurtha’s expectation, the Romans arrived at Thala. 10The townspeople had supposed themselves protected by their inaccessible situation; but although they were amazed at this great and unexpected feat, they none the less made diligent preparations for battle. Our men did the same.

76But the king now believed that there was nothing which Metellus could not accomplish, since his energy had triumphed over all obstacles: arms, weapons, places, seasons, even Nature herself, to whom all others bowed. He therefore fled from the town by night with his children and the greater part of his treasure. And after that he never lingered in any place for more than one day or one night, pretending that his haste was due to important affairs; but as a matter of fact he feared treachery and thought that he could escape it by rapid movements, since such designs require leisure and opportunity.

2But when Metellus saw that the inhabitants were eager for battle and also that the town was fortified both by its position and by defensive works, he encompassed the walls with a stockade and a moat. 3Then in the two most suitable places that he could find he brought up the mantlets, built a mound, and upon it placed turrets to protect the besiegers and their work. 4The townsmen for their part hastened their preparations; indeed, nothing was left undone by either side. 5At last, after much exhausting toil and many battles, the Romans, forty days after their arrival, got possession of the town only, all the booty having been destroyed by the deserters. 6For when these men saw the wall battered by the rams and realized that all was lost, they carried the gold, silver, and other valuables to the palace. There, gorged with food and wine, they burned the treasure, the palace and themselves, thus voluntarily paying the penalty which they feared they would suffer at the hands of a victorious enemy.

77Now simultaneously with the capture of Thala envoys had come to Metellus from the town of Leptis, begging him to send them a garrison and a commandant. They declared that one Hamilcar, a man of rank and given to intrigue, was plotting a revolution and could be restrained neither by the commands of the magistrates nor by the laws: unless Metellus acted promptly, they would be in extreme peril of their lives; the Romans, of losing their allies. 2And in fact the citizens of Leptis at the very beginning of the war with Jugurtha had sent messengers to Bestia the consul and later to Rome, asking for friendship and an alliance. 3After their request was granted, they had always remained true and loyal, and had diligently executed all the commands of Bestia, Albinus and Metellus. 4Therefore Metellus willingly granted their petition, and four cohorts of Ligurians were sent to their aid under the command of Gaius Annius.

78The town of Leptis was founded by Sidonians, who are reported to have left their homes because of civil discord and come to that region in ships. It lies between the two Syrtes, which derive their name from their nature; 2for they are two bays situated almost at the extreme end of Africa, of unequal size but alike in character. 3Near the shore the water is very deep, elsewhere it is sometimes deep and sometimes shoal, just as it happens; for when the breeze causes the sea to swell and rage, the waves sweep along mud, sand, and great rocks, so that the aspect of the place changes with the winds. From this “sweeping” the Syrtes get their name.

4Only the speech of this city has been affected by intermarriage with the Numidians; its laws and customs are for the most part Sidonian, and these the inhabitants retained the more easily because they passed their life at a distance from the Numidian capital. 5For between them and the thickly settled part of Numidia lay an extensive desert.

79Since the affairs of the people of Leptis have brought us to this region, it seems fitting to relate the noble and memorable act of two Carthaginians; the place calls the event to mind. 2At the time when the Carthaginians ruled in the greater part of Africa, the people of Cyrene were also strong and prosperous. 3Between that city and Carthage lay a sandy plain of monotonous aspect. There was neither river nor hill to mark the frontiers, a circumstance which involved the two peoples in bitter and lasting strife.

4After many armies and fleets had been beaten and put to flight on both sides, and the long struggle had somewhat wearied them both, they began to fear that presently a third party might attack victors and vanquished in their weak state. They therefore called a truce and agreed that on a given day envoys should set out from each city and that the place where they met should be regarded as the common frontier of the two peoples. 5Accordingly, two brothers were sent from Carthage, called Philaeni, and these made haste to complete their journey. Those from Cyrene went more deliberately. Whether this was due to sloth or chance I cannot say, 6but in those lands a storm often causes no less delay than on the sea; for when the wind rises on those level and barren plains, it sweeps up the sand from the ground and drives it with such violence as to fill the mouth and eyes. Thus one is halted because one cannot see. 7Now when the men of Cyrene realized that they were somewhat belated and feared punishment for their failure when they returned, they accused the Carthaginians of having left home ahead of time and refused to abide by the agreement; in fact they were willing to do anything rather than go home defeated. 8But when the Carthaginians demanded other terms, provided they were fair, the Greeks gave them the choice, either of being buried alive in the place which they claimed as the boundary of their country, or of allowing the Greeks on the same condition to advance as far as they wished. 9The Philaeni accepted the terms and gave up their lives for their country; so they were buried alive. 10The Carthaginians consecrated altars on that spot to the Philaeni brothers, and other honours were established for them at home. I now return to my subject.

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