Bocchar, one of the king's generals, an enterprising and active officer, was chosen for this service. Four thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry were assigned him; and having been loaded with promises of immense rewards if he brought back the head of Masinissa, or if, which would be a source of incalculable joy, he took him alive;
he unexpectedly attacked his party while dispersed and carelessly employed, and after cutting off an immense quantity of cattle and men from the troops which guarded them, drove Masinissa himself with a small body of attendants to the summit of the mountain.
On this, considering the business as in a manner settled, he not only sent the booty of cattle and the prisoners he had made to the king, but also sent back a part of his forces, as being considerably more than were necessary to accomplish what remained of the war;
and then pursuing Maninissa, [p. 1274]
who had come down from the top of the mountain with not more than five hundred foot and two hundred horse, shut him up in a narrow valley, both the entrances of which he blocked up.
Here great slaughter was made of the Massylians. Masinissa, with not more than fifty horsemen, disengaged himself from the defile by passing through steep descents of the mountains, which were not known to his pursuers.
Bocchar, however, followed close upon him, and overtaking him in the open plains near Clupea, so effectually surrounded him, that he slew every one of his attendants except four horsemen. These, together with Masinissa himself, who was wounded, he let slip, in a manner, out of his hands during the confusion.
The fugitives were in sight, and a body of horse, dispersed over the whole plain, pursued the five horsemen of the enemy, some of them pushing off in an oblique direction, in order to meet them.
The fugitives met with a very broad river, into which they unhesitatingly plunged their horses, as they were pressed by greater danger from behind, and carried away by the current were borne along obliquely.
Two of them having sunk in the rapid eddy in the sight of the enemy, Masinissa himself was supposed to have perished; but he with the two remaining had emerged among the bushes on the farther bank. Here Bocchar stopped his pursuit, as he neither had courage to enter the river, nor believed that he now had any one to pursue. Upon this he returned to the king, with the false account of the death of Masinissa.
Messengers were despatched to Carthage to convey this most joyful event, and all Africa rang with the news of Masinissa's death; but the minds of men were variously affected by it.
Masinissa, while curing his wound by the application of herbs, was supported for several days in a secret cave by what the two horsemen procured by plunder.
As soon as it was cicatrized, and he thought himself able to bear the motion, with extraordinary resolution he set out to recover his kingdom;
and collecting not more than forty horsemen during his progress, when he arrived among the Massylians, where he now made himself known, he produced such a sensation among them, both by reason of their former regard for him, and also from the unhoped-for joy they experienced at seeing him safe whom they supposed to have perished, that within a few days six thousand armed foot and [p. 1275]
four thousand horse came and joined him;
and now he not only was in possession of his paternal dominions, but was also laying waste the lands of the states in alliance with the Carthaginians, and the frontiers of the Massylians, the dominions of Syphax. Then, having provoked Syphax to war, he took up a position between Cirta and Hippo, on the tops of mountains which were conveniently situated for all his purposes.