The Roman commander, finding himself thus harassed by artifices, and allowed no opportunity of coming to a general engagement, resolved on laying siege to a large city, named Zama, which was the bulwark of that part of the kingdom in which it was situate; expecting that Jugurtha, as a necessary consequence, would come to the relief of his subjects in distress, and that a battle would then follow. But the king, being apprised by some deserters of the consul's design, reached the place, by rapid marches, before him, and exhorted the inhabitants to defend their walls, giving them, as a reinforcement, a body of deserters; a class of men, who, of all the royal forces, were the most to be trusted, inasmuch as they dared not be guilty of treachery.1
He also promised to support them, whenever it should be necessary, with his whole army.
Having taken these precautions, he retired into the deserts of the interior; where he soon after learned that Marius, with a few cohorts, had been dispatched from the line of march to bring provisions from Sicca,2
a town which had been the first to revolt from him after his defeat. To this place he hastened by night, accompanied by a select body of cavalry, and attacked the Romans at the gate, just as they were leaving the city; calling to the inhabitants, at the same time, with a loud voice, to surround the cohorts in the rear; adding, that Fortune had given them an opportunity for a glorious exploit; and that, if they took advantage of it, he would henceforth enjoy his kingdom, and they their liberty, without fear. And had not Marius hastened to advance the standards, and to escape from the town, it is certain that all, or the greater part of the inhabitants, would have changed their allegiance; so great is the fickleness which the Numidians exhibit in their conduct. The soldiers of Jugurtha, animated for a time by their king, but finding the enemy pressing them with superior force, betook themselves, after losing a few of their number, to flight.