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Cirta, Numidia (Micipsa Reign)


[B]Cirta, Numidia (Micipsa Reign; 148-118 BC.) AE 28[/B] [u]Obv[/u]: Laureate and bearded head of Micipsa, facing left. [u]Rev[/u]: Horse galloping left; Punic MN initials below. [u]Attribution[/u]: Sear 6597; cf. SNG Cop. 510, Mazard 23, Muller 25. [u]Provenance[/u]: ex. M&M Numismatics, Ltd., 12.14.05. [u]Weight[/u]: 13.18 gm. [u]Maximal Diameter[/u]: 28.36 mm [u]Axis[/u]: 12 [u]Note[/u]: Eldest legitimate son of Masinissa, king of Numidia. Said to have been 'a lover of peace' (Appian Pun. 106) and a student of Greek philosophy. In 151 BC he was sent by Masinissa to Carthage (together with his younger brother Gulussa) as an emissary to demand the return of exiled pro-Numidian politicians, but was turned away at the city gates; an attack on Gulussa's convoy as they departed sparked a retaliatory action that, in turn, led to the Carthaginian-Numidian War of 150 BC. Succeeded to the throne on his father's death in the spring of 148 BC and was given the Numidian capital of Cirta (along with the royal palace and treasury there) by the Roman aristocrat Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, to whom Masinissa had given the authority to administer his estate. Micipsa wavered somewhat in his support for Rome during the Third Punic War, 'always promising arms and money . . . but always delaying and waiting to see what would happen' (Appian Pun. 111). This encouraged the Carthaginians to send an envoy to him with a plea for aid, supported by the claim that even Numidia was in danger of Roman subjugation; in the end he remained a loyal ally of Rome. The deaths from disease of both his younger brothers and co-rulers, Gulussa and Mastanabal, sometime after the fall of Carthage soon left him sole ruler of Numidia. Micipsa had two sons of his own named Adherbal and Hiempsal. (There may have been another son, also named Micipsa, though he is only mentioned by Diodorus Siculus; if he existed the prince may have died as an infant or child.) They were brought up in the royal palace together with their elder cousin Jugurtha, son of Mastanabal. Jugurtha grew up to become a fine athlete and an excellent hunter, well-loved by the people of Numidia; this was at first a source of gratification for the ageing Micipsa but later one of concern, since he began to consider the possibility that his popular nephew might seek to supplant him and his legitimate sons. In 142 BC the Roman commander Quintus Fabius Maximus Servilianus wrote to Micipsa asking for a division of war elephants to help in Rome's struggle against the Lusitanian rebel Viriatus. A few years later the king again sent aid to the Romans, this time in their fight versus the Spanish rebellion at Numantia; Jugurtha was sent to command all Numidian footsoldiers and cavalry during the expedition. His courage and intellect won him the friendship of the Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, conqueror of Carthage and hereditary patron of Numidia's royal family. After the fall of Numantia Jugurtha returned home with a letter from Scipio addressed to his uncle; in it, the commander praised Jugurtha's exploits and congratulated Micipsa for having 'a kinsman worthy of yourself, and of his grandfather Masinissa' (Sallust Iug. 9). On this recommendation the king formally adopted Jugurtha and made him co-heir with his own children. In 118 BC, having reached an advanced age and feeling his death approach, Micipsa summoned the three princes to his bedside and urged them to maintain brotherly relations with one another for the good of the kingdom. He died a few days later. Numidia was soon torn apart by his sons' rivalry, with Jugurtha ordering Hiempsal's assassination and, in 112 BC, invading the capital city of Cirta and killing Adherbal against Roman wishes. The ensuing war with Rome led to Jugurtha's own defeat and execution in 104 BC. Under Micipsa's rule the amount of cultivated land in Numidia was increased. Although a terrible pestilence in 125 BC was said to have killed 800,000 of his subjects, Numidia's continued prosperity allowed the king to endow his capital with many new improvements and public buildings. He invited learned Greeks to his court and allowed Greek colonists to settle in Cirta. Bronze, copper, and lead coins bearing the letters 'MN' are attributed to Micipsa (and his father Masinissa), as is a Neo-Punic inscription on a statue base found at the Phoenician coastal town of Iol (Cherchel) that reads 'Micipsa, king of the Massylii". Source: Appian Punica 70,106, 111 and Hisp. 67; Sallust, Bellum Iugurthinum; Livy Periochae 50. See also the entry for Micipsa in William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company; 1867), as well as the entry for Jugurtha in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, edited by Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). For archaeological evidence see P. G. Walsh, 'Massinissa', The Journal of Roman Studies vol. 55 no. 1/2, pp. 149-160 (1965). GK212

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