1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jugurtha

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JUGURTHA (Gr. Ἰογόρθας), king of Numidia, an illegitimate son of Mastanabal, and grandson of Massinissa. After his father’s death he was brought up by his uncle Micipsa together with his cousins Adherbal and Hiempsal. Jugurtha grew up strong, handsome and intelligent, a skilful rider, and an adept in warlike exercises. He inherited much of Massinissa’s political ability. Micipsa, naturally afraid of him, sent him to Spain (134 B.C.) in command of a Numidian force, to serve under P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus Minor. He became a favourite with Scipio and the Roman nobles, some of whom put into his head the idea of making himself sole king of Numidia, with the help of Roman money.

In 118 B.C. Micipsa died. By his will, Jugurtha was associated with Adherbal and Hiempsal in the government of Numidia. Scipio had written to Micipsa a strong letter of recommendation in favour of Jugurtha; and to Scipio, accordingly, Micipsa entrusted the execution of his will. None the less, his testamentary arrangements utterly failed. The princes soon quarrelled, and Jugurtha claimed the entire kingdom. Hiempsal he contrived to have assassinated; Adherbal he quickly drove out of Numidia. He then sent envoys to Rome to defend his usurpation on the ground that he was the injured party. The senate decided that Numidia was to be divided, and gave the western, the richer and more populous half, to Jugurtha, while the sands and deserts of the eastern half were left to Adherbal. Jugurtha’s envoys appear to have found several of the Roman nobles and senators accessible to bribery. Having secured the best of the bargain, Jugurtha at once began to provoke Adherbal to a war of self-defence. He completely defeated him near the modern Philippeville, and Adherbal sought safety in the fortress of Cirta (Constantine). Here he was besieged by Jugurtha, who, notwithstanding the interposition of a Roman embassy, forced the place to capitulate, and treacherously massacred all the inhabitants, among them his cousin Adherbal and a number of Italian merchants resident in the town. There was great wrath at Rome and throughout Italy; and the senate, a majority of which still clung to Jugurtha, were persuaded in the same year (111) to declare war. An army was despatched to Africa under the consul L. Calpurnius Bestia, several of the Numidian towns voluntarily surrendered, and Bocchus, the king of Mauretania, and Jugurtha’s father-in-law, offered the Romans his alliance. Jugurtha was alarmed, but having at his command the accumulated treasures of Massinissa, he was successful in arranging with the Roman general a peace which left him in possession of the whole of Numidia. When the facts were known at Rome, the tribune Memmius insisted that Jugurtha should appear in person and be questioned as to the negotiations. Jugurtha appeared under a safe conduct, but he had partisans, such as the tribune C. Baebius, who took care that his mouth should be closed. Soon afterwards he caused his cousin Massiva, then resident at Rome and a claimant to the throne of Numidia, to be assassinated. The treaty was thereupon set aside, and Jugurtha was ordered to quit Rome. On this occasion he uttered the well-known words, “A city for sale, and doomed to perish as soon as it finds a purchaser!” (Livy, Epit. 64). The war was renewed, and the consul Spurius Albinus entrusted with the command. The Roman army in Africa was thoroughly demoralized. An unsuccessful attempt was made on a fortified town, Suthul, in which the royal treasures were deposited. The army was surprised by the enemy in a night attack, and the camp was taken and plundered. Every Roman was driven out of Numidia, and a disgraceful peace was concluded (109).

By this time the feeling at Rome and in Italy against the corruption and incapacity of the nobles had become so strong that a number of senators were prosecuted and Bestia and Albinus sentenced to exile. The war was now entrusted to Quintus Metellus, an able soldier and stern disciplinarian, and from the year 109 to its close in 106 the contest was carried on with credit to the Roman arms. Jugurtha was defeated on the river Muthul, after an obstinate and skilful resistance. Once again, however, he succeeded in surprising the Roman camp and forcing Metellus into winter quarters. There were fresh negotiations, but Metellus insisted on the surrender of the king’s person, and this Jugurtha refused. Numidia on the whole seemed disposed to assert its independence, and Rome had before her the prospect of a troublesome guerrilla war. Negotiations, reflecting little credit on the Romans, were set on foot with Bocchus (q.v.) who for a time played fast and loose with both parties. In 106, Marius was called on by the vote of the Roman people to supersede Metellus, but it was through the perfidy of Bocchus and the diplomacy of L. Cornelius Sulla, Marius’s quaestor, that the war was ended. Jugurtha fell into an ambush, and was conveyed a prisoner to Rome. Two years afterwards, in 104, he figured with his two sons in Marius’s triumph, and in the subterranean prison beneath the Capitol—“the bath of ice,” as he called it—he was either strangled or starved to death.

Though doubtless for a time regarded by his countrymen as their deliverer from the yoke of Rome, Jugurtha mainly owes his historical importance to the full and minute account of him which we have from the hand of Sallust, himself afterwards governor of Numidia.

See A. H. J. Greenidge, Hist. of Rome (1904); T. Mommsen, Hist. of Rome, book iv. ch. v.; the chief ancient authorities (besides Sallust) are Livy, Epit., lxii.-lxvii.; Plutarch, Marius and Sulla; Velleius Paterculus, ii.; Diod. Sic., Excerpta, xxxiv.; Florus, iii. 1. See also Marius, Sulla, Numidia.