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A History of Rome, Vol 1 by A H.J. Greenidge

Part 7 out of 11

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Jugurtha, who negotiated while he fought, were therefore admitted both
by the consul and by Scaurus, who inevitably dominated the diplomatic
relations of the war. That Jugurtha sent money as well as proposals at
the hands of his envoys, was a fact subsequently approved by a Roman
court of law, and deserves such credence as can be attached to a verdict
which was the final phase of a political agitation. That Bestia was
blinded by avarice and lost all sense of his own and his country's
honour, that Scaurus's sense of respectability and distrust of Jugurtha
went down before the golden promises of the king,[935] were beliefs
widely held, and perhaps universally, professed, by the democrats who
were soon thundering at the doors of the Curia--by men, that is, who did
not understand, or whose policy led them to profess misunderstanding of,
the problem in statecraft, as dishonouring in some of its aspects as
such problems usually are, which was being faced by a general and a
statesman who were pursuing a narrow and traditional but very
intelligible line of policy. The policy was indeed sufficiently ugly
even had there been no suspicion of personal corruption; its ugliness
could be tested by the fact that even the sanguine and cynical Jugurtha
could hardly credit the extent of the good fortune revealed to him by
the progress of the negotiations. At first his diplomatic manoeuvres had
been adopted simply as a means of staying the progress of hostilities,
of gaining a breathing space while he renewed his efforts at influencing
opinion in the imperial city. But when he saw that the very agents of
war were willing to be missionaries of peace, that the avengers sent out
by an injured people were ready for conciliation before they had
inflicted punishment, he concentrated his efforts on an immediate
settlement of the question.[936] It was necessary for the enemy of the
Roman people to pass through a preliminary stage of humiliation before
he could be recognised as a friend; it was all the more imperative in
this case since a number of angry people in Rome were clamouring for
Jugurtha's punishment. It was also necessary to arrange a plan by which
the humiliation might be effected with the least inconvenience to both
parties. An armistice had already been declared as a necessary
preliminary to effective negotiations for a surrender. This condition of
peace rendered it possible for Jugurtha to be interviewed in person by a
responsible representative of the consul.[937] Both the king and the
consul were in close touch with one another near the north-western part
of the Roman province, and Jugurtha was actually in possession of Vaga,
a town only sixty miles south-west of Utica. The town, in spite of its
geographical position, was an appanage[938] of the Numidian kingdom, and
the pretext under which Bestia sent his quaestor to the spot, was the
acceptance of a supply of corn which had been demanded of the king as a
condition of the truce granted by the consul. The presence of the
quaestor at Vaga was really meant as a guarantee of good faith, and
perhaps he was regarded as a hostage for the personal security of
Jugurtha.[939] Shortly afterwards the king rode into the Roman camp and
was introduced to the consul and his council. He said a few words in
extenuation of the hostile feeling with which his recent course of
action had been received at Rome, and after this brief apology asked
that his surrender should be accepted. The conditions, it appeared, were
not for the full council; they were for the private ear of Bestia and
Scauras alone.[940] With these Jugurtha was soon closeted, and the final
programme was definitely arranged, On the following day the king
appeared again before the council of war; the consul pretended to take
the opinion of his advisers, but no clear issue for debate could
possibly be put before the board; for the gist of the whole proceedings,
the recognition of the right of Jugurtha to retain Numidia, was the
result of a secret understanding, not of a definite admission that could
be blazoned to the world. There was some formal and desultory
discussion, opinions on the question of surrender were elicited without
any differentiation of the many issues that it might involve, and the
consul was able to announce in the end that his council sanctioned the
acceptance of Jugurtha's submission.[941] The council, however, had
deemed it necessary that some visible proof, however slight, should be
given that a surrender had been effected; for it was necessary to convey
to the minds of critics at home the impression that some material
advantage had been won and that Jugurtha had been humiliated. With this
object in view the king was required to hand over something to the Roman
authorities. He kept his army, but solemnly transferred thirty
elephants, some large droves of cattle and horses, and a small sum of
money--the possessions, presumably, which he had ready at hand in his
city of Vaga--to the custody of the quaestor of the Roman army.[942] The
year meanwhile was drawing to a close, and the consul, now that peace
had been restored, quitted his province for Rome to preside at the
magisterial elections.[943] The army still remained in the Roman
province or in Numidia, but the cessation of hostilities reduced it to a
state of inaction which augured ill for its future discipline should it
again be called upon to serve.

The agreement itself must have seemed to its authors a triumph of
diplomacy. They had secured peace with but an inconsiderable loss of
honour; they had saved Rome from a long, difficult and costly war,
whilst a modicum of punishment might with some ingenuity be held to have
been inflicted on Jugurtha. They must have been astounded by the chorus
of execration with which the news of the compact was received at
Rome.[944] Nor indeed can any single reason, adequate in itself and
without reference to others, be assigned for this feeling of hostility.
First, there was the idle gossip of the public places and the
clubs--gossip which, in the unhealthy atmosphere of the time, loved to
unveil the interested motives which were supposed to underlie the public
actions of all men of mark, and which exhibited moderation to an enemy
as the crowning proof of its suspicions. Secondly there was the feeling
that had been stirred in the proletariate at Rome. The question of
Jugurtha, little as they understood its merits, was still to them the
great question of the hour, a matter of absorbing interest and
expectation. Their feelings had been harrowed by the story of his
cruelties, their fears excited by rumours of his power and intentions.
They had roused the senate from its lethargy and forced that illustrious
body to pursue the great criminal; they had seen a great army quitting
the gates of Rome to execute the work of justice; their relatives and
friends had been subjected to the irksome duties of the conscription.
Everywhere there had been a fervid blaze of patriotism, and this blaze
had now ended in the thinnest curl of smoke. But to the masses the
imagined shame of the Jugurthine War had now become but a single count
in an indictment. The origin of the movement was now but its stimulus;
as is the case with most of such popular awakenings, the agitation was
now of a wholly illimitable character. The one vivid element in its
composition was the memory of the recent past. It was easy to arouse the
train of thought that centred round the two Gracchan movements and the
terrible moments of their catastrophe. The new movement against the
senate was in fact but the old movement in another form. The senate had
betrayed the interests of the people; now it was betraying the interests
of the empire; but to imagine that the form of the indictment as it
appealed to the popular mind was even so definite as this, is to credit
the average mind with a power of analysis which it does not, and
probably would not wish to, possess. It is less easy to gauge the
attitude of the commercial classes in this crisis. Their indignation at
the impunity given to Jugurtha after the massacre of the merchants at
Cirta is easily understood; but with this class sentiment was wont to be
outweighed by considerations of interest, and the preservation of peace
in Numidia, and consequently of facilities for trade, must have been the
end which they most desired. But perhaps they felt that the only peace
which would serve their purposes was one based on a full reassertion of
Roman prestige, and perhaps they knew that Jugurtha, the reawakener of
the national spirit of the Numidians, would show no friendship to the
foreign trader. They must also have seen that, whatever the prospects of
the mercantile class under Jugurtha's rule might be, the convention just
concluded could not be lasting. Their own previous action had determined
its transitory character. By their support of the agitation awakened by
Memmius they had created a condition of feeling which could not rest
satisfied with the present suspected compromise. But if satisfaction was
impossible, a continuance of the war was inevitable. They had before
them the prospect of continued unsettlement and insecurity in a fruitful
sphere of profit; and they intended to support the present agitation by
their influence in the Comitia and, if necessary, by their verdicts in
the courts, until a strong policy had been asserted and a decisive
settlement attained.

Even before the storm of criticism had again gathered strength, there
was great anxiety in the senate over the recent action in Numidia. That
body could doubtless read between the lines and see the real motives of
policy which had led up to the present compact; they could see that the
agreement was a compromise between the views of two opposing sections of
their own house; and they must have approved of it in their hearts in so
far as it expressed the characteristic objection of the senate as a
whole to imperil the security of their imperial system, perhaps even to
expose the frontiers of their northern possessions now threatened by
barbarian hordes, through undertaking an unnecessary war in a southern
protectorate. But none the less they saw clearly the invidious elements
in the recent stroke of diplomacy, the combination of inconsistency and
dishonesty exhibited in the comparison between the magnificent
preparations and the futile result--a result which, as interpreted by
the ordinary mind, made its authors seem corrupt and the senate look
ridiculous. Their anxiety was increased by the fact that an immediate
decision on their part was imperative. Were they to sanction what had
been done, or to refuse to ratify the decision of the consul?[945]

The latter was of itself an extreme step, but it was rendered still more
difficult by the fact that every one knew that Bestia would never have
ventured on such a course had he not possessed the support of
Scaurus.[946] To frame a decision which must be interpreted to mean a
vote of lack of confidence in Scaurus, was to unseat the head of the
administration, to abandon their ablest champion, perhaps to invite the
successful attacks of the leaders of the other camp who were lying in
wait for the first false step of the powerful and crafty organiser.
Again, as in the discussion which had followed the fall of Cirta, the
debates in the senate dragged on and there was a prospect of the
question being indefinitely shelved--a result which, when the popular
agitation had cooled, would have meant the acceptance of the existing
state of things. Again the stimulus to greater rapidity of decision was
supplied by Memmius. The leader of the agitation was now invested with
the tribunate, and his position gave him the opportunity of unfettered
intercourse with the people. His _Contiones_ were the feature of the
day,[947] and these popular addresses culminated in the exhortation
which he addressed to the crowd after the return of the unhappy Bestia.
His speech[948] shows Memmius to be both the product and the author of
the general character which had now been assumed by this long continued
agitation on a special point. The golden opportunity had been gained of
emphasising anew the fundamental differences of interest between the
nobility and the people, of reviewing the conduct of the governing class
in its continuous development during the last twenty years,[949] of
pointing out the miserable consequences of uncontrolled power,
irresponsibility and impunity. For the purpose of investing an address
with the dignity and authority which spring from distant historical
allusion, of brightening the prosaic present with something of the
glamour of the half-mythical past, even of flattering his auditors with
the suggestion that they were the descendants and heirs of the men who
had seceded to the Aventine, it was necessary for a popular orator to
touch on the great epoch of the struggle between the orders. But
Memmius, while satisfying the conditions of his art by the introduction
of the subject, uses it only to point the contrast between the epoch
when liberty had been won and that wherein it had been lost, or to
illustrate the uselessness of such heroic methods as the old secessions
as weapons against a nobility such as the present which was rushing
headlong to its own destruction. More important was the memory of those
recent years which had seen the life of the people and of their
champions become the plaything of a narrow oligarchy. The judicial
murders that had followed the overthrow of the Gracchi, the spirit of
abject patience with which they had been accepted and endured, were the
symbol of the absolute impunity of the oligarchy, the source of their
knowledge that they might use their power as they pleased. And how had
they used it? A general category of their crimes would be misleading; it
was possible to exhibit an ascending scale of guilt. They had always
preyed on the commonwealth; but their earlier depredations might be
borne in silence. Their earlier victims had been the allies and
dependants of Rome; they had drawn revenues from kings and free peoples,
they had pillaged the public treasury. But they had not yet begun to put
up for sale the security of the empire and of Rome itself. Now this last
and monstrous stage had been reached. The authority of the senate, the
power which the people had delegated to its magistrate, had been
betrayed to the most dangerous of foes; not satisfied with treating the
allies of Rome as her enemies, the nobility were now treating her
enemies as allies.[950] And what was the secret of the uncontrolled
power, the shameless indifference to opinion that made such misdeeds
possible? It was to be found partly in the tolerance of the people--a
tolerance which was the result of the imposture which made ill-gained
objects of plunder--consulships, priesthoods, triumphs--seem the proof
of merit. But it was to be found chiefly in the fact that co-operation
in crime had been raised to the dignity of a system which made for the
security of the criminal. The solidarity of the nobility, its very
detachment from the popular interest, was its main source of strength.
It had ceased even to be a party; it had become a clique--a mere faction
whose community of hope, interest and fear had given it its present
position of overweening strength.[951] This strength, which sprang from
perfect unity of design and action, could only be met and broken
successfully by a people fired with a common enthusiasm. But what form
should this enthusiasm assume? Should an adviser of the people advocate
a violent resumption of its rights, the employment of force to punish
the men who have betrayed their country? No! Acts of violence might
indeed be the fitting reward for their conduct, but they are unworthy
instruments for the just vengeance of an outraged people. All that we
demand is full inquiry and publicity. The secrets of the recent
negotiations shall be probed. Jugurtha himself shall be the witness. If
he has surrendered to the Roman people, as we are told, he will
immediately obey your orders; if he despises your commands, you will
have an opportunity of knowing the true nature of that peace and that
submission which have brought to Jugurtha impunity for his crimes, to a
narrow ring of oligarchs a large increase in their wealth, to the state
a legacy of loss and shame.

It was on this happily constructed dilemma that Memmius acted when he
brought his positive proposal before the people. It was to the effect
that the praetor Lucius Cassius Longinus should be sent to Jugurtha and
bring him to Rome on the faith of a safe conduct granted by the State;
Jugurtha's revelations were to be the key by which the secret chamber of
the recent negotiations was to be unlocked, with the desired hope of
convicting Scaurus and all others whose contact with the Numidian king,
whether in the late or in past transactions,[952] had suggested their
corruption. The object of this mission had been rapidly regaining the
complete control of Numidia, which had been momentarily shaken by the
Roman invasion. The presence of the Roman army, some portion of which
was still quartered in a part of his dominions, was no check on his
activity; for the absence of the commander, the incapacity and
dishonesty of the delegates whom he had left in his place, and the
demoralising indolence of the rank and file, had reduced the forces to a
condition lower than that of mere ineffectiveness or lack of discipline.
The desire of making a profit out of the situation pervaded every grade.
The elephants which had been handed over by Jugurtha, were mysteriously
restored; Numidians who had espoused the cause of Rome and deserted from
the army of the king--loyalists whom, whatever their motives and
character, Rome was bound to protect--were handed back to the king in
exchange for a price;[953] districts already pacified were plundered by
desultory bands of soldiers. The Roman power in Numidia was completely
broken when Cassius arrived and revealed his mission to the king. The
strange request would have alarmed a timid or ignorant ruler; Jugurtha
himself wavered for a moment as to whether he should put himself
unreservedly into the power of a hostile people; but he had sufficient
imagination and familiarity with Roman life to realise that the
principles of international honour that prevailed amongst despotic
monarchies were not those of the great Republic even at its present
stage, and he professed himself encouraged by the words of the amiable
praetor that "since he had thrown himself on the mercy of the Roman
people, he would do better to appeal to their pity than to challenge
their might".[954] His guide added his own word of honour to that of the
Republic, and such was the repute of Cassius that this assurance helped
to remove the momentary scruples of the king. Once he was assured of
personal safety, Jugurtha's visit to Rome became merely a matter of
policy, and his rapid mind must have surveyed every issue depending on
his acceptance or refusal before he committed himself to so doubtful a
step. His real plan of action is unfortunately unknown; for we possess
but the barest outline of these incidents, and we have no information on
the really vital point whether communications had reached him from his
supporters in the capital, which enabled him to predict the course
events would take if he obeyed the summons of Cassius. Had such
communications reached him, he might have known that the projected
investigation would be nugatory. But a failure in the purpose for which
he was summoned could convey no benefit to Jugurtha or his supporters;
it would simply incense the people and place both the king, and his
friends amongst the nobility, in a worse position than before. The
course of action, by turns sullen, shifty and impudent, which he pursued
at Rome, must have been due to the exigencies of the moment and the
frantic promptings of his frightened friends; for it could scarcely have
appealed to a calculating mind as a procedure likely to lead to fruitful
results. Its certain issue was war; but war could be had without the
trouble of a journey to Rome. He had but to stay where he was and
decline the people's request, and this policy of passive resistance
would have the further merit of saving his dignity as a king. It may
seem strange that he never adopted the bold but simple plan of standing
up in Rome and telling the whole truth, or at least such portions of the
truth as might have satisfied the people. It was a course of action that
might have secured him his crown. Doubtless if his transactions with
Roman officials had been innocent, the truth, if he adhered to it, might
not have been believed; but, if his evidence was damning, the people
might well have been turned from the insignificant question "Who was to
be King of Numidia?" to the supreme task of punishing the traitors whom
he denounced. But we have no right to read Jugurtha's character by the
light of the single motive of a self-interest which knew no scruples. He
may have had his own ideas of honour and of the protection due to a
benefactor or a trusty agent. Self-interest too might in this matter
come to the aid of sentiment; for it was at least possible that the
popular storm might spend its fury and leave the nobility still holding
their ground. So far as we with our imperfect knowledge can discern,
Jugurtha could have had no definite plan of action when he consented to
take the journey to Rome. But he had abundant prospects, if even he
possessed no plan. His presence in the capital was a decided advantage,
in so far as it enabled him to confer with his leading supporters, and
to attend to a matter affecting his dynastic interests which we shall
soon find arousing the destructive energy which was becoming habitual to
his jealous and impatient mind.

When Jugurtha appeared in Rome under the guidance of Cassius, he had
laid aside all the emblems of sovereignty and assumed the sordid garb
that befitted a suppliant for the mercy of the sovereign people.[955] He
seemed to have come, not as a witness for the prosecution, but as a
suspected criminal who appeared in his own defence. He was still keeping
up the part of one whom the fortune of war had thrown absolutely into
the power of the conquering state--a part perhaps suggested by the
friendly Cassius, but one that was perfectly in harmony with the
pretensions of Bestia and Scaurus. But the heart beneath that miserable
dress beat high with hope, and he was soon cheered by messages from the
circle of his friends at Rome and apprised of the means which had been
taken to baffle the threatened investigation,[956] The senate had, as
usual, a tribune at its service. Caius Baebius was the name of the man
who was willing to play the part, so familiar to the practice of the
constitution, of supporter of the government against undue encroachments
on its power and dignity, or against over-hasty action by the leaders of
the people. The government undoubtedly had a case. It was contrary to
all accepted notions of order and decency that a protected king should
be used as a political instrument by a turbulent tribune. Memmius had
impeached no one and had given no notice of a public trial; yet he
intended to bring Jugurtha before a gathering of the rabble and ask him
to blacken the names of the foremost men in Rome. It was exceedingly
probable that the grotesque proceeding would lead to a breach of the
peace; the sooner it was stopped, the better; and, although it was
unfortunately impossible to prevent Memmius from initiating the drama by
bringing forward his protagonist, the law had luckily provided means for
ending the performance before the climax had been reached. It was
believed that the sound constitutional views of Baebius were
strengthened by a great price paid by Jugurtha,[957] and, if we care to
believe one more of those charges of corruption, the multitude of which
had not palled even on the easily wearied mind of the lively Roman, it
is possible to imagine that the implicated members of the senate, in
whose interest far more than in that of Jugurtha Baebius was acting, had
persuaded the king that it was to his advantage to make the gift.

The eagerly awaited day arrived, on which the scandal-loving ears of the
people were to be filled to the full with the iniquities of their
rulers, on which their long-cherished suspicions should be changed to a
pleasantly anticipated certainty. Memmius summoned his Contio and
produced the king. Even the suppliant garb of Jugurtha did not save him
from a howl of execration. From the tribunal, to which he had been led
by the tribune, he looked over a sea of angry faces and threatening
hands, while his ears were deafened by the roar of fierce voices, some
crying that he should be put in bonds, others that he should suffer the
death of the traitor if he failed to reveal the partners of his
crimes.[958] Memmius, anxious for the dignity of his unusual proceedings
which were being marred by this frantic outburst, used all his efforts
to secure order and a patient hearing, and succeeded at length in
imposing silence on the crowd--a silence which perhaps marked that
psychological moment when pent up feeling had found its full expression
and passion had given way to curiosity. The tribune also vehemently
asserted his intention of preserving inviolate the safe conduct which
had been granted by the State. He then led the king forward[959] and
began a recital of the catalogue of his deeds. He spared him nothing;
his criminal activity at Rome and in Numidia, his outrages on his
family--the whole history of that career, as it continued to live in the
minds of democrats, was fully rehearsed. He concluded the story, which
he assumed to be true, by a request for the important details of which
full confirmation was lacking. "Although the Roman people understood by
whose assistance and ministry all this had been done, yet they wished to
have their suspicions finally attested by the king. If he revealed the
truth, he could repose abundant hope on the honour and clemency of the
Roman people; if he refused to speak, he would not help the partners of
his guilt, but his silence would ruin both himself and his future."
Memmius ceased and asked the king for a reply; Baebius stepped forward
and ordered the king to be silent.[960] The voice of Jugurtha could
legally find utterance only through the will of the magistrate who
commanded; it was stifled by the prohibition of the colleague who
forbade. The people were in the presence of one of those galling
restraints on their own liberty to which the jealousy of the magistracy,
expressed in the constitutional creations of their ancestors, so often
led. Baebius was immediately subjected to the terrorism which Octavius,
his forerunner in tribunician constancy, had once withstood. The frantic
mob scowled, shouted, made rushes for the tribunal, and used every
effort short of personal assault which anger could suggest, to break the
spirit of the man who balked their will. But the resolution--or, as his
enemies said, the shamelessness[961]--of Baebius prevailed. The
multitude, tricked of its hopes, melted from the Forum in gloomy
discontent. It is said that the hopes of Bestia and his friends rose
high.[962] Perhaps they had lived too long in security to realise the
danger threatened by a disappointed crowd that might meet to better
purpose some future day; that had gained from the insulting scene itself
an embittered confirmation of its views, with none of the softening
influence which springs from a curiosity completely satiated; that, as
an assembly of the sovereign people, might at any moment avenge the
latest outrage which had been inflicted on its dignity.

Jugurtha had, perhaps through no fault of his own, sorely tried the
patience of the people on the one occasion on which, as a professed
suppliant, he had come into contact with his sovereign. He was now, on
his own initiative, to try it yet further, and to test it in a manner
which aroused the horror and resentment of many who did not share the
views of Memmius. The king was not the only representative of
Masinissa's house at present to be found in Rome. There resided in the
city, as a fugitive from his power, his cousin Massiva, son of Gulussa
and grandson of Masinissa. It is not known why this scion of the royal
house had been passed over in the regulation of the succession, although
it is easily intelligible that Micipsa, with two sons of his own, might
not have wished to increase the number of co-regents of Numidia by
recognising his brother's heirs, and would not have done so had he not
been forced by circumstances to adopt Jugurtha. During the early
struggles between the three kings, Massiva had attached himself to the
party of Hiempsal and Adherbal, and had thus incurred Jugurtha's enmity;
but he had continued to live in Numidia as long as there was any hope of
the continuance of the dual kingship. The fall of Cirta and the death of
Adherbal had forced him to find a refuge at Rome, where he continued to
reside in peace until fate suddenly made him a pawn in the political
game. At last there had arisen a definite section amongst the nobility
which found it to its interest to offer an active opposition to
Jugurtha's claims. The consuls who succeeded Bestia and Nasica, were
Spurius Albinus and Quintus Minucius Rufus. The latter had won the
province of Macedonia and the protection of the north-eastern frontier;
to the former had fallen Numidia and the conduct of affairs in Africa.
The fact that the senate had declared Numidia a consular province before
the close of the previous year, was the ostensible proof that they had
yielded to the pressure applied by Memmius and nominally at least
repudiated the pacification effected by Bestia and Scaurus. But the
rejection of this arrangement seems never to have been officially
declared; there was still a chance of the recognition of Jugurtha's
claims, and of the governor of Numidia being assigned the inglorious
function of seeing to the restoration of the king and then evacuating
his territory. Such a modest _rôle_ did not at all harmonise with the
views of Albinus. He wished a real command and a genuine war; but it was
not easy to wage such a war as long as Jugurtha was the only candidate
in the field. Even if his surrender were regarded as fictitious and the
war were resumed on that ground, it was difficult to assign it an
ultimate object, since the senate had no intention of making Numidia a
province. But the object which would make the war a living reality could
be secured, if a pretender were put forward for the Numidian crown; and
such a pretender Albinus sought in the scion of Masinissa's race now
resident in Rome, whose birth gave him a better hereditary claim than
Jugurtha himself. The consul approached Massiva and urged him to make a
case out of the odium excited and the fears inspired by Jugurtha's
crimes, and to approach the senate with a request for the kingdom of
Numidia.[963] The prince caught at the suggestion, the petition was
prepared, and this new and unexpected movement began to make itself
felt. Jugurtha's fear and anger were increased by the sudden discovery
that his friends at Rome were almost powerless to help him. They could
not parade a question of principle when it came to persons; a kingdom in
Numidia was more easily defended than its king; every act of assistance
which they rendered plunged them deeper in the mire of suspicion; it was
a time to walk warily, for those who had no judge in their own
conscience found one in the keen scrutiny of a hostile world. But the
danger was too great to permit Jugurtha to relax his efforts through the
failure of his friends. He appealed to his own resources, which
consisted of the passive obedience of his immediate attendants and the
power of his purse. To Bomilcar his most trusted servant he gave the
mission of making one final effort with the gold which had already done
so much. Men might be hired who would lie in wait for Massiva. If
possible, the matter was to be effected secretly. If secrecy was
impossible, the Numidian must yet be slain. His death was deserving of
any risk. Bomilcar was prompt in carrying out his mission. A band of
hired spies watched every movement of Massiva. They learnt the hours at
which he left and returned to his home; the places he visited, the times
at which his visits were paid. When the seasonable hour arrived, the
ambush was set by Bomilcar. The elaborate precautions which had been
taken proved to have been thrown away; the assassin who struck the fatal
blow was no adept in the art of secret killing. Hardly had Massiva
fallen when the alarm was given and the murderer seized.[964] The men
who had an interest in Massiva's life were too numerous and too great to
make it possible for the act to sink to the level of ordinary street
outrages, or for the assassin caught red-handed to be regarded as the
sole author of the crime. The consul Albinus amongst others pressed the
murderer to reveal the instigator of the deed, and the senate must have
promised the immunity that was sometimes given to the criminal who named
his accomplices. The man named Bomilcar, who was thereupon formally
arraigned of the murder and bound over to stand his trial before a
criminal court. Even this step was taken with considerable hesitation,
for it was admitted that the safe-conduct which protected Jugurtha
extended to his retinue.[965] The king and his court were strictly
speaking extra-territorial, and the strict letter of international law
would have handed Bomilcar over for trial by his sovereign. But it was
felt that a departure from custom was a less evil than to allow such an
outrage to remain unpunished, and it was easier to satisfy the popular
conscience by finding Bomilcar guilty than to fix the crime on the man
whom every one named as its ultimate author. Jugurtha himself was
inclined for a time to acquiesce in this view; he regarded the trial of
his favourite as inevitable and furnished fifty of his own acquaintances
who were willing to give bail for the appearance of the accused. But
reflection convinced him that the sacrifice was unnecessary; his name
could not be saved by Bomilcar's doom, and no influence or wealth could
create even a pretence at belief in his own innocence. His standing in
Rome was gone, and this made him the more eager to consider his standing
as King of Numidia. If Bomilcar were sacrificed, his powerlessness to
protect the chief member of his retinue might shake the allegiance of
his own subjects.[966] He therefore smuggled his accused henchman from
Rome and had him conveyed secretly to Numidia. This, of all Jugurtha's
acts of perfidy perhaps the mildest and most excusable, in spite of the
awkward predicament in which it left the fifty securities, was the last
of the baffling incidents that had been crowded into his short sojourn
at Rome. His presence must have been an annoyance to every one. He had
exhausted his friends, had failed to serve the purposes of the
opposition leader, and had inspired in the senate memories and
anticipations which they were willing to forget. When that body ordered
him to quit Italy--it must have expressed the wish of every class.
Within a few days of Bomilcar's disappearance the king himself was
leaving the gates. It is said that he often turned and took a long and
silent look at the distant town, and that at last the words broke from
him "A city for sale and ripe for ruin, if only a purchaser can be
found!" [967]

The departure of Jugurtha implied the renewal of the war. The compact
made with Bestia and Scaurus had been tacitly, if not formally,
repudiated by the senate, and the fiction that Jugurtha had surrendered,
although it had played its part in the negotiations which brought him to
Rome, disappeared with the compact. Since, however, the right of
Jugurtha to retain Numidia, which was the objectionable element in the
late agreement, seems to have been implied rather than expressed, it may
have seemed possible to take the view that Jugurtha's surrender was
unconditional, and that the war was now the pursuit of an escaped
prisoner of Rome. Such a conception was absolutely worthless so far as
most of the practical difficulties of the task were concerned; for,
whether Jugurtha was an enemy or a rebel, he was equally difficult to
secure; but it may have had a considerable influence on the principles
on which the Numidian war was now to be conducted, and we shall find on
the part of Rome a growing disinclination to give Jugurtha the benefits
of those rules of civilised warfare of which she generally professed a
scrupulous observance in the letter if not in the spirit. The object of
the war was, through its very simplicity, extraordinarily difficult of
attainment. It was neither more nor less than the seizure of the person
of Jugurtha. Numidia had no common government and no unity but those
personified in its king, and the conquest of fragments of the country
would be almost useless until the king was secured. The hope of setting
up a rival pretender, whose recognition by Rome might have enabled
organisation to keep pace with conquest, had perished with the murder of
Massiva,[968] although it is very questionable whether the name even of
the son of the warlike Gulussa would have detached any of the military
strength of Numidia from a monarch who had stirred the fighting spirit
of the nation and was regarded as the embodiment of its manliest
traditions. The outlook of the consul Albinus, the new organiser of the
war on the Roman side, was indeed a poor one, and it was made still
poorer by the fact that a considerable portion of his year of office had
already lapsed, and the events of his campaign must of necessity be
crowded into the few remaining months of the summer and the early
autumn. Had there been any spirit of self-sacrifice in Roman commanders,
or any true continuity in Roman military policies, Albinus might have
set himself the useful task of organising victory for his successors;
yet he cannot be wholly blamed for the hope, wild and foolish as it
seems, of striking some decisive blow in the narrow time allowed
him.[969] The military operations of the war at this stage become almost
wholly subordinate to political considerations. Senate and consuls were
being swept off their feet and forced into a disastrous celerity or
superficiality of action by the growing tide of indignation which
animated commons and capitalists alike; and the feeling that something
decisive must be accomplished for the satisfaction of public opinion,
was supplemented by the lower but very human consideration that a
general must seem to have attained some success if he hoped to have his
command prolonged for another year. The senate, it is true, might have
insight enough to see that success in a war such as that in Numidia
could not be gauged by the brilliance of the results obtained; but how
were they to defend their verdict to the people unless they could point
to exploits such as would dazzle the popular eye? But although a
feverish policy seemed the readiest mode of escape from public suspicion
or inglorious retirement, it had its own particular nemesis, of which
Albinus seemed for the moment to be oblivious. To finish the war in a
short time meant to finish it by any means that came to hand. But, if a
striking victory did not surrender Jugurtha into the hands of his
conqueror--and even the most glorious victory did not under the
circumstances of the war imply the capture of the vanquished--what means
remained except negotiation and the voluntary surrender of the
king?[970] Such means had been employed by Bestia, and every one knew
now with what result. The policy of haste might breed more suspicion and
bitterness than the most desultory conduct of the campaign.

Albinus made rapid but ample preparation of supplies, money and
munitions of war, and hurried off to the scene of his intended
successes. The army which he found must have been in a miserable
condition, if we may judge by the state which the last glimpse of it
revealed; but his fixed intention of accomplishing something, no matter
what, must have rendered adequate re-organisation impossible, and he
took the field against Jugurtha with forces whose utter demoralisation
was soon to be put to a frightful test. The war immediately assumed that
character of an unsuccessful hunt, varied by indecisive engagements and
fruitless victories, which it was to retain even under the guidance of
the ablest that Rome could furnish. Jugurtha adhered to his inevitable
plan of a prolonged and desultory campaign over a vast area of country;
the size and physical character of his kingdom, the extraordinary
mobility of his troops, the credulity and anxious ambition of his
opponent, were all elements of strength which he used with consummate
skill. He retired before the threatening column; then, that his men
might not lose heart, he threw himself with startling suddenness on the
foe; at other times he mocked the consul with hopes of peace, entered
into negotiations for a surrender and, when he had disarmed his
adversary by hopes, suddenly drew back in a pretended access of
distrust. The futility of Albinus's efforts was so pronounced--a
futility all the more impressive from the intensity of his preparations
and his excessive eagerness to reach the field of action--that people
ignorant of the conditions of the campaign began again to whisper the
perpetual suspicion of collusion with the king.[971] The suspicion might
not have been avoided even by a commander who declined negotiation; but
Albinus's case had been rendered worse by his unsuccessful efforts to
play with a master of craft, and it was with a reputation greatly
weakened from a military, and slightly damaged from a moral, point of
view that he brought the campaign to a close, sent his army into winter
quarters, and left for Rome to preside at the electoral meetings of the
people.[972] The Comitia for the appointment of the consuls and the
praetors were at this time held during the latter half of the year, but
at no regular date, the time for their summons depending on the
convenience of the presiding consul and on his freedom from other and
more pressing engagements.[973] Albinus may have arrived in Rome during
the late autumn. Had he been able to get the business over and return to
Africa for the last month or two of the year, his conduct of the war
might have been considered ineffective but not disastrous, and the
senate might have been spared a problem more terrible than any that had
yet arisen out of its relations with Jugurtha. For Albinus, though
sanguine and unpractical, seems to have been reasonably prudent, and he
might have handed over an army, unsuccessful but not disgraced, and
recruited in strength by its long winter quarters, to the care of a more
fortunate successor. But, as it happened, every public department in
Rome was feeling the strain caused by a minor constitutional crisis
which had arisen amongst the magistrates of the Plebs. The sudden
revival of the people's aspirations had doubtless led to a certain
amount of misguided ambition on the part of some of its leaders, and the
tribunate was now the centre of an agitation which was a faint
counterpart of the closing scenes in the Gracchan struggles. Two
occupants of the office, Publius Lucullus and Lucius Annius, were
attempting to secure re-election for another year. Their colleagues
resisted their effort, probably on the ground that the conditions
requisite for re-election were not in existence, and this conflict not
merely prevented the appointment of plebeian magistrates from being
completed, but stayed the progress of the other elective Comitia as
well.[974] The tribunes, whether those who aimed at re-election or those
who attempted to prevent it, had either declared a _justitium_ or
threatened to veto every attempt made by a magistrate of the people to
hold an electoral assembly; and the consequence of this impasse was
that, when the year drew to a close,[975] no new magistrates were in
existence and the consul Albinus was still absent from his
African command.

Unfortunately the absence of the proconsul, as Albinus had now become in
default of the appointment of a successor, did not have the effect of
checking the enterprise of the army. It was now under the authority of
Aulus Albinus, to whom his brother had delegated the command of the
province and the forces during his stay at Rome. The stimulus which
moved Aulus to action is not known. The unexpected duration of his
temporary command may have familiarised him with power, stimulated his
undoubted confidence in himself, and suggested the hope that by one of
those unexpected blows, with which the annals of strategic genius were
filled, he might redeem his brother's reputation and win lasting glory
for himself. Others believed that the perpetually suspected motive of
cupidity was the basis of his enterprise, that he had no definitely
conceived plan of conquest, but intended by the terror of a military
demonstration to exact money from Jugurtha.[976] If the latter view was
correct, it is possible that Aulus imagined himself to be acting in the
interest of his army as well as of himself. The long winter quarters may
have betrayed a deficiency in pay and provisions, and if Jugurtha
purchased the security of a district, its immunity would be too public
an event to make it possible for the commander of the attacking forces
to pocket the whole of the ransom.

It was in the month of January, in the very heart of a severe winter,
that Aulus summoned his troops from the security of their quarters to a
long and fatiguing march. His aim was Suthul, a strongly fortified post
on the river Ubus, nearly forty miles south of Hippo Regius and the sea,
and so short a distance from the larger and better-known town of Calama,
the modern Gelma, that the latter name was sometimes used to describe
the scene of the incidents that followed.[977] We are not told the site
of the winter quarters from which the march began; but the
ineffectiveness of the former campaign and the caution of Albinus, who
did not mean his legions to fight during his absence, might lead us to
suppose that the troops had been quartered in or near the Roman
province; and in this case Aulus might have marched along the valley of
the Bagradas to reach his destined goal, which would finally have been
approached from the south through a narrow space between two ranges of
hills, the westernmost of which was crowned at its northern end by the
fortifications of Suthul. This was reported to be the chief
treasure-city of Jugurtha; could Aulus capture it, or even bargain for
its security with the king, he might cripple the resources of the
Numidian monarch and win great wealth for himself and his army. By long
and fatiguing marches he reached the object of his attack, only to
discover at the first glance that it was impregnable--nay even, as a
soldier's eye would have seen, that an investment of the place was
utterly impossible.[978] The rigour of the season had aggravated the
difficulties presented by the site. Above towered the city walls perched
on their precipitous rock; below was the alluvial plain which the
deluging rains of a Numidian winter had turned into a swamp of liquid
mud. Yet Aulus, either dazzled by the vision of the gold concealed
within the fortress which it had caused him such labour to reach, or
with some vague idea that a pretence at an investment might alarm the
king into coming to terms for the protection of his hoard, began to make
formal preparations for a siege, to bring up mantlets, to mark out his
lines of circumvallation,[979] to deceive his enemy, if he could not
deceive himself, into a belief that the conditions rendered an attack on
Suthul possible.

It is needless to say that Jugurtha knew the possibilities of his
treasure-city far better than its assailant. But the simple device of
Aulus was admirably suited to his plans. Humble messages soon reached
the camp of the legate; the missives of every successive envoy augmented
his illusion and stirred his idle hopes to a higher pitch. Jugurtha's
own movements began to give proof of a state of abject terror. So far
from coming to the relief of his threatened city, he drew his forces
farther away into the most difficult country he could find, everywhere
quitting the open ground for sheltered spots and mountain paths. At last
from a distance he began to hold out definite hopes of an agreement with
Aulus. But it was one that must be transacted personally and in private.
The plain round Suthul was much too public a spot; let the legate follow
the king into the fastnesses of the desert and all would be arranged.
The legate advanced as the king retired; but at every point of the
difficult march Numidian spies were hovering around the Roman column.
The disgust of the soldiers at the hardships to which they had been
submitted in the pursuit of this phantom gold, the last evidence of
which had vanished when their commander turned his back on the walls of
Suthul, now resulted in a frightful state of demoralisation. The lower
officers in authority, centurions and commanders of squadrons of horse,
stole from the camp to hold converse with Jugurtha's spies; some sold
themselves to desert to the Numidian army, others to quit their posts at
a given signal. The mesh was at last prepared. On one dark night, at the
hour of the first sleep when attack is least suspected, the camp of
Aulus was suddenly surrounded by the Numidian host. The surprise was
complete. The Roman soldiers, in the shock of the sudden din, were
utterly unnerved. Some groped for their arms; others cowered in their
tents; a few tried to create some order amongst their terror-stricken
comrades. But nowhere could a real stand be made or real discipline
observed. The blackness of the night and the heavy driving clouds
prevented the numbers of the enemy from being seen, and the size of the
Numidian host, large in itself, was perhaps increased by a terrified
imagination. It was difficult to say on which side the greater danger
lay. Was it safer to fly into darkness and some unknown ambush or to
keep one's ground and meet the approaching enemy? The evils of
preconcerted treachery were soon added to those of surprise. The
defections were greatest amongst the auxiliary forces. A cohort of
Ligurian infantry with two squadrons of Thracian cavalry deserted to the
king. Their example was followed by but a handful of the legionaries;
but the fatal act of treason was committed by a Roman centurion of the
first rank. He let the Numidians through the post which he had been
given to defend, and through this ingress they poured to every part of
the camp. The panic was now complete; most of the Romans threw their
arms away and fled from slaughter to the temporary safety of a
neighbouring hill. The early hour at which the attack had been made,
prevented an effective pursuit, for there was much of the night yet to
run; and the Numidians were also busied with the plunder of the camp.
The dawn of day revealed the hopelessness of the Roman position and
forced Aulus into any terms that Jugurtha cared to grant. The latter
adopted the language of humane condescension. He said that, although he
held the Roman army at his mercy, certain victims of famine or the
sword, yet he was not unmindful of the mutability of human fortune, and
would spare the lives of all his prisoners, if the Roman commander would
make a treaty with him.[980] The army was to pass under the yoke; the
Romans were to evacuate Numidia within ten days. The degrading terms
were accepted: an army that before its defeat had numbered forty
thousand men,[981] passed under the spear that symbolised their
submission and disgrace, and peace reigned in Numidia--a peace which
lacked no element of shame, dictated by a client king to the sovereign
that had decreed his chastisement.

The Roman public had become so familiar with discredit as to be in the
habit of imagining it even when it did not exist; but humiliation
exhibited in an actual disaster on this colossal scale was sufficiently
novel to stir the people to the profoundest depths of grief and
fear.[982] To men who thought only of the empire, its glory seemed to be
extinguished by the fearful blow; but many of the masses, who knew
nothing of war or of Rome's relations with peoples beyond the seas, were
filled with a fear too personal to permit their thoughts to dwell solely
on the loss of honour. To yet another class, whose knowledge exempted
them from such idle terror, the army seemed more than the empire. Rome
had not yet learnt to fight with mercenary forces; and the men who had
seen service formed a considerable element in the Roman proletariate.
Such veterans, especially those whose repute in war could give their
words an added point, were unmeasured in their condemnation of the
conduct of Aulus. The general had had a sword in his hand; yet he had
thought a disgraceful capitulation his only means of deliverance. On no
side could a word be heard in defence of the action of the unhappy
commander. The blessings of the wives and children of the men whom
Aulus's treaty had saved were, if breathed, apparently smothered under a
weight of patriotic execration.

The feeling of insecurity must have been rendered greater by the fact
that the State still lacked an official head, and the African
dependencies possessed no governor in whom any confidence could be
reposed. The year must have opened with a series of _interregna_, since
no consuls had been elected to assume the government on the 1st of
January; Numidia had again been made by senatorial decree a consular
province; but since no consul existed to assume the administration,
Albinus was still in command of the African army.[983] It was the
painful duty of the ex-consul to raise in the senate the question of the
ratification of his brother's treaty. Even he could never have attempted
to defend it; his dominant feeling was an overwhelming sense of the
weight of undeserved ignominy under which he lay, tempered by an
undercurrent of fear as to the danger that might follow in the track of
the universal disfavour with which he and his brother were regarded. The
action that he took even before the senate's opinion was known, was a
proof that he regarded the continuance of the war as inevitable. He
relieved his mind and sought to restore his credit by pushing on
military preparations with a fevered energy; supplementary drafts for
the African army were raised from the citizens; auxiliary cohorts were
demanded of the Latins and Italian allies. While these measures were in
progress, the judgment of the senate was given to the world. It was a
judgment based on the often-repeated maxim that no legitimate treaty
could be concluded without the consent of the senate and people.[984] It
was a decision that recalled the days of Numantia or the more distant
history of the Caudine Forks; but the formal sacrifice that followed and
was thought to justify those famous instances of breach of contract, was
no longer deemed worthy of observance, and Aulus was not surrendered to
the vengeance or mercy of the foe with whom he had involuntarily broken
faith. This summary invalidation of the treaty may have been the result
of a deduction drawn from the peculiar circumstances which had preceded
the renewal of the war--circumstances which, as we have seen, might be
twisted to support the view that Jugurtha was not an independent enemy
of Rome and was, therefore, not entitled to the full rights of a
belligerent.

The senate's decision left Albinus free to act and to make use of the
new military forces that he had so strenuously prepared. But a sudden
hindrance came from another quarter. Some tribunes expressed the not
unreasonable view that a commander of Albinus's record should not be
allowed to expose Rome's last resources to destruction. Had they meant
him to remain in command, their attitude would have been indefensible;
but, when they forbade him to take the new recruits to Africa,[985] they
were merely reserving them for a more worthy successor. Albinus,
however, meant to make the most of his limited tenure. He had his own
and his brother's honour to avenge, and within a few days of the
senate's decree permitting a renewal of the war, he had taken ship for
the African province, where the whole army, withdrawn from Numidia in
accordance with the compact, was now stationed in winter quarters. For a
time his burning desire to clear his name made him blind to the defects
of his forces; he thought only of the pursuit of Jugurtha, of some
vigorous stroke that might erase the stain from the honour of his
family. But hard facts soon restored the equilibrium of his naturally
prudent soul. The worst feature of the army was not that it had been
beaten, but that it had not been commanded. The reins of discipline had
been so slack that licence and indulgence had sapped its fighting
strength. The tyranny of circumstances demanded a peaceful sojourn in
the province, and Albinus resigned himself to the inevitable.

At Rome meanwhile the movement for inquiry that had been stayed for the
moment by the co-operation of Jugurtha and his senatorial friends, and
by the obstructive attitude of Baebius, had been resumed with greater
intensity and promise of success. It did not need the disaster of Aulus
to re-awaken it to new life. That disaster no doubt accelerated its
course and invested it with an unscrupulous thoroughness of character
that it might otherwise have lacked; but the movement itself had perhaps
taken a definite shape a month before the result of Aulus's experiment
in Numidia was known, and was the natural result of the feeling of
resentment which the conspiracy of silence had created. It now assumed
the exact and legal form of the demand for a commission which should
investigate, adjudicate and punish. The leaders of the people had
conceived the bold and original design of wresting from the hands, and
directing against the person, of the senate the powerful weapon with
which that body had so often visited epidemics of crime or turbulence
that were supposed to have fastened on the helpless proletariate. Down
to this time special commissions had either been set up by the
co-operation of senate and people, or had, with questionable legality,
been established by the senate alone. The commissioners, who were
sometimes consuls, sometimes praetors, had, perhaps always but certainly
in recent history, judged without appeal; and in the judicial
investigations which followed the fall of the Gracchi, the people had
had no voice either in the appointment of the judge or in the
ratification of the sentence which he pronounced. Now the senate as a
whole was to be equally voiceless; it was not to be asked to take the
initiative in the creation of the court, the penalties were to be
determined without reference to its advice, and although the presidents
would naturally be selected from members of the senatorial order, if
they were to be chosen from men of eminence at all, these presidents
were to be merely formal guides of the proceedings, like the praetor who
sat in the court which tried cases of extortion, and the verdict was to
be pronounced by judges inspired by the prevailing feeling of hostility
to the crimes of the official class.

Caius Mamilius Limetanus, who proposed and probably aided in drafting
this bill, was a tribune who belonged to the college which perhaps came
into office towards the close of the month of December which had
preceded the recent disaster in Numidia. The bill, the promulgation of
which was probably one of the first acts of his tribunate, proposed
"that an inquiry should be directed into the conduct of all those
individuals, whose counsel had led Jugurtha to neglect the decrees of
the senate, who had taken money from the king whether as members of
commissions or as holders of military commands, who had handed over to
him elephants of war and deserters from his army; lastly, all who had
made agreements with enemies of the State on matters of peace or
war".[986] The comprehensive nature of the threatened inquiry spread
terror amongst the ranks of the suspected. The panic was no sign of
guilt; a party warfare was to be waged with the most undisguised party
weapons: and mere membership of the suspected faction aroused fears
almost as acute as those which were excited by the consciousness of
guilt, There was a prospect of rough and ready justice, where proof
might rest on prepossession and verdicts be considered preordained. The
bitterness of the situation was increased by the impossibility of open
resistance to the measure; for such a resistance would imply an
unwillingness to submit to inquiry, and such a refusal, invidious in
itself, would fix suspicion and be accepted as a confession of misdeeds
which could not bear the light of investigation. With the city
proletariate against them, the threatened members of the aristocracy
could look merely to secret opposition by their own supporters, and to
such moderate assistance as was secured by the friendly attitude which
their recent agrarian measures had awakened in the Latins and Italian
allies.[987] But the latter support was moral rather than material, or
if it became effective, could only secure this character by fraud. The
allies, whom the senate had driven from Rome by Pennus's law, were
apparently to be invited to flood the _contiones_ and raise cries of
protest against the threatened indictment. But this device could only be
successful in the preliminary stages of the agitation. The Latins
possessed but few votes, the Italians none, and personation, if resorted
to, was not likely to elude the vigilance of the hostile presidents of
the tribunician assembly, or, if undetected, to be powerful enough to
turn the scale in favour of the aristocracy. For the unanimity of
opposition which the nobility now encountered in the citizen body, was
almost unexampled. The differences of interest which sometimes separated
the country from the city voters, seem now to have been forgotten. The
tribunes found no difficulty in keeping the agitation up to fever-heat,
and its permanence was as marked as its intensity. The crowds that
acclaimed the proposal, were sufficiently in earnest to remain at Rome
and vote for it; the emphasis with which the masses assembled at the
final meeting, "ordered, decreed and willed" the measure submitted for
their approval, was interpreted (perhaps rightly) as a shout of
triumphant defiance of the nobility, not as a vehement expression of
disinterested affection for the State.[988] The two emotions were indeed
blended; but the imperial sentiment is oftenest aroused by danger; and
the individuals who have worked the mischief are the concrete element in
a situation, the reaction against which has roused the exaltation which
veils vengeance and hatred under the names of patriotism and justice.

When the measure had been passed, it still remained to appoint the
commissioners. This also was to be effected by the people's vote, and
never perhaps was the effect of habit on the popular mind more
strikingly exhibited than when Scaurus, who was thought to be trembling
as a criminal, was chosen as a judge.[989] The large personal following,
which he doubtless possessed amongst the people, must have remained
unshaken by the scandals against his name; but the reflection amongst
all classes that any business would be incomplete which did not secure
the co-operation of the head of the State, was perhaps a still more
potent factor in his election. Never was a more splendid testimonial
given to a public man, and it accompanied, or prepared the way for, the
greatest of all honours that it was in the power of the Comitia to
bestow--the control of morals which Scaurus was in that very year to
exercise as censor.[990] The presence of the venerable statesman amongst
the three commissioners created under the Mamilian law, could not,
however, exercise a controlling influence on the judgments of the
special tribunal. Such an influence was provided against by the very
structure of the new courts. The three commissioners were not to judge
but merely to preside; for in the constitution of this commission the
new departure was taken of modelling it on the pattern of the newly
established standing courts, and the judges who gave an uncontrolled and
final verdict were men selected on the same qualifications as those
which produced the Gracchan jurors, and were perhaps taken from the list
already in existence for the trial of cases of extortion. The knights
were, therefore, chosen as the vehicle for the popular indignation, and
the result justified the choice. The impatience of a hampered commerce,
and perhaps of an outraged feeling of respectability, spent itself
without mercy on the devoted heads of some of the proudest leaders of
the faction that had so long controlled the destinies of the State.
Expedition in judgment was probably secured by dividing the
commissioners into three courts, each with his panel of _judices_ and
all acting concurrently. It was still more effectually secured by the
mode in which evidence was heard, tested and accepted, and by the
scandalous rapidity with which judgment was pronounced. The courts were
influenced by every chance rumour and swayed by the wild caprices of
public opinion. No sane democrat could in the future pretend to regard
the Mamilian commission as other than an outrage on the name of justice;
to the philosophic mind it seemed that a sudden turn in fortune's wheel
had brought to the masses the same intoxication in the sense of
unbridled power that had but a moment before been the disgrace of the
nobility.[991] An old score was wiped off when Lucius Opimius, the
author of the downfall of Caius Gracchus, was condemned. Three other
names completed the tale of victims who had been rendered illustrious by
the possession of the consular _fasces_. Lucius Bestia was convicted for
the conclusion of that dark treaty with Jugurtha, although his
counsellor Scaurus had been elevated to the Bench. Spurius Albinus fell
a victim to his own caution and the blunder of his too-enterprising
brother; the caution was supposed to have been purchased by Jugurtha's
gold, and the absent pro-consul was perhaps held responsible for the
rashness or cupidity of his incompetent legate, who does not seem to
have been himself assailed. Caius Porcius Cato was emerging from the
cloud of a recent conviction for extortion only to feel the weight of a
more crushing judgment which drove him to seek a refuge on Spanish soil.
Caius Sulpicius Galba, although he had held no dominant position in the
secular life of the State, was a distinguished member of the religious
hierarchy; but even the memorable speech which he made in his defence
did not save him from being the first occupant of a priestly office to
be condemned in a criminal court at Rome.[992]

We do not know the number of criminals discovered by the Mamilian
courts, and perhaps only the names of their more prominent victims have
been preserved. The worldly position of these victims may, however, have
saved others of lesser note, and the dignity of the sacrifice may have
been regarded in the fortunate light of a compensation for its limited
extent. The object of the people and of their present agents, the
knights, so far as a rational object can be discerned in such a carnival
of rage and vengeance, was to teach a severe lesson to the governing
class. Their full purpose had been attained when the lesson had been
taught. It was not their intention, any more than it had been that of
Caius Gracchus, to usurp the administrative functions of government or
to attempt to wrest the direction of foreign administration out of the
senate's hands. The time for that further step might not be long in
coming; but for the present both the lower and middle classes halted
just at the point where destructive might have given place to
constructive energy. The leaders of the people may have felt the entire
lack of the organisation requisite for detailed administration, and the
right man who might replace the machine had not yet been found; while
the knights may, in addition to these convictions, have been influenced
by their characteristic dislike of pushing a popular movement to an
extreme which would remove it from the guidance of the middle class.

The senate had indeed learnt a lesson, and from this time onward the
history of the Numidian war is simplified by the fact that its progress
was determined by strategic, not by political, considerations. There is
no thought of temporising with the enemy; the one idea is to reduce him
to a condition of absolute submission--a submission which it was known
could be secured only by the possession of his person. It is true that
the conduct of the campaign became more than ever a party question; but
the party struggle turned almost wholly on the military merit of the
commander sent to the scene of action, and although there was a
suspicion that the war was being needlessly prolonged for the purpose of
gratifying personal ambition, there was no hint of the secret operation
of influences that were wholly corrupt. Such a suspicion was rendered
impossible by the personality of the man who now took over the conduct
of the campaign. The tardily elected consuls for the year were Quintus
Caecilius Metellus and Marcus Junius Silanus. Of these Metellus was to
hold Numidia and Silanus Gaul.[993] It is possible that, in the counsels
of the previous year, considerations of the Numidian campaign may to
some extent have determined the election of Metellus; the senate may
have welcomed the candidature of a man of approved probity, although not
of approved military skill, for the purpose of obviating the chance of
another scandal; and the people may in the same spirit have now ratified
his election. But, when we remember the almost mechanical system of
advancement to the higher offices which prevailed at this time, it is
equally possible that Metellus's day had come, that the senate was
fortunate rather than prescient in its choice of a servant, and that,
although the people in their present temper would probably have rejected
a suspicious character, they accepted rather than chose Metellus. The
existing system did not even make it possible to elect a man who would
certainly have the conduct of the African war; and if we suppose that in
this particular case the division of the consular provinces did not
depend on the unadulterated use of the lot, but was settled by agreement
or by a mock sortition,[994] the probity rather than the genius of
Metellus must have determined the choice, for Silanus was assigned a
task of far more vital importance to the welfare of Rome and Italy.

The repute of Metellus was based on the fact that, although an
aristocrat and a staunch upholder of the privileges of his order, he was
honest in his motives and, so far at least as civic politics were
concerned, straightforward in his methods. Rome was reaching a stage at
which the dramatic probity of Hellenic annals, as exemplified by the
names of an Aristeides or a Xenocrates, could be employed as a measure
to exalt one member of a government among his fellows; the
incorruptibility which had so lately been the common property of
all,[995] had become the monopoly of a few, and Metellus was a witness
to the folly of a caste which had not recognised the policy of honesty.
The completeness with which the prize for character might be won, was
shown by the attitude of a jury before which he had been impeached on a
charge of extortion. Even the jealous _Equites_ did not deign to glance
at the account-books which were handed in, but pronounced an immediate
verdict of acquittal.[996] But the merely negative virtue of
unassailability by grossly corrupting influences could not have been the
only source of the equable repute which Metellus enjoyed amongst the
masses. It was but one of the signs of the self-sufficient directness,
repose and courtesy, which marked the better type of the new nobility,
of a life that held so much that it needed not to grasp at more, of the
protecting impulse and the generosity which, in the purer type of minds
constricted by conservative prejudices, is an outcome of the conviction
of the unbridgeable gulf that separates the classes. The nobility of
Metellus was wholly in his favour; it justified the senate while it
hypnotised the people. The man who was now consul and would probably
within a short space of time attach the name of a conquered nationality
to his own, was but fulfilling the accepted destiny of his family.
Metellus could show a father, a brother, an uncle and four cousins, all
of whom had held the consulship. Since the middle of the second century
titles drawn from three conquered peoples had become appellatives of
branches of his race. His uncle had derived a name from Macedon, a
cousin from the Baliares, his own elder brother from the Dalmatians. It
remained to see whether the best-loved member of this favoured race
would be in a position to add to the family names the imposing
designation of Numidicus.

Metellus was a man of intellect and energy as well as of character,[997]
and he showed himself sufficiently exempt from the prejudices of his
caste, and sufficiently conscious of the seriousness of the work in
hand, to choose real soldiers, not diplomatists or ornamental warriors,
as his lieutenants. If the restiveness of Marius had left a disturbing
memory behind, it was judiciously forgotten by the consul, who drew the
_protégé_ of his family from the uncongenial atmosphere of the city to
render services in the field, and to teach an ambitious and somewhat
embittered man that each act of skill and gallantry was performed for
the glory of his superior. Another of his legates was Publius Rutilius
Rufus, who like Marius had held the praetorship, and was not only a man
of known probity and firmness of character, but a scientific student of
tactics with original ideas which were soon to be put to the test in the
reorganisation of the army which followed the Numidian war. For the
present it was necessary to create rather than reorganise an army, and
Metellus in his haste had no time for the indulgence of original views.
The reports of the forces at present quartered in the African province
were not encouraging; and every means had to be taken to find new
soldiers and fresh supplies. A vigorous levy was cheerfully tolerated by
the enthusiasm of the community; the senate showed its earnestness by
voting ample sums for the purchase of arms, horses, siege implements and
stores. Renewed assistance was sought from, and voluntarily rendered by,
the Latins and Italian allies, while subject kings proved their loyalty
by sending auxiliary forces of their own free will.[998] When Metellus
deemed his preparations complete, he sailed for his province amidst the
highest hopes. They were hopes based on the probity of a single man; for
the impression still prevailed that Roman arms were invincible and had
been vanquished only by the new vices of the Roman character. Such hopes
are not always the best omen for a commander to take with him; a joy in
the present, they are likely to prove an embarrassment in the
immediate future.

CHAPTER VII

The delay in his own appointment to the consulship, and the length of
time required for collecting his supplementary forces and their
supplies, had robbed Metellus of some of the best months of the year
when he set foot on African soil; but his patience was to be put to a
further test, for the most casual survey of what had been the army of
the proconsul Albinus showed the impossibility of taking the field for
some considerable time.[999] What he had heard was nothing to what he
saw. The military spirit had vanished with discipline, and its sole
survivals were a tendency to plunder the peaceful subjects of the
province and a habit of bandying words with superior officers. The camp
established by Aulus for his beaten army had hardly ever been moved,
except when sanitary reasons or a lack of forage rendered a short
migration unavoidable. It had developed the character of a highly
disorderly town, the citizens of which had nothing to do except to
traffic for the small luxuries of life, to enjoy them when they were
secured, and, in times when money and good things were scarce, to spread
in bands over the surrounding country, make predatory raids on the
fields and villas of the neighbourhood, and return with the spoils of
war, whether beasts or slaves, driven in flocks before them. The trader
who haunts the footsteps of the bandit was a familiar figure in the
camp; he could be found everywhere exchanging his foreign wine and the
other amenities in which he dealt for the booty wrung from the
provincials. Since discipline was dead and there was no enemy to fear,
even the most ordinary military precautions had ceased to be observed.
The ramparts were falling to pieces, the regular appointment and relief
of sentries had been abandoned, and the common soldier absented himself
from his company as often and for as long a period as he pleased.

Metellus had to face the task which had confronted Scipio at Numantia.
He performed it as effectually and perhaps with greater gentleness; for
the most singular feature in the methods by which he restored discipline
was his avoidance of all attempts at terrorism.[1000] The moderation and
restraint, which had won the hearts of the citizens, worked their magic
even in the disorganised rabble which he was remodelling into an army.
The habits of obedience were readily resumed when the tones of a true
commander were heard, and the way for their resumption was prepared by
the regulations which abolished all the incentives to the luxurious
indolence which he had found prevalent in the camp. The sale of cooked
food was forbidden, the camp followers were swept away, and no private
soldier was allowed the use of a slave or beast of burden, whether in
quarters or on the march. Other edicts of the same kind followed, and
then the work of active training began. Every day the camp was broken up
and pitched again after a cross-country march; rampart and ditch were
formed and pickets set as though the enemy was hovering near, and the
general and staff went their rounds to see that every precaution of real
warfare was observed. On the line of march Metellus was everywhere, now
in the van, now with The rearguard, now with the central column. His eye
criticised every disposition and detected every departure from the
rules; he saw that each soldier kept his line, that he filled his due
place in the serried ranks that gathered round a standard, that he bore
the appropriate burden of his food and weapons. Metellus preferred the
removal of the opportunities for vice to the vindictive chastisement of
the vicious; his wise and temperate measures produced a healthy state of
mind and body with no loss of self-respect, and in a short time he
possessed an army, strong in physique as in morale, which he might now
venture to move against the foe.

Jugurtha had shown no inclination to follow up his success by active
measures against the defeated Roman army, even after he had learnt the
repudiation of his treaty with Aulus and knew that the state of war had
been resumed. The miserable condition of the forces in the African
province, of which he must have been fully aware, must have offered an
inviting object of attack, and a sudden raid across the borders might
have enabled him to dissipate the last relics of Roman military power in
Africa. But he was now, as ever, averse to pushing matters to extremes,
he declined to figure as an aggressive enemy of the Roman power; and to
give a pretext for a war which could have no issue but his own
extinction, would be to surrender the chances of compromise which his
own position as a client king and the possibilities, however lessened,
of working on the fears or cupidity of members of the Roman
administration still afforded him. His strength lay in defensive
operations of an elusive kind, not in attack; the less cultivated and
accessible portions of his own country furnished the best field for a
desultory and protracted war, and he seems still to have looked forward
to a compromise to which weariness of the wasteful struggle might in the
course of time invite his enemies. He may even have had some knowledge
of the embarrassments of the Republic in other quarters of the world,
and believed that both the unwillingness of Rome to enter into the
struggle, and her eagerness, when she had entered, to see it brought to
a rapid close, were to some extent due to a feeling that an African war
would divert resources that were sorely needed for the defence of her
European possessions.

The king's confidence in the weakness and half-heartedness of the Roman
administration is said to have been considerably shaken by the news that
Metellus was in command.[1001] During his own residence in Rome he may
have heard of him as the prospective consul; he had at any rate learnt
the very unusual foundations on which Metellus's influence with his
peers and with the people was based, and knew to his chagrin that these
were unshakable. The later news from the province was equally
depressing. The new commander was not only honest but efficient, and the
shattered forces of Rome were regaining the stability that had so often
replaced or worn out the efforts of genius. Delicate measures were
necessary to resist this combination of innocence and strength, and
Jugurtha began to throw out the tentacles of diplomacy. The impression
which he meant to produce, and actually did produce on the mind of the
historian who has left us the fullest record of the war, was that of a
genuine desire to effect a surrender of himself which should no longer
be fictitious, and to throw himself almost unreservedly on the mercy of
the Roman people.[1002] But Jugurtha was in the habit of exhibiting the
most expansive trust, based on a feeling of his own utter helplessness,
at the beginning of his negotiations, and of then seeming to permit his
fears to get the better of his confidence. He was an experimental
psychologist who held out vivid hopes in the belief that the craving
once excited would be ultimately satisfied with less than the original
offer, while the physical and mental retreat would meanwhile divert his
victim from military preparations or lead him to incautious advances. It
must have been in some such spirit that he assailed Metellus with offers
so extreme in their humility that their good faith must have aroused
suspicion in any mind where innocence did not imply simplicity of
character, as Jugurtha perhaps hoped that it did in the case of this
novel type of Roman official. The Numidian envoys promised absolute
submission; even the crown was to be surrendered, and they stipulated
only for the bare life of the king and his children.[1003] Metellus,
convinced of the unreality of the promise, matched his own treachery
against that of the king. He had not the least scruple in following the
lead which the senate had given, and regarding Jugurtha as unworthy of
the most rudimentary rights of a belligerent. Believing that he had seen
enough of the Numidian type to be sure that its conduct was guided by no
principles of honour or constancy, and that its shifty imagination could
be influenced by the newest project that held out a hope of excitement
or of gain,[1004] he began in secret interviews with each individual
envoy, to tamper with his fidelity to the king. The subjects of his
interviews did not repudiate the suggestion, and adopted an attitude of
ready attention which invited further confidences. It might have been an
attitude which in these subtle minds denoted unswerving loyalty to their
master; but Metellus interpreted it in the light of his own desires, and
proceeded to hold out hopes of great reward to each of the envoys if
Jugurtha was handed over into his power; he would prefer to have the
king alive; but, if that was impossible, the surrender of his dead body
would be rewarded. He then gave in public a message which he thought
might be acceptable to their master. It is sufficiently probable that
the private dialogues no less than the public message were imparted to
Jugurtha's ear by messengers who now had unexampled means of proving
their fidelity and each of whom may have attempted to show that his
loyalty was superior to that of his fellows; incentives to frankness had
certainly been supplied by Metellus; but this frankness may have been
itself of value to the Roman commander. It would prove to Jugurtha the
presence of a resolute and unscrupulous man who aimed at nothing less
than his capture and with whom further parleyings would be waste
of time.

A few days later Metellus entered Numidia with an army marching with all
the vigilance which a hostile territory demands, and prepared in the
perfected carefulness of its organisation to meet the surprises which
the enemy had in store. The surprise that did await it was of a novel
character.[1005] The grimly arrayed column found itself forging through
a land which presented the undisturbed appearance of peace, security and
comfort. The confident peasant was found in his homestead or tilling his
lands, the cattle grazed on the meadows; when an open village or a
fortified town was reached, the army was met by the headman or governor
representing the king. This obliging official was wholly at the disposal
of the Roman general; he was ready to supply corn to the army or to
accumulate supplies at any base that might be chosen by the commander;
any order that he gave would be faithfully carried out. But Metellus's
vigilance was not for a moment shaken by this bloodless triumph. He
interpreted the ostentatious submission as the first stage of an
intended ambush, and he continued his cautious progress as though the
enemy were hovering on his flank. His line of march was as jealously
guarded as before, his scouts still rode abroad to examine and report on
the safety of the route. The general himself led the van, which was
formed of cohorts in light marching order and a select force of slingers
and archers; Marius with the main body of cavalry brought up the rear,
and either flank was protected by squadrons of auxiliary horse that had
been placed at the disposal of the tribunes in charge of the legions and
the prefects who commanded the divisions of the contingents from the
allies. With these squadrons were mingled light-armed troops, their
joint function being to repel any sudden assault from the mobile
Numidian cavalry. Every forward step inspired new fears of Jugurtha's
strategic craft and knowledge of the ground; wherever the king might be,
his subtle influence oppressed the trespasser on any part of his
domains, and the most peaceful scene appeared to the anxious eyes of the
Roman commander to be fraught with the most terrible perils of war.

The route taken by Metellus may have been the familiar line of advance
from the Roman province, down the valley of the Bagradas. But before
following the upper course of that river into the heart of Numidia, he
deemed it necessary to make a deflection to the north, and secure his
communications by seizing and garrisoning the town of Vaga, the most
important of the Eastern cities of Jugurtha. Its position near the
borders of the Roman province had made it the greatest of Numidian
market towns, and it had once been the home, and the seat of the
industry, of a great number of Italian traders.[1006] We may suppose
that by this time the merchants had fled from the insecure locality and
that the foreign trade of the town had passed away; but both the site of
the city and the character of its inhabitants attracted the attention of
Metellus. The latter, like the Eastern Numidians generally, were a
receptive and industrious folk, who knew the benefits that peace and
contact with Rome conferred on commerce, and might therefore be induced
to throw off their allegiance to Jugurtha. The site suggested a suitable
basis for supplies and, if adequately protected, might again invite the
merchant. Metellus, therefore, placed a garrison in the town, ordered
corn and other necessaries to be stored within its walls, and saw in the
concourse of the merchant class a promise of constant supplies for his
forces and a tower of strength for the maintenance of Roman influence in
Numidia when the work of pacification had been done. The slight delay
was utilised by Jugurtha in his characteristic manner. The seizure of
one of his most important cities offered an occasion or pretext for
fresh terrors. Metellus was beset by grovelling envoys with renewed
entreaties; peace was sought at any price short of the life of the king
and his children; all else was to be surrendered. The consul still
pursued his cherished plan of tampering with the fidelity of the
messengers and sending them home with vague promises. He would not cut
off Jugurtha from all hope of a compromise. He may have believed that he
was paralysing the king's efforts while he continued his steady advance,
and turning his enemy's favourite weapon against that enemy himself.
Perhaps he even let his thoughts dally with the hope that the envoys who
had proved such facile traitors might find some means of redeeming their
promises.[1007] But, unless he committed the cardinal mistake of
misreading or undervaluing his opponent, these could have been but
secondary hopes. He must have known that to penetrate into Western
Numidia without a serious battle, or at least without an effort of
Jugurtha to harass his march or to cut his communications, was an event
beyond the reach of purely human aspiration.

Jugurtha had on his part framed a plan of resistance complete in every
detail. The site in which the attempt was to be made was visited and its
military features were appraised in all their bearings; the events which
would succeed each other in a few short hours could be predicted as
surely as one could foretell the regular movements of a machine; the
Roman general was walking into a trap from which there should be no
escape but death. The framing of Jugurtha's scheme necessarily depended
on his knowledge of Metellus's line of march. We do not know how soon
the requisite data came to hand; but there is little reason for
believing that his plan was a resolution of despair or forced on him as
a last resort, except in the sense that he would always rather treat
than fight, and that to inflict disaster on a Roman army was no part of
the policy which he deemed most desirable. But, since his ideal plan had
stumbled on the temperament of Metellus, a check to the invading army
became imperative.[1008] The sacrifice of Vaga could scarcely have
weighed heavily on his mind, for it was an integral element in any
rational scheme of defence; but, even apart from the obvious
consideration that a king must fight if he cannot treat for his crown,
the thought of his own prestige may now have urged him to combat.
Unbounded as the faith of his Numidian subjects was, it might not
everywhere survive the impression made by the unimpeded and triumphant
march of the Roman legions.

Metellus when he quitted Vaga had continued to operate in the eastern
part of Numidia. The theatre of his campaign was probably to be the
territory about the plateau of Vaga and the Great Plains, its ultimate
prizes perhaps were to be the important Numidian towns of Sicca Veneria
and Zama Regia to the south. The nature of the country rendered it
impossible for him to enter the defiles of the Bagradas from the
north-west, while it was equally impossible for him to march direct from
Vaga to Sicca, for the road was blocked by the mountains which
intervened on his south-eastern side. To reach the neighbourhood of
Sicca it was necessary to turn to the south-west and follow for a time
the upward course of the river Muthul (the Wäd Mellag). By this route he
would reach the high plateaux, which command on the south-east the
plains of Sicca and Zama, on the north-west those of Naraggara and
Thagaste, on the south those of Thala and Theveste.[1009] Metellus's
march led him over a mountain height which was some miles from the
river.[1010] The western side of this height, down which the Roman army
must descend, although of some steepness at the beginning of its
declivity, did not terminate in a plain, but was continued by a swelling
rise, of vast and even slope, which found its eastern termination on the
river's bank. The greater portion of this great hill, and especially
that part of it which lay nearest to the mountain, was covered by a
sparse and low vegetation, such as the wild olive and the myrtle, which
was all that the parched and sandy soil would yield. There was no water
nearer than the river, and this had made the hill a desert so far as
human habitation was concerned. It was only on its eastern slope which
touched the stream that the presence of man was again revealed by
thick-set orchards and cattle grazing in the fields. [1011]

Jugurtha's plan was based on the necessity which would confront the
Romans of crossing this arid slope to reach the river. Could he spring
on them as they left the mountain chain and detain them in this torrid
wilderness, nature might do even more than the Numidian arms to secure a
victory; meanwhile measures might be taken to close the passage to the
river, and to bring up fresh forces from the east to block the desired
route while the ambushed army was harassed by attacks from the flank
and rear.

Jugurtha himself occupied the portion of the slope which lay just
beneath the mountain. He kept under his own command the whole of the
cavalry and a select body of foot-soldiers, probably of a light and
mobile character such as would assist the operations of the horse. These
he placed in an extended line on the flank of the route that must be
followed by an army descending from the mountain. The line was continued
by the forces which he had placed under the command of Bomilcar. These
consisted of the heavier elements of the Numidian army, the elephants of
war and the major part of the foot soldiers. It is, however, probable
that there was a considerable interval between the end of Jugurtha's and
the beginning of Bomilcar's line.[1012] The latter on its eastern side
extended to a point at no great distance from the river; and according
to the original scheme of the ambush the function assigned to Bomilcar
must have been that of executing a turning movement which would prevent
the Roman forces from gaining the stream. As it was expected that the
impact of the heavy Roman troops would be chiefly felt in this
direction, the sturdier and less mobile portions of the Numidian army
had been placed under Bomilcar's command.

Metellus was soon seen descending the mountain slope,[1013] and there
seemed at first a chance that the Roman column might be surprised along
its length by the sudden onset of Jugurtha's horse. But the vigilant
precautions which Metellus observed during his whole line of march,
although they could not in this case avert a serious danger, possibly
lessened the peril of the moment. His scouts seem to have done their
work and spied the half-concealed Numidians amongst the low trees and
brushwood. The superior position of the Roman army must in any case soon
have made this knowledge the common property of all, unless we consider
that some ridge of the chain concealed Jugurtha's ambush from the view
of the Roman army until they should have almost left the mountain for
the lower hill beneath it. Jugurtha must in any case have calculated on
the probability of the forces under his own command soon becoming
visible to the enemy, for perfect concealment was impossible amidst the
stunted trees which formed the only cover for his men.[1014] The
efficacy of his plan did not depend on the completeness or suddenness of
the surprise; it depended still more on Jugurtha's knowledge of the
needs of a Roman army, and on the state of perplexity into which all
that was visible of the ambush would throw the commander. For the little
that was seen made it difficult to interpret the size, equipment and
intentions of the expectant force. Glimpses of horses and men could just
be caught over the crests of the low trees or between the interlacing
boughs. Both men and horses were motionless, and the eye that strove to
see more was baffled by the scrub which concealed more than it revealed,
and by the absence of the standards of war which might have afforded
some estimate of the nature and size of the force and had for this
reason been carefully hidden by Jugurtha.

But enough was visible to prove the intended ambush. Metellus called a
short halt and rapidly changed his marching column to a battle formation
capable of resistance or attack. His right flank was the one immediately
threatened. It was here accordingly that he formed the front of his
order of battle, when he changed his marching column into a fighting
line.[1015] The three ranks were formed in the traditional manner; the
spaces between the maniples were filled by slingers and archers; the
whole of the cavalry was placed on the flanks. It is possible that at
this point the line of descent from the mountain would cause the Roman
army to present an oblique front to the slope and the distant
river,[1016] and the cavalry on the left wing would be at the head of
the marching column, if it descended into the lower ground.[1017] Such a
descent was immediately resolved on by Metellus. To halt on the heights
was impossible, for the land was waterless; an orderly retreat was
perhaps discountenanced by the difficulties of the country over which he
had just passed and the distance of the last watering-place which he had
left, while to retire at the first sight of the longed-for foe would not
have inspired his newly remodelled army with much confidence in
themselves or their general.

When the army had quitted the foot of the mountain, a new problem faced
its general. The Numidians remained motionless,[1018] and it became
clear that no rapid attack that could be as suddenly repulsed was
contemplated by their leader. Metellus saw instead the prospect of a
series of harassing assaults that would delay his progress, and he
dreaded the fierceness of the season more than the weapons of the enemy.
The day was still young, for Jugurtha had meant to call in the alliance
of a torrid sun, and Metellus saw in his mind's eye his army, worn by
thirst, heat and seven miles of harassing combat, still struggling with
the Numidian cavalry while they strove to form a camp at the river which
was the bourne of their desires. It was all important that the extreme
end of the slope which touched the river should be seized at once, and a
camp be formed, or be in process of formation, by the time that his
tired army arrived. With this object in view he sent on his legate
Rutilius with some cohorts of foot soldiers in light marching order and
a portion of the cavalry. The movement was well planned, for by the
nature of the case it could not be disturbed by Jugurtha. His object was
to harry the main body of the army and especially the heavy infantry,
and his refusal to detach any part of his force in pursuit of the
swiftly moving Rutilius is easily understood, especially when it is
remembered that Bomilcar was stationed near to the ground which the
Roman legate was to seize. An attack on the flying column would also
have led to the general engagement which Metellus wished to provoke. The
presence of Bomilcar and his force was probably unknown to the Romans.
He in his turn must have been surprised, and may have been somewhat
embarrassed, by Rutilius's advance; but the movement did not induce him
to abandon his position. To oppose Rutilius would have been to surrender
the part assigned him in the intended operations against the main Roman
force; and, if this part was now rendered difficult or impossible by the
presence of the Romans in his rear, he might yet divide the forces of
the enemy, and assist Jugurtha by keeping Rutilius and his valuable
contingents of cavalry in check. He therefore permitted the legate to
pass him[1019] and waited for the events which were to issue from the
combat farther up the field.

Metellus meanwhile continued his slow advance, keeping the marching
order which had been observed in the descent from the mountain. He
himself headed the column, riding with the cavalry that covered the left
wing, while Marius, in command of the horsemen on the right, brought up
the rear.[1020] Jugurtha waited until the last man of the Roman column
had crossed the beginning of his line, and then suddenly threw about two
thousand of his infantry up the slope of the mountain at the point where
Metellus had made his descent. His idea was to cut off the retreat of
the Romans and prevent their regaining the most commanding position in
the field. He then gave the signal for a general attack. The battle
which followed had all the characteristic features of all such contests
between a light and active cavalry force and an army composed mainly of
heavy infantry, inferior in mobility but unshakable in its compact
strength. There was no possibility of the Numidians piercing the Roman
ranks, but there was more than a possibility of their wearing down the
strength of every Roman soldier before that weary march to the river had
even neared its completion. The Roman defence must have been hampered by
the absence of that portion of the cavalry which had accompanied
Rutilius; it was more sorely tried by the dazzling sun, the floating
dust and the intolerable heat. The Numidians hung on the rear and either
flank, cutting down the stragglers and essaying to break the order of
the Roman ranks on every side. It was of the utmost difficulty to
preserve this order, and the braver spirits who preferred the security
of their ranks to reckless and indiscriminate assault, were maddened by
blows, inflicted by the missiles of their adversaries, which they were
powerless to return. Nor could the repulse of the enemy be followed by
an effective pursuit. Jugurtha had taught his cavalry to scatter in
their retreat when pursued by a hostile band; and thus, when unable to
hold their ground in the first quarter which they had selected for
attack, they melted away only to gather like clouds on the flank and
rear of pursuers who had now severed themselves from the protecting
structure of their ranks. Even the difficulties of the ground favoured
the mobile tactics of the assailants; for the horses of the Numidians,
accustomed to the hill forests, could thread their way through the
undergrowth at points which offered an effective check to the
pursuing Romans.

It seemed as though Jugurtha's plan was nearing its fulfilment. The
symmetry of the Roman column was giving place to a straggling line
showing perceptible gaps through which the enemy had pierced. The
resistance was becoming individual; small companies pursued or retreated
in obedience to the dictates of their immediate danger; no single head
could grasp the varied situation nor, if it had had power to do so,
could it have issued commands capable of giving uniformity to the
sporadic combats in which attack and resistance seemed to be directed by
the blind chances of the moment. But every minute of effectual
resistance had been a gain to the Romans. The ceaseless toil in the
cruel heat was wearing down the powers even of the natives; the
exertions of the latter, as the attacking force, must have been far
greater than those of the mass of the Roman infantry; and the Numidian
foot soldiers in particular, who were probably always of an inferior
quality to the cavalry and had been obliged to strain their physical
endurance to the utmost by emulating the horsemen in their lightning
methods of attack and retreat, had become so utterly exhausted that a
considerable portion of them had practically retired from the field.
They had climbed to the higher ground, perhaps to join the forces which
Jugurtha had already placed near the foot of the mountain, and were
resting their weary limbs, probably not with any view of shirking their
arduous service but with a resolution of renewing the attack when their
vigour had been restored. This withdrawal of a large portion of the
infantry was a cause, or a part, of a general slackening of the Numidian
attack; and it was the breathing space thus afforded which gave Metellus
his great chance. Gradually he drew his straggling line together and
restored some order in the ranks; and then with the instinct of a true
general he took active measures to assail his enemy's weakest point.
This point was represented by the Numidian infantry perched on the
height. Some of these were exhausted and perhaps dispirited, others it
is true were as yet untouched by the toil of battle; but as a body
Metellus believed them wholly incapable of standing the shock of a Roman
charge. The confidence was almost forced on him by his despair of any
other solution of the intolerable situation. The evening was closing in,
his army had no camp or shelter; even if it were possible to guard
against the dangers of the night, morning would bring but a renewal of
the same miserable toil to an army worn by thirst, sleeplessness and
anxiety. He, therefore, massed four legionary cohorts against the
Numidian infantry,[1021] and tried to revive their shattered confidence
by appealing at once to their courage and to their despair, by pointing
to the enemy in retreat and by showing that their own safety rested
wholly on the weapons in their hands. For some time the Roman soldiers
surveyed their dangerous task and looked expectantly at the height that
they were asked to storm. The vague hope that the enemy would come down
finally disappeared; the growing darkness filled them with resolute
despair; and, closing their ranks, they rushed for the higher ground. In
a moment the Numidians were scattered and the height was gained. So
rapidly did the enemy vanish that but few of them were slain; their
lightness of armour and knowledge of the ground saved them from the
swords of the pursuing legionaries.

The conquest of the height was the decisive incident of the battle, and
it was clearly a success that, considered in itself, was due far more to
radical and permanent military qualities than to tactical skill. It may
seem wholly a victory of the soldiers, in which the general played no
part, until we remember that strategic and tactical considerations are
dependent on a knowledge of such permanent conditions, and that Metellus
was as right in forcing his Romans up the height as Jugurtha was wrong
in believing that his Numidians could hold it. With respect to the
events occurring in this quarter of the field, Metellus had saved
himself from a strategic disadvantage by a tactical success; but even
the strategic situation could not be estimated wholly by reference to
the events which had just occurred or to the position in which the two
armies were now left. Had Bomilcar still been free to bar the passage to
the river and to join Jugurtha's forces during the night, the position
of the Romans would still have been exceedingly dangerous. But the
mission of Rutilius had successfully diverted that general's attention
from what had been the main purpose of the original plan. His leading
idea was now merely to separate the two divisions of the Roman army, and
the thought of blocking the passage of Metellus, although not
necessarily abandoned, must have become secondary to that of checking
the advance of Rutilius when the legate should have become alarmed at
the delay in the progress of his commander. Bomilcar, after he had
permitted the Roman force to pass him, slowly left the hill where he had
been posted and brought his men into more level ground,[1022] while
Rutilius was making all speed for the river. Quietly he changed his
column into a line of battle stretching across the slope which at this
point melted into the plain, while he learnt by constant scouting every
movement of the enemy beyond. He heard at length that Rutilius had
reached his bourne and halted, and at the same time the din of the
battle between Jugurtha and Metellus came in louder volumes to his ear.
The thought that Rutilius's attention was disengaged now that his main
object had been accomplished, the fear that he might seek to bring help
to his labouring commander, led Bomilcar to take more active measures.
His mind was now absorbed with the problem of preventing a junction of
the Roman forces. His mistrust of the quality of the infantry under his
command had originally led him to form a line of considerable depth;
this he now thought fit to extend with the idea of outflanking and
cutting off all chance of egress from the enemy. When all was ready he
advanced on Rutilius's camp.[1023]

The Romans were suddenly aware of a great cloud of dust which hung over
the plantations on their landward side; but the intervening trees hid
all prospect of the slope beyond: and for a time they looked on the
pillar of dust as one of the strange sights of the desert, a mere
sand-cloud driven by the wind. Then they thought that it betrayed a
peculiar steadiness in its advance; instead of sweeping down in a wild
storm it moved with the pace and regularity of an army on the march;
and, in spite of its slow progress, it could be seen to be drawing
nearer and nearer. The truth burst upon their minds; they seized their
weapons and, in obedience to the order of their commander, drew up in
battle formation before the camp. As Bomilcar's force approached, the
Romans shouted and charged; the Numidians raised a counter cheer and met
the assault half-way. There was scarcely a moment when the issue seemed
in doubt. The Romans, strong in cavalry, swept the untrained Numidian
infantry before them, and Bomilcar had by his incautious advance thrown
away the utility of that division of his army on which he and his men
placed their chief reliance. His elephants, which were capable of
manoeuvring only on open ground, had now been advanced to the midst of
wooded plantations, and the huge animals were soon mixed up with the
trees, struggling through the branches and separated from their
fellows.[1024] The Numidians made a show of resistance until they saw
the line of elephants broken and the Roman soldiers in the rear of the
protecting beasts; then they threw away their heavy armour and vanished
from the spot, most of them seeking the cover of the hills and nearly
all secure in the shelter of the coming night. The elephants were the
chief victims of the Roman pursuit; four were captured and the forty
that remained were killed.

It had been a hard day's work for the victorious division. A forced
march had been followed by the labour of forming a camp and this in turn
by the toil of battle. But it was impossible to think of rest. The delay
of Metellus filled them with misgivings, and they advanced through the
darkness to seek news of the main division with a caution that bespoke
the prudent view that their recent victory had not banished the evil
possibilities of Numidian guile.[1025] Metellus was advancing from the
opposite direction and the two armies met. Each division was suddenly
aware of a force moving against it under cover of the night; with nerves
so highly strung as to catch at any fear each fancied an enemy in the
other. There was a shout and a clash of arms, as swords were drawn and
shields unstrung. It was fortunate that mounted scouts were riding in
advance of either army. These soon saw the welcome truth and bore it to
their companions. Panic gave place to joy; as the combined forces moved
into camp, the soldiers' tongues were loosed, and pent up feelings found
expression in wonderful stories of individual valour.

Metellus, as in duty bound, gave the name of victory to his salvation
from destruction. He was right in so far as an army that has vanished
may be held to have been beaten; and his compliments to his soldiers
were certainly well deserved; for the triumph, such as it was, had been
mainly that of the rank and file, and the Roman legionary had not merely
given evidence of the old qualities of stubborn endurance which
Metellus's training had restored, but had proved himself vastly superior
to anything in the shape of a soldier of the line that Jugurtha could
put into the field. The commendation and thanks which the general
expressed in his public address to the whole army, the individual
distinctions which he conferred on those whose peculiar merit in the
recent combats was attested, were at once an apology for hardship, a
recognition of desert and a means of inspiring self-respect and future
efficiency. If it is true that Metellus added that glory was now
satisfied, and plunder should be their reward in future,[1026] he was at
once indulging in a pardonable hyperbole and veiling the unpleasant
truth that combats with Jugurtha were somewhat too expensive to attract
his future attention. His own private opinion of the recent events was
perhaps as carefully concealed in his despatches to the senate. It was
inevitable that a populace which had learnt to look on news from Numidia
as a record of compromise or disaster, should welcome and exaggerate the
cheering intelligence; should not only glory in the indisputable fact of
the renewed excellence of their army, but should regard Jugurtha as a
fugitive and Metellus as master of his land.[1027] It was equally
natural that the senate should embrace the chance of shaking off the
last relics of suspicion which clung to its honour and competency by
exalting the success of its general. It decreed supplications to the
immortal gods, and thus produced the impression that a decisive victory
had been won. Everywhere the State displayed a pardonable joy mingled
with a less justifiable expectation that this was the beginning of
the end.

The man who raises extravagant hopes is only less happy than the man who
dashes them to the ground. The days that followed the battle of the
Muthul must have been an anxious time for Metellus; for he had been
taught that it was necessary to change his plan of campaign into a shape
which was not likely to secure a speedy termination of the war. For four
days he did not leave his camp--a delay which may have had the
ostensible justification of the necessity of caring for his wounded
soldiers,[1028] and may even have been based on the hope that
negotiations for surrender might reach him from the king, but which also
proved his view that the pursuit of Jugurtha was wholly impracticable,
and that in the case of a Numidian army capture or destruction was not a
necessary consequence of defeat. He contented himself with making
inquiries of fugitives and others as to the present position and
proceedings of the king, and received replies which may have contained
some elements of truth. He learnt that the Numidian army which had
fought at the Muthul had wholly broken up in accordance with the custom
of the race, that Jugurtha had left the field with his body-guard alone,
that he had fled to wild and difficult country and was there raising a
second army--an army that promised to be larger than the first, but was
likely to be less efficient, composed as it was of shepherds and
peasants with little training in war.[1029] We cannot say whether
Metellus accepted the strange view that the vanished army, which had now
probably returned to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture and pasturage,
would not be reproduced in the new one; but certainly the news of the
future weakness of Jugurtha's forces did not seem to him to justify an
advance into Western Numidia, then as ever the stronghold of the king
and the seat of that treasure of human life which was of more value than
gold and silver. The Roman general, while recognising that the
belligerent aspect of the king made a renewal of the war inevitable, was
fully convinced that pitched battles were not the means of wearing down
Numidian constancy. The pursuit of Jugurtha was impossible without
conflicts, from which the vanquished emerged less scathed than the
victors,[1030] and even this primary object of the expedition was for
the time abandoned. He was forced to adopt the circuitous device of
attracting the presence of the king, and weakening the loyalty of his
subjects, by a series of mere plundering raids on the wealthiest
portions of the country. It was a plan that in default of a really
effective occupation of the whole country, especially of some occupation
of Western Numidia, implied a certain amount of self-contradiction and
inconsistency. The plunder of the land was intended to secure the end
which Metellus wished to avoid--a conflict with the king; and the
mobility which he so much dreaded could find no fairer field for its
exercise than the rapid marches across country which might secure a town
from attack, undo the work of conquest which had just been effected in
some other stronghold, or harass the route of the Roman forces as they
moved from point to point. Metellus was making himself into an admirable
target for the most effective type of guerilla warfare; but the whole
history of the struggle down to its close proves that this helplessness
was due to the situation rather than to the man. The Roman forces were
wholly inadequate to an effective occupation of Numidia; and a general
who despaired of pushing on in an aimless and dangerous pursuit, had to
be content with the chances that might result from the capture of towns,
the plunder of territories, and secret negotiations which might bring
about the death or surrender of the king.

Neither the movements which followed the battle of the Muthul nor the
site of the winter quarters into which Metellus led his men, have been
recorded. The campaign of the next year seems still to have been
confined to the eastern portion of Numidia, its object being the
security of the country between Vaga and Zama. This rich country was
cruelly ravaged, every fortified post that was taken was burnt, all
Numidians of fighting age who offered resistance were put to the sword.
This policy of terrorism produced some immediate results. The army was
well provisioned, the frightened natives bringing in corn and other
necessaries in abundance; towns and districts yielded hostages for their
good behaviour; strong places were surrendered in which garrisons were
left.[1031] But the presence of Jugurtha soon made itself felt. The
king, if he had collected an army, had left the major part of it behind.
He was now at the head of a select body of light horse, and with this
mobile force he followed in Metellus's tracks. The Romans felt
themselves haunted by a phantom enemy who passed with incredible
rapidity from point to point, whose stealthy advances were made under
cover of the darkness and over trackless wastes, and whose proximity was
only known by some sudden and terrible blow dealt at the stragglers from
the camp. The death or capture of those who left the lines could neither
be hindered nor avenged; for before reinforcements could be hurried up,
the Numidians had vanished into the nearest range of hills. The most
ordinary operations of the army were now being seriously hindered.
Supply and foraging parties had to be protected by cohorts of infantry
and the whole force of cavalry; plundering was impossible; and fire was
found the readiest means of wasting country which could no longer be
ravaged for the benefit of the men. It was thought unsafe for the whole
army to operate in two independent columns. Such columns were indeed
formed, Metellus heading one and Marius the other; but it was necessary
for them to keep the closest touch. Although they sometimes divided to
extend the sphere of their work of terror and devastation, they often
united through the pressure of fear, and the two camps were never at a
great distance from each other.[1032] The king meanwhile followed them
along the hills, destroying the fodder and ruining the water supply on
the line of march; now he would swoop on Metellus, now on Marius, harass
the rear of the column and vanish again into his hiding places.

The painful experiences of the later portion of this march convinced
Metellus that some decisive effort should be made, which would crown his
earlier successes, give him some sort of command of the line of country
through which he had so perilously passed, and might, by the importance
of the attempt, force Jugurtha to a battle. The hilly country through
which he had just conducted his legions, was that which lay between the
great towns of Sicca and Zama.[1033] The possession of both these places
was absolutely essential if the southern district which he had terrified
and garrisoned was to be kept permanently from the king. Sicca was
already his, for it had been the first of the towns to throw off its
allegiance to Jugurtha after the battle on the Muthul had dissipated the
Numidian army.[1034] He now turned his attention to the still more
important town of Zama, the true capital and stronghold of this southern
district, and prepared to master the position by assault or siege.
Jugurtha was soon cognisant of his plan, and by long forced marches
crossed Metellus's line and entered Zama.[1035] He urged the citizens to
a vigorous defence and promised that at the right moment he would come
to their aid with all his forces; he strengthened their garrison by
drafting into it a body of Roman deserters, whose circumstances
guaranteed their loyalty, and disappeared again from the vision of
friends and foes. Shortly afterwards he learnt that Marius had left the
line of march for Sicca, and that he had with him but a few cohorts
intended to convoy to the army the corn which he hoped to acquire in the
town. In a moment Jugurtha was at the head of his chosen cavalry and
moving under cover of the night. He had hoped perhaps to find the
division in the town, to turn the tide of feeling in Sicca by his
presence, and to see the ablest of his opponents trapped within the
walls. But, as he reached the gate, the Romans were leaving it. He
immediately hurled his men upon them and shouted to the curious folk who
were watching the departure of the cohorts, to take the division in the
rear. Chance, he cried, had lent them the occasion of a glorious deed of
arms. Now was the time for them to recover freedom, for him to regain
his kingdom. The magic of the presence of the national hero had nearly
worked conversion to the Siccans and destruction to the Romans. The
friendly city would have proved a hornets' nest, had not Marius bent all
his efforts to thrusting a passage through Jugurtha's men and getting
clear of the dangerous walls. In the more open ground the fighting was
sharp but short. A few Numidians fell, the rest vanished from the field,
and Marius came in safety to Zama, where he found Metellus contemplating
his attack.

The city lay in a plain and nature had contributed but little to its
defence,[1036] but it was strong in all the means that art could supply
and well prepared to stand a siege. Metellus planned a general assault
and arranged his forces around the whole line of wall. The attack began
at every point at once; in the rear were the light-armed troops,
shooting stones and metal balls at the defenders and covering the
efforts of the active assailants, who pressed up to the walls and strove
to effect an entry by scaling ladders and by mines. The defending force
betrayed no sign of terror or disordered haste. They calmly distributed
their duties, and each party kept a watchful eye on the enemy whom it
was its function to repel; while some transfixed those farther from the
wall with javelins thrown by the hand or shot from an engine, others
dealt destruction on those immediately beneath them, rolling heavy
stones upon their heads and showering down pointed stakes, heavy
missiles and vessels full of blazing pine fed with pitch and
sulphur.[1037]

The battle raging round the walls may have absorbed the thoughts even of
that section of the Roman army which had been left to guard the camp.
Certainly they and their sentries were completely off their guard when
Jugurtha with a large force dashed at the entrenchments and, so complete
was the surprise, swept unhindered through the gate.[1038] The usual
scene of panic followed with its flight, its hasty arming, the groans of
the wounded, the silent falling of the slain. But the unusual degree of
the recklessness of the garrison was witnessed by the fact that not more
than forty men were making a collective stand against the Numidian
onset. The little band had seized a bit of high ground and no effort of
the enemy could dislodge them. The missiles which had been aimed against
them they hurled back with terrible effect into the dense masses around;
and when the assailants essayed a closer combat, they struck them down
or drove them back with the fury of their blows. Their resistance may
have detained Jugurtha in the camp longer than he had intended; but the
immediate escape from the emergency was due to the cowards rather than
to the brave. Metellus was wrapt in contemplation of the efforts of his
men before the walls of Zama when he suddenly heard the roar of battle
repeated from another quarter. As he wheeled his horse, he saw a crowd
of fugitives hurrying over the plain; since they made for him, he judged
that they were his own men. It seems that the cavalry had been drawn up
near the walls, probably as a result of the impression that Jugurtha, if
he attacked at all, would attempt to take the besiegers in the rear.
Metellus now hastily sent the whole of this force to the camp, and bade
Marius follow with all speed at the head of some cohorts of the allies.
His anguish at the sullied honour of his troops was greater than his
fear. With tears streaming down his face he besought his legate to wipe
out the stain which blurred the recent victory and not to permit the
enemy to escape unpunished.

Jugurtha had no intention of being caught in the Roman camp; but it was
not so easy to get out as it had been to come in. Some of his men were
jammed in the exits, while others threw themselves over the ramparts;
Marius took full advantage of the rout, and it was with many losses that
Jugurtha shook himself free of his pursuers and retreated to his own
fastnesses. Soon the approach of night brought the siege operations to
an end. Metellus drew off his men and led them back to camp after a
day's experience that did not leave a pleasant retrospect behind it.
Warned by its incidents that the cavalry should be posted nearer to the
camp, he began the work of the following day by disposing the whole of
this force over that quarter of the ground on which the king had made
his appearance;[1039] more definite arrangements were also made for the
detailed defence of the Roman lines, and the assault of the previous day
was renewed on the walls of Zama. Yet in spite of these elaborate
precautions Jugurtha's coming was in the nature of a surprise. The
silence and swiftness of his onset threw the first contingents of Romans
whom he met into momentary panic and confusion; but reserves were soon
moved up and restored the fortune of the day. They might have turned it
rapidly and wholly, but for a tactical device which Jugurtha had adopted
as a means of neutralising the superior stability of the Romans--a means
which permitted him to show a persistence of frontal attack unusual with
the Numidians. He had mingled light infantry with his cavalry; the
latter charged instead of merely skirmishing, and before the breaches
which they had made in the enemy's ranks could be refilled, the foot
soldiers made their attack on the disordered lines.[1040]

Jugurtha's object was being fulfilled as long as he could remain in the
field to effect this type of diversion and draw off considerable forces
from the walls of Zama. But his ingenious efforts attracted the
attention of the besieged as well as of the besiegers. It is true that,
when the assault was hottest, the citizens of Zama did not permit their
minds or eyes to stray; but there were moments following the repulse of
some great effort when the energy of the assailants flagged and there
was a lull in the storm of sound made by human voices and the clatter of
arms. Then the men on the walls would look with strained attention on
the cavalry battle in the plain, would follow the fortunes of the king
with every alternation of joy or fear, and shout advice or exhortation
as though their voices could reach their distant friends.[1041] Marius,
who conducted the assault at that portion of the wall which commanded
this absorbing view, formed the idea of encouraging this distraction of
attention by a feint and seizing the momentary advantage which it
afforded. A remissness and lack of confidence was soon visible in the
efforts of his men, and the undisturbed interest of the Numidians was
speedily directed to the manoeuvres of their monarch in the plain.
Suddenly the assault burst on them in its fullest force; before they
could brace themselves to the surprise, the foremost Romans were more
than half-way up the scaling ladders. But the height was too great and
the time too short. Stones and fire were again poured on the heads of
the assailants. It was some time before their confidence was shaken; but
when one or two ladders had been shattered into fragments and their
occupants dashed down, the rest--most of them already covered with
wounds--glided to the ground and hastened from the walls. This was the
last effort. The night soon fell and brought with it, not merely the
close of the day's work, but the end of the siege of Zama.

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

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