Jugurtha (c. 160-104 B.C.)

King of Numidia from 118 to 105, who struggled to free his North African kingdom from Roman rule.

Jugurtha was the illegitimate grandson of Masinissa (d. 148), under whom Numidia had become a Roman ally, and the nephew of Masinissa's successor, Micipsa. Jugurtha became so popular among the Numidians that Micipsa tried to eliminate his influence by sending him in 134 to assist the Roman general Scipio Africanus the Younger in the siege of Numantia (Spain). Jugurtha, however, established close relations with influential Roman senators, who probably persuaded Micipsa to adopt Jugurtha in 120.

After Micipsa's death in 118, Jugurtha shared the rule of Numidia with Micipsa's two sons, Hiempsal and Adherbal, the first of whom Jugurtha assassinated. When Adherbal was attacked by Jugurtha, he fled to Rome for aid—Rome's approval being required for any change in the government of Numidia—but, by bribing Roman officials, Jugurtha's envoys obtained senatorial authorization for a division of Numidia, with Jugurtha taking the western (and richer) half and Adherbal the eastern half. Trusting in his influence at Rome, Jugurtha again attacked Adherbal (112), capturing his capital at Cirta, but he made the mistake of massacring a number of Italian businessmen. Popular anger in Rome at this action forced the Senate to declare war on Jugurtha, but in 111 the consul Lucius Calpurnius Bestia made a generous settlement with him. Summoned to Rome to explain how he had managed to obtain the treaty, Jugurtha had a potential rival killed in the capital, and even the best of his Roman friends could no longer support him.

When war was renewed, Jugurtha easily maintained himself against incompetent generals. Early in 110 he forced the capitulation of a whole army under Aulus Postumius Albinus and drove the Romans out of Numidia. Antisenatorial feeling caused the terms of this surrender to be disavowed by Rome, and fighting again broke out. After the arrival of a new consul, Gaius Marius, in 107, Jugurtha continued to achieve successes through guerrilla warfare. Bocchus I of Mauretania, however, encouraged by Marius' quaestor, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, trapped the Numidian king and turned him over to the Romans early in 105. He was executed the following year.

In vigour and resource he was a worthy grandson of Masinissa but lacked his political insight. Misled by signs of corruption in the Roman governing class, he failed to realize that there were limits beyond which Rome's satellite rulers could not go without provoking decisive intervention. (Encyclopaedia Britannica Article)