When Masinissa perceived that the good name of the Carthaginians was tarnished and that they were quarrelling among themselves, the nobles being suspected by the senate on account of their conferences with Aristo, the senate by
the people on account of the declaration made by the same Aristo, considering that he had an opportunity to injure them, he both ravaged their coast and compelled certain cities which were dependents of the Carthaginians to pay their tribute to him.
They call this district Emporia; it is the coast of the lesser Syrtis and a fertile spot; one of its cities is Leptis, and this paid to the Carthaginians a tribute of one talent per day.1
At this time Masinissa had endangered this whole region, and, with respect to part of it, had raised a question as to its ownership, whether it belonged to his kingdom or to the Carthaginians.
And because he saw that they would go to Rome both to clear themselves and to complain of him, he likewise sent ambassadors to Rome for the double purpose of increasing Roman suspicions of them, by their insinuations, and of setting on foot an argument about the tribute-rights.
The [p. 577]
Carthaginians were first given audience, and with their2
account of the Tyrian stranger they rendered the Fathers anxious lest they should have to fight with Antiochus and the Carthaginians at the same time.
What most weighed against them was a suspicion due to the fact that they had set no guard over the person or ship of a man whom they had decided to arrest and send to Rome. Then the dispute with the king's envoys about the land began.
The Carthaginians maintained their case by their boundary-rights, because the
district was within the limits which Publius Scipio, when he conquered them, had set for the land which should be under
and by the king's own admission, who, when he was pursuing Aphthir, a fugitive from his country, who was wandering around Cyrene with a party of Numidians, had requested, as a favour from them, a right of way through this very country as if it had without question belonged to the Carthaginians.
The Numidians charged that they were not telling the truth about the limits fixed by Scipio, and asked, if one wanted to determine the real origin of a property-right, what land in Africa was really Carthaginian. Coming there as strangers, they had been granted as a gift, for the purpose of building a city, as much land as they could encompass with the cut-up hide of a bull;4
to whatever extent they had expanded beyond the limits of the Bursa,5
their seat, they had land gained by violence and without right.
As to the particular tract of land in question, they could not even prove that they had held it for any considerable time, and much less that they had held it continuously from the time they had begun to claim it. As occasion offered, now they and [p. 579]
now the Numidian kings had claimed the right to6
it, and possession had always remained with the party that was stronger in arms.
They asked that the land should remain in the condition in which it was before the Carthaginians became enemies to the Romans and the king of the Numidians their ally and friend and not to interfere to prevent that person from holding the land who was able to do so.
It was decided that the envoys of both states should receive the reply that they would send ambassadors to Africa to judge, on the actual ground, between the Carthaginian people and the king.
The ambassadors who were sent were Publius Scipio Africanus, Gaius Cornelius Cethegus, and Marcus Minucius Rufus, and after hearing the testimony and inspecting the place they left the matter undecided, without expressing an opinion in favour of either side.
Whether they did this of their own accord or because they had been so instructed is not so certain as that this seemed expedient under the circumstances, that the case be left entirely undecided;
if this were not the case, Scipio alone, either from his knowledge of the affair or through his personal influence, since he deserved so well of both sides, could have settled the dispute by a nod.