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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Numidian Defeat
By Sallust (c. 86–c. 34/35 B.C.)
 
From the ‘History of the War against Jugurtha’

IN that part of Numidia which on the partition of the kingdom fell to the share of Adherbal, was a river called Muthul, flowing from the south; parallel to which, at the distance of about twenty miles, was a mountain of equal length, desert and uncultivated. Between this mountain and the river, almost at an equal distance from each, rose a hill of prodigious height, covered with olives, myrtles, and other trees, such as grow in a dry and sandy soil; the intermediate plain was uninhabitable for want of water,—those parts only excepted which bordered on the river, in which were many groves, and abundance of cattle.  1
  Jugurtha took possession of this hill, which flanked the Romans in their march to the river, extending his front as far as possible; and giving the command of the elephants and part of the infantry to Bomilcar, with orders how to act, he posted himself with all the horse and the choicest of the foot nearer the mountain. Then he rode round the several squadrons and battalions, conjuring them “to summon up their former bravery, and mindful of their late victory, to defend themselves and their country from Roman avarice. They were to engage with those whom they had already vanquished, and forced to pass under the yoke; and who had only changed their general, but not their character. As for himself, he had done all that was incumbent on a general: had secured to them the advantages of the ground, which they were well acquainted with, and to which the enemy were strangers; and had taken care not to expose them to an unequal contest with an enemy superior in number or skill: they should therefore, when the signal was given, fall vigorously on the Romans; that day would either crown their former toils and victories, or be a prelude to the most grievous calamities.” Besides addressing himself singly to such as he had rewarded with honors or money for their gallant behavior, he reminded them of his liberality, and proposed them to others as patterns for their imitation. In a word, he appealed to all, in a manner suited to the disposition and character of each; and by promises, threatenings, and entreaties, labored to excite their courage.  2
  In the mean time Metellus, descending from the mountain with his army, without any knowledge of the enemy’s motions, discovered them on the hill. At first he was doubtful what to think of so strange an appearance; for the Numidian horse and foot were posted among the bushes, by reason of the lowness of which they were neither altogether covered nor yet entirely discernible. The rugged nature of the place, united to the artifice with which the whole was conducted, gave ample room for suspicion: but soon finding that it was an ambush, the general halted his army, and altering the disposition of it, made the flank next the enemy thrice as strong as before, distributed the slingers and archers among the infantry, placed all the cavalry in the wings; and animating them by a short speech suitable to the occasion, he advanced in this order towards the plain.  3
  Observing the Numidians to keep their ground, without offering to quit their station, and fearing that from the heat of the season and the scarcity of water his army would be distressed by thirst, Metellus ordered his lieutenant Rutilius, with the light-armed cohorts and a detachment of horse, to proceed towards the river, and secure a place to encamp on; judging that the enemy would, by frequent skirmishes and attacks on his flank, endeavor to retard his march, and to harass his men by means of thirst and fatigue, as they could entertain no hope of success in battle. He then advanced slowly, as his circumstances and situation allowed him, in the same order as he had descended from the mountain; posting Marius in the centre, and marching himself in the left wing, at the head of the cavalry, which was now become the front.  4
  Jugurtha, when he saw that the Roman rear extended beyond his first rank, detached two thousand foot to take possession of that part of the mountain from which Metellus had descended, that it might not serve the Romans for a place of security if they were routed; and then, giving the signal, suddenly fell on them.  5
  Some of the Numidians made great slaughter in our rear, while others charged us on the right and left; they advanced furiously, fought vigorously, and everywhere broke our ranks. Even those of our men who opposed them with the greatest firmness and resolution were baffled by their disorderly manner of fighting: finding themselves wounded from a distance, and unable to return the blow or come to a close engagement; for the Numidian cavalry, according to the instructions they had received from Jugurtha, when any of the Roman troops advanced against them, immediately fled, not in close order or in a body, but dispersed as widely as possible. Though they could not by these means discourage us from the pursuit, yet being superior in number, they charged us either in flank or rear: and when it appeared more convenient to fly to the hill than the plain, the Numidian horses, being accustomed to it, made their way more easily through the thickets; while the Roman trooper, unaccustomed to such rough and difficult places, was unable to follow them.  6
  The whole field presented a distressing spectacle, full of doubt and perplexity and wild disorder: some flying, others pursuing; all separated from their fellows; no standard followed; no ranks preserved; every one standing on his own defense, and repulsing his adversary wherever he was attacked; arms and darts, horses and men, enemies and fellow-citizens, blended together in wild confusion. In this scene of distraction, all order was at an end: chance ruled supreme, and guided the tumult; so that though the day was already far spent, the issue of the contest was still uncertain.  7
  At length, both sides being oppressed with fatigue and the heat of the day, Metellus, perceiving the Numidian vigor abate, rallied his men by degrees, restored their ranks, and posted four legionary cohorts against the enemy’s foot; a great part of which had, through weariness, retired to the rising grounds for repose. At the same time he entreated and exhorted his men not to lose their courage, nor suffer a flying enemy to be victorious; adding that they had no intrenchment or stronghold to which they could retire, but that all their hopes were in their arms and valor.  8
  Nor was Jugurtha in the mean time inactive, but appeared on horseback, animated his men, renewed the battle, and at the head of a select body made every possible effort: supported his men where they were pressed; charged the Romans vigorously where they seemed to waver; and where they stood firm, annoyed them with darts from a distance.  9
  Thus did the two generals contend for glory: both officers of consummate ability, but differently situated, and as unequally supported. Metellus had brave men, but a bad situation; Jugurtha had every other advantage but that of soldiers. At last the Romans—considering that no place of refuge was left them, that the enemy avoided every attempt to bring them to a regular engagement, and that night was fast approaching—advanced up the hill, according to orders, and made themselves masters of it.  10
  The Numidians, having lost this post, were routed and put to flight, but few of them slain: their own swiftness, and the nature of the country—with which our men were unacquainted—saving most of them.  11
  In the mean time Bomilcar,—to whom Jugurtha, as already stated, had given the command of the elephants and part of the infantry,—when he saw that Rutilius had passed him, drew down his men slowly into the plain; where without interruption he ranged them in order of battle, as the exigency required, while the lieutenant was marching in great haste to the river: nor did he neglect to watch the motions and to learn the designs of the Romans. On receiving intelligence that Rutilius was encamped and appeared to consider himself in a state of security, Bomilcar—perceiving that the noise of the battle in which Jugurtha was engaged still increased, and fearing lest the lieutenant should return to reinforce the consul—resolved to obstruct his passage; and extending the front of his line,—which before, distrustful of the steadiness of his troops, he had formed close and compact,—in this order advanced to the camp of Rutilius.  12
  The Romans on a sudden perceived a vast cloud of dust, which at first they conjectured to be raised by the wind sweeping over an arid and sandy surface; for the country was covered on all sides with copsewood, which obstructed their view of the Numidians: but observing the cloud to move with regularity, and approach nearer and nearer as the Numidians marched forward, they perceived the cause of the phenomenon; and flying to their arms, drew up before the camp according to orders. When the enemy came up, a tremendous shout was raised on both sides, and they rushed with fury to the onset.  13
  The Numidians maintained the contest as long as their elephants could be of any service to them: but when they saw them entangled among the branches of the trees and surrounded by the Romans, they betook themselves to flight; and throwing away their arms, escaped, most of them unhurt,—partly by the advantage of the hill, and partly by favor of the night. Four elephants were taken; the rest, forty in number, were all slain.  14
  The Romans, however much exhausted by their march, by fortifying their camp, and by the late unexpected encounter, were flushed with success; and as Metellus tarried beyond their expectation, they advanced resolutely in order of battle to meet him: for such was the subtlety of the Numidians as to leave no room for inactivity or remissness. When the heads of the two friendly columns approached each other in the darkness of the night, the noise on both sides occasioned mutual apprehensions of an approaching enemy; and this mistake had well-nigh produced the most fatal consequences, had not some horsemen dispatched by both parties discovered the true cause of it. Mutual congratulations quickly succeeded to apprehension: the soldiers joyfully called to one another by name, recounting their late exploits, and every one extolling his own gallant behavior; for such is the nature of human affairs, that when victory is obtained, cowards may boast, while defeat casts reproach even on the brave.  15
  Metellus continued four days in the same camp: administered relief to the wounded; conferred the usual military rewards on such as had distinguished themselves in the late engagements; commended the whole army, which he assembled with that view; returned them his public thanks; and exhorted them “to act with equal courage in what further remained, which was but little. They had already fought sufficiently for victory: their future labors would be only to enrich themselves by the spoils of conquest.”  16
 
 
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