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Μασσανάσσης), king of the Numidians, celebrated for the conspicuous part he bore in the wars between the Romans and Carthaginians. He was the son of Gala, king of the Massylians, the easternmost of the two great tribes into which the Numidians were at that time divided but was brought up at Carthage, where he appears to have received an education superior to that usualamonghiscountrymen. (Liv.24.49;Appian, App. Pun. 10, 37.) He was still quite young man 1, but had already given proofs of great ability and energy of character, when in B. C. 213 the Carthaginians persuaded Gala to declare war against Syphax, king of the neighbouring tribe of the Massaesylians, who had lately entered into an alliance with Rome. Masinissa was appointed by his father to command the invading force, with which he attacked and totally defeated Syphax, whom he drove to take refuge in Mauritania, and following him thither carried on the war with unabated vigour, so as effectually to prevent him from crossing into Spain to the assistance of the Romans in that country. (Liv. 24.49.) Of the farther progress of this war in Africa we hear nothing; but the next year (B. C. 212) we find Masinissa in Spain, supporting the Carthaginian generals there with a large body of Numidian horse; and it appears probable that, though only occasionally mentioned, he continued to hold the same post during the subsequent years of the war in that country. In 210, indeed, he is mentioned as being at Carthage, but apparently only for the purpose of obtaining reinforcements for the army in Spain, in which country we again find him in the following year (209), at the time that Hasdrubal set out on his march into Italy. In 206 he is mentioned as present at Silpia, where he shared with Hasdrubal, Gisco, and Mago in their total defeat by Scipio. (Liv. 25.34, 27.5, 20, 28.13; Plb. 11.21; Appian, App. Hisp. 25, 27.) But the reverse then sustained by the Carthaginian arms proved too much for the fidelity of Masinissa : shortly after the battle he made secret overtures to Silanus, the lieutenant of Scipio, which, however, led to no immediate result, the Numidian chief being desirous to treat with Scipio in person, an opportunity for which did not for some time present itself. At length, however, the desired interview took place, and Masinissa pledged himself to support the Romans with all the forces at his command as soon as they should carry an army into Africa. (Liv. xxviii 16, 35.) In addition to the effect produced by the success of the Roman arms, and the great personal influence of Scipio-an influence increased in this case by his generous conduct towards Massiva, a nephew of Masinissa [MASSIVA]--the Numidian prince is said to have been actuated by resentment against IIasdrubal, who had previously betrothed to him his beautiful daughter Sophonisba, but violated his engagement, in order to bestow her hand upon Syphax. (Appian, App. Pun. 10; Zonar. 9.11, p. 436.) The chronology of these events is, however, very uncertain: according to Livy, it was not till some time after this that the betrothal of Sophonisba took place. (Liv. 29.23.) But the defection of Masinissa still remained a secret; meanwhile, he rejoined Mago at Gades for a time, and then crossed over into Africa, where events had taken place which drew all his attention to his paternal dominions.

On the death of his father Gala, which had occurred during the time that he was in Spain, the crown had devolved, according, it is said, to the Nmidian custom, on Oesalces, brother of the late king, and from him descended shortly after to his son Capusa. But the latter being a man of a feeble character, had been overthrown by Mezetulus, who assumed the virtual sovereignty in the name of Lacumaces, the younger brother of Capusa. Against this usurper Masinissa determined to direct his arms, and after having in vain endeavoured to obtain the support of Bocchar, king of Mauritania, he entered the confines of Numidia with a body of only 500 horsemen. But, trifling as this force might appear, he was able to strike a blow in the first instance which had nearly proved decisive-- the young king Lacumaces having narrowly escaped falling into his hands while travelling with a small escort to the court of Syphax. The old soldiers and adherents of his father now flocked to the standard of Masinissa, who soon found himself at the head of a respectable army, with which he was able to meet Mezetulus in the field, and having defeated him in a pitched bathe, compelled both him and the young king to take refuge in the territories of Syphax. From thence they were induced by the friendly promises of Masinissa to return and take up their abode at his court, in an honourable though private station. (Liv. 29.29, 30.) Masinissa now found himself established on his father's throne; but he was aware that a more formidable danger threatened him on the side of Syphax, who, besides the enmity he naturally entertained against his former foe, was urged on by Hasdrubal, who appears to have been conscious that he had offended Masinissa beyond the possibility of forgiveness, and was anxious to crush him before he could receive assistance from Rome. The first attacks of Syphax were completely successful: Masinissa, totally defeated in the first action, fled with a few horsemen to a mountain fastness, from whence he made predatory inroads into the territories both of Syphax and the Carthaginians. Here his followers soon increased both in numbers and boldness, until Syphax, who had at first despised then, found it necessary to send against him one of his generals named Bocchar, whose measures were so efficiently taken that he succeeded in cutting off the whole of Masinissa's force, the king himself escaping from the field with only two followers, and badly wounded. He lay concealed in a cave for some time, but as soon as his wound was partially healed he once more re-appeared among the Massylians, and quickly gathered around his standard an army of 10,000 men. Syphax now took the field against him in person, and again obtained a decisive victory, Masinissa, with a small body of horsemen, with difficulty cutting his way through the enemy's forces. He, however, effected his escape to the sea-coast, and there hovered about, at the head of a mere predatory band, until the landing of Scipio in Africa B. C. 204, when he instantly joined him with such a force as he had been able to collect. (Liv. 29.31-33; Appian, App. Pun. 10-13.)

The services he was now able to render his Roman allies were neither few nor trifling. Almost immediately after he had joined them he defeated the Carthaginian cavalry under Hanno, the son of Hamilcar [HANNO, No. 23], and bore an important part in the night attack which ended in the conflagration of the two camps of Hasdrubal and Syphax. On this occasion, indeed, his intimate acquaintance with the habits of the enemy, and his intelligence of their plans, appear to have been of the most essential service to Scipio. The confidence reposed in the Numidian chief both by that general and Laelius is the strongest testimony to his character as a warrior, as well as to their opinion of his fidelity, a much rarer quality among his countrymen. After the second defeat of the combined forces of Sypnax and Hasdrubal, an event in which Masinissa had again taken a prominent part, he was despatched, together with Laelius, to pursue the fugitives: they recovered without opposition the whole country of the Massylians, and though Syphax with indefatigable energy opposed to them a third army, he was not only again defeated, but himself made prisoner. Following up their advantage, they quickly reduced Cirta, the capital of Syphax, and the stronghold where he had deposited all his treasures. Among the captives that fell into their hands on this occasion was Sophonisba, the wife of the Numidian king, and the same who had been formerly promised in marriage to Masinissa himself. The story of his hasty marriage with her, and its tragical termination, is too well known to require to be here repeated. [SOPHONISBA.] To console him for his loss, as well as to reward him for his obedience, Scipio now bestowed on Masinissa the title and insignia of royalty, and the possession of his hereditary dominions, holding out to hint the prospect of eventually obtaining those of his rival also; and these honours were immediately ratified by the senate at Rome. (Liv. 29.34, 30.3-9, 11-17; Plb. 14.3, 4, 8 9; Appian, App. Pun. 14-22, 26-28; Zonar. 9.12, 13.)

On the commencement of the negotiations for peace between Scipio and the Carthaginians (B. C. 203), Masinissa quitted the Roman camp to establish himself in the possession of his newlyacquired dominions. But the rupture of the treaty, and the landing of Hannibal in Africa, caused Scipio again to summon him in all haste to his assistance. Hannibal it is said made an attempt to detach him from the alliance of the Romans, but without effect, and he joined Scipio, with a force of 6000 foot and 4000 horse, just before the battle of Zama (B. C. 202). In that decisive action he commanded the cavalry of the right wing, and contributed in no small degree to the successful result of the day. After routing the Numidian horse which Hannibal had opposed to him, and pursuing them for a considerable distance, he returned to the field in time to co-operate with Laelius in the decisive charge that finally broke the main body of the Carthaginian infantry. He was now foremost in the pursuit, and pressed so closely with his Numidian horsemen upon the fugitives, that it is said Hannibal himself with difficulty escaped falling into his hands. (Plb. 15.4, 5, 9, 12-15; Liv. 30.29, 33-35 ; Appian, App. Pun. 37, 41, 44-47.) His zealous cooperation on this occasion was rewarded the following year (B. C. 201), on the conclusion of the final peace between Rome and Carthage, when he was not only included in the protection of the treaty as an ally of the former, but obtained from Scipio the possession of Cirta and the greater part of the territories which had belonged to Syphax, in addition to his hereditary dominions. (Plb. 15.18; Liv. 30.44.)

From this time till the commencement of the third Punic war there elapsed an interval of more than fifty years, during the whole of which period Masinissa continued to reign with undisputed authority over the countries thus subjected to his rule. Ample as those dominions were, he appears to have already cast a longing eye upon the fertile provinces still retained by his neighbours the Carthaginians : the certainty of support from the Romans encouraged his covetousness, and the history of this whole period presents nothing but a continued series of aggressions on the part of Masinissa, ineffectual remonstrances on that of the Carthaginians, and embassies repeatedly sent from Rome to adjust their disputes, and nominally to enforce the observance of the treaty and regulations imposed by Scipio; but these deputies had always secret instructions to favour the cause of the Numedian king, and where the injustice of his pretensions were too flagrant, they in several instances quitted Africa without coming to any decision at all. The great object of dispute was the fertile district called Emporia, which Masinissa at length proceeded to occupy with an armed force, but this exceeded the limits of even the Roman indulgence, and he was this time compelled to withdraw his troops. (Liv. 34.62, 40.17, 34, 42.23, 24 ; Appian, App. Pun. 67-69; Plb. 32.2.) But while thus presuming on the favour of his powerful allies, he was careful to secure a continuance of their support by renewed services; and we find him assisting them with an auxiliary force of Numidian horse and elephants, as well as with large supplies of corn in their wars with Philip, Antiochus, and Perseus. In the last of these, especially the Numidian auxiliaries, which were commanded by Misagenes, a son of Masinissa, rendered the most important services. (Liv. 31.11, 19, 32.27, 36.4, 42.29, 35, 45.13, 14; Eutrop. 4.6; Appian, App. Mac. 9.2.)

Meanwhile, Masinissa did not neglect to maintain a party favourable to his views in Carthage itself. But the reviving prosperity and power of that republic appears to have given increased influence to the party opposed to the Romans and their ally, and at length, in B. C. 150, the principal partisans of Masinissa were driven into exile by the democratic faction. Hereupon the Numidian king at once prepared for war; but before taking any open steps he sent an embassy to Carthage, at the head of which were his two sons, Gulussa and Micipsa, to demand the restoration of the exiles. But the adverse party at Carthage, at the head of which was Hasdrubal, the general (boetharch) of the republic, refused to admit the ambassadors within the gates of the city, and even attacked them on their return, and slew some of their followers. Hereupon Masinissa invaded the Carthaginian territory, and laid siege to the city of Oroscapa. Hasdrubal immediately took the field against him with a considerable army, which was soon swelled by the desertion of some of the Numidian chiefs, and by other reinforcements, to the amount of 58,000 men. The first general engagement, though favourable to the Numidians, led to no decisive result; and Scipio Aemilianus, who had accidentally arrived at the camp of Masiniss;, interposed his good offices to bring about a reconciliation between the two parties. These, however, proved of no effect, Masinissa insisting on the surrender of the Numidian deserters, to which the Carthaginians peremptorily refused to accede. Hostilities were consequently renewed, and Masinissa so effectually surrounded the army of Hasdrubal, in a position where he was cut off from all supplies, that after the greater part of his troops had perished by famine and pestilence, he was ompelled to save the rest by an ignominious capitulation. Even this was shamefully violated, and many of the Carthaginians were put to the sword while retreating unarmed and defenceless, so that a very small part of their army returned in safety to Carthage. (Appian, App. Pun. 70-73.)

This blow had effectually humbled the reviving power of Carthage, and the Romans now determined to seize the opportunity of crushing for ever their once formidable rival. The negotiations which ensued, and which ultimately led to the commencement of the third Punic war (B. C. 149), cannott be here related. The part which Masinissa took in them is not distinctly mentioned, but it is clear that he was by no means satisfied that the Romans should take the matter into their own hands; and however much he might wish to see his old enemies the Carthaginians humbled, was far from desiring to see the Romans established in Africa in their stead. Hence when hostilities had actually commenced, and the Romans called on him for assistance, he hesitated, and delayed to send the required auxiliaries. The following year (B. C. 148) the reverses sustained by the Roman armies compelled the senate to send a fresh embassy to Masinissa, with a more urgent demand for reinforcements, but before the ambassadors arrived at Cirta the aged monarch was no more. (Appian, App. Pun. 94, 105.) On his deathbed he had sent for Scipio, at that time serving in Africa as a military tribune, but expired before his arrival, leaving it to the young officer to settle the affairs of his kingdom. He died at the advanced age of ninety, having retained in an extraordinary degree his bodily strength and activity to the last, so that in the war against Hasdrubal, only two years before, he not only commanded his army in person, but was able to go through all his military exercises with the agility and vigour of a young man. (Plb. 37.3; Appian, App. Pun. 71, 106; Liv. Epit. I.; Eutrop. 4.11; V. Max. 8.13, ext. § 1; Cic. de Sen. 10; Frontin. Strat. 4.3.11 ; Lucian. Macrob. 17; Diod. Eac. Phot. p. 523; Plut. Moral. p. 791f) His character in other respects has been extolled by the Roman writers far beyond his true merits. He possessed indeed unconquerable energy and fortitude, with the promptness of decision and fertility of resource exhibited by so many semi-barbarian chiefs; but though his Carthaginian education seems to have given him a degree of polish beyond that of his countrymen in general, his character was still that of a true barbarian. He was faithless to the Carthaginians as soon as fortune began to turn against them; and though he afterwards continued steady to the cause of the Romans, it was because he found it uniformly his interest to do so. His attachment to them was never tried, like that of Hieron, by adversity; and the moment he began to think their farther progress inconsistent with his own schemes his fidelity began to waver. A very just view of his character will be found in Niebuhr (Lect. on Rom. Hist. vol. i. pp. 216, 217, 291-292.)

Masinissa was the father of a very numerous family; some authors even state that he had as many as fifty-four sons, the youngest of whom was born only four years before his death. Many of these, however, were the offspring of concubines, and not considered legitimate according to the Numidian laws. It appears that three only of his legitimate sons survived him, Micipsa, Mastanabal, and Gulussa. Between these three the kingdom, or rather the royal authority, was portioned out by Scipio, according to the dying directions of the old king. (Appian, App. Pun. 105; Zonar. 9.27; Liv. Epit. 1.; Oros. 4.22; Sal. Jug. 5; V. Max. 5.2, ext. 4.) Besides these the names of MASGAIAB and MISAGENES are mentioned in history, and are given under their respective names.


1 * Livy indeed states (24.4.9) that he was at this time only seventeen years old; but this is inconsistent with the statement of Polybius (37.3), which is followed by Livy himself in another passage (Epit. 1.), that Masinissa was ninety years old at the time of his death, B. C. 148. According to this account, he would be at this time aboat twenty-five years of age.

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hide References (69 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (68):
    • Appian, Wars in Spain, 5.25
    • Appian, Wars in Spain, 5.27
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 2.10
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 3.13
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 5.26
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 5.28
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 6.37
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 7.41
    • Appian, Macedonian Affairs, 1.9
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 10.67
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 10.69
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 10.70
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 10.71
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 10.73
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 13.94
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 16.105
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 16.106
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 3.14
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 4.22
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 7.44
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 7.47
    • Polybius, Histories, 11.21
    • Polybius, Histories, 14.4
    • Polybius, Histories, 15.12
    • Polybius, Histories, 15.5
    • Polybius, Histories, 15.9
    • Polybius, Histories, 14.3
    • Polybius, Histories, 14.8
    • Polybius, Histories, 15.15
    • Polybius, Histories, 15.18
    • Polybius, Histories, 15.4
    • Polybius, Histories, 32.2
    • Polybius, Histories, 37.3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 35
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 44
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 23
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 24
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 42, 35
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 34
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 31, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 31, 19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 49
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 23
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 34
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 32, 27
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 34
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 62
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 36, 4
    • Sallust, Bellum Iugurthinum, 5
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 5.2
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 8.13
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Polybius, Histories, 37.3
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