Nevertheless Metellus and Marius with a couple of thousand soldiers succeeded in reaching the foot of the ridge; and the Numidian infantry which defended the heights, in spite of their superior numbers and favourable position, fled almost without resistance when the legionaries charged at a rapid pace up the hill. The Numidian infantry held its ground equally ill against Rufus; it was scattered at the first charge, and the elephants were all killed or captured on the broken ground. Late in the evening the two Roman divisions, each victorious on its own part and each anxious as to the fate of the other, met between the two fields of battle. It was a battle attesting alike the uncommon military talent of Jugurtha and the indestructible solidity of the Roman infantry, which alone had converted their strategical defeat into a victory. Jugurtha sent home a great part of his troops after the battle, and restricted himself to a guerilla warfare, which he likewise managed with skill.

Numidia Occupied By The Romans

The two Roman columns, the one led by Metellus, the other by Marius-- who, although by birth and rank the humblest, occupied since the battle on the Muthul the first place among the chiefs of the staff-- traversed the Numidian territory, occupied the towns, and, when any place did not readily open its gates, put to death the adult male population. But the most considerable among the eastern inland towns, Zama, opposed to the Romans a serious resistance, which the king energetically supported. He was even successful in surprising the Roman camp; and the Romans found themselves at last compelled to abandon the siege and to go into winter quarters. For the sake of more easily provisioning his army Metellus, leaving behind garrisons in the conquered towns, transferred it into the Roman province, and employed the opportunity of suspended hostilities to institute fresh negotiations, showing a disposition to grant to the king a peace on tolerable terms. Jugurtha readily entered into them; he had at once bound himself to pay 200,000 pounds of silver, and had even delivered up his elephants and 300 hostages, as well as 3000 Roman deserters, who were immediately put to death. At the same time, however, the king's most confidential counsellor, Bomilcar--who not unreasonably apprehended that, if peace should ensue, Jugurtha would deliver him up as the murderer of Massiva to the Roman courts--was gained by Metellus and induced, in consideration of an assurance of impunity as respected that murder and of great rewards, to promise that he would deliver the king alive or dead into the hands of the Romans. But neither that official negotiation nor this intrigue led to the desired result. When Metellus brought forward the suggestion that the king should give himself up in person as a prisoner, the latter broke off the negotiations; Bomilcar's intercourse with the enemy was discovered, and he was arrested and executed. These diplomatic cabals of the meanest kind admit of no apology; but the Romans had every reason to aim at the possession of the person of their antagonist. The war had reached a point, at which it could neither be carried farther nor abandoned. The state of feeling in Numidia was evinced by the revolt of Vaga,(13) the most considerable of the cities occupied by the Romans, in the winter of 646-7; on which occasion the whole Roman garrison, officers and men, were put to death with the exception of the commandant Titus Turpilius Silanus, who was afterwards--whether rightly or wrongly, we cannot tell--condemned to death by a Roman court-martial and executed for having an understanding with the enemy. The town was surprised by Metellus on the second day after its revolt, and given over to all the rigour of martial law; but if such was the temper of the easy to be reached and comparatively submissive dwellers on the banks of the Bagradas, what might be looked for farther inland and among the roving tribes of the desert? Jugurtha was the idol of the Africans, who readily overlooked the double fratricide in the liberator and avenger of their nation. Twenty years afterwards a Numidian corps which was fighting in Italy for the Romans had to be sent back in all haste to Africa, when the son of Jugurtha appeared in the enemy's ranks; we may infer from this, how great was the influence which he himself exercised over his people. What prospect was there of a termination of the struggle in regions where the combined peculiarities of the population and of the soil allowed a leader, who had once secured the sympathies of the nation, to protract the war in endless guerilla conflicts, or even to let it sleep for a time in order to revive it at the right moment with renewed vigour?

War In The Desert Mauretanian Complications

When Metellus again took the field in 647, Jugurtha nowhere held his ground against him; he appeared now at one point, now at another far distant; it seemed as if they would as easily get the better of the lions as of these horsemen of the desert. A battle was fought, a victory was won; but it was difficult to say what had been gained by the victory. The king had vanished out of sight in the distance. In the interior of the modern beylik of Tunis, close on the edge of the great desert, there lay on an oasis provided with springs the strong place Thala;(14) thither Jugurtha had retired with his children, his treasures, and the flower of his troops, there to await better times. Metellus ventured to follow the king through a desert, in which his troops had to carry water along with them in skins forty-five miles; Thala was reached and fell after a forty days' siege; but the Roman deserters destroyed the most valuable part of the booty along with the building in which they burnt themselves after the capture of the town, and--what was of more consequence--king Jugurtha escaped with his children and his chest. Numidia was no doubt virtually in the hands of the Romans; but, instead of their object being thereby gained, the war seemed only to extend over a field wider and wider.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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