The War with Jugurtha, 97–101

Sallust  translated by J. C. Rolfe

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97Now, Jugurtha, having lost Capsa and other fortified places which were helpful to his cause, as well as a great sum of money, sent messengers to Bocchus, urging him to lead his troops into Numidia as soon as possible, since the time for a battle was at hand. 2But when he learned that Bocchus was hesitating and doubtfully weighing the advantages of peace and war, he once more bribed the king’s intimates with gifts and promised the Moor himself a third part of Numidia, if the Romans should be driven from Africa or the war brought to a close without any loss of his own territory. 3Tempted by this prize, Bocchus joined Jugurtha with a great throng. Then the kings united their forces and attacked Marius just as he was going into winter quarters, when scarcely a tenth part of the day was left; for they thought that the approaching night would be a protection to them if they were unsuccessful and would be no hindrance if they conquered, because of their familiarity with the region; while to the Romans darkness would be more dangerous in either victory or defeat. 4Then, at the very moment that the consul learned from many of his scouts of the coming of the enemy, the foe themselves appeared, and before the army could be drawn up or the baggage piled, in fact before any signal or order could be given, the Moorish and Gaetulian cavalry fell upon the Romans, not in order or with any plan of battle but in swarms, just as chance had brought them together.

5Our men were all bewildered by the unlooked-for danger, but nevertheless did not forget their valour. Some took arms, while others kept off the enemy from their comrades who were arming; a part mounted their horses and charged the foe. The combat was more like an attack of brigands than a battle. Without standards and in disorder horse and foot massed together, some gave ground, others slew their opponents; many who were bravely fighting against their adversaries were surrounded from the rear. Valour and arms were no sufficient protection against a foe who were superior in numbers and attacked on every side. At last the Romans, both the raw recruits and the veterans (who as such were skilled in warfare), if the nature of the ground or chance brought any of them together, formed a circle, thus at once protecting themselves on every side and presenting an orderly front to the attacks of the enemy.

98In so dangerous a crisis Marius was neither frightened nor less confident than before, but with his bodyguard of cavalry, which he had formed of the bravest soldiers rather than of his most intimate friends, he went from place to place, now succouring those of his men who were in difficulty, now charging the enemy where they were pressing on in greatest numbers. He directed the soldiers by gestures, since in the general confusion his orders could not be heard. 2And now the day was spent, yet the barbarians did not at all relax their efforts, but thinking that darkness would favour them, as the kings had declared, they attacked with greater vigour. 3Then Marius, adapting his tactics to the situation and wishing to provide a place of refuge for his men, took possession of two neighbouring hills, one of which was too small for a camp but had a large spring of water, while the other was adapted to his purpose because it was for the most part high and steep and required little fortification. 4But he ordered Sulla to pass the night with the cavalry beside the spring, while he himself gradually rallied his scattered forces and the enemy were in no less disorder, and then led them all at the double quick to the hill. 5Thus the kings were compelled by the strength of his position to cease from battle. However, they did not allow their men to go far away, but encompassing both hills with their huge army, they bivouacked in loose order.

6Then, after building many fires, the barbarians, as is their usual habit, spent the greater part of the night in rejoicing, in exultation and in noisy demonstrations, while even their leaders, who were filled with confidence because they had not been put to flight, acted as if they were victorious. 7Now, all this was clearly visible to the Romans from their higher position in the darkness and encouraged them greatly.

99Marius, who was particularly heartened by the enemy’s lack of discipline, ordered the utmost possible silence to be kept and not even the customary signals to be sounded to mark the night watches. Then, as daylight was drawing near and the enemy having at length become exhausted had just yielded to sleep, on a sudden he ordered the watch and at the same time the horn-blowers of the cohorts, of the divisions of cavalry and of the legions to sound the signal together, and the soldiers to raise a shout and burst forth from the gates of their camp. 2The Moors and Gaetulians, being suddenly awakened by the strange and terrible sound, could not flee, arm themselves, or do or provide for anything at all; 3into such a panic, all but frenzy, were they thrown by the clash of arms, the shouting, the lack of help, the charge of our men, the confusion and terror. To make a long story short, they were all routed and put to flight, the greater number of their arms and military standards were taken, and in that one battle more of the enemy fell than in all those that had gone before; for sleep and the unlooked-for danger hampered flight.

100Then Marius proceeded, as he had been about to do, to his winter quarters, for he had decided to winter in the coast towns for the sake of supplies. His victory, however, did not make him careless or over-confident, but he advanced in square formation, as though he were under the eyes of the enemy. 2Sulla had charge of the right, together with the cavalry, on the left was Aulus Manlius with the slingers, the archers and the cohorts of Ligurians, while in front and in the rear Marius had stationed the tribunes with the light-armed companies. 3The deserters, who were least esteemed and best acquainted with the region, reconnoitred the enemy’s line of march. At the same time the consul was as careful as if he had no officers, looking out for everything, being everywhere present, and distributing praise or blame where each was deserved. 4He himself was armed and alert, and he compelled the soldiers to follow his example. With the same care that he showed in making his march he fortified his camp, sent cohorts from the legions to keep ward at the gate and the auxiliary cavalry to perform the like duty before the camp, and in addition stationed others on the ramparts above the palisade. He personally inspected the guards, not so much because he feared that his orders would not be executed, as to make the soldiers willing to endure labour of which their commander did his full share. 5Obviously Marius at that time, and at other times during the war with Jugurtha controlled his army rather by appealing to their sense of shame than by punishment. Many said that he did this through a desire for popularity; that he himself took pleasure in hardship, to which he had been accustomed from childhood, and in other things which the rest of mankind call afflictions. But at all events, its service to our country was as great and as glorious as it could have been with the severest discipline.

101Finally on the fourth day, when they were not far from the town of Cirta, the scouts quickly appeared from all sides at once, showing that the enemy were at hand. 2But since the different parties, though returning from various quarters, all made the same report, the consul was in doubt what order of battle to take; he therefore waited where he was, without changing his formation, but prepared for any emergency. 3In this way he disappointed Jugurtha, who had made four divisions of his troops, in the expectation that if they attacked from all quarters alike, some of them at least would take the Romans in the rear. 4Meanwhile Sulla, whom the enemy had reached first, after encouraging his men attacked the Moors with a part of his force, charging by squadrons and in as close order as possible; the rest of his troops held their ground, protecting themselves from the javelins which were hurled at long range, and slaying all who succeeded in reaching them. 5While the cavalry were fighting thus, Bocchus with the infantry brought by his son Volux, which had been delayed on the way and had not taken part in the former battle, charged the Roman rear. 6Marius at the time was busy with the van, since Jugurtha was there with the greater part of his forces. Then the Numidian, on learning of the arrival of Bocchus, made his way secretly with a few followers to the king’s infantry. When he reached them, he cried out in Latin (for he had learned to speak the language at Numantia) that our men were fighting in vain, since he had a short time before slain Marius with his own hand. And with these words he displayed a sword smeared with blood, which he had made gory during the battle by valiantly slaying one of our foot-soldiers. 7When our men heard this, they were shocked rather by the horror of the deed than because they believed the report, while at the same time the barbarians were encouraged and charged upon the appalled Romans with greater vigour. 8And our men were just on the point of flight, when Sulla, who had routed his opponents, returned and fell upon the flank of the Moors. Bocchus at once gave way. 9As for Jugurtha, while he was trying to hold his men and grasp the victory which he had all but won, he was surrounded by the cavalry; but though all on his right and left were slain, he broke through alone, escaping amid a shower of hostile weapons. 10Marius in the meantime, after putting the cavalry to flight, was hastening to the aid of his men, of whose imminent defeat he had now heard. Finally the enemy were everywhere routed. 11Then there was a fearful sight in the open plains—pursuing, fleeing, killing, capturing, horses and men dashed to the ground, many of the wounded unable either to flee or remain quiet, now making an effort to rise and at once collapsing; in short, wherever the eye could reach, the ground was soaked in blood and strewn with weapons, arms, and corpses.

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