Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor

The Romans Set Fire to the Camp of the Numidians

No sooner did Scipio land in Africa, than he was joined by his ally Masinissa, with about two hundred of his famous Numidian cavalry.

Masinissa had been expelled from his lands by Syphax, and he was glad to throw in his fortune with the Romans. To Scipio he was a valuable ally, for he knew the war tactics and habits both of the Numidians and Carthaginians.

The Carthaginians had gathered a large army to oppose the invaders. It was led by Hasdrubal, the son of Gisco. King Syphax with his Numidian troops had joined Hasdrubal, and the two armies were encamped near Utica, to which town Scipio had laid siege.

The Roman general, pretending that it might be possible to arrange terms of peace, sent ambassadors, during a short truce, to the camp of Syphax. But his true reason for doing so was that they might find out something of the numbers of the enemy and of the position of its camp.

As was therefore to be expected, the negotiations were of no use, and were soon broken off.

The Punic army believed that the attack on Utica would at once be renewed. It did not dream that its camp was in danger.

But Masinissa knew that the camp was guarded carelessly. He also knew that the tents in the camp were huts, built of wood, and covered with branches of trees or with rushes. So he advised Scipio to plan a night attack on the camp, and to set fire to the huts.

One night Scipio resolved to do as Masinissa had suggested. He ordered his men to have supper early. The bugles sounded at the hour usual for the evening meal, that the enemy's attention might not be attracted by any departure from the daily routine. But on this night the bugle was not the signal for supper, but the call to march.

It was cold and dark when, soon after midnight, the whole Roman army drew near to the camp of the Carthaginians, having marched a distance of seven miles.

Masinissa at once ordered every exit to be closely guarded, then he stealthily set fire to the huts on the edge of the camp.

The flames spread rapidly from one wooden hut to another until, before the Carthaginians were aware, their whole camp was in a blaze.

Late as it was, some of the officers were still feasting when the smoke and the noise of crackling wood roused them to a sense of danger.

They rushed out, still carrying in their hands the cups out of which they had been drinking, to see the tents blazing fiercely.

Others sprang out of bed and hastened toward the tents, and although all were startled and dismayed, none of them seemed to think that an enemy had done this thing. They simply imagined that the fire was an accident, caused perhaps by some careless soldier.

The whole camp was now in confusion. Many perished in the flames, while many others were trampled to death in the crowd.

Those who tried to escape were seized by Masinissa and his men and were slain, almost before they realised that they were in the hand of the enemy.

Hasdrubal and Syphax saw that it was hopeless to try to save the camp or the soldiers. Accompanied by a few horsemen, they succeeded in slipping away unnoticed by Masinissa or his soldiers.

Carthage was angry with Hasdrubal when she heard of the loss of her army, and condemned him to death. But he had ridden into the neighbouring districts, and was already enrolling volunteers, for he was determined still to serve his country. In thirty days another army, under the same leaders, was ready to meet the enemy.

Scipio, leaving troops to support the fleet, which was now blockading Utica, at once marched against Hasdrubal and Syphax. On the Great Plains a terrible battle was fought, in which the Romans were victorious. Hasdrubal escaped from the field, and Syphax hastened away to his own kingdom of Numidia.

When Hasdrubal at length ventured to enter Carthage, his enemies tried to take him prisoner. But he hid himself in the mausoleum or tomb of his family. Then, determined never to be taken alive, he took poison and died.

The people, in their rage at being thus cheated of their victim, dragged Hasdrubal's body into the street and placed his head in triumph on the top of a pole.

King Syphax was followed to Numidia by Masinissa and a detachment of Roman soldiers.

The king again faced his enemies, but once more he was defeated, and being captured he was taken to the Roman camp. Masinissa now recovered his own dominions, as well as part of the kingdom that had belonged to Syphax.

From this time the African prince grew more and more powerful. Led by him, the Numidians now fought for the Romans, so that Carthage found herself left alone to fight against two powerful enemies.


Front Matter

The Lady Roma
The She-Wolf
The Twin Boys
Numitor's Grandson
The Sacred Birds
The Founding of Rome
The Sabine Maidens
The Tarpeian Rock
The Mysterious Gate
The King Disappears
The Peace-Loving King
Horatius Slays His Sister
Pride of Tullus Hostilius
King Who Fought and Prayed
The Faithless Friend
A Slave Becomes a King
Cruel Deed of Tullia
Fate of the Town of Gabii
Books of the Sibyl
Industry of Lucretia
Death of Lucretia
Sons of Brutus
Horatius Cocles
Mucius Burns Right Hand
The Divine Twins
The Tribunes
Coriolanus and His Mother
The Roman Army in a Trap
The Hated Decemvirs
The Death of Verginia
The Friend of the People
Camillus Captures Veii
The Statue of the Goddess
Schoolmaster Traitor
Battle of Allia
The Sacred Geese
The City Is Rebuilt
Volscians on Fire
Battle on the Anio
The Curtian Lake
Dream of the Two Consuls
The Caudine Forks
Caudine Forks Avenged
Fabius among the Hills
Battle of Sentinum
Son of Fabius Loses Battle
Pyrrhus King of the Epirots
Elephants at Heraclea
Pyrrthus and Fabricius
Pyrrhus is Defeated
Romans Build a Fleet
Battle of Ecnomus
Roman Legions in Africa
Regulus Taken Prisoner
Romans Conquer the Gauls
The Boy Hannibal
Hannibal Invades Italy
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
Battle of Trebia
Battle of Lake Trasimenus
Hannibal Outwits Fabius
Fabius Wins Two Victories
Battle of Cannae
Despair of Rome
Defeat of Hasdrubal
Claudius Enjoy a Triumph
Capture of New Carthage
Scipio Sails to Africa
Romans Set Fire to Camp
Hannibal Leaves Italy
The Battle of Zama
Scipio Receives a Triumph
Flamininus in Garlands
Death of Hannibal
Hatred of Cato for Carthage
The Stern Decree
Carthaginians Defend City
Destruction of Carthage
Cornelia, Mother of Gracchi
Tiberius and Octavius
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Death of Gaius Gracchus
The Gold of Jugurtha
Marius Wins Notice of Scipio
Marius Becomes Commander
Capture of Treasure Towns
Capture of Jugurtha
Jugurtha Brought to Rome
Marius Conquers Teutones
Marius Mocks the Ambassadors
Metellus Driven from Rome
Sulla Enters Rome
The Flight of Marius
Gaul Dares Not Kill Marius
Marius Returns to Rome
The Orator Aristion
Sulla Besieges Athens
Sulla Fights the Samnites
The Proscriptions of Sulla
The Gladiators' Revolt
The Pirates
Pompey Defeats Mithridates
Cicero Discovers Conspiracy
Death of the Conspirators
Caesar Captured by Pirates
Caesar Gives up Triumph
Caesar Praises Tenth Legion
Caesar Wins a Great Victory
Caesar Invades Britain
Caesar Crosses Rubicon
Caesar and the Pilot
The Flight of Pompey
Cato Dies Rather than Yieldr
Caesar is Loaded with Honours
Nobles Plot against Caesar
The Assassination of Caesar
Brutus Speaks to Citizens
Antony Speaks to Citizens
The Second Triumvirate
Battle of Philippi
Death of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
Battle of Actium
Antony and Cleopatra Die
Emperor Augustus