Jugurtha, King of Numidia
You remember Masinissa, King of Numidia, who had such fine cavalry, and helped the Romans fight the Carthaginians, do you not? Well, by this time, Masinissa and his sons were dead, and his kingdom was divided among his three grandsons, Jugurtha, Hiempsal, and Adherbal.
The first of these three kings, Jugurtha, was bold and cruel, and was noted for being one of the best riders in the whole country. He was not satisfied to have only a share of Numidia, and began to plan how he could get hold of his cousins' lands.
He began by murdering Hiempsal, and then proceeded to besiege Adherbal in his capital. In his distress, the besieged king sent a messenger to the Romans, imploring them to come and help him. But when Jugurtha heard that his cousin had asked for aid, he, too, sent a messenger to the senate.
Now the Roman nobles were so greedy for gold that they would do anything, however mean, to obtain it. Jugurtha knew this, so he bade his messenger make rich presents to all he met. The man obeyed. The Roman senators accepted the bribes, and then cruelly refused to help Adherbal, who soon fell into Jugurtha's hands.
Instead of merely depriving his cousin of his kingdom, Jugurtha put him in prison, and tortured him in the most awful and inhuman way until he died. The Romans had been base enough to accept bribes; but they were nevertheless very indignant when they heard how cruel Jugurtha had been, and called him to Rome to defend himself for the murder of his cousin.
Jugurtha came, pretended to be very sorry for what he had done, put on mourning, and secretly gave so many presents that none of the senators would condemn him. But, even while he was thus making believe to repent, he was planning a new crime.
Before he left Rome, he sent an assassin to kill the last relative he had left. Then, as he passed out of the Eternal City,—as the Romans boastfully call their town,—he is said to have scornfully cried: "Venal city, thou wouldst sell thyself to any one rich enough to buy thee!"
When Jugurtha reached home, all his pretended sorrow and repentance vanished. He felt such contempt for the Romans, who had accepted his presents, that he no longer thought it necessary to keep friends with them, and soon openly declared war against them.
The war between Jugurtha and the Romans was fought in Africa, and lasted several years. Indeed, the Romans endured several defeats before a young general called Marius finally conquered Jugurtha, and gained possession of the last Numidian fortress.
This stronghold was situated on a rock so high and so steep that it seemed impossible to climb it. But a young Roman soldier discovered that there were many snail holes and cracks in the rock, in which he could stick his bare toes. Taking advantage of this, he led a party up into the fortress, and became master of it while the garrison slept.
Soon after this, Jugurtha himself was made captive, and taken to Rome, where he was forced to march before the victor's chariot in the triumph. This ceremony over, he was thrust naked into a damp prison, where he died at the end of six days, without any one having offered to give him a bit of bread or a drink of water. He had pitied no one, so no one pitied him.