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Σύφαξ), a Numidian prince, frequently called king of Numidia, but properly, or at least originally, only king of the Massaesylians, the westernmost tribe of the Numidians. (Poly b. 16.23; Liv. 28.17.) The period of his accession is unknown, nor do we learn anything of the relations in which he had stood towards the Carthaginians previous to the year B. C. 213, when we find him engaged in hostilities with that people. This circumstance, together with the successes of the Roman arms in Spain at that juncture, induced the two Scipios to enter into friendly relations with him; they accordingly sent three officers as envoys to him, with promises of assistance from Rome if he persevered in his hostility to their common enemy; and one of these legates, Q. Statorius, even remained in Numidia to instruct him in the art of war. Under his direction Syphax levied a regular army, with which he was able to meet the Carthaginians in the field, and defeat them in a pitched battle. Hereupon they recalled Hasdrubal from Spain to take the command against him, at the same time that they concluded an alliance with Gala, king of the Massylians, who sent his whole forces, under the command of his son Masinissa, to the support of the Carthaginians. Syphax was unable to contend with their united strength; he was totally defeated in a great battle (in which 30,000 men are said to have fallen), and compelled to take refuge in Mauritania. Here he soon gathered a fresh force around him, but was pursued and again defeated by Masinissa. (Liv. 24.48, 49; Appian. Hisp. 15, 16.) Of his subsequent fortunes we know nothing for some time; but he appears to have concluded a treaty of peace with Carthage, by which he apparently regained possession of his dominions. In B. C. 210, we find him renewing his overtures to the Romans, and recounting his successes over the Carthaginians (Liv. 27.4), with whom he appears to have been at that time again at war; but in B. C. 206 he was once more on peaceful, and even friendly terms with the same people. At that time, however, the successes of the young Scipio in Spain led him to cast his eyes towards Africa also, and he sent his friend Laelius on an embassy to Syphax, in the hope of detaching him from the Carthaginian alliance. The Numidian king lent a favourable ear to his overtures, but refused to treat with any one but the Roman general in person. Hereupon Scipio boldly ventured over to Africa, where he was received by Syphax in the most friendly manner, although he accidentally arrived at the same time with the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal, the son of Gisco. The personal influence of Scipio for a time obtained the ascendancy, and Syphax was induced to enter into friendly relations with Rome, though it is doubtful whether (as asserted by Livy) he concluded any definite treaty; at least, he appears to have been shortly after gained over by Hasdrubal to the opposite cause. To this result the charms of Sophonisba, the beautiful daughter of Hasdrnbal, whom he offered in marriage to the Numidian king, are said to have powerfully contributed; Syphax accepted the proffered alliance, and became from this time a staunch friend to the Carthaginians. (Liv. 28.17, 11, 29.23; Plb. 14.1, 7; Appian. Hisp. 29, 30, Pun. 10; Zonar. 9.10, 11.)

Meanwhile another opening had presented itself to his ambition. After the death of Gala, the Massylian kingdom had been a prey to civil dissensions, in which, however, Syphax at first took little part; and though he lent some assistance to Lacumaces and his pupil Mezetulus, he did not succeed in preventing his old enemy Masinissa from establishing himself on his father's throne. [MASINISSA.] He was even disposed, we are told, to acquiesce altogether in the elevation of his rival, had not the representations of Hasdrubal warned him of the danger of such a course. But lie yielded to the suggestions of the Carthaginian general, and assembled a large army, with which he invaded the territories of Masinissa, defeated him in a pitched battle, and made himself master of his whole kingdom. The Massylian king was thenceforth compelled to restrict himself to a predatory warfare, in the course of which he obtained various advantages, and at one time compelled Syphax himself (in conjunction. with his son VERMINA) once more to take the field against him. Though again defeated, he was still able to maintain himself at the head of a small force until the landing of Scipio in Africa, B. C. 204. (Liv. 29.29-33; Appian. Pun. 10-12.

On that event Syphax, who had already sent an embassy to Scipio in Sicily to warn him against taking such a step, did not hesitate to support the Carthaginians, and joined Hasdrubal with an army of 50,000 foot and 10.000 horse. But his desire was not so much for the decided victory of either of the two parties, as to become the means of mediating a peace between them, which lie hoped to effect on condition of the Romans withdrawing their troops from Africa, in return for the evacuation of Italy by Hannibal. He in consequence took advantage of the long protracted operations of the siege of Utica, during which his own army and that of Hasdrubal were encamped in the immediate neighbourhood of Scipio, to open negotiations with the Roman general. These were protracted throughout great part of the winter; but Scipio, while he pretended to lend a willing ear to the overtures of the Numidian king, secretly entertained wholly different designs, and early in the spring of B. C. 203, having abruptly broken off the treaty, he suddenly attacked the camp of Syphax in the night. and set fire to the straw huts under which his soldiers were sheltered. The Numidians were taken completely by surprise, and their whole army perished in the conttagration, or was put to the sword in the confusion that ensued. The Carthaginian camp shared the same fate. (Plb. 14.1-5; Liv. 30.3-7 Appian. Pun. 13, 14, 17-22 Zonar. 9.12.) Syphax himself with a few fugitives, made his escape to Numidia, where he began to collect trops; but disheartened at this great disaster, he was unwilling again to take the field, and was with difficulty induced, by the united entreaties of Hasdrubal and Sophonisba, to try his fortune once more. Having at length assembled a fresh army, he again joined his forces with those of Hasdrubal, but they were once more totally defeated by Scipio, and Syphax fled for refuge to his hereditary dominions among the Massaesylians. leaving Laelius and Masinissa to recover, without opposition, the kingdom of the latter. But while his enemies were thus employed, he contrived to assemble for the third time a large army with which he met the invaders on their advance to Cirta. An obstinate contest ensued, but the army of Syphax was at length totally routed, and the king himself fell into the hands of the Romans, who immediately sent him as a prisoner to Scipio. Meanwhile his capital city of Cirta was occupied by Masinissa. (Plb. 14.0-9; Liv. 30.7-9, 11, 12; Appian. Pun. 26, 27 ; Zonar. 9.13.)

Scipio treated his royal prisoner with distinction, for the purpose of enhancing his own victory, but immediately sent him (together with one of his sons who had been taken prisoner at the same time), under the charge of Laelius, to Rome. Here he was ordered by the senate to be imprisoned at Alba, for safe custody, where he remained until the return of Scipio, after the close of the war. Polybius states expressly that he was one of the captives who adorned the triumph of the conqueror upon that occasion, and that he died in confinement shortly after. Livy, on the contrary, asserts that he was saved from that ignominy by a timely death at Tibur, whither he had been transferred from Alba. (Plb. 16.23; Liv. 30.13, 16, 17, 45; App. Pun. 27, 28.) The statement or Polybius, as well as the fact that his death occurred at Tibur, are confirmed by an inscription preserved in the Vatican, the authenticity of which is, however, very doubtful. (See Niebuhr's Lect. on Rom. List. vol. i. p. 213, ed. Schmitz; Burton's Description of Rome, vol. ii. p. 312.)

If we may trust the same authority he was 48 years old at the time of his death.


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hide References (22 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (22):
    • Polybius, Histories, 14.1
    • Polybius, Histories, 14.9
    • Polybius, Histories, 14.5
    • Polybius, Histories, 14.7
    • Polybius, Histories, 16.23
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 45
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 49
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 48
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 23
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 7
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