In consequence of this defeat, Jugurtha, feeling less confidence in the state of his affairs than ever, retreated with the deserters, and part of his cavalry, first into the deserts, and afterward to Thala,1
a large and opulent city, where lay the
greater portion of his treasures, and where there was magnificent provision for the education of his children. When Metellus was informed of this, although he knew that there was, between Thala and the nearest river, a dry and desert region fifty miles broad, yet, in the hope of finishing the war if he should gain possession of the town, he resolved to surmount all difficulties, and to conquer even Nature herself. He gave orders that the beasts of burden, therefore, should be lightened of all the baggage excepting ten days' provision; and that they should be laden with skins and other utensils for holding water. He also collected from the fields as many laboring cattle as he could find, and loaded them with vessels of all sorts, but chiefly wooden, taken from the cottages of the Numidians. He directed such of the neighboring people, too, as had submitted to him after the retreat of Jugurtha, to bring him as much water as they could carry, appointing a time and a place for them to be in attendance. He then loaded his beasts from the river, which, as I have intimated, was the nearest water to the town, and, thus provided, set out for Thala.
When he came to the place at which he had desired the Numidians to meet him, and had pitched and fortified his camp, so copious a fall of rain is said to have happened, as would have furnished more than sufficient water for his whole army. Provisions, too, were brought him far beyond his expectations; for the Numidians, like most people after a recent surrender, had done more than was required of them.2
The men, however, from a religious feeling, preferred using the rain-water; the fall of which greatly increased their courage, for they thought themselves the peculiar care of the gods. On the next day, to the surprise of Jugurtha, they arrived at Thala. The inhabitants, who thought themselves secured by the difficulties of the approach to them, were astonished at so strange and unexpected a sight, but, nevertheless, prepared for their defense. Our men showed equal alacrity on their side.