The War with Jugurtha, 80–83

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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80Since Jugurtha after the loss of Thala was convinced that nothing could resist Metellus, he journeyed through vast deserts with a few followers until he came to the Gaetulians, a wild and uncivilized race of men, who at that time had never heard the name of Rome. 2He mustered their population in one place and gradually trained them to keep ranks, follow the standards, obey orders, and perform the other duties of soldiers. 3He also won the favour of the nearest friends of King Bocchus by lavish gifts and still more lavish promises, and through their aid approached the king and induced him to make war upon the Romans. 4This was an easier and simpler matter, because at the beginning of this very war Bocchus had sent envoys to Rome, to ask for a treaty of alliance; 5but this arrangement, so advantageous for the war which was already under way, had been thwarted by a few men, blinded by greed, whose habit it was to traffic in everything, honourable and dishonourable. 6Even before that Bocchus had married a daughter of Jugurtha, but such a tie is not considered very binding among the Numidians and Moors, since each of them has as many wives as his means permit—some ten, others more, and kings a still greater number. 7Thus their affection is distributed among a large number; none of the wives is regarded as a consort, but all are equally misprised.

81Now the armies met in a place mutually agreed upon. There, after an exchange of pledges, Jugurtha strove to inflame the heart of Bocchus by a speech. The Romans, he said, were unjust, of boundless greed, and the common foes of all mankind. They had the same motive for a war with Bocchus as for one with himself and other nations, namely, the lust for dominion, and their hatred of all monarchies. Just now Jugurtha was their enemy, a short time before it had been the Carthaginians and King Perses; in the future it would be whoever seemed to them most powerful. 2After he had spoken these and similar words, the kings directed their march towards the town of Cirta, because there Metellus had placed his booty, his prisoners and his baggage. 3Hence Jugurtha thought that if the city could be taken, it would be worth the effort, while if the Roman leader came to the help of his countrymen, there would be a battle. 4And as a matter of fact, there was nothing about which the wily king was in such haste as to involve Bocchus in war, for fear that delay might lead him to choose another course.

82When the Roman general heard of the league of the kings, he did not offer battle heedlessly and in all places alike, as had been his custom with Jugurtha after he had so often defeated him; but he waited for them in a fortified camp not far from Cirta, thinking it better to learn to know the Moors, since this new enemy had appeared, and so to fight to better advantage. 2Meanwhile he was informed by letters from Rome that the province of Numidia had been given to Marius; for he had already heard of his election to the consulship. He was more affected by this news than was right or becoming, neither refraining from tears nor bridling his tongue; although he had the other qualities of a great man, he showed little fortitude in bearing mortification. 3Some attributed his conduct on this occasion to arrogance; others declared that a noble spirit had been exasperated by insult; many thought that it was due to the fact that the victory which he had already won was snatched from his grasp. Personally, I feel confident that he was tormented more by the honour done to Marius than by the affront to himself, and that he would have felt less annoyance if the province had been taken from him to be given to any other man than Marius.

83Checked therefore as he was by this grievance and thinking it folly to promote another’s interests at his own peril, Metellus sent envoys to Bocchus, to demand that he should not unprovoked become an enemy to the Roman people; he declared that in the crisis before them the king had a golden opportunity to form a friendly alliance, which was preferable to war, and that however much confidence he might feel in his strength, he ought not to exchange certainty for uncertainty. It was always easy to begin a war, but very difficult to stop one, since its beginning and end were not under the control of the same man. Anyone, even a coward, could commence a war, but it could be brought to an end only with the consent of the victors. Therefore the Moor ought to have regard to his own interests and those of his kingdom and ought not to unite his own prosperity with the desperate plight of Jugurtha.

2To these words the king made a sufficiently conciliatory reply, saying that he desired peace, but pitied the misfortunes of Jugurtha; that if the same opportunity were offered his ally, agreement would be easy. 3Upon this, Metellus again sent envoys to object to the demands of Bocchus, who partly heeded and partly rejected his remonstrances. In this way, while messengers were continually being sent to and fro, time passed and, as Metellus wished, the war remained at a standstill.

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