Posted by Admin on January 31 2013 07:43:06



MasinissaMassinisa hereditary King of the Massylians, a people of Northern Africa, bordering on Carthage, is noted as n faithful ally of the Roman people ill their struggle with Carthage. He is nevertheless chargeable with the fickleness and faithlessness of his race, and is supposed to have maintained a steadfast alliance with Rome in order, first, to humble his rival, Syphax and, secondly, to enrich himself at the expense of the Carthaginians.


Masinissa, the son of the Numidian King Gala, received at Carthage an education much above that of the average barbarian chief, and gave ample proof, while quite a young man, of great ability as well as ambition and energy of character. His first campaign was undertaken as all ally of the Carthaginians against Syphax, Prince of Western Numidia, who had become an ally of the Romans. Having gained two great victories over this king, he drove him into Mauretania now Morocco, and effectually prevented him from crossing over to Spain to assist the Romans. Hannibal was at that time master of Italy, and his brother Hasdrubal was defending the Carthaginian conquests in Spain against the Roman generals, and there also Masinissa is said to have rendered excellent service with a large body of Numidian horse. After other campaigns less fortunate, he shared with Hasdrubal, Gisco and Mago total defeat, and with them had to yield to the ascendancy of young Scipio.


This reverse to the Carthaginians in 206 B.C. seems to have shaken the Numidian's fidelity. He is said after this to have made overtures of alliance to Silanus, Scipio's first lieutenant, and afterwards to have had a secret conference with Scipio, at which he pledged himself to support the Roman arms. In the meantime, by the fortunes of war, young Massiva, the nephew of Masinissa, had fallen into the hands of the Romans, and was their prisoner. Scipio put him under safe escort and sent him back to his uncle, the bearer of many presents. This act of generosity, or policy, was not without its effect on the ambitious Numidian. lie now declared for Rome. Another secret conference with Scipio near Cadiz, and Masinissa's defection from the Carthaginians was complete. He counseled Scipio to attack the Carthaginians, not in Italy under Hannibal, but in Africa, on their own soil, and crossed over without delay to forward the measures he considered most advantageous to the party to which be had recently been in open hostility.


But events had meanwhile occurred which drew Masinissa's attention in quite another direction. His father, Gala, had died while he was away in Spain. Cesalces, brother of the late king, on whom the crown devolved by the Numidian law of succession, had also died, leaving the throne a prey to usurpers. Masinissa, being wholly without resources, applied for aid to Bocchus, King of Mauretania hut in "vain. At last he succeeded in raising a body of five hundred horse, on the confines of Numidia, with which he entered his paternal dominions. His father's adherents and old soldiers now flocked around him with great demonstrations of joy, and soon put him in a position to vindicate his claim to the crown and drive the usurpers to the court of Syphax, whence Masinissa afterwards induced them to return and make their abode with him.


The Carthaginians, stung by Masinissa's revolt to the Romans, induced Syphax to make war on him. Vanquished by this prince, and dangerously wounded while crossing a river, he was obliged for some time to conceal himself in a cave. A report of his death was spread through all Africa, and, in fact, he would have died of starvation and sickness bad not a few Numidian horsemen remained faithful to him. Scarcely had he recovered from the effects of bis wound, when he was again in the saddle and advancing rapidly to the frontiers of his kingdom, levied a new army, took possession of his dominions, and marched straight against Vermina, the son of Syphax, who was hastening to attack him. Notwithstanding prodigies of valor, Masinissa was defeated, and with difficulty made his way to the sea.coast, where he maintained himself at the head of a small predatory band till Scipio's arrival in Africa.


Hastily joining such troops as he could raise to those of the Romans, Masinissa defeated a large body of cavalry under Hanno, and bore an important part in the furious attack on Hasdrubal and Syphax, which resulted in the burning of the two Carthaginian camps in one night. Sent with Ladius in pursuit of the enemy, in a march of fifteen days he penetrated to the very heart of Syphax's dominions, defeated and made him prisoner, and took the capital city of Cirta.


Sophonisba, the daughter of Hasdrubal, had been prom· ised in marriage to Masinissa, but had become the wife of Syphax. This beautiful Carthaginian lady now fell into his hands. Masinissa could not withstand her charms, and in order to prevent her falling into the power of the Romans, whose slave she was by right of conquest, married her him· self. Scipio upbraided him with his weakness in contracting this imprudent alliance with a captive so well known for her implacable hatred to Rome. Masinissa, seeing that nothing but death could save his bride from slavery, sent her a cup of poison prepared by his own hands, which she drank heroically. To console his ally for such a sacrifice, Scipio conferred on him many honor and distinctions, and in presence of the whole army gave him the title of king, and a crown of gold. These honors and the hope of seeing himself master of all Numidia made the ambitious prince forget the loss of his bride. From this time onward the fortunes of Masinissa were firmly attached to those of Scipio. He fought with him on the decisive day of 2ama, 202 B.C., when, with his 6,000 Numidian horse, he broke the left wing of the Carthaginian army, and, although severely wounded, was foremost in the pursuit of Hannibal, in the hope of crowning his exploits by the capture of that general. Hannibal escaped, but with difficulty. Before quitting Africa, Scipio confirmed Masinissa in the possession of his hereditary domains, and by the authority of the Senate, added to them the city of Cirta and other possessions of Syphax in Numidia, so that he was now ruler over the vast territory extending from Mauretania on the west, to Cyrene and Egypt on the east; the most powerful prince of Africa.


During the long peace which followed, Masinissa applied himself assiduously to spread civilizing influences among his barbarian Nomads, and according to Polybius, left nothing undone to refine and elevate them. But neither age liar the undisputed possession of his kingdom could extinguish the love of conquest. Emboldened by his ties of friendship with Rome, he violated his treaties with Carthage, and, although over eighty years of age, put himself at the head of a powerful army and invaded the Carthaginian territories. He was just preparing for a general action when Scipio Jemilianus arrived in his camp, having come over from Spain to see him. Masinissa received the young hero with distinguished honars, and could scarcel, restrain his tears when speaking of his former benefactor, Scipio Africanus. The finest of the Numidian troops were passed in review; but what Scipio admired most was the alert activity of the aged king himself. Age had not diminished his vigor; he stilt went through all the exercises of a young man, and vaulted to horseback without a saddle. On the following day Scipio witnessed one of the greatest battles ever fought on African son. The victory, for a long time disputed, at last declared itself in favor of Masinissa. Another battle, still more disastrous, compelled Carthage to concluded peace, the terms of which were dictated by the Numidian monarch.


The helpless state to which the Carthaginians were now reduced, encouraged the Romans to commerce the Third Punic War. At Rome the ominous cry still arose: "Delenda est Carthago,"Carthage must be destroyed." Without the knowledge of their ally, the consuls embarked a large army for Africa. The King felt slighted, especially as up to this lime the Romans had made him a confidant of all their projects. Yet he soon resumed his former sentiments of good wiiI, and when he=: saw his end approaching, sent for Scipio to divide his sovereign duties and dominions among his children. He died in 148 B.C., in the ninety-first year of his age, after a reign of sixty years, a short time before the taking of Carthage. Inured to toil and fatigue, he preserved to the last robust health and a strong constitution, which he owed chiefly to his extreme temperance. He was content with the same food as bis soldiers. Appian and Plutarch relate that on the day following his great victory over the Carthaginians, he was found in his tent breakfasting on a piece of brown bread. At his death he left fifty-four sons, only three of whom, Micipsa, Gulussa and Mastanabal, the father of Jugurtha, came of lawful marriage. Among these three the kingdom of Numidia was divided by Scipio according to the directions of the aged monarch. Few princes have borne the reverses of fortune with greater fortitude, or received her favors with more prudence and moderation. Hunted from his kingdom, on the point of falling into the hands of his enemies, without either army or resources, he remained faithful to the Romans, re-conquered his kingdom, extended, civilized and made it prosperous, and at his death left a disciplined army and immense treasures to his successors. He reduced plundering tribes to settled and civilized habits, and out of robbers and marauders made well disciplined soldiers. His capital, Cirta, known in later times as Constantina, became a famous center of Phoenician civilization. The work of Masinissa may be compared with that of Peter the Great of Russia, though less permanent in its results, while his personal character was in many respects superior.