When this letter was read, there were some who thought that an army should be dispatched into Africa, and relief afforded to Adherbal, as soon as possible; and that the senate, in the mean time, should give judgment on the conduct of Jugurtha, in not having obeyed the embassadors. But by the partisans of Jugurtha, the same that had before supported his cause, effectual exertions were made to prevent any decree from being passed; and thus the public interest, as is too frequently the case, was defeated by private influence.
An embassy was, however, dispatched into Africa, consisting of men of advanced years, and of noble birth, and who had filled the highest offices of the state; among whom was Marcus Scaurus, already mentioned, a man who had held the consulship, and who was at that time chief of the senate.1
These embassadors, as their business was an affair of public odium, and as they were urged by the entreaties of the Numidians, embarked in three days; and having soon arrived at Utica, sent a letter from thence to Jugurtha, desiring him " to come to the province as quickly as possible, as they were deputed by the senate to meet him."
Jugurtha, when he found that men of eminence, whose influence at Rome he knew to be powerful, were come to put a stop to his proceedings, was at first perplexed, and distracted between fear and cupidity. He dreaded the displeasure of the senate, if he should disobey the embassadors; while his eager spirit, blinded by the lust of power, hurried him on to complete the injustice which he had begun. At length the evil incitements of ambition prevailed.2
He accordingly drew his army round the city of Cirta, and endeavored, with his utmost efforts, to force an entrance; having the strongest hopes, that, by dividing the attention of the enemy's troops, he should be able, by force or artifice, to secure an opportunity of success. When his attempts, however, were unavailing, and he found himself unable, as he had designed, to get Adherbal into his power before he met the embassadors, fearing that, by further delay, he might irritate Scaurus, of whom he stood in great dread, he proceeded with a small body of cavalry into the Province. Yet, though serious menaces were repeated to him in the name of the senate, because he had not desisted from the siege, nevertheless, after spending a long time in conference, the embassadors departed without making any impression upon him.