Syphax, considering this an affair of too great importance to be managed by one of his generals, sent a part of his army with his son Vermina, a youth, with orders to march his troops round and attack the enemy in the rear, while he engaged their attention in front.
Vermina set out by night, as he was to fall upon the enemy unawares; but Syphax decamped in the day-time and marched openly, intending to fight a pitched battle.
When it was thought that sufficient time had elapsed for those who were sent round to have reached their destination, Syphax himself, relying upon his numbers and on the ambuscade prepared on the enemy's rear, led his troops up the mountain which lay before him, by a gentle acclivity which led towards the enemy. Masinissa, relying chiefly on the great superiority he would have over his opponents in respect of the ground, on his part also formed his troops.
The battle was furious, and for a long time doubtful; Masinissa having the advantage in point of situation and the courage of his troops, and Syphax in respect of his numbers, which were much the greater of the two.
His numerous troops, which were divided, some of them pressing upon the enemy in front, while others surrounded them on the rear, gave Syphax a decisive victory; and, enclosed as they were in front and rear, the enemy had not even a way to escape.
Accordingly, all their troops, both horse and foot, were slain and made prisoners, except about two hundred horsemen, which Masinissa having collected round him in a compact body, and divided into three squadrons, ordered to force their way through, first naming a place where they were to meet after being separated in their flight.
Masinissa himself escaped through the midst of the enemy's weapons in the quarter to which he had directed his course; two of the squadrons were unable to extricate themselves; one of them surrendered to the enemy through fear, the other, making a more obstinate resistance, was overwhelmed with weapons and annihilated.
Vermina followed Masinissa, [p. 1276]
treading almost in his steps; but he eluded him by continually turning out of one road into another, till at length he obliged him, wearied with the hopeless task, to desist from the pursuit, and arrived at the Lesser Syrtis with sixty horsemen.
Here, in the country lying between the Carthaginian Emporia and the nation of the Garamantians, he passed all the time till the coming of Caius Laelius and the Roman fleet into Africa, with the proud consciousness of having made every exertion to recover his paternal dominions. These are the circumstances which incline me to the opinion, that afterwards also, when Masinissa came to Scipio, he brought with him a smallish rather than a large body of cavalry to succour him;
for the large number would seem to suit only with the condition of a reigning king, while the small number corresponds with the circumstances of an exile.