A History of Rome, Vol 1 - During the late Republic and early Principate
by A H.J. Greenidge
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Metellus saw that neither of his objects could be fulfilled. The town could not be taken nor would Jugurtha permit himself to be brought to the test of a regular battle.[1042] The fighting season was now drawing to its close and he must think of winter quarters for his army. He determined, not only to abandon the siege, but to quit Numidia and to winter in the Roman province. The sole relic of the fact that he had marched an army through the territory between Vaga and Zama were a few garrisons left in such of the surrendered cities as seemed capable of defence. The despatches of this winter would not cheer the people or encourage the senate. The policy of invasion had failed; and, if success was to be won, it could be accomplished by intrigue alone. Metellus, when the leisure of winter quarters gave him time to think over the situation, decided that scattered negotiations with lesser Numidian magnates would prove as delusive in the future as they had in the past. The king's mind must be mastered if his body was to be enslaved; but it was a mind that could be conquered only by confidence, and to secure this influence it was necessary to approach the monarch's right-hand man. This man was Bomilcar, the most trusted general and adviser of Jugurtha—trusted all the more perhaps in consequence of the delusion, into which even a Numidian king might fall, that the man who owes his life to another will owe him his life-long service as well. A more reasonable ground for Bomilcar's attachment might have been found in the consideration that, in the eyes of Rome, he was as deeply compromised as Jugurtha himself—from an official point of view, indeed, even more deeply compromised; for to the Roman law he was an escaped criminal over whose head still hung a capital charge of murder.[1043] But might not that very fact urge the minister to make his own compact with Rome? His life depended on the king's success, or on the king's refusal to surrender him if peace were made with Rome; it depended therefore on a double element of doubt. Make that life a certainty, and would any Numidian longer balance the doubt against the certainty? Such was the thought of Metellus when he opened correspondence with Bomilcar. The minister wished to hear more, and Metellus arranged a secret interview. In this he gave his word of honour that, if Bomilcar handed over Jugurtha to him living or dead, the senate would grant him impunity and the continued possession of all that belonged to him. The Numidian accepted the promise and the condition it involved; his mind was chiefly swayed by the fear that a continuance of the even struggle might result in a compromise with Rome, and that his own death at the hands of the executioner would be one of the conditions of that compromise.

What passed between Bomilcar and Jugurtha can never have been known. The king had no reason to regret the exploits of the year, and an appeal to the desperate nature of his position would have been somewhat out of place. But some of the reflections of Bomilcar, preserved or invented by tradition,[1044] which pointed to weakness and danger in the future, may conceivably have been expressed. It was true that the war was wasting the material strength of the kingdom; it might be true that it would wear out the constancy of the Numidians themselves and induce them to put their own interests before those of their king. Such arguments could never have weighed with Jugurtha had not his recent success suggested the hope of a compromise; as a beaten fugitive he would have had nothing to hope for; as a man who still held his own he might win much by a ready compact with a Roman general in worse plight than himself. It seems certain that Jugurtha was for the first time thoroughly deceived. His judgment, sound enough in its estimate of the general situation, must have been led astray by Bomilcar's representation of Metellus's attitude, although the minister could not have hinted at a personal knowledge of the Roman's views; and his confidence in his adviser led to this rare and signal instance of a total misconception of the character and powers of his adversary.

Some preliminary correspondence probably passed between Jugurtha and Metellus before the king sent his final message.[1045] It was to the effect that all the demands would be complied with, and that the kingdom and its monarch would be surrendered unconditionally to the representative of Rome. Metellus immediately summoned a council, to which he gave as representative a character as was possible under the circumstances. The transaction of delicate business by a clique of friends had cast grave suspicions on the compact concluded by Bestia; and it was important that the witnesses to the fact that the transaction with Jugurtha contained no secret clause or understanding, should be as numerous and weighty as possible. This result could be easily secured by the general's power to summon all the men of mark available; and thus Metellus called to the board not only every member of the senatorial order whom he could find, but a certain number of distinguished individuals who did not belong to the governing class.[1046] The policy of the board was to make tentative and gradually increasing demands such as had once tried the patience of the Carthaginians.[1047] Jugurtha should give a pledge of his good faith; and, if it was unredeemed, Rome would have the gain and he the loss. The king was now ordered to surrender two hundred thousand pounds of silver, all his elephants and a certain quantity of horses and weapons.[1048] He was also required to furnish three hundred hostages.[1049] The request, at least as regards the money and the materials for war, was immediately complied with. Then the demands increased. The deserters from the Roman army must be handed over. A few of these had fled from Jugurtha at the very first sign that a genuine submission was being made, and had sought refuge with Bocchus King of Mauretania;[1050] but the greater part, to the number of three thousand,[1051] were surrendered to Metellus. Most of these were auxiliaries, Thracians and Ligurians such as had abandoned Aulus at Suthul; and the sense of the danger threatened by the treachery of allies, who must form a vital element in all Roman armies, may have been the motive for the awful example now given to the empire of Rome's punishment for breach of faith. Some of these prisoners had their hands cut off; others were buried in the earth up to their waists, were then made a target for arrows and darts, and were finally burnt with fire before the breath had left their bodies.[1052] The final order concerned Jugurtha himself, He was required to repair to a place named Tisidium,[1053] there to wait for orders. The confidence of the king now began to waver. He may have hoped to the last moment for some sign that his cause was being viewed with a friendly eye; but none had come. Surrender to Rome was a thinkable position, while he was in a position to bargain. It would be the counsel of a madman, if he put himself wholly in the power of his enemy. He had sacrificed much; but the loss, except in money, was not irremediable. Elephants were of no avail in guerilla warfare, and Numidia, which was still his own, had horses and men in abundance. He waited some days longer, probably more in expectancy of a move by Metellus and in preparation of the step he himself meant to take, than in doubt as to what that step should be; when no modification of the demand came from the Roman side, he broke off negotiations and continued the war. Metellus was still to be his opponent; for earlier in the year the proconsulate of the commander had been renewed.[1054]

The events of the summer and the peace of winter-quarters had given food for reflection to others besides Metellus. We shall soon see what the merchant classes in Africa thought of the progress of the war; more formidable still were the emotions that had lately been excited in the rugged breast of the great legate Marius. There are probably few lieutenants who do not think that they could do better than their commanders. Whether Marius held this view is immaterial; he soon came to believe that he did, and expressed this belief with vigour. The really important fact was that a man who had been praetor seven years before and probably regarded himself as the greatest soldier of the age, was carrying out the behests and correcting the blunders of a general who owed his command to his aristocratic connections and blameless record in civil life. The subordination in this particular form seemed likely to be perpetuated in Numidia, for Metellus was entering on his second proconsulate and his third year of power; in other forms and in every sphere it was likely to be eternal, for it was an accepted axiom of the existing regime that no "new man" could attain the consulship.[1055] The craving for this office was the new blight that had fallen on Marius's life; for it is the ambition which is legitimate that spreads the most morbid influence on heart and brain. But the healthier part of his soul, which was to be found in that old-fashioned piety so often maligned by the question-begging name of superstition, soon came to the help of the worldly impulse which the strong man might have doubted and crushed. On one eventful day in Utica Marius was engaged in seeking the favour of the gods by means of sacrificial victims. The seer who was interpreting the signs looked and exclaimed that great and wonderful things were portended. Let the worshipper do whatsoever was in his mind; he had the support of the gods. Let him test fortune never so often, his heart's desire would be fulfilled.[1056]

The gods had given a marvellous response in the only way in which the gods could answer. They did not suggest, but they could confirm, and never was confirmation more emphatic. Marius's last doubts were removed, and he went straightway to his commander and asked for leave of absence that he might canvass for the consulship in that very year. Metellus was a good patron; that is, he was a bad friend. The aristocratic bristles rose on the skin that had seemed so smooth. At first he expressed mild wonder at Marius's resolution—the wonder that is more contemptuous than a gibe—and exhorted him in words, the professedly friendly tone of which must have been peculiarly irritating, not to let a distorted ambition get the better of him; every one should see that his desires were appropriate and limit them when they passed this stage; Marius had reason to be satisfied with his position; he should be on his guard against asking the Roman people for a gift which they would have a right to refuse. There was no suspicion of personal jealousy in these utterances; they reflected the standard of a caste, not of a man. But Marius had measured the situation, and was not to be deterred by its being presented again in a galling but not novel form. A further request was met by the easy assumption that the matter was not so pressing as to brook no delay; as soon as public business admitted of Marius's departure, Metellus would grant his request. Still further entreaties are said to have wrung from the impatient proconsul, whose good advice had been wasted on a boor who did not know his place and could take no hints, the retort that Marius need not hurry; it would be time enough for him to canvass for the consulship when Metellus's own son should be his colleague.[1057] The boy was about twenty, Marius forty-nine. The prospective consulship would come to the latter when he had reached the mature age of seventy-two. The jest was a blessing, for anything that justified the whole-hearted renunciation of patronage, the dissolution of the sense of obligation, was an avenue to freedom. Marius was now at liberty to go his own way, and he soon showed that there was enough inflammable material in the African province to burn up the credit of a greater general than Metellus.

It is said that the division of the army, commanded by Marius, soon found itself enjoying a much easier time than before;[1058] the stern legate had become placable, if not forgetful—a circumstance which may be explained either by the view that a care greater than that of military discipline sat upon his mind, or by a belief that the new-born graciousness was meant to offer a pleasing contrast to the rigour of Metellus. But in this case the civilian element in the province was of more importance than the army. The merchant-princes of Utica, groaning over the vanished capital which they had invested in Numidian concerns, heard a criticism and a boast which appealed strongly to their impatient minds. Marius had said, or was believed to have said, that if but one half of the army were entrusted to him, he would have Jugurtha in chains in a few days;[1059] that the war was being purposely prolonged to satisfy the empty-headed pride which the commander felt in his position. The merchants had long been reflecting on the causes of the prolongation of the war with all the ignorance and impatience that greed supplies; now these causes seemed to be revealed in a simple and convincing light.

The unfortunate house of Masinissa was also made to play its part in the movement. It was represented in the Roman camp by Gauda son of Mastanabal, a prince weak both in body and mind, but the legitimate heir to the Numidian crown, if it was taken from Jugurtha and Micipsa's last wishes were fulfilled. For the old king in framing his testament had named Gauda as heir in remainder to the kingdom, if his two sons and Jugurtha should die without issue.[1060] The nearness of the succession, now that the reigning king of Numidia was an enemy of the Roman people, had prompted the prince to ask Metellus for the distinctions that he deemed suited to his rank, a seat next that of the commander-in-chief, a guard of Roman knights[1061] for his person. Both requests had been refused—the place of honour because it belonged only to those whom the Roman people had addressed as kings, the guard, because it was derogatory to the knights of Rome to act as escort to a Numidian. The prince may have taken the refusal, not merely as an insult in itself, but as a hint that Metellus did not recognise him as a probable successor to Jugurtha. He was in an anxious and moody frame of mind when he was approached by Marius and urged to lean on him, if he would gain satisfaction for the commander's contumely. The glowing words of his new friend made hope appeal to his weak mind almost with the strength of certainty. He was the grandson of Masinissa, the immediate occupant of the Numidian throne, should Jugurtha be captured or slain; the crown might be his at no distant date, should Marius be made consul and sent to the war. He should make appeal to his friends in Rome to secure the means which would lead to the desired end. The ship that bore the prince's letter to Rome took many other missives from far more important men—all of them with a strange unanimity breathing the same purport, "Metellus was mismanaging the war, Marius should be made commander". They were written by knights in the province—some of them officers in the army, others heads of commercial houses[1062]—to their friends and agents in Rome. All of these correspondents had not been directly solicited by Marius, but in some mysterious way the hope of peace in Africa had become indissolubly associated with his name. The central bureau of the great mercantile system would soon be working in his favour. Who would withstand it? Certainly not the senate still shaken by the Mamilian law; still less the people who wanted but a new suggestion to change the character of their attack. All things seemed working for Marius.

It was soon shown that, whoever the future commander of Numidia was to be, he would have a real war on his hands; for the struggle had suddenly sprung into new and vigorous life, and one of the few permanent successes of Rome was annihilated in a moment by the craft of the reawakened Jugurtha. The preparations of the king must have been conjectured from their results; their first issue was a complete surprise; for few could have dreamed that the personal influence of the monarch, who had given away so much for an elusive hope of safety and had almost been a prisoner in the Roman lines, should assert itself in the very heart of the country believed to be pacified and now held by Roman garrisons. The town of Vaga, the intended basis of supplies for an army advancing to the south or west, the seat of an active commerce and the home of merchants from many lands who traded under the aegis of the Roman peace and a Roman garrison perched on the citadel, was suddenly thrilled by a message from the king, and answered to the appeal with a burst of heartfelt loyalty—a loyalty perhaps quickened by the native hatred of the ways of the foreign trader. The self-restraint of the patriotic plotters was as admirable as their devotion to a cause so nearly lost. Many hundreds must have been cognisant of the scheme, yet not a word reached the ears of those responsible for the security of the town. Even the poorest conspirator did not dream of the fortune that might be reaped from the sale of so vast a secret, and the Roman was as ignorant of the hidden significance of native demeanour as he was of the subtleties of the native tongue. In eye and gesture he could read nothing but feelings of friendliness to himself, and he readily accepted the invitation to the social gathering which was to place him at the mercy of his host.[1063] The third day from the date at which the plot was first conceived offered a golden opportunity for an attack which should be unsuspected and resistless. It was the day of a great national festival, on which leisured enjoyment took the place of work and every one strove to banish for the time the promptings of anxiety and fear. The officers of the garrison had been invited by their acquaintances within the town to share in their domestic celebrations. They and their commandant, Titus Turpilius Silanus, were reclining at the feast in the houses of their several hosts when the signal was given. The tribunes and centurions were massacred to a man; Turpilius alone was spared; then the conspirators turned on the rank and file of the Roman troops. The position of these was pitiable. Scattered in the streets, without weapons and without a leader, they saw the holiday throng around them suddenly transformed into a ferocious mob. Even such of the meaner classes as had up to this time been innocent of the murderous plot, were soon baying at their heels; some of these were hounded on by the conspirators; others saw only that disturbance was on foot, and the welcome knowledge of this fact alone served to spur them to a senseless frenzy of assault. The Roman soldiers were merely victims; there was never a chance of a struggle which would make the sacrifice costly, or even difficult.[1064] The citadel, in which their shields and standards hung, was in the occupation of the foe; when they sought the city gates, they found the portals closed; when they turned back upon the streets, the line of fury was deeper than before, for the women and the very children on the level housetops were hurling stones or any missiles that came to hand on the hated foreigners below. Strength and skill were of no avail; such qualities could not even prolong the agony; the veteran and the tyro, the brave and the shrinking, were struck or cut down with equal ease and swiftness. Only one man succeeded in slipping through the gates. This was the commandant Turpilius himself. Even the lenient view that a lucky chance or the pity of his host had given him his freedom, did not clear him of the stain which the tyrannical tradition of Roman arms stamped on every commander who elected to survive the massacre of the division entrusted to his charge.[1065]

When the news was brought to Metellus, the heart-sick general buried himself in his tent.[1066] But his first grief was soon spent, and his thoughts turned to a scheme of vengeance on the treacherous town. Rapidly and carefully the scheme was unfolded in his mind, and by the setting of the sun the first steps towards the recovery of Vaga had been taken. In the dusk he left his camp with the legion which had been stationed in his own quarters and as large a force of Numidian cavalry as he could collect. Both horse and foot were slenderly equipped, for he was bent on a surprise and a long and hard night's march lay before him. He was still speeding on three hours after the sun had risen on the following day. The tired soldiers cried a halt, but Metellus spurred them on by pointing to the nearness of their goal (Vaga, he showed, was but a mile distant, just beyond the line of hills which shut out their view), the sanctity of the work of vengeance, the certainty of a rich reward in plunder. He paused but to reform his men. The cavalry were deployed in open order in the van; the infantry followed in a column so dense that nothing distinctive in their equipment or organisation could be discerned from afar, and the standards were carefully concealed.[1067] When the men of Vaga saw the force bearing down upon their town, their first and right impression led them to close the gates; but two facts soon served to convince them of their error. The supposed enemy was not attempting to ravage their land, and the horsemen who rode near the walls were clearly men of Numidian blood. It was the king himself, they cried, and with enthusiastic joy they poured from the gates to meet him. The Romans watched them come; then at a given signal the closed ranks opened, as each division rushed to its appointed task. Some charged and cut in pieces the helpless multitude that had poured upon the plain; others seized the gates, others again the now undefended towers on the walls. All sense of weariness had suddenly vanished from limbs now stimulated by the lust of vengeance and of plunder. The slaughter was pitiless, the search for plunder as thorough as the slaughter. The war had not yet given such a prize as this great trading town. Its ruin was the general's loss as it was the soldiers' gain; but the need for rapid vengeance vanquished every other sentiment in Metellus's mind. Roman punishment was as swift as it was sure, if but two days could elapse between the sin and the suffering of the men of Vaga. A gloomy task still remained. Inquiry must be made as to the mode in which Turpilius the commandant had escaped unharmed from the massacre. The investigation was a bitter trial to Metellus; for the accused was bound to him by close ties of hereditary friendship, and had been accredited by him with the command of the corps of engineers.[1068] The command at Vaga had been a further mark of favour, and it was believed by some that Turpilius had justified his commander's hopes only too well, and that it was his very humanity and consideration for the townsfolk under his command which had offered him means of escape such as only the most resolute would have refused.[1069] But the scandal was too grave to admit of a private inquiry, in which the honour of the army might seem to be sacrificed to the caprice of the friendly judgment of Metellus. His very familiarity with the accused entailed the duty of a cold impartiality, and Turpilius found little credence or excuse for the tale that he unfolded before the members of the court which adjudicated on his case. The harsh view of Marius was particularly recalled in the light of subsequent events. The fact or fancy that it was Marius who had himself condemned and had urged his brother judges to deliver an adverse vote, was seized by the gatherers of gossip, ever ready to discover a sinister motive in the actions of the man who never forgot, was embedded in that prose epic of the "Wrath of Marius" which subsequently adorned the memoirs of the great, and became a story of how the relentless lieutenant had, in malignant disregard of his own convictions, caused Metellus to commit the inexpiable wrong of dooming a guest-friend to an unworthy death.[1070] The death was inflicted with all the barbarity of Roman military law; Turpilius was scourged and beheaded,[1071] and through this final expiation the episode of Vaga remained to many minds a still darker horror than before.

But much had been gained by the recovery of the revolted town. It is true that in its present condition it was almost useless to its possessors; but its fate must have stayed the progress of revolt in other cities, and the rapidity of Metellus's movements had hampered Jugurtha's immediate plans. The king had probably intended that Vaga should be a second Zama, and that the Romans should be kept at bay by its strong walls while he himself harassed their rear or attacked their camp. Now the scene of a successful guerilla warfare must be sought elsewhere. Its choice depended on the movements of the Roman army; but the time for the commencement of the new struggle was postponed longer than it might have been by a domestic danger which, while it confirmed the king in his resolution to struggle to the bitter end, absorbed his attention for the moment and hampered his operations in the field. Bomilcar's negotiations with Rome were bearing their deadly fruit.[1072] The minister was a victim of that expectant anguish, which springs from the failure of a treacherous scheme, when the cause of that failure is unknown. Why had the king broken off the negotiations? Was he himself suspected? Would the danger be lessened, if he remained quiescent? It might be increased, for the peril from Rome still existed, and there was the new terror from the vengeance of a master, whose suspicion seemed to his affrighted soul to be revealing itself in a cold neglect. Bomilcar determined that he would face but a single peril, and plunged into a course of intrigue far more dangerous than any which he had yet essayed. He no longer worked through underlings or appealed to the emissaries of Rome. He aimed at internal revolution, at the fall of the king by the hands of his servants—a stroke which he might exhibit to the suzerain power as his own meritorious work—and he adopted as a confidant a man of his own rank and at the moment of greater influence than himself. Nabdalsa was the new favourite of Jugurtha. He was a man of high birth, of vast wealth, of great and good repute in the district of Numidia which he ruled. His fame and power had been increased by his appointment to the command of such forces as the king could not lead in person, and he was now operating with an army in the territory between the head-quarters of Jugurtha and the Roman winter camp, his mission being to prevent the country being overrun with complete impunity by the invaders. His reason for listening to the overtures of Bomilcar is unknown; perhaps he knew too much of the military situation to believe in his master's ultimate success, and aimed at securing his own territorial power by an appeal to the gratitude of Rome. But he had not his associate's motive for hasty execution; and when Bomilcar warned him that the time had come, his mind was appalled by the magnitude of a deed that had only been prefigured in an ambiguous and uncertain shape. The time for meeting came and passed. Bomilcar was in an agony of impatient fear. The doubtful attitude of his associate opened new possibilities of danger; a new terror had been added to the old, and the motive for despatch was doubled. His alarm found vent in a brief but frantic letter which mingled gloomy predictions of the consequences of delay with fierce protestations and appeals. Jugurtha, he urged, was doomed, the promises of Metellus might at any moment work the ruin of them both, and Nabdalsa's choice lay between reward and torture.[1073]

When this missive was delivered by a faithful hand, the general, tired in mind and body, had stretched himself upon a couch. The fiery words did not stimulate his ardour; they plunged him still deeper in a train of anxious thought, until utter weariness gave way to sleep. The letter rested on his pillow. Suddenly the covering of the tent door was noiselessly raised. His faithful secretary, who believed that he knew all his master's secrets, had heard of the arrival of a courier. His help and skill would be needed, and he had anticipated Nabdalsa's demand for his presence. The letter caught his eye; he lightly picked it up and read it, as in duty bound—for did he not deal with all letters, and could there be aught of secrecy in a paper so carelessly laid down? The plot now flashed across his eyes for the first time, and he slipped from the tent to hasten with the precious missive to the king. When Nabdalsa awoke, his thoughts turned to the letter which had harassed his last waking moments. It was gone, and he soon found that his secretary had disappeared as well. A fruitless attempt to pursue the fugitive convinced him that his only hope lay in the clemency, prudence or credulity of Jugurtha. Hastening to his master, he assured him that the service which he had been on the eve of rendering had been anticipated by the treachery of his dependent; let not the king forget their close friendship, his proved fidelity; these should exempt him from suspicion of participation in such a horrid crime.

Jugurtha replied in a conciliatory tone.[1074] Neither then nor afterwards did he betray any trace of violent emotion. Bomilcar and many of his accomplices were put to death swiftly and secretly; but it was not well that rumours of a widely spread treason should be noised abroad. The pretence of security was a means of ensuring safety, and he had to ask too much of his Numidians to indulge even the severity that he held to be his due. Yet it was believed that the tenor of Jugurtha's life was altered from that moment. It was whispered that the bold soldier and intrepid ruler searched dark corners with his eyes and started at sudden sounds, that he would exchange his sleeping chamber for some strange and often humble resting place at night, and that sometimes in the darkness he would start from sleep, seize his sword and cry aloud, as though maddened by the terror of his dreams.

The news of the fall of Bomilcar swept from Metellus's mind the last faint hope that the war might be brought to a speedy close by the immediate surrender of Jugurtha,[1075] and he began to make earnest preparations for a fresh campaign. In the new struggle he was to be deprived of the services of his ablest officer, for Marius had at length gained his end and had won from his commander a tardy permit to speed to Rome and seek the prize, which was doubtless still believed in the uninformed circles of the camp to be utterly beyond his grasp. The consent, though tardy, was finally given with a good will, for Metellus had begun to doubt the wisdom of keeping by his side a lieutenant whose restless discontent and growing resentment to his superior were beyond all concealment. Marius must have wished that his general's choler had been stirred at an earlier date, for the leave had been deferred to a season which would have deterred a less strenuous mind, from all thoughts of a political campaign during the current year. Delay, however, might be fatal; the war might be brought to a dazzling close before the consular elections again came round; the political balance at Rome might alter; it was necessary to reap at once the harvest of mercantile greed and popular distrust that had been so carefully prepared. It is possible that the usual date for the elections had already been passed and that It was only the postponement of the Comitia that gave Marius a chance of success.[1076] Even then it was a slender one, for it was believed in later times that his leave had been won only twelve days before the day fixed for the declaration of the consuls.[1077] In two days and a night he had covered the ground that lay between the camp and Utica. Here he paused to sacrifice before taking ship to Italy. The cheering words of the priest who read the omens[1078] seemed to be approved by the good fortune of his voyage. A favourable wind bore him in four days across the sea, and he reached Rome to find men craving for his presence as the crowning factor in a popular movement, delightful in its novelty and entered into with a genuine enthusiasm by the masses, who were fully conscious that there was a wrong of some undefined kind to be set right, and were as a whole perhaps blissfully ignorant of the intrigues by which they were being moved. Yet the thinking portion of the community had some grounds for resentment and alarm. The Numidian was not merely injuring those interested in African finance, but was engaging an army that was sadly needed elsewhere. The struggle in the North was going badly for Rome, and despatches had lately brought the news of the defeat of the consul Silanus by a vast and wandering horde known as the Cimbri,[1079] who hovered like a threatening cloud on the farther side of the Alps and might at no distant date sweep past the barrier of Italy. The senatorial government, although its position had not been formally assailed, had been sufficiently shaken by the Mamilian commission to distrust its power of stemming an adverse tide; and Scaurus, its chief bulwark, had lately been so ill-advised as to force a conflict with constitutional procedure in a way which could not be approved by a class of men to which the smallest precedent of political life that had once been stereotyped, appealed as a vital element in administration. He had spoilt a magnificent display of energy during his tenure of the censorship—an energy that issued in the rebuilding of the Mulvian bridge[1080] and in the continuance of the great coast road[1081] from Etruria past Genua to Dertona in the basin of the Po—by an unconstitutional attempt to continue in his office after the death of his colleague. His resignation had been enforced by some of the tribunes;[1082] and the great man seems still to have been under the passing cloud engendered by his own obstinate ambition, when the intrigues of the ever-dreaded coalition of the mercantile classes and the popular leaders were completed by the arrival of Marius.

This new figurehead of the democracy had a comparatively easy part assigned him. Had it been necessary for him to persuade, he would probably have failed, for he lacked the gifts of the orator and the suppleness of the intriguer; but he was expected only to confirm, and better confirmation was to be gained from his martial bearing and his rugged manner than from his halting words. The speaking might be done by others more practised in the art; a few words of harsh verification from this living exemplar of the virtues of the people were all that was demanded. His censure of Metellus was followed by a promise that he would take Jugurtha alive or dead.[1083] The censure and the promise gave the text for a fiery stream of opposition oratory. Threats of prosecuting Metellus on a capital charge were mingled with passionate assertions of confidence in the true soldier who could vindicate the honour of Rome. The excitement spread even beyond the lazier rabble of the city. Honest artisans, who were usually untouched by the delirious forms of politics, and even thrifty country farmers,[1084] to whom time meant money at this busy season of the year, were drawn into the throng that gazed at Marius and listened to the burning words of his supporters. Against such a concourse the nobility and its dependents could make no head. The people who had come to listen stayed to vote, and the suffrage of the centuries gave the "new man" as a colleague to Lucius Cassius Longinus. But this triumph was but the prelude to another. The people, now assembled in the plebeian gathering of the tribes, were asked by the tribune Titus Manlius Mancinus whom they willed to conduct the war against Jugurtha. The answer "Marius" was given by overwhelming numbers, and the decision already reached by the senate was brushed aside. That body had, in the exercise of its legal authority, determined the provinces which should be administered by the consuls of the coming year.[1085] Numidia had not been one of these, for it had unquestionably been destined for Metellus. Gaul, on the other hand, called for the presence of a consul and a soldier; and the senate, although it had no power to make a definite appointment to this province, had perhaps intended that Marius, if elected, should be entrusted with its defence. Had this resolution been adopted, the paths of Marius and Metellus would have ceased to cross; the Numidian war, which demanded patience and diplomacy but not genius, might have dwindled gradually away; and the barbarians of the North might have yielded to their future victor before they had established their gloomy record of triumphs over the arms of Rome. But this was not to be. The party triumph would be incomplete if the senate's nominee was not ousted from his command. We cannot say whether Marius shared in the blindness which saw a more glorious field for military energy in Numidia than in Gaul; personal rivalry and political passion may have already blunted the instincts of the soldier. But, whatever his thoughts may have been, his actions were determined by a superior force. He was but a pawn in the hands of tribunes and capitalists; he had made promises which had raised hopes, definitely commercial and vaguely political. These hopes it must be his mission to fulfil. Before quitting Rome he found words[1086] which vented all the spleen of the classes screened out of office by the close-drawn ring of the nobility. The platitudes of merit, tested by honest service and approved by distinctions won in war, were advanced against the claims of birth; the luxurious life of the nobility was gibbeted on the ground that sensuality was a bar to energy and efficiency; even the elegant and conscientious taste of the cultured commander, who supplied the defects of experience by the perusal of Greek works on military tactics during his journey to the scene of war, was held up to criticism as a sign that the vain and ignorant amateur was usurping the tasks that belonged to the tried and hardy expert.[1087] Fortunately the energy of Marius was better expended on deeds than words. Whether the African war really required a more vigorous army than that serving under Metellus, might be an open question. Marius pretended that the need was patent, and exhibited the greatest energy in beating up veteran legionaries and attracting to his standard such of the Latin allies as had already approved their skill in service.[1088] The senate lent a ready hand. Nothing was more unpopular than a drastic levy, and the favourite might fail when he called for a fulfilment of the brave language that had been heard on every side. But the confidence in the new commander baffled its hopes; the conscripts were marching to glory not to danger, and the supplementary army, that was to avert a phantom peril and save an imaginary situation, was soon enrolled. Such a demonstration had often been seen before in Rome; the energy of an ambitious commander had with lamentable frequency rebuked the indolence or confidence of his predecessor, and Marius was but following in the footsteps of Bestia and Albinus. The real merits of his labours were due to his freedom from a strange superstition which had hitherto clung to the minds even of the best commanders that the later Republic had produced. They had continued to hold the theory that the effective soldier must be a man of means—a belief inherited from the simple days of border warfare, when each conscript supplied his panoply and the landless man could serve only as a half-armed skirmisher. For ages past the principle had been breaking down. The vast forces required for foreign wars demanded a wider area for the conscription; but this area, as defined by the old conditions of service, so far from increasing, was ever becoming less. In the age of Polybius the minimum qualification requisite for service in the legions had sunk from eleven thousand to four thousand asses;[1089] later it had been reduced to a yet lower level;[1090] but, in spite of these concessions to necessity, the senate had refused to accept the lesson, taught by the military needs of the State and the social condition of Italy, that an empire cannot be garrisoned by an army of conscripts. The legal power to effect a radical alteration had long been in their hands; for the poorer proletariate of Rome whom the law described as the men assessed "on their heads," not on their holdings, had probably been liable to military service of any kind in time of need.[1091] Perhaps it was mere conservatism, perhaps it was a faint perception of the truth that an armed rabble is fonder of men than institutions, and an appreciation of the fact that the hold of the nobility over the capital would be weakened if their clients were allowed to don the armour which made them men, that had kept the senate within the strait limits of the antiquated rules. Fortunately, however, the methods of raising an army depended almost entirely on the discretion of the general engaged on the task. Did he employ the conscription in a manner not justified by convention, he might be met by resistance and appeals; but, if he chose to invite to service, there was no power which could prescribe the particular modes in which he should employ the units that flocked to his standard. It was this latter method that was adopted by Marius. He did not strain his popularity, and invite a conflict with senatorial tribunes, by forcing foreign service on the ragged freemen who had hailed him as the saviour of the State; but he invited their assistance in the glorious work and asked them to be his comrades in the triumphal progress that lay before him.[1092] The spirit of adventure, if not of patriotism, was touched: the call was readily answered, and the stalwart limbs that had lounged idly on the streets or striven vainly to secure the subsistence of the favoured slave, became the instruments by which the State was to be first protected and finally controlled. The conscription still remained as the resort of necessity; but the creation of the first mercenary army of Rome pointed to the mode in which any future commander could avoid the friction and unpopularity which often attended the enforcement of liability to service. The innovation of Marius was sufficiently startling to attract comment and invite conjecture. Some held that the army had been democratised to suit the consulship, and that the masses who had seen in Marius's elevation the realisation of the vague and detached ambitions of the poor, would continue to furnish a sure support to the power which they had created.[1093] It is not unlikely that Marius, with his knowledge of the tone of the army of Metellus, may have wished to create for himself an environment that would mould the temper of his future officers; but those more friendly critics who held that efficiency was his immediate aim, and that "the bad" were chosen only because "the good" were scarce,[1094] suggested the reason that was probably dominant as a motive and was certainly adequate as a defence. No thought of the ultimate triumph of the individual over the State by the help of a devoted soldiery could have crossed the mind either of the consul or of his critics. The Republic was as yet sacred, however unhealthy its chief organs might be deemed; and although Marius was to live to see the sinister fruit of his own reform, the harvest was to be reaped by a rival, and the first fruits enjoyed by the senate whom that rival served.

While the election of Marius, his appointment to Numidia, and his preparations for the campaign were in progress, the war had been passing through its usual phases of skirmishes and sieges. For a time no certain news could be had of the king; he was reported at one moment to be near the Roman lines, at another to be buried in the solitude of the desert;[1095] the annoyance caused by his baffling changes of plan was avenged by the interpretation that they were symptoms of a disordered mind; his old counsellors were said to have been dispersed, his new ones to be distrusted; it was believed that he changed his route and his officers from day to day, and that he retreated or retraced his steps as the terrors of suspicion and despair alternated with the faintly surviving hope that a stand might yet be made. Only once did he come into conflict with Metellus.[1096] The site of the skirmish is unknown, and its result was indecisive. The Numidian army is said to have been surprised and to have formed hastily for battle. The division led by the king offered a brief resistance; the rest of the line yielded at once to the Roman onset. A few standards and arms, a handful of prisoners, were all that the victors had to show for their triumph. The nimble enemy had disappeared beyond all hope of capture or pursuit.

After a time news was brought that the king had made for the southern desert with a fraction of his mounted troops and the Roman deserters, whose despair ensured their loyalty. He had shut himself up in Thala,[1097] a large and wealthy town to which his treasures and his children had already been transferred. This city lay some thirteen miles east of the oasis of Capsa, and a dismal and waterless desert stretched between the Romans and the refuge of the king. No Roman army had at any part of the campaign attempted to penetrate such trackless regions, and the court at Thala may have believed even this foretaste of the desert to be an adequate protection against an enemy which clung to towns and cultivated lands and relied, in the cumbrous manner of civilised warfare, on organised lines of communication. But the news that Jugurtha had at last occupied a position, the strength of which, together with the presence of his family and treasures within its walls, might supply a motive for a lengthy residence within the town and even suggest the resolution of holding it against every hazard, fired Metellus with a hope which the awkward political situation at Rome must have made more real than it deserved to be. The end of the war might be in sight, if he could only cross that belt of burning land. His plan was rapidly formed. The burden of the baggage animals was reduced to ten days' supply of corn; skins of water were laid upon their backs; the domestic cattle from the fields were driven in, and they were laden with every kind of vessel that could be gathered from the Numidian homesteads. The villagers in the neighbourhood of the recent victory, whom the flight of the king had made for the moment the humble servants of Rome, were bidden to bring water to a certain spot, and the day was named on which this mission was to be fulfilled. Metellus's own vessels were filled from the river, and the rapid march to Thala was begun. The resting place was reached and the camp was entrenched; water was there in greater abundance than had been asked or hoped, for a sharp downpour of rain made the plethoric skins presented by the punctual Numidians almost a superfluous luxury and, as a happy omen, cheered the souls of the soldiers as much as it refreshed their bodies.[1098] The devoted villagers had also brought an unexpectedly large supply of corn, so eager were they to give emphatic proof of their newly acquired loyalty. But one day more and the walls of Thala came in sight. Its citizens were surprised but not dismayed; they made preparations for the siege, while their king vanished into the desert with his children and a large portion of his hoarded wealth. It was too much to hope that Jugurtha would be caught in such a trap. The alternative prospects at Thala were immediate capture or a siege as protracted as the nature of the territory would permit. In the latter case a cordon would be drawn round the town and a price would probably be put upon the rebel's head. It is strange that the desperate band of deserters did not accompany the king in his flight. There may have been no time for the retreat of so large a force, or the strength and desolation of the site may have filled them with confidence of success. But, if things came to the worst, they had a surprise in store for their former comrades who were now battering against the walls.

Metellus, in spite of the fact that he had lightened his baggage animals of all the superfluities of the camp, must have brought his siege train with him; it would, indeed, have been madness to attempt an assault on a fortified town without the necessary instruments of attack. He seems in his lines round Thala to have had all that he needed for a blockade; even the planks for the great moving turrets were ready to his hand.[1099] The engines were soon in place on an artificial mound raised by the labour of the troops, the soldiers advanced under cover of the mantlets, and the rams began to batter against the walls. For forty days the courage of the besieged tried the patience of assailants already wearied with the toils of a long forced march. Had human endurance been the deciding factor, Metellus might have been forced to retire. But the wall of Thala was weaker than the spirit of its defenders; a portion of the rampart crumbled beneath the blows of the ram, and the victorious Romans rushed in to seize the plunder of the treasure-city. They found instead a holocaust of wealth and human victims. The royal palace had been invaded by the deserters from the Roman army whom Jugurtha had left behind. Thither they had borne the gold, the silver and the precious stuffs which formed the glory of the town. A feast was spread and continued until the banqueters were heavy with meat and wine. The palace was then fired, and when the plundering mob of Romans had made their way to the centre of the city's wealth, they found but the smouldering traces of a baffled vengeance and a disappointed greed.

The capture of Thala was one of those successes which might have been important, had it been possible to limit the area of the war or to check the disaffection which was now spreading throughout almost the whole of Northern Africa. The fringe of the desert had but been reached; the king had fled beyond it; the south and west were soon to be in a blaze; we shall soon see Metellus forced to take up his position in the north; and a slight incident which occurred while Metellus was at Thala showed that even cities of the distant east, which had never been under the immediate sway of the Numidian power, were wavering in their attachment to Rome. The Greater Leptis, situate in the territory of the Three Cities between the gulfs which separated Roman Africa from the territory of Cyrene, had sought the friendship and alliance of Rome from the very commencement of the war. A Sidonian settlement,[1100] it had, like most commercial towns which sought a life of peace, preferred the protectorate of Rome to that of the neighbouring dynasties, and had readily responded to the calls made on it by Bestia, Albinus and Metellus.[1101] Such assistance as it furnished must have been supplied by sea, for it was more than four hundred miles by land from the usual sphere of Roman operations; but the commissariat of the Roman army was so serious a problem that the ships of the men of Leptis must always have been a welcome sight at the port of Utica. Now the stability of their constitution, and their service to Rome, were threatened by the ambition of a powerful noble. This Hamilcar was defying the authority both of laws and magistrates, and Leptis, they wrote, would be lost, if Metellus did not send timely help. Four cohorts of Ligurians with a praefect at their head were sent to the faithful state, and the Roman general turned to meet the graver dangers which were threatening in the west.

Jugurtha had crossed the desert with a handful of his men and was now amongst the Gaetulian tribes,[1102] who stretched from the limits of his own dominions far across the southern frontier of his brother king of Mauretania. His eyes were now turned to the west; the men of the desert, the King of the Moors, would be infallible means of prolonging the war with Rome, if their help could be secured. No Roman army had yet dared to penetrate even into Western Numidia, and such a venture would be more hopeless than ever, if the nomad tribes of the desert frontier and Bocchus of Mauretania enclosed that district with myriads of mounted men that might sweep it at any time from point to point, and destroy in a moment the laborious efforts at occupation that might be made by Rome. The Gaetulians, although perhaps a nomad, were not a barbarian people. They plied with Mediterranean cities a trade in purple dye, the material for which was gathered on the Atlantic coast; and their merchants were sometimes seen in the marketplace at Cirta;[1103] but as fighting men they lacked even the organisation to which the Numidians had attained, and Jugurtha, while he sought or purchased their help, was obliged to teach them the rudiments of disciplined warfare. Gradually they learnt to keep the line, to follow the standards, to wait for the word of command before they threw themselves upon the foe;[1104] these untrained warriors must have been fired mainly by the love of adventure, of pay or of plunder, or have been impressed by the greatness of the fugitive who had suddenly appeared amongst their tribes; they had no hatred or previous fear of the power of Rome, for most of the Gaetulian chiefs were ignorant even of the name of the imperial city.[1105]

This name, however, had long been in the mind of the king who governed the northern neighbours of the Gaetulians, and it was to the fears or hopes of Bocchus of Mauretania that Jugurtha now appealed with the design of gaining an auxiliary force greater than any which he himself could put into the field. He had a claim on the Mauretanian king which might have been valid in a land in which polygamy did not prevail, for he was the husband of that monarch's daughter; but the dissipation of affection amongst a multitude of wives and their respective progeny did not permit the connection with a son-in-law to be a particularly binding tie.[1106] There were, however, other motives which might spur the king to action. His early overtures to Rome had been rejected, and this neglect must have aroused in his mind a feeling of anxiety as well as of wounded pride. If Rome conquered Numidia, she might become his neighbour. What in that case would be the position of Mauretania, connected as it would be by no previous ties of friendship or alliance with the conquering state? If Bacchus joined Jugurtha, he would immediately become a power with whom Rome would be forced to deal. An ally detached from her enemies had often become her most trusted friend; it was thus that the power of Masinissa had been secured and his kingdom had been increased. If Jugurtha were victorious, the Romans would be kept at bay; if he showed signs of failure, the defection of Bocchus might be bought at a great price. The game on which he had entered was absolutely safe; he could only be the loser if at the critical moment chivalry or national sentiment interfered with the designs of a calculating prudence. The great necessity of his position was to force the hand of the Roman general and the Roman senate; but meanwhile he would keep an open mind and see whether the power which he dreaded might not be permanently kept at bay.

It may have been with thoughts like these that Bocchus bowed to the teaching of his counsellors when they urged a meeting with Jugurtha.[1107] The meeting was that of equals, not of a suppliant and his protector. The Numidian king again headed an army of his own, and, after the oath of alliance had been given and received, exhorted his father-in-law in his own interest to join in a war that was as necessary as it was just. The Romans, he pointed out, had been made by their lust for conquest the common enemies of the human race. One had only to look at their treatment of Perseus of Macedon, of Carthage, of himself. Who was Bocchus that he alone should be immune from such a danger? The mood of the king responded to Jugurtha's words, and without an instant's delay they took the field together. Jugurtha was insistent on despatch, for he knew the varying temper of his relative and feared that even a slight delay would cool his resolve for decisive action.

The scene of the war now shifts with amazing suddenness to the north and centres for the first time round the walls of Cirta.[1108] Metellus had evidently been drawn from the south by the news of the threatened coalition; for, if the territories near the coast were undefended, the Mauretanians might sweep like a devastating storm over the land that might have been held with some show of justice to be in the possession of Rome. Cirta now appears as within the pacified territory and, although we have no record as to the time when it was lost by Jugurtha,[1109] its possession by the Romans need excite no surprise. It may have been lost at an early period of the war, for there is no sign that it was employed by Jugurtha either as a military or political capital, and if, in spite of the massacre that had followed its capture from Adherbal, its cosmopolitan mercantile life had been revived, the attachment of the town to Rome would be assured on the news of the waning fortunes of its king. Its surrender was certainly peaceful, and the strength which might have defied the arms of Rome had rendered it incapable of recovery by its former owner. To Cirta Metellus had transferred his prisoners, his booty and his baggage,[1110] and it was against Cirta that the two kings moved with their formidable force. Jugurtha was the moving spirit in the enterprise, his idea being that, even if the town could not be taken, the Romans would be forced to come to its support and a battle would be fought beneath its walls. A battle was now an issue to be courted, for never had he faced the enemy with greater numbers on his side.

Metellus was as fully conscious of the change in the situation. Lately he had been forcing himself on Jugurtha at every point; now he held back and waited for the favourable chance. He wished above all to learn something of the fighting spirit and methods of the Moors;[1111] they were an untried foe, and Roman success was usually the fruit of knowledge and not of experiment. He waited in his fortified camp near Cirta to watch events, when news was brought from Rome which proved to his mind that cautious inaction was now not merely the wiser but the only policy. The news that came by letter was of stunning force. Metellus had already learnt of Marius's election to the consulship. This knowledge should have prepared him for the worst; but a proud man, conscious of his deserts, will not meet in anticipation an event that, however probable, seems incredible. Yet here it was before him in black and white. He had been superseded in his command and the province of Numidia belonged to Marius.[1112] There was no pretence of self-restraint; tears rose to his eyes, as bitter language flowed from his lips. It was disputed whether natural pride or the sense of unmerited wrong was the secret of his wrath, or whether he held (as many thought) that a victory already won was being wrested from his grasp. But it was safely conjectured that his grief would not have been so violent had any man but Marius been his successor.

To risk a defeat at the moment when the command was slipping from his grasp seemed to Metellus the height of folly; but, even had he not possessed this additional motive for inaction, the situation would probably have forced him to temporise and to attempt to dissolve the hostile coalition by diplomacy. He therefore sent a message to Bocchus urging him to think seriously of the course of action which he had adopted.[1113] An opportunity was still open to him of becoming the friend and ally of Rome; why should he adopt this motiveless attitude of hostility? The cause of Jugurtha was desperate; did the King of Mauretania wish to bring his own country into the same miserable plight? These were the first words that Bocchus had heard of a possible convention with Rome; he had scored the first point, but was much too wise to give away the game. Definite offers must be made and securely guaranteed before he would withdraw the terror of his presence. Firmness and conciliation must be blended in his answer, which, when delivered, was both gracious and chivalrous. He longed, he said, for peace, but was stirred to pity for the fortunes of Jugurtha. If the latter were also given the chance of making terms with Rome, all might be arranged. Metellus replied with another message framed to meet the position taken up by the king; the answer of Bocchus was a cautious mixture of assent and protest. As he showed no unwillingness to continue the discussion, Metellus occupied the remainder of his own tenure of the command in further parleyings. Envoys came and went, and the war was practically suspended. A delicate and promising negotiation was on foot; it remained to be seen whether it would be patiently continued or rudely interrupted by the new governor of Numidia.


The summer must have been well advanced when Marius landed at Utica with his untried forces. The veterans were handed over to his care by the legate Rutilius[1114] for Metellus had fled the sight of the man, whose success had been based on a slanderous attack on his own reputation. It must have been with a heavy heart that he accomplished the voyage to Rome; for the greatest expert in the moods of the people could scarcely have foretold the surprise that awaited him there. The popular passion was spent; it was a feverish force that had burnt itself out; the country voters had at last bethought themselves of their work and returned to their farms; many of the most active and disorderly spirits, the restless loud-voiced men who are the potent minority in an agitation, had been removed by the levy of Marius; with the city mob docility generally alternated with revolution, and it was now inclined to look to the verdict of the recognised heads of the State. In this moment of reaction, too, many must have been inclined to wonder what after all could be said against this general who had never lost a battle, who had conquered cities and pitilessly revenged the one disaster which was not his fault, who had constantly swept the terrible King of Numidia as a helpless fugitive before him. The presence of Metellus completed the work by giving stability to these half-formed views. The common folk are the true idealists. They love a hero rather better than a victim, although it often depends on the turn of a hair which part the object of their attentions is to play. Now they followed the lead of the senate; the returned commander was the man of the day[1115] he had exalted the glory of the Roman name; and if there was no fault, there could only have been misfortune; but misfortune might be compensated by honour. There was the prospect of a triumph in store, that mixed source of sensuous satisfaction and national self-congratulation. Thus Metellus won his prizes from the Numidian war, a parade through the streets to the Capitol and the addition of the surname "Numidicus" to the already lengthy nomenclature of his house[1116]

The war itself, under the guidance of Marius, soon assumed the character which it had possessed under that of all his predecessors. The originality of the new commander seemed to have spent itself in the selection of his troops; no new idea seems to have been introduced into the conduct of operations, which resumed their old shapes of precautions against surprise, weary marches from end to end of Numidia, and the siege of strongholds which were no sooner taken than they proved to be beyond the area of actual hostilities. Perhaps no new idea was possible except one that exchanged the weapons of war for those of diplomacy; but even the final attempt that had been made in this direction by Metellus was not continued by Marius. Bocchus, unwilling to lose the chance which had been presented of a definite convention with Home, sent repeated messages to her new representative to the effect that he desired the friendship of the Roman people, and that no acts of hostility on his part need be feared[1117] but his protestations were received with distrust, and Marius, accustomed to the duplicity of the African mind and rejecting the view that the king might really be wavering between war and peace, chose to regard them as the treacherous cover for a sudden attack. The desultory campaign which followed seems to have been directed by two motives. The first was the training of the raw levies which had just been brought from Rome; the second the supposed necessity of cutting Jugurtha off from the strongholds which he still held at the extremities of his kingdom. As these extremities were now threatened or commanded, on the south by the Gaetulians and on the west by the Mauretanians, the area of the war was no less than that of Numidia itself; and, as the occupation of such an area was impossible, the destruction of these strongholds, which was little loss to a mobile self-supporting force such as that which Jugurtha had at his command, was the utmost end which could be secured.

The practice of the untrained Roman levies was rendered easy by the fact that Jugurtha had resumed the offensive. He no longer had the help of his Mauretanian auxiliaries, for Bocchus had retired to his own kingdom, and he had therefore lost his desire for a pitched battle; but his swarms of Gaetulian horse had enabled him to resume his old style of guerilla fighting, and he had taken advantage of the practical suspension of hostilities which had accompanied the change in the Roman command, to set on foot a series of raids against the friends of Rome and even to penetrate the borders of the Roman province itself.[1118] For some time the attention of Marius was absorbed in following his difficult tracks, in striving to anticipate his rapidly shifting plans, in creating in his own men the habits of endurance, the mobility and the strained attention, which even a brief period of such a chase will rapidly engender in the rawest of recruits. The pursuit gradually shifted to the west, and a series of sharp conflicts on the road ended finally in the rout of the king in the neighbourhood of Cirta. With troops now seasoned to the toils of long marches and deliberate attack, Marius turned to the more definite, if not more effective, enterprise of beleaguering such fortified positions as were still strongly held, and by their position seemed to give a strategic advantage to the enemy. His object was either to strip Jugurtha of these last garrisons or to force him to a battle if he came to their defence. At first he confined his operations within a narrow area; the best part of the summer months seems to have been spent in the territory lying east and south of Cirta, and within this region several fortresses and castles still adhering to the king were reduced by persuasion or by force.[1119] Yet Jugurtha made no move, and Marius gained a full experience of the helpless irritation of the commander who hears that his enemy is far away, neglectful of his efforts and wholly absorbed in some deep-laid scheme the very rudiments of which are beyond the reach of conjecture. His operations seem to have brought him to a point somewhere in the neighbourhood of Sicca, and this proximity to the southern regions of Numidia suggested the thought of an enterprise that might rival and even surpass Metellus's storm of Thala. About thirteen miles west of that town[1120] lay the strong city of Capsa.[1121] It marked almost the extremest limit of Jugurtha's empire in this direction, placed as it was just north of the great lakes and west of the deepest curve of the Lesser Syrtis. The town was the gift of an oasis, which here broke the monotony of the desert with pleasant groves of dates and olives and a perennial stream of water. The sources of this stream, which was formed by the union of two fountains, had been enclosed within the walls, and supplied drinking water for the city before it passed beyond it to irrigate the land. Even this supply hardly sufficed for the moderate needs of the Numidians, who supplemented it by rain water[1122] which they caught and stored in cisterns. A siege of Capsa in the dry season might therefore prove irksome to the inhabitants; but the invading army might be even less well supplied, for although four other springs outside the walls fed the canals which served the work of irrigation, they tended to run low when the season of rain was past. The security of the city, although its defences and its garrison were strong, was thought to reside mainly in its desert barrier. The waste through which an invading army would have to pass was waterless and barren, while the multitude of snakes and scorpions that found a congenial home on the arid soil increased the horror, if not the danger, of the route.[1123] Jugurtha had dealt kindly by the lonely citizens of Capsa; they were free from taxes and had seldom to answer to any demand of the king: and this favour, which was perhaps as much the product of necessity as of policy, had strengthened their loyalty to the Numidian throne. It is probable that some strategic, or at least military, motive was mingled in the mind of Marius with the mere desire of excelling his predecessor and creating a deep impression in the minds of the proletariate in his army and at home. Although Capsa, with its limited resources, could hardly ever have served as the point of departure for a large Numidian or Gaetulian host, it might have been of value as a refuge for the king when he wished to vanish from the eyes of his enemies, and perhaps as a means of communication with friendly cities or peoples situated between the two Syrtes. To vanquish the difficulties of such an enterprise might also strike terror into the Numidian garrisons of other towns, and the subjects of Jugurtha might feel that no stronghold was safe when the unapproachable Capsa had been taken or destroyed. But the difficulties of the task were great. The Numidians of these regions were more attached to a pastoral life than to agriculture; the stores of corn to be found along the route were therefore scanty, and their scarcity was increased by the fact that the king, who seems but lately to have passed through these regions, had ordered that large supplies of grain should be conveyed from the district and stored in the fortresses which his garrisons still held.[1124] Nothing could be got from the fields, which at this late period of the autumn showed nothing but arid stubble. It was fortunate that some stores still lay at Lares (Lorbeus), a town at a short distance to the south-east of his present base;[1125] these were to be supplemented by the cattle that the foraging parties had driven in, and the Roman soldier would at least have his unwelcome supply of meat tempered by a moderate allowance of meal. Yet the terrors of the journey were so great that Marius thought it wise to conceal the object of his enterprise even from his own men, and even when, after a six days' march to the south, he had reached a stream called the Tana,[1126] the motive of the expedition was still in all probability unknown. Here, as in Metellus's march on Thala, a large supply of water was drawn from the river and stored in skins, all heavy baggage was discarded, and the lightened column prepared for its march across the desert. By day the soldiers kept their camp and every stage of the journey was accomplished between night-fall and dawn. On the morning of the third day they had reached some rising ground not more than two miles from Capsa.[1127] The sun had not yet risen when Marius halted his men in a hollow of the dunes, and watched the town to see whether his cautious plans had really effected a surprise. Evidently they had; for, when day broke, the gates were seen to open and large numbers of Numidians could be observed leaving the city for the business of the fields. The word was given, and in a moment the whole of the cavalry and the lightest of the infantry were dashing on the town. They were meant to block the gates; while Marius and the heavier troops followed as speedily as they could, driving the straggling Numidians before them. It was the possession of these hostages that decided the fate of the town. The commandant parleyed and agreed to admit the Romans within the walls, the condition, whether tacit or expressed, of this surrender being that the lives of the citizens should be spared. The condition was immediately broken. The town was given over to the flames, all the Numidians of full age were put to the sword, the rest were sold into slavery, and the movable property which had been seized was divided amongst the soldiers. The breach of international custom was not denied; the only attempt at palliation was drawn from the reflection that it was due neither to motiveless treachery nor to greed; a position like Capsa, it was urged,—difficult of approach, open to the enemy, the home of a race notorious for its mobile cunning-could be held neither by leniency nor by fear.[1128] The expedition had miscarried, if the town was not destroyed; and, as frequently happens in the pursuit of wars with peoples to whom the convenient epithet of "barbarian" can be applied, the successful fruit of cruelty and treachery was perhaps defended on the ground that the obligations of international law must be either reciprocal or non-existent.

The destruction of Capsa was followed by other successes of a similar though less arduous kind. The event had served the purpose of Marius well in so far as it spread before him a name of terror which caused some of the Numidian garrisons to flee their strong places without a struggle. In the few cases where resistance was met, it was beaten down, and the fortified places which Jugurtha's soldiers were not rash enough to defend, were utterly destroyed by fire.[1129] Marius left a wilderness behind him on his return march to winter quarters,[1130] and perhaps renewed his devastating course in the south-eastern parts of Numidia during the spring of the following year, before his attention was suddenly called to another point in the vast area of the war. This easy triumph which cost little Roman blood and enriched the soldiers with the spoils of war, created in his men a belief in his foresight and prowess which seemed sufficient to stand the severest strain.[1131] A great effort had now to be made in a quarter of Numidia which lay not less than seven hundred miles from the recent scene of operations. As neither the site of Marius's recent winter quarters nor the base which he chose for his spring campaign are known to us, we cannot say whether the expedition which he now directed to the extreme west of Numidia was an unpleasant diversion from a scheme already in operation, or whether it was the result of a plan matured in the winter camp; but in either case this conviction of the necessity for sweeping the country in such utterly diverse directions proves the full success of the plan which Jugurtha was pursuing. It is more difficult to determine whether Marius increased the success of this plan by a political blunder of his own. The point at which he is now found operating was near the river Muluccha or Molocath,[1132] the dividing line between the kingdoms of Numidia and Mauretania. If the incursion which he made into this region was unprovoked, it was a challenge to King Bocchus and an impolitic disturbance of the recent attitude of quiescence that had been assumed by that hesitating monarch; but it is possible that news had reached Marius that a Mauretanian attack was impending, and that the same motive which had impelled Metellus to hasten from the south to the defence of Cirta, now urged his successor to push his army more than five hundred miles farther to the west up to the very borders of Mauretania. The movement seems to have been defensive, for at the moment when we catch sight of his efforts he had not attempted to cross the admitted frontier,[1133] but was endeavouring to secure a strong position that lay within what he conceived to be the Numidian territory. A giant rock rose sheer out of the plain, tapering into the narrow fortress which continued by its walls an ascent so smoothly precipitous that it seemed as though the work of nature had been improved by the hand of man.[1134] But one narrow path led to the summit and was believed to be the only way, not merely to a position of supreme value for defensive purposes, but also to one of those rich deposits which the many-treasured king was held to have laid up in the strongest parts of his dominions. The difficulties of a siege were almost insurmountable. The garrison was strong and well supplied with food and water; the only avenue for a direct assault upon the walls was narrow and dangerous; the site was as ill-suited as it could be for the movement of the heavier engines of war. When the attack was made, the mantlets of the besiegers were easily destroyed by fire and stones hurled from above; yet the soldiers could not leave cover, nor get a firm hold on the steeply sloping ground; the foremost amongst the storming party fell stricken with wounds, and a panic seemed likely to prevail amidst the ever-victorious army if it were again urged to the attack. While Marius was brooding over this unexpected check, and his mind was divided between the wisdom of a retreat and the chances that might be offered by delay, an accident supplied the defects of strength and counsel.[1135] A Ligurian in quest of snails was tempted to pursue his search from ridge to ridge on that side of the hill which lay away from the avenue of attack and had hitherto been deemed inaccessible. He suddenly found that he had nearly reached the summit; a spirit of emulation urged him to complete the work which he had unconsciously begun, and the branches of a giant holmoak, which twisted amongst the rocks, gave him a hold and footing when the perpendicular walls of the last ascent seemed to deny all chance of further progress. When at length he craned over the edge of the highest ridge, the interior of the fort lay spread before him. No member of the garrison was to be seen, for every man was engaged in repelling the assault which had been renewed on the opposite side. A prolonged survey was therefore possible, and all the important details of the fortress were imprinted on the mind of the Ligurian before he began his leisurely descent. The features of the slope he traversed were also more cautiously observed; the next ascent would be attempted by more than one, and every irregularity that might give a foothold must be noted by the man who would have to prove and illustrate his tale. When the story was told to Marius he sent some of his retinue to view the spot; their reports differed according to the character of their minds; some of the investigators were sanguine, others more than doubtful; but the consul eventually determined to make the experiment. The escalade was to be attempted by a band of ten; five of the trumpeters and buglemen were selected and four centurions, the Ligurian was to be their guide. With head and feet bare, their only armour a sword and light leathern shield slung across their backs, the soldiers painfully imitated the daring movements of their active leader. But he was considerate as well as daring. Sometimes he would weave a scaling ladder of the trailing creepers; at others he would lend a helping hand; at others again he would gather up their armour and send them on before him, then step rapidly aside and pass with his burden up and down their struggling line. His cheery boldness kept them to their painful task until every man had reached the level of the fort. It was as desolate as when first seen by the Ligurian, for Marius had taken care that a frontal attack should engage the attention of the garrison. The climb had been a long one, and the battle had now been raging many hours when news was brought to the anxious commander that his men had gained the summit.[1136] The assault was now renewed with a force that astonished the besieged, and soon with a recklessness that led them to think the besiegers mad. They could see the Roman commander himself leaving the cover of the mantlets and advancing in the midst of his men up the perilous ascent under a tortoise fence of uplifted shields. Over the heads of the advancing party came a storm of missiles from the Roman lines below. Confident as the Numidians were in the strength of their position, scornful as were the gibes which a moment earlier they had been hurling against the foe, they could not think lightly of the serried mass that was moving up the hill and the rain of bullets that heralded its advance. Every hand was busy and every mind alert when suddenly the Roman trumpet call was heard upon their rear. The women and boys, who had crept out to watch the fight, were the first to take the alarm and to rush back to the shelter of the fort; most of the men were fighting in advance of their outer walls; those nearest to the ramparts were the first to be seized with the panic; but soon the whole garrison was surging backwards, while through and over it pressed the long and narrow wedge of Romans, cutting their way through the now defenceless mass until they had seized the outworks of the fort.

It is difficult to gauge the positive advantages secured by this feat of arms; but it is probable that the capture of this particular hill-fortress, although its difficulty gave it undue prominence in the annals of the war, was not an isolated fact, but one of a series of successful attempts to establish a chain of posts upon the Mauretanian border, which might bring King Bocchus to better counsels and interrupt his communications with Jugurtha. The enterprise may have been followed by a tolerably long campaign in these regions. This campaign has not been recorded, but that it was contemplated is proved by the fact that Marius had ordered an enormous force of cavalry to meet him near the Muluccha.[1137] The force thus summoned actually served the purpose of covering a retirement that was practically a retreat; but this could not have been the object which it was intended to fulfil when its presence was commanded. A large force of horse was essential, if Bocchus was to be paralysed and the border country swept clear of the enemy. The cloud that was to burst from Mauretania was not the only chance that could be foretold; it was the issue to be dreaded, if all plans at prevention failed; but it was one that might possibly be averted by the presence of a commanding force in the border regions.

It had taken nearly a year to collect and transport from Italy the cavalry force that now entered the camp of Marius. The reason why Italy and not Africa was chosen as the recruiting ground is probably to be found in the lack of confidence which the Romans felt even in those Numidians who professed a friendly attitude; otherwise cheapness and even efficiency might seem to have dictated the choice of native contingents, although it is possible that, as a defensive force, the tactical solidarity of the Italians gave them an advantage even over the Numidian horse. The Latins and Italian allies had furnished the troopers that had lately landed on African soil,[1138] perhaps not at the port of Utica, but at some harbour on the west, for the time consumed by Marius in the march to his present position, even had not his campaign been planned in winter quarters, would have given him an opportunity to send notice of his whereabouts to the leader of the auxiliary force. This leader was Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who had spent nearly the whole of the first year of his quaestorship in beating up on Italian soil the troops of horsemen which he now led into the camp. In comparison with the arrival of the force that of the quaestor was as nothing; yet the advent of such a subordinate was always a matter of interest to a general. Tradition had determined that the ties between a commander and his quaestor should be peculiarly close; the superior was responsible for every act of the minor official whom the chance of the lot might thrust upon him; if his subordinate were capable, he was the chosen delegate for every delicate operation in finance, diplomacy, jurisdiction, or

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