Juba I of Numidia

Juba I of Numidia

Juba I of Numidia or Juba I (c. 85 BC-46 BC, reigned 60 BC-46 BC), was a King of Numidia. He was the son and successor to King of Numidia Hiempsal II. Juba was the father of King of Numidia and later Mauretania Juba II (50/52 BC-23), father-in-law of Juba II’s wives Greek Ptolemaic princess Cleopatra Selene II (40 BC-6), Cappodocian princess Glaphyra and paternal grandfather to possible Mauretanian princess Cleopatra of Mauretania, King Ptolemy of Mauretania (1 BC-40) and Mauretanian princess Drusilla of Mauretania (born 5).

In 81 BC Hiempsal had been driven from his throne, soon afterwards, Pompey was sent to Africa by Sulla to reinstate Hiempsal as king in Numidia, because of this Hiempsal and later Juba I became Pompey’s ally. This alliance was strengthened during a visit by Juba to Rome where Julius Caesar insulted him by pulling on his beard during accusations Juba made against Caesar, and still further in 50 BC, when the tribune Gaius Scribonius Curio openly proposed that Numidia should be sold privately. In August 49 BC, Caesar sent Curio to take Africa from the Republicans. Overconfident and holding the governor of Africa, Publius Attius Varus (Varus) in low esteem Curio took fewer legions than he had been given. In the Battle of the Bagradas River (49 BC), Curio led his army in a bold, uphill attack which swiftly routed Varus' army and in the process wounded Varus. Encouraged by this success, Curio acted on what proved to be faulty intelligence, and attacked what he believed to be a detachment of Juba's army. In fact, the bulk of the king's forces were there and, after an initial success, Curio's forces were ambushed and virtually annihilated by Saburra (Juba's military commander). Curio was surrounded with the remnants of his troops on a hilltop and died in the fighting. Only a few were able to escape on their ships, and King Juba took several senators captive back to Numidia for display and execution.

With the arrival of Caesar in Africa, Juba originally planned to join Publius Cornelius Scipio Salvito, but his kingdom was invaded by west by Caesar's ally Bocchus II and an Italian adventurer, Publius Sittius. He therefore left only 30 elephants behind and marched home to save his country.

Scipio knew he couldn't fight without more troops, sent a desperate message to Juba for assistance. Juba immediately left the command of his kingdom's defence with Sabura, and joined Scipio with 3 legions (around 15,000 men light infantry), 1,000 cavalry and 30 elephants for the Battle of Thapsus but camped away from Scipio's main lines. Seeing the certain defeat of Scipio's army, Juba did not take part in the battle and fled with his 30,000 men. Having fled with the Roman general Petreius and finding their retreat cut off, they engaged in one on one combat. The idea was that one would meet an honourable death. Juba won the fight, then committed suicide, assisted by a slave.


*Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars - Caesar.
*Appian, B.C. i. 80.
*Vell, Pat. ii. 54.
*Julius Caesar, "Commentarii de Bello Civili"

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