That these prosecutions, however, were only intended to appease the excitement of public opinion, in the capitalist circles more especially, by the sacrifice of some of the persons most compromised, and that there was in them not the slightest trace of a rising of popular indignation against the government itself, void as it was of right and honour, is shown very clearly by the fact that no one ventured to attack the guiltiest of the guilty, the prudent and powerful Scaurus; on the contrary he was about this very time elected censor and also, incredible as it may seem, chosen as one of the presidents of the extraordinary commission of treason. Still less was any attempt even made to interfere with the functions of the government, and it was left solely to the senate to put an end to the Numidian scandal in a manner as gentle as possible for the aristocracy; for that it was time to do so, even the most aristocratic aristocrat probably began to perceive.

Cancelling Of The Second Treaty Metellus Appointed To The Command Renewal Of The War

The senate in the first place cancelled the second treaty of peace-- to surrender to the enemy the commander who had concluded it, as was done some thirty years before, seemed according to the new ideas of the sanctity of treaties no longer necessary--and determined, this time in all earnest, to renew the war. The supreme command in Africa was entrusted, as was natural, to an aristocrat, but yet to one of the few men of quality who in a military and moral point of view were equal to the task. The choice fell on Quintus Metellus. He was, like the whole powerful family to which he belonged, in principle a rigid and unscrupulous aristocrat; as a magistrate, he, no doubt, reckoned it honourable to hire assassins for the good of the state and would presumably have ridiculed the act of Fabricius towards Pyrrhus as unpractical knight errantry, but he was an inflexible administrator accessible neither to fear nor to corruption, and a judicious and experienced warrior. In this respect he was so far free from the prejudices of his order that he selected as his lieutenants not men of rank, but the excellent officer Publius Rutilius Rufus, who was esteemed in military circles for his exemplary discipline and as the author of an altered and improved system of drill, and the brave Latin farmer's son Gaius Marius, who had risen from the pike. Attended by these and other able officers, Metellus presented himself in the course of 645 as consul and commander-in-chief to the African army, which he found in such disorder that the generals had not hitherto ventured to lead it into the enemy's territory and it was formidable to none save the unhappy inhabitants of the Roman province. It was sternly and speedily reorganized, and in the spring of 646.(12)

Metellus led it over the Numidian frontier. When Jugurtha perceived the altered state of things, he gave himself up as lost, and, before the struggle began, made earnest proposals for an accommodation, requesting ultimately nothing more than a guarantee for his life. Metellus, however, was resolved and perhaps even instructed not to terminate the war except with the unconditional subjugation and execution of the daring client-prince; which was in fact the only issue that could satisfy the Romans. Jugurtha since the victory over Albinus was regarded as the deliverer of Libya from the rule of the hated foreigners; unscrupulous and cunning as he was, and unwieldy as was the Roman government, he might at any time even after a peace rekindle the war in his native country; tranquillity would not be secured, and the removal of the African army would not be possible, until king Jugurtha should cease to exist. Officially Metellus gave evasive answers to the proposals of the king; secretly he instigated the envoys to deliver their master living or dead to the Romans. But, when the Roman general undertook to compete with the African in the field of assassination, he there met his master; Jugurtha saw through the plan, and, when he could not do otherwise, prepared for a desperate resistance.

Battle On The Muthul

Beyond the utterly barren mountain-range, over which lay the route of the Romans into the interior, a plain of eighteen miles in breadth extended as far as the river Muthul, which ran parallel to the mountain-chain. The plain was destitute of water and of trees except in the immediate vicinity of the river, and was only intersected by a hill-ridge covered with low brushwood. On this ridge Jugurtha awaited the Roman army. His troops were arranged in two masses; the one, including a part of the infantry and the elephants, under Bomilcar at the point where the ridge abutted on the river, the other, embracing the flower of the infantry and all the cavalry, higher up towards the mountain-range, concealed by the bushes. On debouching from the mountains, the Romans saw the enemy in a position completely commanding their right flank; and, as they could not possibly remain on the bare and arid crest of the chain and were under the necessity of reaching the river, they had to solve the difficult problem of gaining the stream through the entirely open plain of eighteen miles in breadth, under the eyes of the enemy's horsemen and without light cavalry of their own. Metellus despatched a detachment under Rufus straight towards the river, to pitch a camp there; the main body marched from the defiles of the mountain-chain in an oblique direction through the plain towards the hill-ridge, with a view to dislodge the enemy from the latter. But this march in the plain threatened to become the destruction of the army; for, while Numidian infantry occupied the mountain defiles in the rear of the Romans as the latter evacuated them, the Roman attacking column found itself assailed on all sides by swarms of the enemy's horse, who charged down on it from the ridge. The constant onset of the hostile swarms hindered the advance, and the battle threatened to resolve itself into a number of confused and detached conflicts; while at the same time Bomilcar with his division detained the corps under Rufus, to prevent it from hastening to the help of the hard- pressed Roman main army.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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