Publius Sittius: Roman Knight and Mercenary of African Descent
I got a chance to visit the Free Library at 19th & Vine today. I love that place. I always read the Daily News and the New York Times. I then go to the magazine section and read National Geographic, Time and History Today. I was intrigued by an article that mentioned an African soldier that helped to save Julius Caesar from certain defeat in North Africa. It was an article full of references that will make me want to explore this subject further.
Publius Sittius was a Roman knight and mercenary who was originally from Nuceria in Campania. Julius Caesar went to Africa after Pompey was assasinated by two of his own soldiers. Caesar' forces were not faring very well and he took some major losses. Publius Sittius then assisted Julius Caesar by taking on King Juba of Numidia. A short history of Numidia follows, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Numidia, under the Roman Republic and Empire, a part of Africa north of the Sahara, the boundaries of which at times corresponded roughly with those of modern Algeria. Its earliest inhabitants were divided into tribes and clans and were physically indistinguishable from the other Berber inhabitants of early North Africa. From the 6th century bc points along the coast were occupied by the Carthaginians, who by the 3rd century bc had expanded into the interior as far as Theveste (Tébessa). Numidians were frequently found in the Carthaginian armies by that time.
In 48 BC, Rome was in the midst of a civil war. It started in 49 BC and ended in 45 BC. It began as a series of political and military confrontations between Julius Caesar and his political supporters against the Optimates. These groups were supported by Pompey and his legions. I learned that Julius Caesar was a very able military leader who commanded multiple legions. Pompey, after being defeated at the Battle of Pharsalus, escaped to Egypt, where he was assassinated.
When Caesar arrived in Africa in late 47 BC. BC will fight for the last supporters of Pompey commanded by Metellus Scipio , Sittius is the head of a band and a fleet he decided to serve Caesar, although the two men did not know 6 . And tidy the party of Caesar billeted his troops Ruspina and is in bad shape, Sittius, joined by the king of Mauretania , Bocchus II , invaded from the west the kingdom of Numidia King Juba I first party strengthen Metellus Scipio with a large body. Sittius seizes the capital Cirtathen ravaging the countryside and desolate cities 7 . Juba I first turned back to defend his kingdom sending Scipio 30 elephants, which prevents Caesar, whose troops are not many, to be overwhelmed by an army with much higher forces.
There is no source on the opposition between Juba and Sittius but after a few months, Juba joined Metellus Scipio, leaving it to his lieutenant Saburra fight Sittius and Bochus. These undo Saburra together Caesar crushes the Pompeian party battle of Thapsusafter which Juba is killed so that the annexation of his kingdom to Rome. With a small troupe, Sittius capture ambush generalAphranius and Faustus who tried to flee to Hispania by the Mauretania at the head of 1,500 horsemen, and the book Caesar 8 . It is also the fleet P. Sittius, moored Hippo , which sends the bottom of the vessel and other Scipio defeated also seeking to join Hispania.
I was impressed by the trade relationships that Rome developed in North Africa after the rise of Carthage as an independent nation. A Wikipedia excerpt follows:
North Africa has become one of the most prosperous regions within the Roman Empire, with many flourishing cities. Carthage is one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the Roman world. By this date many Roman senators are from North African backgrounds, and the current emperor, Septimius Severus, is himself an African. Much of Rome’s grain comes from the region, which also produces olive oil and fish, as well as wild animals for the circus.
I gained a lot of respect for the military exploits of Julius Caesar while researching Publius Sittius. He was operating in Africa during tense times for the Roman Republic and his command of troops and willingness to utilize military tactics to achieve his goals were commendable. I also respected Julius Caesar for honoring Publius Sittius and his soldiers with land and riches. His victory in Africa led to the suicide of Juba I and put in motion his eventual assassination.