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Jugurtha - Coin portrait with royal armband

Jugurtha ( Central Atlas Tamazight ⵢⵓⴳⵔⵜⵏ Yugerten * around 160 BC; † 104 BC ) was king of the Numidian Massylians .

Early years

Jugurtha was the nephew and later the adopted son of Micipsa , King of Numidia (a Roman vassal kingdom at the time). In contrast to his half-brothers Adherbal and Hiempsal I, he did not descend from Micipsa's favorite wife and therefore had no legitimate claim to the throne.

Jugurtha was, however, very popular with the Numidians, so that Micipsa felt compelled to send him to Spain, where Jugurtha served in the Roman army (he helped, among other things, in the siege of Numantia at the side of his future opponent Marius ). Jugurtha did not give up his throne ambitions in Numidia, but made contact with several influential Romans and realized that the Romans' weakness was their corruptibility.

Seizure of power

When Micipsa in 118 BC Chr. Died, a heir dispute broke out. During negotiations, Jugurtha had Hiempsal murdered. Adherbal managed to escape. In 116 BC BC Rome agreed to a division of the empire between Jugurtha and Adherbal, although the former had only broken into the line of succession through violence. Actually, Rome was the protecting power of Numidia and should have protected its rightful heir to the throne. But Jugurtha had bought a large part of the Roman nobility . Part of the Senate had been bribed and any decision against Jugurtha was blocked.

Jugurtha was still dissatisfied with what had been achieved. He attacked, conquered in 112 BC. The capital Cirta and had Adherbal executed along with the entire male population of the city. This massacre also killed a number of Roman traders, which ultimately forced the Senate to intervene.

War with Rome

But even the military operations that turned into the Jugurthin War were only conducted half-heartedly, because Jugurtha still had part of the Roman upper class in his hands. In 111 BC BC Consul Lucius Calpurnius Bestia went to Numidia to finally ensure law and order there, but he soon concluded a peace that was very advantageous for Jugurtha, and it is possible that he too was bribed. Thereupon the tribune invited Gaius Memmius Jugurtha to Rome, where he was supposed to give an account in front of a popular assembly about whether he had possibly bought the advantageous conditions. The fact that this hearing should take place not before the Senate, but before a popular assembly, was a clear break with the foreign policy tradition of Rome and also an indicator of the prevailing political tensions of the time. Jugurtha did come to Rome, but the assembly waived a last-minute veto of a tribune's questioning; probably Numidian money had flowed here again. When Jugurtha had a possible rival murdered in Numidia from Rome, the limit was full: Jugurtha had to flee Rome, the war continued. After his return to Numidia, Jugurtha is said to have uttered the sentence that everything and everyone in Rome can be bought.

At the beginning of 109 BC The Romans suffered a severe defeat in Numidia when Aulus Postumius and his army were cornered and forced to surrender. Jugurtha demanded an extremely generous treaty with Rome as a peace condition, in which he was upgraded to a "foedus" (ally), which was supposed to secure his usurped position to the outside world. But the contract, which was made under duress, was not recognized by the Senate. A new commander should finally end the war. Marius was a simple man from the country who, at the latest, had achieved incredible wealth during his campaigns in Iberia. Marius first noticed the capture of Numantia (133 BC), with which Jugurtha had already helped. He was an excellent soldier and soon earned a reputation as a military leader. In 107 BC He was elected consul and charged with suppressing the Jugurtha uprising. Marius first reformed the army , increased the effectiveness of the army through tactical changes and reduced the army crowd to a minimum.


Marius' newly formed army was successful against Jugurtha, was able to defeat him several times and drive him into a corner, so that Jugurtha had to flee to Mauritania. The glory for the final victory in 105 BC BC, however, acquired one of his sub-generals, namely Sulla , who through skillful negotiation achieved the extradition of Jugurtha from his father-in-law Bocchus of Mauritania. Since Sulla earned the fame for ending the Jugurthin War, this led to permanent hostility between Marius and Sulla. The usurper Jugurtha was executed a little later in Rome in the Tullianum . Gauda , a half-brother of Jugurtha, and Bocchus of Mauritania inherited his empire .

Historical meaning

The Jugurtha episode, despite its rather marginal importance in terms of foreign policy, is of major importance for Roman history, since it caused corruption within the Roman nobility at the end of the 2nd century BC. Became clear. Jugurtha's illegal approach in every respect, which was nevertheless at least largely approved by the Senate, is a symptom of the fragility of the republican system, which is partly due to the enormous increase in power in Rome after the end of the Punic and Macedonian Wars and the unrestrained enrichment that went with it numerous representatives of the Roman upper class wavered. In addition, the arrogant supersession of members of the nobility over justice and law promoted the division between the nobility and the simple population, which was expressed in the two opposing ways of making politics in Rome ( optimates and populars ).


Together with the copywriter Jean-Luc Vernal (under the pseudonym Laymille ), the Belgian comic artist Hermann created a comic version of the historical adventures of the Numidian prince for Tintin magazine in the form of a few short stories that later became two standard comic albums were summarized. These stories first appeared in German in the comic magazine ZACK and the comic trade magazine Comixene . Vernal continued the comic series with the draftsman Franz , but abandoned historical reality: Instead of letting his Jugurtha escape and experience adventures that lead him to Mongolia, instead of letting him die in Roman captivity. Carlsen-Verlag broke off its album edition of this series after 12 volumes. In 2017 FINIX started a complete edition.


  • Sallust : Bellum Iugurthinum. = The war with Jugurtha. Latin / German. Study edition. Edited, translated and commented by Josef Lindauer . Artemis & Winkler at Patmos Verlag, Düsseldorf 2003, ISBN 3-7608-1374-7 .


See also

Web links

Commons : Jugurtha  - collection of images, videos and audio files