[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Clicca hic ad Latinam paginam legendam.]

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapters 1‑6

This webpage reproduces part of
The African War

by an unknown writer, attached to the name of
Julius Caesar

Loeb Classical Library

The text is in the public domain.

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


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapters 37‑66

African War

 p155  [Chapters 7‑36]

7 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] From there he moved camp on January 1st and arrived at the town of Leptis, a free community, immune from taxes.1 Envoys came from the town to meet him and promised they would readily do whatever he wished. Accordingly, he posted centurions and picquets at the town gates, to prevent any soldier from entering it or molesting any inhabitant, and then made his camp adjoining the shore, not far from the town. And it so chanced that some of his transports and warships arrived at this same place: as for the rest of them, it appeared from the reports  p157 which reached him that owing to their uncertain knowledge of the district they were making towards Utica. For the time being Caesar would not leave the sea or strike inland on account of these wayward vessels, and kept all his cavalry aboard ship, his purpose being, I imagine, to prevent their pillaging the countryside; as for water, he ordered it to be carried aboard. Meanwhile Caesar's troops were taken by surprise when some rowers who had disembarked to fetch water were suddenly set upon by Moorish cavalry, who wounded many with their lances and killed some of them. These Moors in fact lurk in ambush with their horses in the wadis, so as to start up suddenly and not to fight it out hand to hand in the plain.

8 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile Caesar sent messengers to Sardinia and the other neighbouring provinces with despatches instructing them to take steps, immediately on reading the despatch, to send him reinforcements, supplies and corn.º He also uploaded some of his warships and sent Rabirius Postumus to Sicily to fetch a second convoy. He ordered Vatinius to set out with ten warships to search for the remaining transports which had gone astray, and at the same time to keep the sea safe from enemy raiders. He likewise ordered the praetor C. Sallustius Crispus to proceed with a detachment of ships to the island of Cercina, which was under enemy occupation, as he heard that there was a great quantity of corn there. These orders and instructions he issued to each individual in such terms as to rule out any excuses as to whether or not they could be carried out, and to prevent any shuffling involving delay. Meanwhile he himself learned from deserters and the local  p159 inhabitants of the terms entered into by Scipio and his supporters who were engaged in hostilities against him — Scipio was in point of fact maintaining a royal2 cavalry force at the expense of the province of Africa; and he felt sorry that men could be so mad as to prefer to be the hirelings of a king to being in their own country, in the company of their own citizens, secure in the possession of their own fortunes.

9 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] On January 2nd Caesar moved his camp. Leaving behind at Leptis a garrison of six cohorts with Saserna, he himself returned with his remaining forces back to Ruspina, whence he had come the previous day. There the army's baggage was left, and he himself set out with a force in light order to forage round the farms, issuing instructions to the townsfolk that all their carts and draught animals must go with him; and so, after finding a large quantity of corn, he returned to Ruspina. His object in returning to this town3 was, I imagine, to avoid leaving the coastal towns behind him unoccupied, but rather, by securing them with garrisons, to fortify them as strongholds for the reception of his fleet.

10 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] And so, leaving behind a legion under command of P. Saserna — brother of the man he had left in the nearby town of Leptis — with instructions that as much wood as possible should be conveyed into the town, he left the town of Ruspina and made for its harbour, which is two miles distant. With him he took seven cohorts which were drawn from veteran legions and had seen service aboard the fleet with Sulpicius and Vatinius;4 and having reached the harbour he went aboard his fleet with this force as evening was approaching. There was not a man in  p161 the army who knew the plans of the commander-in‑chief, not a man but sought eagerly to know them; and in their ignorance they were all filled with anxiety, grave alarm and depression. For they saw themselves landed in Africa with a tiny force — and that too of recruits, and not all of it disembarked — pitted against large forces including the limitless cavalry of a treacherous race; nor could they discern anything to console them in their present plight, no help in the counsels of their comrades — no help at all, save in the expression of their commander himself, and his energy and remarkable cheerfulness; for he displayed a high and buoyant spirit. It was in him that his men found peace of mind: his skill and resolution would, they all hoped, make everything run smoothly for them.

11 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] After spending one night aboard his fleet Caesar was proceeding to set out at the first pale light of dawn, when suddenly the squadron about which he was apprehensive sought haven there from its wanderings. On learning of this, Caesar promptly ordered everyone to disembark and, drawn up under arms on the beach, to await the arrival of the rest of his troops. And so when these ships had been brought without delay into port, with their cargo of infantry and cavalry, Caesar once again returned to the town of Ruspina, drew up his camp there, and then set out himself with thirty cohorts in light order to forage. As a result of this Caesar's plan now became known: it had been his intention to go with his fleet to the assistance of those transports which had gone astray, but to do so without the enemy's knowing of it, lest by chance his own ships might run unawares against his opponents' fleet;  p163 nor had he wanted his own troops left behind on guard to know of this plan, lest, on account of their own small numbers and the multitude of the enemy, fear should make them fail in their duty.

12 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile, when Caesar had now advanced about three miles from his camp, information obtained by his scouts and mounted patrols reached him that the enemy's forces had been sighted by them at no great distance. And indeed simultaneously with that information they began to see a great cloud of dust. On learning this, Caesar promptly gave orders for his entire cavalry force — of which arm he had no great abundance available at the moment — and his small contingent of archers to be summoned from the camp, and for the standards to follow him slowly in their regular order: he himself went on ahead with a small armed party. Now that the enemy could be seen in the distance, he ordered the troops to don their helmets and prepare for battle in the open plain: their total number comprised thirty cohorts, together with four hundred5 cavalry and one hundred-and‑fifty archers.

13 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile the enemy, led by Labienus6 and the two Pacidei, deployed a straight line of remarkable length and closely packed, not with infantry, but with cavalry, interspersed with light-armed Numidians and unmounted archers in such close formation that at a distance Caesar's men supposed them to be infantry: the two wings — to right and left — were reinforced with strong detachments of cavalry. Meanwhile Caesar deployed a single straight line — the most his small numbers allowed; he drew up his archers in front of the line and posted cavalry to cover his right and left wings, with instructions to  p165 take care they were not enveloped by the mass of the enemy's cavalry; for he supposed that he would be engaging infantry troops in the set battle line.

14 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] There was now on either side a growing feeling of expectancy; but Caesar made no move and saw that the smallness of his own forces called for the use of strategy rather than a trial of strength against the vast numbers of the enemy; when suddenly his opponents' cavalry began to deploy, extending towards the flanks and enveloping the high ground, causing Caesar's cavalry to lengthen and weaken their formation, and preparing simultaneously for an encircling movement. Caesar's cavalry found it difficult to bear up against their vast numbers. Meanwhile as the two centres were proceeding to charge one another, suddenly from out of the closely packed squadrons the light-armed Numidian infantry doubled forward alongside the cavalry and hurled their javelins among the infantry of the legions. Hereupon Caesar's men launched an attack upon them and their cavalry took to flight; but the infantry stood their ground meantime, until the cavalry should renew their charge and return to succour their own infantry.

15 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Caesar was now confronted with novel tactics and observed that his men's formation was becoming disorganised as they ran forward to attack — the infantry in fact, exposing their flank as they advanced in pursuit of the cavalry too far from the standards, were suffering casualties from the javelins of the nearest Numidians; whereas the enemy cavalry easily eluded by their speed the heavy infantry javelin. Accordingly, he had the order passed down the ranks that no soldier should advance more  p167 than four feet from the standards. Meanwhile, the cavalry of Labienus, relying on the large numbers on their own side, endeavoured to surround Caesar's scanty force; and the mere handful of Julian cavalry, worn out by the enemy hordes, their horses wounded, gave ground little by little, while the enemy pressed on them more and more. Thus in a moment all the legionaries were surrounded by the enemy cavalry; and Caesar's forces were compressed into a circle; and so they were all compelled to fight penned behind bars as it were.

16 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Labienus rode bare-headed up and down the front line, encouraging his own men the while and occasionally accosting Caesar's legionaries in such terms as these: 'What are you up to, recruit? Quite the dashing little fellow, aren't you? Have all of you too been made fools of by that fellow's words? So help me, it's a very dangerous situation he has driven you into. I feel sorry for you.' 'I'm not a recruit, Labienus,' replied one soldier, 'but a veteran of the Tenth legion.' To this Labienus retorted: 'I don't recognise the standards of the Tenth.' Then said the soldier: 'You'll soon see what I'm made of.' As he spoke the words he flung the helmet from his head so that the other could recognise him and, thus uncovered, brandished his heavy javelin with all his force, as he aimed it at Labienus: then plunging it violently full in the horse's chest he said: 'That will teach you, Labienus, that it's a soldier of the Tenth who is attacking you.' All the troops, however, were demoralised, particularly the recruits, for they kept looking round for Caesar and contented themselves with dodging the enemy javelins.

 p169  17 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile Caesar, aware of the enemy's tactics, gave orders for the line to be extended to its maximum length, and for every other cohort to turn about, so that one was facing to the rear of the standards, while the next one faced to their front. By this means with his right and left wing he split in half the encircling enemy force; and having isolated one half from the other with his cavalry, proceeded to attack it from inside with his infantry, turning it to flight with volleys of missiles: then, after advancing no great distance for fear of ambush, he retired to his own lines. The other half of Caesar's cavalry and infantry carried out the same tactics. This task accomplished and the enemy being driven far back with heavy casualties, Caesar began to retire to his own defence positions, maintaining battle formation.

18 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile M. Petreius and Cn. Piso arrived with Numidian troops — sixteen hundred picked cavalry and a fairly considerable force of infantry — and immediately on arrival hastened straight to the aid of their comrades. And so the enemy, putting their fears aside and taking fresh heart and courage, wheeled their cavalry round and began to attack the rear of the retreating legionaries and to hinder their withdrawal to camp. Observing this, Caesar ordered to turn about and renew the battle in the middle of the plain. As the enemy repeated the same manoeuvre, but without any return to hand-to‑hand fighting, and as Caesar's cavalry found that their horses, worn out with the effects of recent sea‑sickness, thirst and the fatigue and wounds sustained in their unequal contest, were now more reluctant to keep doggedly on the move in pursuit of the enemy,  p171 and as there was now but a little daylight left, Caesar urged his encircled cohorts and cavalry to make one vigorous thrust and not give up until they had driven the enemy back beyond the furthest high ground and gained possession of the latter. And so, waiting to give the signal until the enemy's volleys of missiles were half-hearted and inaccurate, he suddenly let loose some cohorts and squadrons of his own troops upon them. In a moment the enemy were driven without trouble off the plain and thrown back behind the high ground, and Caesar's men had gained the position; then, after a brief pause there, they retired slowly in battle formation to their own fortifications. Their opponents likewise, after this warm reception, then at length withdrew to their own positions.

19 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile after this engagement had taken place and when the action had been broken off, quite a number of all ranks of the opposing side deserted to Caesar, and in addition not a few of the enemy cavalry and infantry were taken prisoner. From them the enemy's plan became known. He had come with the intention of trying out new and unfamiliar battle tactics upon Caesar's legionaries, in order that — raw recruits and few in numbers as they were — they should be demoralised thereby, and be enveloped and crushed by the cavalry, as Curio had been; and Labienus had spoken to this effect to his troops on parade, that he would furnish Caesar's opponents with so vast a number of auxiliaries that Caesar's men would be quite exhausted even with killing them, and so would be vanquished in the very hour of victory, and mastered by his forces. In fact, quite apart from the aid of those auxiliaries, he had reason for self-confidence: first because he had heard  p173 that at Rome the veteran legions were mutinous and refusing to cross into Africa; next because he had kept his own troops in Africa for three years: they were acclimatised and he had now secured their loyalty to himself; he had, moreover, very large auxiliary forces composed of Numidian cavalry and light-armed troops and, besides these, the German and Gallic cavalry which, after the defeat and rout of Pompeius, he, Labienus, had brought across with him from Buthrotum, as well as those which he had levied later on in Africa from half-castes, freedmen and slaves, and had armed and taught to handle a bridled horse: he had in addition royal auxiliary forces, as well as a hundred and twenty elephants and innumerable cavalry; and finally, legions raised from more than twelve thousand men of every type. On such considerations was based the reckless confidence that fired Labienus, with his sixteen hundred Gallic and German cavalry, his eight thousand Numidians who rode without bridles, reinforced in addition by the cavalry contingent of Petreius, sixteen hundred strong, and with his infantry and light-armed force, four times as big, and with his numerous archers, slingers and mounted arches. These were the forces which on January 4th, five days after Caesar reached Africa, on a perfectly flat and unimpeded plain, were engaged in a contest from the fifth hour of the day continuously till sundown. In that battle Petreius was gravely wounded and retired from the field.

20 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile Caesar fortified his camp with greater care, strengthened its defences by manning them with larger forces, and carried an entrenchment from the town of Ruspina right to the sea, and a second  p175 from his camp likewise to the sea: his purpose was to ensure safer communication in both directions and to enable his reinforcements to come up to his support without danger. He brought missiles and artillery from the ships into his camp, and armed some of the Gallic and Rhodian rowers and marines from the fleet and summoned them to camp, in order that, if possible, on the same principle which his opponents had employed, light-armed troops should be interspersed at intervals among his cavalry. From all his ships he brought archers into camp — Ityreans, Syrians and men of diverse races — and thronged his forces with numerous drafts of them; for he heard that on the second day after the battle was fought Scipio was approaching and uniting his forces — reported to comprise eight legions and three thousand cavalry — with those of Labienus and Petreius. He also established smithies, took steps to ensure a plentiful supply of arrows and missile-weapons, cast leaden bullets, collected stakes, and sent couriers with despatches to Sicily bidding them build up for his use stocks of hurdles and timber for battering-rams — timber was scarce in Africa — and in addition send him iron and lead. He realised, moreover, that no corn could be available for his use in Africa unless it was imported; for there had been no harvest the previous year on account of the levies held by his opponents and the fact that the farmers, being tributary subjects of Rome, had been called up for military service: moreover, his opponents had collected corn from the whole of Africa and conveyed it into a few well-fortified towns, and every corner of Africa was thus ransacked of corn; and apart from those few towns which his opponents  p177 were able to defend themselves with their own garrisons, the rest were being destroyed and abandoned: their inhabitants had been compelled to migrate to the shelter of the enemy garrisons, and their lands were now abandoned and laid waste.

21 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Under stress of this emergency Caesar had, by soliciting private individuals with touching appeals, amassed a certain amount of corn in his garrisons, and this he was using sparingly. Meanwhile every day he went round the field-works in person, and doubled the number of cohorts on guard duty in view of the large numbers of the enemy. Labienus gave orders that his wounded, who were very numerous, should have their wounds dressed and then be carried off in carts to Hadrumetum. Meanwhile some of Caesar's transports were cruising aimlessly about, badly off their course in their uncertain knowledge of the area and the position of his camp; and one by one they were set upon by a number of enemy pinnaces and set on fire or boarded. When this was reported to Caesar he posted squadrons round the islands and harbours to enable his supplies to be convoyed with greater safety.

22 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile M. Cato, who was in command at Utica, never left off assailing Cn. Pompeius, the son, with long and constant speeches of reproof. 'When your father was your age,' he said, 'he perceived that the state was oppressed by wicked and vicious citizens, and that loyal men had either been put to death or else, punished by exile, were deprived of their country and civic rights. Whereupon, carried away by his ambition and the nobility of his nature, though a mere private citizen and a callow youth, he mustered the remnants of his father's army and  p179 emancipated Italy and the city of Rome when they were all but utterly overwhelmed and destroyed; and likewise he recovered Sicily, Africa, Numidia and Mauretania by force of arms with astonishing speed. By these achievements he won himself that prestige of his which in lustre and in fame is unequalled throughout the world, and, albeit a mere youth and a Roman knight, celebrated a triumph. And in his case his father had not the same imposing record as your father has, nor had he inherited from his ancestors the same position of eminent distinction, nor was he endowed with such influential ties of clientship or with a famous name, when he entered public life. Whereas in your case not only are you endowed with the fame and prestige of your father, but you yourself are also adequately endowed on your own account with nobility of nature and with earnestness. Will you not therefore make an effort and set out in quest of your father's clients to demand their assistance for yourself, for the state and for every loyal citizen?'

23 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] These words, coming from a man of the greatest authority, spurred on the youth. Taking with him thirty small ships of every type, including a few equipped with beaks, he set out from Utica and invaded Mauretania and the kingdom of Bogud. With an army in light order comprising two thousand slaves and freedmen, some with arms, some without, he proceeded to approach the town of Ascurum, where there was a royal garrison. As Pompeius drew near, the townsfolk allowed him to come closer and closer until he was actually approaching the very gates and the town wall: then suddenly they made a sally and drove the crushed and panic-stricken  p181 Pompeians back wholesale to the sea and their ships. After this reverse Cn. Pompeius, the son, withdrew his fleet from there and without touching land again set course with his fleet towards the Balearic Islands.

24 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile Scipio set out with the forces we enumerated a little earlier, leaving a considerable garrison behind at Utica, and pitched camp first at Hadrumetum. Then, after staying there a few days, he made a night march and joined up with the forces of Labienus and Petreius; whereupon they established themselves in a single camp three miles distant from Caesar.7 Meanwhile their cavalry went roving round Caesar's entrenchments, intercepting all such troops as had advanced beyond the rampart to forage or fetch water; and this had the effect of keeping all their opponents confined within their defences. By these tactics Caesar's men were afflicted with a severe scarcity of corn, for this reason that supplies had not so far been conveyed to him either from Sicily or Sardinia, and, on account of the season of the year, fleets could not move freely about the seas without risk; moreover, they occupied no more than six8 miles of African soil in any direction, and were hard put to it for lack of fodder. The urgency of this situation drove the veteran troops — infantry and cavalry — men who had gone through many campaigns by land and sea and had often been afflicted by hazards and similar privation, to collect seaweed from the beach, cleanse it in fresh water, and give it in this state to their famished beasts, thereby prolonging their lives.

25 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] While these events were taking place, king Juba, who was aware of Caesar's difficulties and the small numbers of his forces, thought it advisable not to  p183 give him any respite for recruiting his strength or increasing his resources. And so, having got together large forces of cavalry and infantry, he departed from his kingdom and made haste to go to the assistance of his friends. Meanwhile P. Sittius9 and king Bochus had united their forces and, learning of king Juba's departure, moved them closer to his kingdom. Sittius then attacked Cirta, the richest town of that kingdom, and after a few days' fighting captured it, as well as two Gaetulian towns. When he offered them terms, proposing that they should evacuate the town and surrender it unoccupied to him, they refused the terms and were subsequently captured by Sittius and all put to death. Thereupon he advanced, ravaging both countryside and towns without ceasing. Juba got to know of this when he was now not far away from Scipio and his lieutenants, and came to the conclusion that it was better to go to the aid of himself and his own kingdom, rather than that, in the course of setting out to help others, he should himself be driven out of his own kingdom, and perhaps be thwarted in both fields. Accordingly, he marched back again, withdrawing his auxiliary forces too from Scipio, in his alarm on account of himself and his own interests; and leaving thirty elephants behind with Scipio, he set forth to the relief of his own territory and towns.

26 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile as there was some doubt in the province as to Caesar's arrival, and nobody believed it was Caesar in person that had come to Africa with the forces, but rather some one of his lieutenants, he sent written despatches round the province informing all the communities of his personal arrival. Meanwhile persons of note fled from their towns and sought  p185 refuge in Caesar's camp and proceeded to quote instances of the cruelty and harshness of his opponents. Their tears and complainings had no little effect on Caesar; and though he had previously decided to wait for the beginning of summer to muster all his forces and auxiliaries from their permanent quarters and wage war on his opponents, he now resolved on a winter campaign, promptly drafting a despatch to Alienus and Rabirius Postumus in Sicily, which he sent by a reconnaissance vessel, to the effect that an army must be shipped across to him as quickly as possible: there must be no delay and no excuses on the ground of wintry weather or adverse winds. The province of Africa, he wrote, was in its death throes, in the process of utter destruction at the hands of his foes; and unless aid were promptly rendered to their allies, nothing save the very soil of Africa — not even a roof to give them shelter — would be left as the result of their enemies' treacherous crimes. Caesar himself was in such a ferment of impatient expectancy that on the day after he sent the messenger to Sicily with the despatch he kept saying that the fleet and army were dallying; and day and night he kept his eyes and attention bent and riveted upon the sea. And no wonder; for he perceived that farms were being burned to the ground, fields stripped, herds plundered or butchered, towns and strongholds destroyed and abandoned, and the principal citizens either murdered or held in chains, and their children haled off to slavery on the pretext of being hostages: yet to these folk, who in their misery implored his protection, he could give no assistance because his forces were so few. Meanwhile he kept his troops continuously at work on their training, proceeded  p187 with the fortification of his camp, and went on without interruption constructing towers and redoubts and driving moles out into the sea.

27 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Scipio meanwhile undertook the training of the elephants in the following manner. He drew up two lines of battle: one line of slingers, facing the elephants, to take the place of the enemy and to discharge small stones against the opposing front formed by the elephants; next he arranged the elephants in line, and behind them drew up his own line so that, when the enemy proceeded to sling their stones and the elephants in their consequent panic wheeled round upon their own side, his men should receive them with a volley of stones, and so make them wheel round again away from his own line in the direction of the enemy. This method worked, though it was a difficult and slow process; for elephants are uncouth creatures, and it is difficult to get them fully trained even with many years' training and long practice; and if they are led forth to battle, they are, for all their training, equally dangerous to both sides.

28 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] While these dispositions were being made at Ruspina by the leaders on either side, the ex‑praetor C. Vergilius, who was in charge of the coastal town of Thapsus, observed that ships carrying Caesar's troops were sailing singly on no set course, due to their uncertain knowledge of the locality and of the position of his camp. He therefore seized the opportunity and manned with soldiers and archers a fast boat which he had there, to which he added some ship's pinnaces, and with these he set about the pursuit of Caesar's ships one by one. He had attacked several, only to be beaten off, put to flight and forced to quit the area, but even so was still  p189 persisting in his hazardous tactics, when chance led him to fall in with a ship which had on board two young Spaniards of the name of Titius — tribunes of the Fifth legion, whose father Caesar had caused to be elected to the Senate — as well as T. Salienus, a centurion of the same legion, who had laid siege to the house of M. Messalla,10 Caesar's lieutenant, at Messana, employing in his presence the language of downright mutiny. This man had also been responsible for withholding under guard some money and trappings belonging to Caesar's triumph, and for these reasons viewed his own prospects with misgiving. His own guilty conscience led him to persuade the young men to put up no resistance, but to surrender to Vergilius. Accordingly they were escorted by Vergilius, put under guard, and two days later put to death. As they were being led to execution, the elder Titius, it is said, besought the centurions to put him to death before his brother, and was readily granted that request, and they were put to death in that order.

29 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile the squadrons of cavalry whose regular duty it was to be on guard in front of the rampart were engaging daily in incessant skirmishes with one another; and there were also times when Labienus' Germans and Gauls and Caesar's cavalry exchanged pledges of good faith and conversed with one another. Meantime Labienus with part of his cavalry was endeavouring to assault and force his way into the town of Leptis, which was under command of Saserna with six cohorts; but its defenders, thanks to the excellent fortifications of the town and the large number of their engines of war, defended it easily and without danger. But Labienus' cavalry repeated  p191 these tactics fairly frequently and gave them no respite; and when it so chanced that a squadron had halted in massed formation in front of the gate, its captain was struck and pinned to his horse by a bolt discharged from a scorpion11 with unusually accurate aim. This so unnerved the rest that they withdrew in flight to their camp, too much daunted by it to resume their attempt upon the town thereafter.

30 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile practically every day Scipio arrayed his line of battle at no great distance — three hundred paces — from his own camp, and then, when the greater part of the day was now spent, returned back again to camp. As this manoeuvre was carried out quite frequently without anyone's issuing forth from Caesar's camp or approaching closer to Scipio's forces, the latter, holding scorn of the forbearance shewn by Caesar and his army, led forth his entire force, with thirty elephants equipped with towers drawn up in front of his line: then, advancing and simultaneously deploying to the widest possible extent his vast numbers of cavalry and infantry, he halted in the plain not so very far from Caesar's camp.

31 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When he learned of this Caesar gave orders that those troops who had gone forward outside the fortifications, whether to forage or fetch wood or even to work on the fortifications, as well as those who had been collecting stakes and what was needed for that work, should all retire within the fortifications — gradually and in a disciplined manner, without any fuss or alarm — and take their stand in the field-works. His instructions to the cavalry on guard were to go on holding the positions in which they had been  p193 posted a little earlier, until they should come within range of the enemy's missiles; if the enemy advanced yet closer, they must then make as honourable a withdrawal as possible within the fortifications. As for the rest of the cavalry, they too had their orders — to be ready at hand, equipped and armed, each man in his proper place. These orders, however, he did not issue personally on the spot, surveying the situation for himself from the rampart; but so remarkable was his skill and knowledge of warfare that, making use of look-outs and orderlies, he issued the instructions necessary for his purpose as he sat in his head-quarters. For he observed that, although his opponents were relying on the great size of their forces, yet they were the very men whom he himself had often routed, beaten back and utterly demoralised, only to spare their lives and forgive their misdemeanours; in which circumstances, considering their own lack of initiative and their guilty conscience, they would never muster sufficient confidence in victory as to venture to attack his camp. Moreover, his own name and prestige had, to a great extent, a sobering effect upon the reckless spirit of their army. Then again the exceptional defences of the camp — the height of the rampart, the depth of the ditches, and the concealed stakes outside the rampart, marvellously well planted — all these, even without defenders, served to deter the enemy's approach; while as for scorpions, catapults and all the other normal weapons of defence, he had a plentiful supply of these. These he had prepared in advance in view of the small size and lack of experience of his own as it then was, and it was not because he was taken aback or dismayed at the  p195 enemy's might that he showed himself — to the enemy's thinking — long-suffering and timid. The reason why he would not lead his forces on to the field, few and inexperienced though they were, was not that he lacked confidence in his victory, but he considered the important question was — what manner of victory it would prove; for he thought it a personal slur if after all his achievements, after all the many brilliant victories he had won over such massive armies, men should look upon this victory as one gained only with much bloodshed over such remnants as his opponents had mustered from their routed forces. And so he had resolved to endure their boastful triumph until his second convoy should join him, including some portion of his veteran legions.

32 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile Scipio lingered for a little while, as I mentioned earlier, in that position, to create the impression that he had held Caesar virtually in contempt, and then gradually withdrew his forces to camp. There he paraded his troops and spoke to them of the dread which their own side inspired and the desperate attitude of Caesar's army; and with such words of encouragement to his men he promised them that he would shortly give them a lasting victory. Caesar ordered his troops to return once more to their duties and, on the pretext of the fortifications, kept his recruits constantly employed to the point of exhaustion. Meanwhile Numidians and Gaetulians were daily deserting from Scipio's camp: the former betook themselves to Juba's kingdom, while the latter, because they themselves and their ancestors had been kindly treated by C. Marius12 and heard  p197 that Caesar was a relation of his, swarmed constantly for refuge into Caesar's camp. From among their number Caesar chose certain more distinguished members, gave them letters for their fellow citizens, and so dismissed them, exhorting them to raise a force for the defence of themselves and their people, and not to submit passively to the dictates of their foes and opponents.

33 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] While these events were taking place at Ruspina, there came to Caesar envoys from Acylla, an independent state immune from taxes.13 They assured him that they would readily and gladly do whatever he might bid: they merely prayed and besought him to give them a garrison to enable them to do his bidding with the greater safety and without peril: they would supply its members with corn and with all other adequate supplies for the sake of their common welfare. This request Caesar gladly granted and gave them a garrison, ordering C. Messius, who had once held the office of aedile, to set out for Acylla. On learning this, Considius Longus, who was in command at Hadrumetum with two legions and seven hundred cavalry, left part of his garrison force behind and, taking eight cohorts with him, promptly hastened off to Acylla. Messius completed his march more rapidly and was the first to arrive at Acylla with his cohorts. Whereupon Considius approached the city with his forces and venturing to jeopardise his troops, retired back again to Hadrumetum without having achieved anything to warrant so large a force. Subsequently,  p199 when a few days later he had procured a contingent of cavalry from Labienus, he returned, pitched his camp and proceeded to lay siege to Acylla.

34 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] It was during this time that C. Sallustius Crispus, who, as we have explained, had been despatched by Caesar with a fleet a few days earlier, arrived at Cercina. On his arrival the ex‑quaestor C. Decimius, who was controller of supplies there and was attended by a large escort composed of his own household slaves, went aboard a small boat he had got hold of and took to flight. Meanwhile Sallustius, the praetor, was welcomed by the inhabitants of Cercina; and finding a large quantity of corn he loaded some merchant vessels — there was quite a large number of them there — and sent them to Caesar in his camp. Meanwhile at Lilybaeum the pro‑consul Alienus embarked in transports the Thirteenth and Fourteenth legions, eight hundred Gallic cavalry and one thousand slingers and archers, and sent to Caesar in Africa his second convoy. With the wind behind them these ships arrived safely three days later at the harbour of Ruspina, the town where Caesar had his camp. This heartened Caesar, who experienced twofold pressure and delight at thus simultaneously receiving both corn and reinforcements; and now that at last his troops were made cheerful and the corn problem was eased, he laid aside his cares, ordered his legions and cavalry to disembark and get over the effects of their lassitude and seasickness, and drafted them to the various forts and defended positions.

35 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] All this filled Scipio and his colleagues with wonder and curiosity; and they had a suspicion that some deep purpose must underlie this sudden transformation  p201 in the C. Caesar who had habitually taken the offensive hitherto and was always spoiling for a fight. And so, thrown into no little panic as a result of his forbearance, they chose from the Gaetulians two men whom they considered to be the staunchest supporters of their cause; and after offering them large rewards and making them generous promises, sent them in the guise of deserters on a spying mission into Caesar's camp. No sooner had these men been escorted to Caesar than they sought leave to speak out frankly without danger. That leave being granted, they said: 'Many of us Gaetulians, Commander-in‑Chief, who are clients14 of C. Marius, and practically all the Roman citizens who are in the Fourth and Sixth legions have very often wanted to take refuge with you and resort to your protection; but we were prevented from doing so without hazard by the patrols of Numidian cavalry. But now that the chance has been given us we have come to you most eagerly. We were in fact sent by Scipio as spies to observe closely whether any trenches or traps had been made for the elephants in front of the camp and the gates of the rampart; and at the same time to ascertain your tactics against these same beasts and your dispositions for battle, and then report back to them.' Caesar highly commended them, furnished them with pay, and had them taken to join the other deserters. Their statement was speedily verified by actual events; for on the next day quite a number of legionary troops from the legions mentioned by the Gaetulians deserted from Scipio to Caesar's camp.

36 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] While this was going on at Ruspina, M. Cato, the commander of Utica, was holding a constant succession  p203 of daily levies of freedmen, Africans, slaves even — any man, in fact, no matter of what class, so long as he was of an age to carry arms — and drafting them to Scipio's camp to be at his disposal. Meanwhile there came to Caesar envoys from the town of Thysdra, in which town three hundred thousand measures15 of wheat had been collected by Italian merchants and farmers. These envoys now informed Caesar of the large quantity of corn they had and prayed him to send them a garrison whereby both their corn and all their stocks might the more readily be kept safe. For the present Caesar expressed his thanks to them, saying that, as for a garrison, he would send one shortly; he then dismissed them with words of encouragement, bidding them go back to their own countrymen. Meanwhile P. Sittius invaded the territory of Numidia with his forces and forcibly took by storm a stronghold, situated on a well-defended mountain height, in which Juba had collected both corn and all other regular munitions of war, for the sake of prosecuting his campaign.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Leptis was one of seven towns which in 146 B.C. had been granted autonomy for failing to support Carthage in the Second Punic War. cf. Acylla (ch. 33).

[decorative delimiter]

2 Juba's cavalry, the payment of whom was alluded to in ch. 6, above.

[decorative delimiter]

3 This seems to be an attempt to account for Caesar's abrupt withdrawal from Leptis, to which he had advanced without, apparently, taking steps to secure Ruspina in his rear.

[decorative delimiter]

4 cf. Bell. Alex. ch. 44.

[decorative delimiter]

5 The number is strangely small in view of ch. 2 and the arrival of the missing troops recorded in ch. 11. Stoffel proposed to read ∞ ∞, i.e. 2000; the total force mentioned in ch. 2.

[decorative delimiter]

6 The most brilliant and enterprising of Scipio's subordinate commanders; originally a staunch supporter of Caesar, he had joined Pompey's side early in 49 and, after Pharsalus, had crossed to Africa with Cato.

[decorative delimiter]

7 See Appendix A, p393.

[decorative delimiter]

8 The figure VI (or in one case VII), given by all MSS., is not easily reconciled with the dimensions of the plateau of Ruspina: some editors would amend it to III.

[decorative delimiter]

9 A Roman adventurer and soldier of fortune who since the conspiracy of Catiline had been operating independently in Africa with a body of troops raised in Spain. Bochus, king of eastern Mauretania, sided with Caesar against Juba.

[decorative delimiter]

10 When Messalla and Sallust were sent by Caesar in August, 47, to order certain legions to concentrate in Sicily for the African campaign, the legions mutinied and the Twelfth went so far as to pelt them with stones.

[decorative delimiter]

11 A small catapult.

[decorative delimiter]

12 The famous soldier and democratic champion, who in 115 had married Julia, the sister of Caesar's father. There is no mention in other writers of his beneficence towards the Gaetulians, who had presumably served him well as mercenaries in his campaigns against Jugurtha (109‑106). As some 60 years had now elapsed, it would seem that very few, if any, of the present Gaetulians could themselves have been kindly treated by Marius. Chapters 35 and 56 below suggest rather that it was their fathers or grandfathers who had been rewarded and made clients, and that the present generation had inherited the formal tie of clientship.

[decorative delimiter]

13 See ch. 7, note 1. Its site is much disputed. I have marked it in Map 3 — very tentatively — in accordance with its traditional identification with the Acholla mentioned by Strabo and Pliny. This satisfies the requirements of ch. 43. But it seems very doubtful whether C. would have detached precious troops to garrison a spot so far south; and this objection, together with its mention in ch. 67 in close conjunction with Leptis and Ruspina, led Veith to place it some 4 km SE of Leptis.

[decorative delimiter]

14 i.e. by inheritance. See ch. 32, note1.

[decorative delimiter]

15approximately 71,000 bushels.

Page updated: 26 Jul 13