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This webpage reproduces an article in
The Classical Journal
Vol. 6, No. 7 (Apr. 1911), pp290‑295.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

p290 The Chronology of Sallust's Jugurtha


By H. V. Canter
The University of Illinois


Sound criticism has for long recognized that, while historical composition is today regarded as a science, the antique writer considered it a rhetorical art; that a difference in the latter's aim and emphasis explains the omission in his work of much that is ordinarily demanded by a modern reader, trained to expect a scientific rather than a rhetorical presentation of facts. A disregard of this guiding principle, however, as by Ihne (Hist. of Rome, Book VII, chap. viii), brings unjust censure on Sallust's monograph, alike for what it does, and does not contain. Judged as a military chronicle, the Jugurtha is, of course, disappointing. But Sallust did not aspire to completeness and accuracy in military details, to geographical precision, and to definite dates. In his departure from the annalistic method, he so far neglects matters of chronology that about the only data for the determination of dates are to be found in the names of the consular commanders.

Unfortunately the few notices of the war with Jugurtha found in other authors (Livy, Epit. 62, 64‑67; Plutarch, Marius; Oros. V.15; Vell. II.11; Florus III.1; Appian, Foreign Wars, Book VIII, Part 2) are disconnected, and of little value in getting at the sequence of events. And if we accept Sallust's account as written there remains an entire year of the war not covered by his narrative. In this, however, there can be no objection as to the earlier years — the fall of Cirta (112 B.C.), Rome's declaration of war in 112 or early in 111, the campaigns of 111‑108 B.C. In the year 107, the fifth of the war, we have Marius' first campaign, and in the spring of 106 his second campaign closes with the capture of Jugurtha. Sallust continues (chap. 114):

Per idem tempus advorsum Gallos ab ducibus nostris Q. Caepione et Cn. Manlio male pugnatum. . . . . Sed postquam bellum in Numidia confectum et Iugurtham Romam vinctum adduci nuntiatum est, Marius consul absens factus est . . . . isque Kalendis Ianuariis magna gloria consul triumphavit.

p291 Thus Sallust makes the capture of Jugurtha coincident with the Roman defeat by the Cimbri at Arausio, a disaster which took place (Livy, Epit. 67; Plutarch, Lucullus 27) October, 105, or a year later than given by Sallust. Nevertheless, Sallust's date for the capture of Jugurtha and the close of the war was for many years accepted without question, and stands today without correction or modification in many textbooks on Roman history, e.g., those by Duruy, Shuckburgh, Merivale, and others. Further, Marius' second consulship and triumph belong, not to the year 105, as inferred from Sallust's account, but to the year 104.

Mommsen (Röm. Gesch., 146) was the first to point out the inconsistency of Sallust's dates. To remove the difficulty he defers the campaigns of Metellus (years 109 and 108, according to Sallust) to the years 108 and 107, on the grounds that his late arrival in Africa and the reorganization of a demoralized army prevented him from beginning operations until the year following his arrival. Likewise, Marius' campaigns (years 107 and 106) are shifted to the years 106 and 105. Thus the capture of Jugurtha and the end of the war are made to agree in time with the defeat of the Romans by Cimbri, as stated by Sallust. Pelham ([Eng.] Jour. of Phil. II.91) discovers in Mommsen's arrangement objections as serious as those which lie against Sallust's own version. First, it supposes that Marius, as Metellus' lieutenant, spent the last six months of 108 in Numidia, at which time we are forced from the narrative and Plutarch (Marius 7 and 8) to believe he was in Rome. Secondly, after Marius (summer of 108, according to Sallust) was allowed to go to Rome, Metellus enters on his second campaign. But just as soon as he heard of Marius' appointment as his successor, he relaxed all activity, i.e., late in 107, if, with Mommsen, this is taken as the year of Metellus' second campaign. But Marius' election occurred in the autumn of 108, and it is difficult to believe that the news was a year late in reaching Metellus. Pelham (op. cit.) makes a suggestion which he himself, however, regards as unsatisfactory. Accepting Sallust's date for Jugurtha's capture as 106, he supposes that Marius was detained in Africa until the middle of 105; that he then announced his purpose of bringing Jugurtha to Rome, and was elected consul in view of the threatened p292Cimbric invasion; that he returned to Italy late in the year 105, and celebrated his triumph January 1, 104. But this view assumes that Sallust is wrong in making Caepio's defeat coincide with Jugurtha's capture rather than with the news of Marius' coming to Rome. Besides, Pelham can advance no good reason for Marius' long stay in Numidia, as it was not reorganized into a Roman province.

It is proposed here, after indicating further obstacles to Mommsen's conclusions, and the impossibility of the chronology worked out by Greenidge (Hist. of Rome, Vol. I), who has last spoken on the subject, to outline a third arrangement of Sallust's dates, which agrees in the main with Ihne's view, and seems free from any invalidating objections. There is no sufficient reason for concluding with Mommsen that Metellus' first campaign did not occur in the year 109, the events of which are told by Sallust, chaps. 43‑61.2. Sallust's elaborate word-picture of the demoralization of Albinus' army and Metellus' efforts to restore discipline, Mommsen took far too seriously. The narrative contains nothing to show that these matters took a long time. On the contrary Sallust represents Metellus as a man of energy and dispatch (43.2); he says specifically (45.3) that he soon had the army under control; that when it entered Numidia it was alert and full of fight (46.5). Hence, in the part of the summer which remained after Marius' arrival in Africa until he went into winter-quarters (62.2), there was ample time to complete the events mentioned by Sallust — the occupation of Vaga (47), the battle of the Muthul (47.3‑54), the siege of Zama (57‑61). Since the identification of the river Muthul by Tissot (cf. Greenidge, op. cit., p390, note) it is clear that all of Metellus' movements during this period were concentrated in S.E. Numidia, and not, as formerly believed, shifted from the eastern part westward toward Hippo Regius, thence back to Zama. Nor is there anything in Sallust's account which indicates that the campaign of 109 closes with the battle of the Muthul, as stated by Greenidge, p401: "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." However, Sallust's record of the movements of both Metellus and p293Jugurtha at this juncture is quite clear, and there is no cessation of hostilities until we reach 61.2, where it is said of Metellus: "exercitum in provinciam, quae proxima est Numidiae, hiemandi gratia locat." While thus encamped Metellus intrigues with Bomilcar, following which we learn (62.10) that Metellus' command in Numidia had been prolonged by a decree of the senate.

The events of Metellus' second campaign (108) begin properly with the revolt (66.2), recapture, and punishment (68‑69) of the people of Vaga, and continue until the march of Jugurtha and Bocchus on Cirta (81), which city, in some way not told by Sallust, was now in Metellus' hands (82). Hereupon, Metellus, chagrined at hearing that Marius was to supersede him (82.2), allowed the year to come to an inactive close (83.3). Greenidge, however, makes the year 108 close with the capture of Vaga, and ascribes a third campaign to Metellus in the year 107, taken up with events told by Sallust 73‑83.3. The basis for such an arrangement is 73.1: "igitur Metellus. . . . rursus tamquam ad integrum bellum cuncta parat festinatque." But clearly these words warrant no such interpretation as Greenidge gives. They merely mean that after Metellus' failure to ensnare Jugurtha, he again turns to the war, which was now just as far from finished (integrum) as before Bomilcar's conspiracy began. Further, in the next sentence we are told that Marius is allowed to return to Rome. According to Plutarch (Marius 8) he left Africa only twelve days before the consular elections. From Sallust's account it appears that Marius left early in the year 108, since the only incident recorded between the recapture of Vaga (winter 109‑108; cf. 68.2), at which Marius was present (so Plutarch), and his departure is the conspiracy of Bomilcar. But whether we accept the version of Sallust or of Plutarch, the time which we are forced from Greenidge's dates to set for Marius' leaving is inconsistent with the time of his election at Rome, late summer or autumn of 108. Even Greenidge, following Meinel (Zur Chronologie des Jugurth. Krieges), puts Marius' election in the winter of 108, or early the next year. It seems clear, therefore, that the events of chap. 73 belong still to the year 108. Finally, a serious objection to Greenidge's assignment of a third campaign to Metellus is that it makes his command in p294Africa for the year 107 concurrent with Marius' exercise of the same function at Rome. Under what authority does Metellus retain command in Africa for this year? Not the prolongation of his tenure by the senate (73.7), for this defective passage Greenidge properly rejects as an interpolation from chap. 62, as does Mommsen. Did Marius voluntarily yield or delegate authority to Metellus? Even if we grant the possibility of such a thing, Sallust says nothing about it.

When did Marius, after his election, reach Africa? Mommsen thinks it was as consul after the campaign of 107 was over, or as proconsul in 106. It will be remembered that Marius' two campaigns (Sallust describes but two) are put by Mommsen in the years 106 and 105. This forces him to account for Marius' inactivity in 107 by supposed detention at Rome in levying troops, etc. That Marius arrived in Africa as late as Mommsen claims is a view accepted by no one else. Nor is it reasonable to form such a conclusion from Sallust's account, which again is a picturesque expansion of a few simple facts. That Marius had little difficulty in raising an army is clear. Indeed there was such a desire of accompanying him that he departed with a levy larger than that decreed to him (86.4). The events that fall in this year begin with 86.4, and the first indication of time is in 90.1 ("aestatis extremum erat"), where preparations are being made for the capture of Capsa. This city via Sicca — the route followed — was some 300 miles from Cirta, where Marius took over the army. Meanwhile Marius had spent some months in laying waste Jugurtha's country, in reconnoitering, and in fighting sharp battles (87.1; 88.2), and finally in routing the king near Cirta (88.3). Hence, to accomplish all of this and to destroy Cirta (91.6) by the end of summer, Marius must have reached Numidia early in the year 107. And after the fall of Capsa the part of the campaign remaining was just about sufficient for the reduction of other towns in southeast Numidia, told of by Sallust 92.3. Suddenly (92.5) the scene of Marius' operations shifts some 800 miles, from southeast to extreme northwest Numidia, to attack Jugurtha's treasure-fortress on the river Muluccha. Where then did Marius spend the winter of 107? No event for time determination is given until p29597.3, in which we hear that Marius returning to Cirta for winter-quarters was attacked by the combined forces of Jugurtha and Bocchus. Ihne has shown that this cannot refer to the winter of 107; that it was clearly impossible to cover the enormous distance and accomplish so much in the part of the year left after the capture of Capsa. Hence, he concludes that the winter of 107 was spent at Cirta, and that the expedition to the Muluccha did not begin until the spring of 106. It seems evident then that Sallust has included in the campaign of 107 operations that cover 106 as well; that the latter year was taken up entirely with the march to the Muluccha, the return to Cirta, the two battles fought on the way (97.3; 100), and possibly with a third (cf. Oros. V.15.9). Sallust's confusion of two distinct years thus accounts for the year not covered by his narrative; it removes also the discrepancy of a year between Jugurtha's capture and the events of chap. 114. The remainder of Sallust's account presents no difficulty. The negotiations with Bocchus begin five days after Marius retires to the winter-quarters of 106 (102.2). Then follow the events of the year 105, beginning with chap. 103 and concluding with the capture of Jugurtha (113.6).

The preceding discussion will gain in clearness by the following outline:º

First year (111 B.C.): L. Calpurnius Bestia in command (chaps. 27‑34).

Second year (110 B.C.): Sp. and Aul. Albinus in command (chaps. 35‑36).

Third year (109): under the command of Aul. Albinus (37‑39.5); Sp. Albinus (39.5‑43); Metellus (43‑61.2).

Fourth year (108): Metellus (62.10‑83).

Fifth year (107): Marius' first year in command (84‑91).

Sixth year (106): Marius's second year in command (92.5‑100).

Seventh year (105): Marius' third year in command (103‑114).

The prolongation of Marius' command for the years 106 and 105 is assumed by this arrangement, as it must be for a year in that proposed by Mommsen, and for two in that by Pelham. That Sallust tells nothing about it, as he did in the case of Metellus (62.10), is not surprising. It has no bearing on the political issues of the Numidian question, with which Sallust was chiefly concerned.


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