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Masinissa, or Masensen, (Berber: Masensen, ⵎⵙⵏⵙⵏ; c.238 BC – 148 BC[2]:180,183)—also spelled Massinissa and Massena[citation needed]—was the first King of Numidia. During his younger years while not yet king he fought in the Second Punic War (218–201 BC), first against the Romans as an ally of Carthage
Carthage
and later switching sides (206 BC). With Roman support, he united the eastern and western Numidian tribes and founded the Kingdom of Numidia. He is well-known for his role as a Roman ally in the Battle of Zama
Battle of Zama
(202 BC) and as husband of Sophonisba, a Carthaginian noblewoman whom he allowed to poison herself to avoid being paraded in a triumph in Rome.[2]:180–181[citation needed] He ruled Numidia
Numidia
for some 54 years until dying at about the age of 90. He was vigorous, leading troops until his death and fathering some forty-four sons, and a staunch ally of Rome.[2]:181[3] Masinissa's story is told in Livy's Ab Urbe Condita (written c. 27–25 BC). He is also featured in Cicero's Scipio's Dream. His name was found in his tomb of Cirta, modern-day Constantine in Algeria
Algeria
under the form of MSNSN (which has to be read as Mas'n'sen which means "Their Lord").[citation needed] The Greek historian Polybius, who met him, called him "the best man of all the kings of our time". [4] and wrote that "his greatest and most divine achievement was this: Numidia
Numidia
had been before his time universally unproductive, and was looked upon as incapable of producing any cultivated fruits. He was the first and only man who showed that it could produce cultivated fruits just as well as any other country". In the following centuries his territory would become known as the breadbasket of Rome. Masinissa
Masinissa
is largely viewed as an icon and an important forefather among modern Berbers.[citation needed]

Contents

1 Biography

1.1 Early life 1.2 Later life

2 In literature, art and film 3 See also 4 References 5 External links

Biography[edit] Early life[edit] Masinissa
Masinissa
was the son of the chieftain Gaia of a Numidian tribal group, the Massylii. He was brought up in Carthage, an ally of his father.[5] At the start of the Second Punic War, Masinissa
Masinissa
fought for Carthage
Carthage
against Syphax, the king of the Masaesyli of western Numidia (present day Algeria), who had allied himself with the Romans. Masinissa, then about 17 years old, led an army of Numidian troops and Carthaginian auxiliaries against Syphax's army and won a decisive victory (215-212 BC). He was betrothed to the daughter of the Carthaginian general Hasdrubal Gisgo.[2]:180

Massinissa of Numidia

After his victory over Syphax, Masinissa
Masinissa
commanded his skilled Numidian cavalry
Numidian cavalry
against the Romans in Spain, where he was involved in the Carthaginian victories of Castulo and Ilorca in 211 BC. After Hasdrubal Barca
Hasdrubal Barca
departed for Italy, Masinissa
Masinissa
was placed in command of all the Carthaginian cavalry in Spain, where he fought a successful guerrilla campaign against the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio (Scipio Africanus) throughout 208 and 207, while Mago Barca
Mago Barca
and Hasdrubal Gisgo
Hasdrubal Gisgo
levied and trained new forces. In c.206 BC, with fresh reinforcements, Mago and Hasdrubal Gisgo—supported by Masinissa's Numidian cavalry—met Scipio at the Battle of Ilipa, where Carthage's power over Hispania
Hispania
was forever broken in arguably Scipio Africanus's most brilliant victory. When Gaia died in 206 BC, his son Masinissa
Masinissa
and his brother Oezalces quarreled about the inheritance, and Syphax
Syphax
— now an ally of Carthage
Carthage
— was able to conquer considerable parts of the eastern Numidia. Meanwhile, with the Carthaginians having been driven from Hispania, Masinissa
Masinissa
concluded that Rome
Rome
was winning the war against Carthage
Carthage
and therefore decided to defect to Rome. He promised to assist Scipio in the invasion of Carthaginian territory in Africa. This decision was aided by the move by Scipio Africanus
Scipio Africanus
to free Masinissa's nephew, Massiva, whom the Romans had captured when he had disobeyed his uncle and ridden into battle. Having lost the alliance with Masinissa, Hasdrubal started to look for another ally, which he found in Syphax, who married Sophonisba, Hasdrubal's daughter who until the defection had been betrothed to Masinissa. The Romans supported Masinissa's claim to the Numidian throne against Syphax, who was nevertheless successful in driving Masinissa
Masinissa
from power until Scipio invaded Africa
Africa
in 204. Masinissa
Masinissa
joined the Roman forces and participated in the victorious Battle of the Great Plains
Battle of the Great Plains
(203), after which Syphax
Syphax
was captured. At the Battle of Bagbrades
Battle of Bagbrades
(203), Scipio overcame Hasdrubal and Syphax and while the Roman general concentrated on Carthage, Gaius Laelius and Masinissa
Masinissa
followed Syphax
Syphax
to Cirta, where he was captured and handed over to Scipio. After the defeat of Syphax, Masinissa
Masinissa
married Syphax's wife Sophonisba, but Scipio, suspicious of her loyalty, demanded that she be taken to Rome
Rome
and appear in the triumphal parade. To save her from such humiliation, Masinissa
Masinissa
sent her poison, with which she killed herself. Masinissa
Masinissa
was now accepted as a loyal ally of Rome, and was confirmed by Scipio as the king of the Massylii. At the Battle of Zama
Battle of Zama
Masinissa
Masinissa
commanded the cavalry (6,000 Numidian and 3,000 Roman) on Scipio's right wing, Scipio delayed the engagement for long enough to allow for Masinissa
Masinissa
to join him. With the battle hanging in the balance, Masinissa's cavalry, having driven the fleeing Carthaginian horsemen away, returned and immediately fell onto the rear of the Carthaginian lines. This decided the battle and at once Hannibal's army began to collapse. The Second Punic War
Second Punic War
was over and for his services Masinissa
Masinissa
received the kingdom of Syphax, and became king of Numidia. Masinissa
Masinissa
was now king of both the Massylii and the Masaesyli. He showed unconditional loyalty to Rome, and his position in Africa
Africa
was strengthened by a clause in the peace treaty of 201 between Rome
Rome
and Carthage
Carthage
prohibiting the latter from going to war even in self-defense without Roman permission. This enabled Masinissa
Masinissa
to encroach on the remaining Carthaginian territory as long as he judged that Rome
Rome
wished to see Carthage
Carthage
further weakened. Later life[edit]

The tomb of Masinissa
Masinissa
above, and the completely restored Libyco-Punic Mausoleum of Dougga, which may be a cenotaph for him, below.

With Roman backing, Masinissa
Masinissa
established his own kingdom of Numidia, west of Carthage, with Cirta
Cirta
— present day Constantine — as its capital city. All of this happened in accordance with Roman interest, as they wanted to give Carthage
Carthage
more problems with its neighbours. Masinissa’s chief aim was to build a strong and unified state from the semi-nomadic Numidian tribes. To that end, he introduced Carthaginian agricultural techniques and forced many Numidians to settle as peasant farmers. Masinissa
Masinissa
and his sons possessed large estates throughout Numidia, to the extent that Roman authors attributed to him, quite falsely, the sedentarization of the Numidians. Major towns included Capsa, Thugga
Thugga
(modern Dougga), Bulla Regia and Hippo Regius. All through his reign, Masinissa
Masinissa
extended his territory, and he was cooperating with Rome
Rome
when, towards the end of his life, he provoked Carthage
Carthage
to go to war against him. Any hopes he may have had of extending his rule right across North Africa
North Africa
were dashed, however, when a Roman commission headed by the elderly Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder) came to Africa
Africa
about 155 BC to decide a territorial dispute between Masinissa
Masinissa
and Carthage. Animated probably by an irrational fear of a Carthaginian revival, but possibly by suspicion of Masinissa’s ambitions, Cato thenceforward advocated, finally with success, the destruction of Carthage. Based on descriptions from Livy, the Numidians began raiding around seventy towns in the southern and western sections of Carthage's remaining territory. Outraged with their conduct, Carthage
Carthage
went to war against them, in defiance of the Roman treaty forbidding them to make war on anyone, thus precipitating the Third Punic War
Third Punic War
(149–146 BC). Masinissa
Masinissa
showed his displeasure when the Roman army arrived in Africa
Africa
in 149 BC, but he died early in 148 BC without a breach in the alliance. Ancient accounts suggest Masinissa
Masinissa
lived beyond the age of 90 and was apparently still personally leading the armies of his kingdom when he died. After his death, Micispa succeeded to the throne, Micipsa had two sons Hiempsal I and Adherbal who took the power for a short period before being overthrown by their cousin Jughurta. Some of his descendants were the elder Juba I of Numidia
Numidia
(85 BC–46 BC) and younger Juba II (52 BC–AD 24). In literature, art and film[edit]

Africa
Africa
(late 1330s), an epic poem by Petrarch Sophonisbe
Sophonisbe
(1680), a German mourning play by Daniel Casper von Lohenstein Cabiria
Cabiria
(1914), classic Italian silent film directed by Giovanni Pastrone. Masinissa
Masinissa
is portrayed by Vitale Di Stefano. Pride of Carthage
Carthage
(2005), a novel by David Anthony Durham

Scipio at the deathbed of Masinissa

Central wall depicting Sophonisba
Sophonisba
requesting help from Massinissa

See also[edit]

List of Kings of Numidia

References[edit]

^ "Tombeau de Massinissa" (in Arabic (French summary)). AlgeriePresseService. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2017. CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link) ^ a b c d Law, R.C.C. (1979), " North Africa
North Africa
in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, 323 BC to AD 305", in Fage, J.D., Cambridge History of Africa, 2, Cambridge University Press, pp. 148–209, doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521215923.005  ^ Walsh, P.G. (1965). "Massinissa". The Journal of Roman Studies. 55: 149–160. doi:10.2307/297437. JSTOR 297437.  ^ Cite error: The named reference Polybius: Histories Book 37 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Smith, William, ed. (1873). "Masinissa". A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. London: Spottiswoode and Co. – via Perseus Digital Library. 

Livy
Livy
(trans. Aubrey de Sélincourt) (1965). The War With Hannibal. New York: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0-14-044145-X

External links[edit]

Massinissa Livius.org: Massinissa

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 31603815 LCCN: no97054670 ISNI: 0000 0000 7729 4650 GND: 118782452 BNF: cb1351

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