It happened that Hasdrubal was with Syphax at the time these things were taking place. He told the Numidian, who considered that it could make very little difference to him whether the government of the Massylians was in the hands of Lacumaces or Masinissa, that “he was very much mistaken if he supposed that Masinissa would be content with the same power which his father Gala or his uncle Œsalces enjoyed.
That he possessed a much greater degree of spirit, and a more enterprising turn of mind, than had ever existed in any one of that race. That he had frequently, when in Spain, exhibited proofs to his allies, as well as to his enemies, of such valour as was rarely found among men.
That both Syphax and the Carthaginians, unless they smothered that rising flame, would soon find themselves enveloped in a vast conflagration, when they could not help themselves.
That as yet his strength was feeble, and such as might easily be broken, while he was trying to keep together a kingdom, which was not yet firmly cemented.” By continually urging and goading him on, he succeeded in inducing him to lead an army to the frontiers of the Massylians, and to pitch his camp in a country for which he had not only disputed verbally, but had fought battles with Gala, as though it had been his own by uncontested right.
He alleged, that “if any one should attempt to dislodge him, which was what he most wanted, he would have an opportunity of fighting; but, if the ground were given up to him through fear, he must march into the heart of the kingdom.
That the Massylians would either submit to his authority [p. 1273]
without a contest, or would be inferior to him in arms.” Syphax, impelled by these arguments, made war on Masinissa, and, in the first engagement, routed and put him to flight.
Masinissa, with a few horsemen, effected his escape from the field to a mountain called by the natives Balbus.
Several families, with their tents and cattle, which form their wealth, followed the king; the rest of the Massylian people submitted to Syphax.
The mountain, which the exiles had seized, had plenty of grass and water; and, as it was well adapted for feeding cattle, afforded an abundant supply of food for men who live upon flesh and milk. From this place they infested all the surrounding country; at first with nightly and clandestine incursions, but afterwards with open depredations. The lands of the Carthaginians suffered the severest devastation, because there was not only a greater quantity of booty there than among the Numidians, but their plunder would be safer.
And now they did it with so much boldness and defiance, that, carrying their booty down to the sea, they sold it to merchants, who brought their ships to land for that very purpose;
while a greater number of Carthaginians were slain and made prisoners, than frequently happens in a regular war. The Carthaginians complained bitterly of these occurrences to Syphax, and urged him strongly to follow up this remnant of the war, though he was himself highly incensed at them.
But he considered it hardly suitable to the dignity of a king to pursue a vagabond robber through the mountains.