238–148 BC

Masinissa was a king of Numidia, an area of North Africa which surrounded Carthage. Although a barbarian chief, he was educated at Carthage, and spoke both Latin and Greek. His long and active lifetime spanned both the Second and Third Punic Wars. Although he was an ally of Carthage for most of the Second Punic War, he changed sides and became an ally of Rome in 206 B.C. His support was critical for Rome's final victory at Zama, and his continuing friendship with Rome kept Carthage in check between the Second and Third Punic Wars. It was Masinissa who drew Carthage into the battles leading to Rome's declaration of the Third Punic War, which resulted in the complete destruction of Carthage. Masinissa reigned for over sixty years in Numidia and during this time converted his land of tribal barbarians into a civilized, prosperous and well-organized kingdom. Although he left his kingdom to his three sons, it was eventually taken over by his nephew Jugurtha, who became one of Rome's worst enemies.

There is a romantic story involving Masinissa with woman named Sophonisba, who was the daughter of Hasdrubal, and the niece of Hannibal. After a series of wars and intrigues with his arch rival Spyphax, Masinissa was finally able to marry Sophonisba, but when he switched alliances in 206 B.C., the Romans insisted that he repudiate her because she was a noble Carthaginian. Instead of divorcing her, he passed her poison so she might kill herself rather than undergo this humiliation. Masinissa befriended both Scipio Africanus, and Scipio Aemilius Africanus during his long reign, and was considered a valuable and dependable ally of Rome.

Key events during the life of masinissa:

212 BC
Forces arch rival Syphax to flee to West Africa.
211 BC
Fought for Carthage in Spain.
208 BC
Becomes king of East Numidia upon the death of his father.
206 BC
Switched alliances to Rome during the Second Punic War, gained Syphax's kingdom in West Numidia.
204 BC
Forced to repudiate his wife Sophonisba; sends her poison so she could end her own life.
202 BC
Fought alongside Scipio Africanus at Zama
  Aided Rome in Second and Third Punic Wars
  Unified Numidia into a prosperous and civilized ally of Rome.
149 BC
Goaded Carthage into a confrontation with Numidia, which resulted in the Third Punic War.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Last of a Veteran in  Lords of the World  by  Alfred J. Church
Inventor Archimedes  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Romans Set Fire to the Camp of the Numidians  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Hatred of Cato for Carthage  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Fate of Carthage  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris

Image Links

Masinissa Counselling Sophonisba to Die
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Short Biography
Scipio Africanus Roman hero of second Punic War. Led armies in Spain and Africa. Defeated Hannibal at Zama.
Scipio the Younger Led the siege of Carthage during the third Punic War.
Hasdrubal Barca Fought against Scipios in Spain; killed after he crossed the Alps to aid Hannibal.
Sophonisba Masinissa's wife, daughter of Hasdrubal, who killed herself, when Rome insisted he divorce her.