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Masters of Rome
from Marius to Caesar
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The Jugurthan War

The Jugurthan War originated in a dispute between the successors of Micipsa. Jugurtha seized power, but his rivals sought support from Rome. Jugurtha tried to put forward his claim to Rome, but after his assassination of Massiva he gave up and returned to Numidia.

110 BC

Spurius Postumius Albinus, junior consul for the year, had supported Massiva and raised an army in Africa Province: one legion from Rome, one legion already stationed there and one legion of local auxiliaries. Aulus Postumius Albinus was left in charge of army after Spurius returned to Rome to hold elections.

Aulus was tempted by rumours of gold and invaded Numidia. Besieged the town of Suthul, but made no progress. Marched on into Western Numidia, where he was defeated by Jugurtha at Calama. Jugurtha forced a treaty out of Aulus and made his army "pass under the yoke", gravely humiliating and offending Rome.

109 BC

Rome repudiated the treaty and sent Q Caecilius Metellus, consul, to Africa with 4 more legions. With him he took Marius and Rufus as legates. Metellus is slow to organize his army and take the offensive. Eventually he does invade and starts systematically to occupy Numidian territory.

Vaga captured. Battle of Muthul - inconclusive clash with Jugurtha's forces. Metellus's command extended into following year.

108 BC

During winter break from campaigning, it is decided that the only hope of ending the war is to capture Jugurtha. The best chance of doing so is to persuade Bomilcar to betray him to the Romans. Gauda sets out to establish contact with Bomilcar in order to set the plan in motion. In March he meets with Metellus and agrees to draw Jugurtha into an ambush.

Several attempts at capturing Jugurtha fail, the last at Thala, which falls to the Romans, but without Jugurtha.

In June the Romans occupy Cirta, the Numidian capital. Jugurtha retreats to Capsa in the south among the hill tribes. Bomilcar is betrayed and executed.

Jugurtha enlists the help of Bocchus, his father-in-law and King if Mauretania, marches on Cirta but avoids battle and the year ends inconclusively.

107 BC

Marius arrives in Africa with a new army and spends time training them, before invading Numidia in the middle of the year. Initially concentrated on subjugating the closest areas, plundering and pillaging towns. Jugurtha moved to lay siege to Cirta. Marius attacked him while Cirta was still holding out and decisively defeated Jugurtha's army. Jugurtha again confined to the interior around Capsa, while all settled areas under Roman control.

Marius marches to Capsa, which surrenders, but is burnt and pillaged. Jugurtha escapes.

106 BC

After winter period of inactivity, Marius's army marches unopposed through Western Numidia. Subjugates all territory as far as Muluchath River, boundary with Mauretania. Captures treasure fortress of Muluchath.

Bocchus unites with Jugurtha and attack the Romans at night, as they are returning East towards Africa province. Romans beat off the attack with heavy losses to Numidian army. Near Cirta they attack again. This time the Roman army is more prepared and gains a complete victory over the Numidians. Jugurtha and Bocchus flee.

Bocchus abandons support of Jugurtha. Jugurtha can no longer raise an army, even from the tribesmen of the interior.

105 BC

Bocchus abandons Jugurtha and petitions Rome to become an Ally once again. He is nformed by Sulla that he must first compensate for his earlier support of Jugurtha against Rome by helping to capture him. After some prevarication Bocchus cooperates and Jugurtha is surprised, captured by Sulla and taken to Rome by Quintus Sertorius. His capture brings the war in Africa to an end.

Gauda becomes king of Numidia. Part of Western Numidia givcen to Mauretania. Part of Eastern Numidia incorporated in Roman Africa.

Printable version ©Mark Emerson 2001. Acknowledgements to Steven H. Gibbs, Randy Winch and Tim Doyle. Back to top of page ^