It was then that Syphax, while riding up to the troops of the enemy to try if, either by shame or by exposing his own person to danger, he could stop their flight, being thrown from his horse, which was severely wounded, was overpowered, and being made prisoner, was dragged alive into the presence of Laelius;
a spectacle calculated to afford peculiar satisfaction to Masinissa.
Cirta was the capital of the dominions of Syphax; to which a great number of men fled.
The number of the slain in this battle was not so great as the victory was important, because the cavalry only had been engaged.
Not more than five thousand were slain, and less than half that number were made prisoners in an attack upon the camp, to which the multitude, dismayed at the loss of their king, had fled.
Masinissa declared that nothing could be more highly gratifying to him than, having gained this victory, to go now and visit his hereditary dominions, [p. 1297]
which he had regained after having been kept out of them so long a time; but it was not proper in prosperity any more than in adversity to lose any time.
That if Laelius would allow him to go before him to Cirta with the cavalry and the captive Syphax, he should overpower the enemy while all was in a state of consternation and dismay; and that Laelius might follow with the infantry at a moderate rate.
Laelius assenting, he advanced to Cirta, and ordered the principal inhabitants to be called out to a conference. But as they were not aware of what had befallen their king, he was unable to prevail upon them, either by laying before them what had passed, by threats, or by persuasion, until the king was presented to their view in chains.
A general lamentation arose at this shocking exhibition, and while some deserted the walls in a panic, others, who sought to ingratiate themselves with the victor, suddenly came to an agreement to throw open the gates.
Masinissa, having sent troops to keep guard near the gates, and at such parts of the wall as required it, that no one might have a passage out to escape by, galloped off to seize the palace.
While entering the porch, Sophonisba, the wife of Syphax and daughter of Hasdrubal the Carthaginian, met him in the very threshold, and seeing Masinissa in the midst of the armed band, for he was distinguished both by his arms and also by his habiliments, she concluded, as was really the case, that he was the king; and, falling down at his knees, thus addressed him:
“The gods, together with your own valour and good fortune, have given you the power of disposing of us as you please.
But if a captive may be allowed to give utterance to the voice of supplication before him who is the sovereign arbiter of her life or death; if she may be permitted to touch his knees and his victorious right hand, I entreat and beseech you by the majesty of royalty, which we also a short time ago possessed; by the name of the Numidian race, which was common to Syphax and yourself; by the guardian deities of this palace, (and O! may they receive you more auspiciously than they sent Syphax from it!)
that you would indulge a suppliant by determining yourself whatever your inclination may suggest respecting your captive, and not suffer me to be placed at the haughty and merciless disposal of any Roman.
Were I nothing more than the wife of Syphax, yet would I rather make trial of the honour of a Numidian, [p. 1298]
one born in Africa, the same country which gave me birth, than of a foreigner and an alien.
You know what a Carthaginian, what the daughter of Hasdrubal, has to fear from a Roman. If you cannot effect it by any other means, I beg and beseech you that you will by my death rescue me from the power of the Romans.” She was remarkably beautiful, and in the full bloom of youth.
Accordingly, while she pressed his right hand, and only implored him to pledge himself that she should not be delivered up to any Roman, her language assuming the character of amorous blandishment rather than
entreaty, the heart of the conqueror not only melted with compassion, but, as the Numidians are an excessively amorous race, he became the slave of his captive; and giving his right hand as a pledge for the performance of her request, withdrew into the palace.
He then set upon reflecting in what manner he could make good his promise; and not being able to hit upon any expedient, his passion suggested to him an inconsiderate and barefaced alternative.
He ordered that preparations should be instantly made for celebrating the nuptials that very day; in order that he might not leave it at all open to Laelius, or Scipio himself, to adopt any measure respecting her as a captive who had become the wife of Masinissa.
After the nuptials were concluded, Laelius came up; and so far was he from dissembling his disapprobation of the proceeding, that at first he would even have had her dragged from the marriage bed and sent with Syphax and the rest of the captives to Scipio:
but afterwards, having been prevailed upon by the entreaties of Masinissa, who begged of him to leave it to Scipio to decide which of the two kings should have his fortunes graced by the accession of Sophonisba, he sent away Syphax and the prisoners; and, aided by Masinissa, employed himself in reducing the rest of the cities of Numidia, which were occupied by the king's garrisons.