The War with Jugurtha, 84–96

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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84Now Marius, as we have already said, was chosen consul with the ardent support of the commons. While even before his election he had been hostile to the nobles, as soon as the people voted him the province of Numidia he attacked the aristocracy persistently and boldly, assailing now individuals and now the entire party. He boasted that he had wrested the consulship from them as the spoils of victory, and made other remarks calculated to glorify himself and exasperate them. 2All the while he gave his first attention to preparation for the war. He asked that the legions should be reinforced, summoned auxiliaries from foreign nations and kings, besides calling out the bravest men from Latium and from our allies, the greater number of whom he knew from actual service but a few only by reputation. By special inducements, too, he persuaded veterans who had served their time to join his expedition.

3The senate, although it was hostile to him, did not venture to oppose any of his measures; the addition to the legions it was particularly glad to vote, because it was thought that the commons were disinclined to military service and that Marius would thus lose either resources for the war or the devotion of the people. But such a desire of following Marius had seized almost everyone, that the hopes of the senate were disappointed. 4Each man imagined himself enriched by booty or returning home a victor, along with other visions of the same kind. Marius too had aroused them in no slight degree by a speech of his; 5for when all the decrees for which he had asked had been passed and he wished to enrol soldiers, in order to encourage men to enlist and at the same time, according to his custom, to bait the nobles, he called an assembly of the people. Then he spoke in the following manner:

85“I know, fellow citizens, that it is by very different methods that most men ask for power at your hands and exercise it after it has been secured; that at first they are industrious, humble and modest, but afterwards they lead lives of indolence and arrogance. 2But the right course, in my opinion, is just the opposite; for by as much as the whole commonwealth is of more value than a consulate or a praetorship, so much greater ought to be the care with which it is governed than that which is shown in seeking those offices. 3Nor am I unaware how great a task I am taking upon myself in accepting this signal favour of yours. To prepare for war and at the same time to spare the treasury; to force into military service those whom one would not wish to offend; to have a care for everything at home and abroad—to do all this amid envy, enmity and intrigue, is a ruder task, fellow citizens, than you might suppose. 4Furthermore, if others make mistakes, their ancient nobility, the brave deeds of their ancestors, the power of their kindred and relatives, their throng of clients, are all a very present help. My hopes are all vested in myself and must be maintained by my own worth and integrity; for all other supports are weak.

5“This too I understand, fellow citizens, that the eyes of all are turned towards me, that the just and upright favour me because my services are a benefit to our country, while the nobles are looking for a chance to attack me. 6Wherefore I must strive the more earnestly that you may not be deceived and that they may be disappointed. 7From childhood to my present time of life I have so lived that I am familiar with every kind of hardship and danger. 8As to the efforts, fellow citizens, which before your favours were conferred upon me I made without recompense, it is not my intention to relax them now that they have brought me their reward. 9To make a moderate use of power is difficult for those who from interested motives have pretended to be virtuous; for me, who have spent my entire life in exemplary conduct, habit has made right living a second nature. 10You have bidden me conduct the war against Jugurtha, a commission which has sorely vexed the nobles. I pray you, ponder well whether it would be better to change your minds and send on this or any similar errand one of that ring of nobles, a man of ancient lineage and many ancestral portraits—but no campaigns; in order, no doubt, that being wholly in ignorance of the duties of such an office, he might hurry and bustle about and select some one of the common people to act as his adviser. 11In fact, it very often happens that the man whom you have selected as a commander looks about for someone else to command him. 12I personally know of men, citizens, who after being elected consuls began for the first time to read the history of our forefathers and the military treatises of the Greeks, preposterous creatures! for though in order of time administration follows election, yet in actual practice it comes first.

13“Compare me now, fellow citizens, a ‘new man,’ with those haughty nobles. What they know from hearsay and reading, I have either seen with my own eyes or done with my own hands. What they have learned from books I have learned by service in the field; 14Think now for yourselves whether words or deeds are worth more. They scorn my humble birth, I their worthlessness; I am taunted with my lot in life, they with their infamies. 15For my part, I believe that all men have one and the same nature, but that the bravest is the best born; 16and if the fathers of Albinus and Bestia could now be asked whether they would prefer to have me or those men for their descendants, what do you suppose they would reply, if not that they desired to have the best possible children?

17“But if they rightly look down on me, let them also look down on their own forefathers, whose nobility began, as did my own, in manly deeds. 18They begrudge me my office; then let them begrudge my toil, my honesty, even my dangers, since it was through those that I won the office. 19In fact, these men, spoiled by pride, live as if they scorned your honours, but seek them as if their own lives were honourable. 20Surely they are deceived when they look forward with equal confidence to things which are worlds apart, the joys of idleness and the rewards of merit. 21Even when they speak to you or address the senate, their theme is commonly a eulogy of their ancestors; by recounting the exploits of their forefathers they imagine themselves more glorious. 22The very reverse is true. The more glorious was the life of their ancestors, the more shameful is their own baseness. 23Assuredly the matter stands thus: the glory of ancestors is, as it were, a light shining upon their posterity, suffering neither their virtues nor their faults to be hidden. 24Of such glory I acknowledge my poverty, fellow citizens; but—and that is far more glorious—I have done deeds of which I have a right to speak. 25Now see how unfair those men are; what they demand for themselves because of others’ merit they do not allow me as the result of my own, no doubt because I have no family portraits and because mine is a new nobility. And yet surely to be its creator is better than to have inherited and disgraced it.

26“I am of course well aware that if they should deign to reply to me, their language would be abundantly eloquent and elaborate. But since after the great honour which you have done me they take every opportunity to rend us both with their invectives, I thought it best not to be silent, for fear that someone might interpret my reticence as due to a guilty conscience. 27In point of fact, I am confident that I can be injured by no speech; for if they tell the truth, they cannot but speak well of me, and falsehood my life and character refutes. 28But since it is your judgment in giving me your highest office and a most important commission which they criticize, consider again and yet again whether you ought to regret those acts. 29I cannot, to justify your confidence, display family portraits or the triumphs and consulships of my forefathers; but if occasion requires, I can show spears, a banner, trappings and other military prizes, as well as scars on my breast. 30These are my portraits, these my patent of nobility, not left me by inheritance as theirs were, but won by my own innumerable efforts and perils.

31“My words are not well chosen; I care little for that. Merit shows well enough in itself. It is they who have need of art, to gloss over their shameful acts with specious words. 32Nor have I studied Grecian letters. I did not greatly care to become acquainted with them, since they had not taught their teachers virtue. 33But I have learned by far the most important lesson for my country’s good—to strike down the foe, to keep watch and ward, to fear nothing save ill repute, to endure heat and cold alike, to sleep on the ground, to bear privation and fatigue at the same time. 34It is with these lessons that I shall encourage my soldiers; I shall not treat them stingily and myself lavishly, nor win my own glory at the price of their toil. 35Such leadership is helpful, such leadership is democratic; for to live in luxury oneself but control one’s army by punishments is to be a master of slaves, not a commander. 36It was by conduct like this that your forefathers made themselves and their country famous; 37but the nobles, relying upon such ancestors though themselves of very different character, despise us who emulate the men of old, and claim from you all honours, not from desert, but as a debt.

38“But those most arrogant of men are greatly in error. Their ancestors have left them all that they could—riches, portrait busts, their own illustrious memory; virtue they have not left them, nor could they have done so; that alone is neither bestowed nor received as a gift. 39They say that I am common and of rude manners, because I cannot give an elegant dinner and because I pay no actor or cook higher wages than I do my overseer. This I gladly admit, fellow citizens; 40for I learned from my father and other righteous men that elegance is proper to women but toil to men, that all the virtuous ought to have more fame than riches, and that arms and not furniture confer honour.

41“Well then, let them continue to do what pleases them and what they hold dear; let them make love and drink; let them pass their old age where they have spent their youth, in banquets, slaves to their belly and the most shameful parts of their body. Sweat, dust, and all such things let them leave to us, to whom they are sweeter than feasts. 42But they will not; for when those most shameless of men have disgraced themselves by their crimes, they come to rob the virtuous of their rewards. 43Thus, most unjustly, their luxury and sloth, the most abominable of faults, in no wise injure those who practise them, but are the ruin of their blameless country.

44“Now that I have replied to them to the extent that my character—but not their crimes—demanded I shall say a few words about our country. 45First of all, be of good cheer as to Numidia, citizens; for you have put away everything which up to this time has protected Jugurtha—avarice, incompetence, and arrogance. Furthermore, there is an army in Africa familiar with the country, but by heaven! more valiant than fortunate; 46for a great part of it has perished through the greed or rashness of its leaders. 47Therefore do you, who are of military age, join your efforts with mine and serve your country, and let no one feel fear because of disasters to others or the arrogance of generals. I, Marius, shall be with you on the march and in battle, at once your counsellor and the companion of your dangers, and I shall treat myself and you alike in all respects. 48And surely with the help of the gods everything is ripe for us—victory, spoils, glory; but even though these were uncertain or remote, yet all good men ought to fly to the aid of their fatherland. 49Truly, no one ever became immortal through cowardice, and no parent would wish for his children that they might live forever, but rather that their lives might be noble and honoured. 50I would say more, citizens, if words could make cowards brave. For the resolute I think I have spoken abundantly.”

86After Marius had made a speech in these terms and saw that it had fired the spirits of the commons, he made haste to load his ships with provisions, money, arms, and other necessities, with which he bade his lieutenant Aulus Manlius set sail. 2He himself in the meantime enrolled soldiers, not according to the classes in the manner of our forefathers, but allowing anyone to volunteer, for the most part the proletariat. 3Some say that he did this through lack of good men, others because of a desire to curry favour, since that class had given him honour and rank. As a matter of fact, to one who aspires to power the poorest man is the most helpful, since he has no regard for his property, having none, and considers anything honourable for which he receives pay. 4The result was that Marius set sail for Africa with a considerably greater contingent than had been authorized. A few days later he arrived at Utica, where the army was handed over to him by the second in command, Publius Rutilius. 5For Metellus had avoided meeting Marius, that he might not see what he had been unable even to hear of with composure.

87The consul, after having filled up the ranks of the legions and the cohorts of auxiliaries, marched into a district which was fertile and rich in booty. There he gave to the soldiers everything that was taken, and then attacked some fortresses and towns not well defended by nature or by garrisons, fighting many battles, but slight ones and in various places. 2Meanwhile the raw soldiers learned to enter battle fearlessly and saw that those who ran away were either taken or slain, while the bravest were the safest; they realized that it was by arms that liberty, country, parents, and all else were protected, and glory and riches won. 3Thus in a short time the old and the new soldiers were assimilated and all became equally courageous.

4But the two kings, on hearing of the arrival of Marius, withdrew each to a different place, difficult of access. This was a device of Jugurtha’s, who hoped that the enemy could presently be divided and attacked, and that the Romans, like most soldiers, would have less restraint and discipline when they feared no danger.

88Metellus meanwhile returned to Rome, where, contrary to his expectation, he was received with great rejoicing; for the feeling against him had died out and he found himself popular with people and senators alike. 2But Marius watched the conduct of his own men and of the enemy alike untiringly and sagaciously, learned what was to the advantage or disadvantage of both sides, observed the movements of the kings and anticipated their plans and plots, allowing his soldiers no relaxation and the enemy no security. 3He made frequent attacks on Jugurtha and the Gaetulians while they were plundering our allies, routing them and compelling the king himself to throw away his arms not far from the town of Cirta. 4But when he found that such exploits merely brought him glory, but did not tend to finish the war, he decided to invest one after the other the cities which by reason of their garrison or their situation were most serviceable to the enemy and most detrimental to his own success. In that way he thought that Jugurtha would either be deprived of his defences, if he made no opposition, or would be forced to fight. 5As for Bocchus, he had sent Marius frequent messengers, saying that he desired the friendship of the Roman people and bidding Marius to fear no hostile act on his part. 6Whether he feigned this, in order that he might strike an unexpected, and therefore a heavier blow, or from natural instability of character was in the habit of wavering between peace and war, is not altogether clear.

89But the consul, as he had planned, appeared before the fortified towns and strongholds, and in some cases by force, in others by intimidation or bribery, took them from the enemy. 2At first his attempts were modest, since he thought that Jugurtha would fight in defence of his subjects. 3But when he learned that the king was far off and intent upon other matters, he thought the time ripe for undertaking greater and harder tasks.

4There was in the midst of a great desert a large and strong town called Capsa, whose reputed founder was the Libyan Hercules. Under Jugurtha’s rule its citizens were free from tribute and mildly treated, and were therefore counted upon as most loyal. They were protected from their enemies not only by walls and armed men, but still more by their inaccessible position; 5for except in the neighbourhood of the town the whole country was desolate, wild, without water, and infested by serpents, whose fierceness, like that of all wild animals, was made greater by scarcity of food. Moreover, the venom of serpents, which is always deadly, is especially aggravated by thirst. 6Marius was inspired with a great desire of taking this town, not only from its military importance, but also because the undertaking seemed hazardous and because Metellus had gained great renown by the capture of Thala. For Thala was similar in its situation and defences, except that there were some springs not far from the town, whereas the people of Capsa had but one flowing spring, which was within the walls, otherwise depending upon rain water. 7This condition was the more readily endured there and in all the less civilized part of Africa remote from the sea, since the Numidians lived for the most part on milk and game, making no use of salt and other whets to the appetite; for in their opinion the purpose of food was to relieve hunger and thirst, not to minister to caprice and luxury.

90The consul then, after reconnoitring everywhere, must have put his trust in the gods; for against such great difficulties he could not make sufficient provision by his own wisdom. Indeed, he was even threatened with scarcity of grain, both because the Numidians give more attention to grazing than to agriculture, and because such grain as there was had been transported by the king’s command to fortified places. Moreover, the fields were dry and stripped of their crops at that season, for it was the end of summer. In spite of these difficulties, Marius made the best possible provision under the circumstances. 2He gave all the cattle which had been captured on previous days to the auxiliary cavalry to drive, and directed his lieutenant Aulus Manlius to go with the light-armed cohorts to the town of Laris, where he had deposited his money and supplies, telling him that a few days later he would himself come to the same place to forage. 3Having thus concealed his real purpose, he proceeded to the river Tanaïs.

91Now every day during the march Marius had distributed cattle equally among the centuries and the divisions of cavalry, taking care that bottles for water should be made from the hides; thus at the same time he made good the lack of grain and without revealing his purpose provided something which was soon to be useful. When they finally reached the river on the sixth day, a great quantity of bottles had been prepared. 2Having pitched his camp by the river and fortified it slightly, he ordered the soldiers to eat their dinners and be ready to march at sunset, throwing aside all their baggage and loading themselves and the pack-animals with water only. 3Then, when he thought the proper time had come, he left the camp and marched all night before halting. He did the same thing the next night, and on the third night long before daybreak he came to a hilly tract, distant not more than two miles from Capsa. There he waited with all his forces, keeping as much in concealment as possible. 4When day dawned and the Numidians, who had no fear of an attack, sallied forth in large numbers from the town, he suddenly ordered all the cavalry and with them the swiftest of the foot-soldiers to hasten at the double-quick to Capsa and beset the gates. Then he himself quickly followed, keeping on the alert and not allowing his soldiers to plunder. 5When the townspeople perceived what was going on, their disorder, their great panic, their unexpected plight and the fact that a part of their fellow citizens were outside the walls and in the power of the enemy, compelled them to surrender. 6But nevertheless the town was burned and the adult Numidians put to the sword; all the rest were sold and the proceeds divided among the soldiers. 7The consul was guilty of this violation of the laws of war, not because of avarice or cruelty, but because the place was of advantage to Jugurtha and difficult of access for us, while the people were fickle and untrustworthy and had previously shown themselves amenable neither to kindness nor to fear.

92Marius was already great and famous, but after he had won this important success without loss to his own men he began to be regarded as still greater and more famous. 2All his rash acts, even when ill-advised, were regarded as proofs of his ability. The soldiers, who were kept under mild discipline and at the same time enriched, extolled him to the skies, the Numidians feared him as if he were more than mortal; all, in short, friends and enemies alike, believed that he either possessed divine insight or that everything was revealed to him by the favour of the gods.

3After his success at Capsa the consul proceeded to other towns. A few he took in spite of the resistance of the Numidians, but the greater number were abandoned through dread of the wretched fate of Capsa, and burned; all Numidia was filled with bloodshed and lamentation. 4Finally, after capturing many places, for the most part without loss of life, he essayed another feat, not involving the same danger as the taking of Capsa, but no less difficult.

5Not far from the river Muluccha, which separated the realms of Jugurtha and Bocchus, there was in the midst of a plain a rocky hill which was broad enough for a fortress of moderate size and very high, and accessible only by one narrow path; for the whole place was naturally steep, as if it had been made so by art and design. 6This place Marius aimed to take by a supreme effort, because it held the king’s treasures, but in this case his success was the result of chance rather than of skill; 7for the fortress was well supplied with arms and men, besides having an abundance of grain and a spring of water. The situation was impracticable for mounds, towers, and other siege works, while the path to the fortifications was extremely narrow and had precipices on either side. 8Mantlets were pushed forward with extreme danger and to no purpose; for when they had gone but a short distance they were ruined by fire or by stones. 9The soldiers could not keep their footing before the works because of the steepness of the hill nor operate within the mantlets without peril; the bravest of them were killed or wounded, and the rest gradually lost courage.

93After Marius had spent many days in great labour, he was anxiously considering whether he should abandon the attempt as fruitless or await the favour of fortune, which he had so often enjoyed. 2For many days and nights he had been a prey to indecision, when it chanced that a Ligurian, a common soldier of the auxiliary cohorts, who had left the camp to fetch water, noticed near the side of the fortress which was farthest from the besiegers some snails creeping about among the rocks. Picking up one or two of these and then looking for more, in his eagerness to gather them he gradually made his way almost to the top of the mountain. 3When he found that he was alone there, the love of overcoming difficulties which is natural to mankind seized him. 4It happened that a great oak tree had grown up there among the rocks; it bent downward for a little way, then turned and grew upward, as is the nature of all plants. With the help, now of the branches of this tree and now of projecting rocks, the Ligurian mounted to the plateau about the fortress, while all the Numidians were intent upon the combatants. 5After examining everything that he thought would be useful later, he returned by the same way, not heedlessly, as he had gone up, but testing and observing everything. 6Then he hastened to Marius, told him what he had done, and urged him to make an attempt on the fortress at the point where he himself had mounted, offering himself as a guide for the ascent and leader in the dangerous undertaking.

7Marius thereupon ordered some of his staff to go with the Ligurian and look into his proposal, and each of them, according to his temperament, pronounced the attempt difficult or easy; on the whole, however, the consul was somewhat encouraged. 8Accordingly, out of all his horn-blowers and trumpeters he chose the five who were most agile, and with them four centurions as a protection. He put them all under command of the Ligurian and set the next day for the attempt.

94Now, when the Ligurian thought the appointed time had come, he made all his preparations and went to the spot. Those who were going to make the ascent, following the previous instructions of their guide had changed their arms and accoutrements, baring their heads and feet so as to be able to see better and climb among the rocks more easily. They carried their swords and shields on their backs, but took Numidian shields of hide, because they were lighter and would make less noise when struck. 2Then the Ligurian led the way, fastening ropes to the rocks or to old projecting roots, in order that with such help the soldiers might more easily make the ascent. Sometimes he lent a hand to those whom the unusual nature of the route alarmed, and where the ascent was unusually difficult, he would send men ahead one by one unarmed and then follow himself, bringing the arms. He was first to try the places which it seemed dangerous to attempt, and by often climbing up and returning the same way, and then at once stepping aside, he lent courage to the rest. 3In this way, after a long time and great exertion, they at last reached the fortress, which was deserted at that point because all the men, as on other days, were face to face with the enemy.

Marius had devoted the whole day to keeping the Numidians intent upon the battle; but as soon as he heard that the Ligurian had accomplished his purpose, he began to urge on his soldiers. He himself went outside the mantlets, formed the tortoise-shed, and advanced to the wall, at the same time trying to terrify the enemy at long range with artillery, archers and slingers. 4But the Numidians, since they had often before overturned the mantlets of the enemy and set fire to them, no longer protected themselves within the walls of the fortress, but spent day and night outside, reviling the Romans and taunting Marius with madness. Emboldened by their successes, they threatened our soldiers with slavery at the hands of Jugurtha.

5In the meantime, while all the Romans and all the enemy were intent upon the conflict, and both sides were exerting themselves to the utmost, the one for glory and dominion and the other for safety, suddenly the trumpets sounded in the rear of the foe. Then the women and children, who had come out to look on, were the first to flee, followed by those who were nearest the wall, and finally by all, armed and unarmed alike. 6Upon this the Romans pressed on with greater vigour, routing the enemy, but for the most part only wounding them. Then they rushed on over the bodies of the slain, eager for glory and each striving to be first to reach the wall; not one stayed to plunder. Thus Marius’s rashness was made good by fortune and he gained glory through an error in judgment.

95During the attack on the fortress the quaestor Lucius Sulla arrived in camp with a large force of horsemen which he had mustered from Latium and the allies, having been left in Rome for that purpose. 2And since the event has brought that great man to our attention, it seems fitting to say a few words about his life and character; for we shall not speak elsewhere of Sulla’s affairs, and Lucius Sisenna, whose account of him is altogether the best and most careful, has not, in my opinion, spoken with sufficient frankness.

3Sulla, then, was a noble of patrician descent, of a family almost reduced to obscurity through the degeneracy of his ancestors. He was well versed alike in Grecian and Roman letters, of remarkable mental power, devoted to pleasure but more devoted to glory. In his leisure hours he lived extravagantly, yet pleasure never interfered with his duties, except that his conduct as a husband might have been more honourable. He was eloquent, clever, and quick to make friends. He had a mind deep beyond belief in its power of disguising his purposes, and was generous with many things, especially with money. 4Before his victory in the civil war he was the most fortunate of all men, but his fortune was never greater than his deserts, and many have hesitated to say whether his bravery or his good luck was the greater. As to what he did later, I know not if one should speak of it rather with shame or with sorrow.

96Now Sulla, as I have already said, after he came with his cavalry to Africa and the camp of Marius, although he was without previous experience and untrained in war, soon became the best soldier in the whole army. 2Moreover, he was courteous in his language to the soldiers, granted favours to many at their request and to others of his own accord, unwilling himself to accept favours and paying them more promptly than a debt of money. He himself never asked for payment, but rather strove to have as many men as possible in his debt. 3He talked in jest or earnest with the humblest, was often with them at their work, on the march, and on guard duty, but in the meantime did not, like those who are actuated by depraved ambition, try to undermine the reputation of the consul or of any good man. His only effort was not to suffer anyone to outdo him in counsel or in action, and as a matter of fact he surpassed almost all. Such being his character and conduct, he was soon greatly beloved by both Marius and the soldiers.

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