Hannibal's Invasion of Italy -- Scipio's Invasion of Africa -- Consternation at Carthage -- Syphax and Masinissa -- War between Masinissa and Carthage
Not long afterwards the Carthaginians invaded Spain 348 and were gradually subduing it, when the Saguntines appealed to Rome and a boundary was fixed to the Carthaginian advance by agreement that they should not cross the river Ebro. The Carthaginians, under the lead of Hannibal, violated this treaty by crossing the stream, and having done so Hannibal marched against Italy, leaving the command in Spain in the hands of others. The Roman generals in Spain, Publius Cornelius Scipio and Gnus Cornelius Scipio, two brothers, after having performed some brilliant exploits were both slain by the enemy. The generals who succeeded them fared badly until Scipio, the son of the Publius Scipio who was killed in Spain, set sail 349 thither, and making all believe that he was come by a 350 divine mission and had divine counsel in all things, prevailed brilliantly, and achieving great glory by this success, gave over his command to those sent to succeed him, returned to Rome, and asked to be sent with an army to Africa so as to draw Hannibal out of Italy and to bring retribution upon the Carthaginians in their own country.
Some of the leading men opposed this plan, saying 351 that it was not best to send an army into Africa while Italy 352 was wasted by such long wars and was subject to the ravages of Hannibal, and while Mago was enlisting Ligurian and Celtic mercenaries for a flank attack upon her. They ought not to attack another land, they said, until they had delivered their own country from its present perils. Others thought that the Carthaginians were emboldened to attack Italy because they were not molested at home, and that if war were brought to their own doors they would recall Hannibal. So it was decided to send Scipio into Africa, but they would not allow him to levy an army in Italy while Hannibal was ravaging it. If he could procure volunteers he might take them, and he might use the forces which were then in Sicily. They authorized him to fit out ten galleys and allowed him to take crews for them, and also to refit those in Sicily. They did not give him any money except what he could raise among his friends. So indifferently at first did they undertake this war, which soon came to be the most great and glorious for them.
Scipio, who seemed to be divinely inspired from long ago against Carthage, having collected scarcely 7000 soldiers, cavalry and infantry, sailed for Sicily, taking as a body-guard 300 chosen youths whom he ordered to accompany him without arms. He then chose 300 wealthy Sicilians by conscription and ordered them to report on a certain day, provided with the best possible arms and horses. When they came he told them that they might furnish substitutes for the war if they preferred. As they all accepted this offer he brought forward his 300 unarmed youths and directed the others to supply them with arms and horses, and this they did willingly. So it came about that Scipio had in place of the Sicilians, 300 Italian youths admirably equipped at other people's expense, who at once thanked him for this favor and ever afterward rendered him excellent service.
When the Carthaginians learned these things they sent Hasdrubal, the son of Gisco, to hunt elephants, and they despatched to Mago, who was enlisting Ligurian mercenaries, 6000 foot, 800 horse, and seven elephants, and commanded him to attack Etruria with these and such other forces as he could collect, in order to draw Scipio from Africa. But Mago delayed because he could not join Hannibal at such a distance and because he was always of a hesitating disposition. Hasdrubal, on his return from the elephant hunt, levied 6000 foot and 600 horse from both the Carthaginian and the African population, and bought 5000 slaves as oarsmen for the ships. He also obtained 2000 horse from the Numidians and hired mercenaries and exercised them all in camp at a distance of two hundred stades from Carthage.
There were many chieftains in Numidia who had separate dominions. Syphax occupied the highest place among them and was held in greater honor than the others. There was also a certain Masinissa, son of the king of the Massylians, a powerful tribe. He had been brought up and educated at Carthage. He was a man of fine presence and good manners. Hasdrubal, the son of Gisco, who was second in rank to nobody in Carthage, betrothed his daughter to him although he was a Numidian, and after the betrothal took the young man with him to the war in Spain. Syphax, who was also in love with the girl, was indignant at this and began to pillage the Carthaginian territory, and he proposed to Scipio (who made a journey from Spain to meet him) that they should make a joint at-tack on Carthage. The Carthaginians, learning this and knowing how great service Syphax could render them in the war against the Romans, gave the girl to him without the knowledge of Hasdrubal or Masinissa, since they were in Spain. The latter, being greatly exasperated, made an alliance with Scipio in Spain, concealing it from Hasdrubal, as he supposed. Hasdrubal, although he was grieved at the outrage put upon the young man and his daughter, nevertheless thought that it would be an advantage to the country to make away with Masinissa. So when the latter returned from Spain to Africa at the death of his father, he sent a cavalry escort with him and told them to put him to death secretly in whatever way they could.
Masinissa, getting wind of this plot, managed to escape, and made his inherited power strong by collecting a body of cavalry who were trained to hurl the javelin advancing and retreating and advancing again, either by day or by night; for their only method of fighting was flight and pursuit. The Numidians also know how to endure hunger. They often subsist on herbs in place of bread, and they drink nothing but water. Their horses never even taste grain; they feed on grass alone and drink but rarely. Masinissa collected about 20,000 such and led them in the chase and in pillaging expeditions against other tribes, thinking to keel) them exercised in this way. The Carthaginians and Syphax, thinking that these preparations of the young man were made against them (for they were conscious of the affront they had put upon him), decided to make war on him first, and after crushing him to march against the Romans.
Syphax and the Carthaginians were much the more numerous. They marched with wagons and a great load of luggage and luxuries. On the other hand, Masinissa was an example in all doing and enduring and had only cavalry, no pack animals and no provisions. Thus he was able the more easily to retreat, to attack, and to take refuge in strongholds. Often, when surrounded, he divided his forces so that they might scatter as best they could, concealing himself with a handful until they should all come together again, by day or by night, at an appointed rendezvous Once he was one of three who lay concealed in a cave around which his enemies were encamped. He never had any fixed camping-place. His generalship consisted especially in concealing his position. Thus his enemies never could make a regular assault upon him, but were always warding off his attacks. His provisions were obtained each day from whatever place he came upon toward evening, whether village or city. He seized and carried off everything and divided the plunder with his men, for which reason many Numidians flocked to him, although he did not give regular pay, for the sake of the booty, which was better.