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 Attius Varus commanded the Pompeian forces in Africa, and Juba, king of the Mauritanian Numidians, was in alliance with him. Curio sailed from Sicily against them in behalf of Cæsar with two legions, twelve war vessels, and a number of ships of burden. He landed at Utica and put to flight a body of Numidian horse in a small cavalry engagement near that place, and allowed himself to be saluted as Imperator by the soldiers with their arms still in their hands. This title is an honor conferred upon generals by their soldiers, who thus testify that they consider them worthy to be their commanders. In the olden time the generals accepted this honor only for the greatest exploits. At present I understand that the distinction is limited to cases where at least 10,000 of the enemy have been killed. While Curio was crossing from Sicily the inhabitants of Africa thinking that, in emulation of the glory of Scipio, he would establish his quarters near the camp of the latter, poisoned the water in the neighborhood. Their expectation was fulfilled. Curio encamped there and his army immediately fell sick. When they drank the water their eyesight became dim as in a mist, and sleep with torpor ensued, and after that frequent vomiting and spasms of the whole body. For this reason Curio changed his camp to the neighborhood of Utica itself, leading his enfeebled army through an extensive marshy region. But when they received the news of Cæsar's victory in Spain they took courage and put themselves in order of battle in a narrow space along the seashore. Here a severe battle was fought in which Curio lost only one man, while Varus lost 600 killed, besides a still larger number wounded.1
1 This story, with its incredible disproportion of loss, is related also by Cæsar (ii. 35), who tells us that Varus had the advantage of position.
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