Battle of Cirta

The Battle of Cirta was a battle during the Second Punic War between the forces of the Massyli King Massinissa and the Masaesyli King, Syphax.

Battle of Cirta
Part of the Second Punic War
Date203 BC
Result East Numidian (Massylii) victory
Masaesyli Massylii
Roman Republic
Commanders and leaders
Syphax  (POW) Masinissa
Gaius Laelius
Casualties and losses
5,000 killed
2,500 captured
375 killed

On the orders of Scipio Africanus, two of his ablest commanders, Gaius Laelius and Masinissa, followed Syphax's retreat to the town of Cirta, wherein Syphax garnered fresh forces to meet the two generals in the open. He proceeded to organise them on the Roman model, hoping to copy the continuous success of Scipio on the battlefield; he had a force large enough to take on the Romans, but nearly all of his soldiers were raw and inexperienced. The first encounter was between the two opposing cavalry units, and though the battle was initially hard-fought, when the Roman infantry line reinforced the intervals of their cavalry, the raw troops broke and fled. Syphax, seeing his force crumbling, sought to inspire his men into regrouping by riding forward and exposing himself to danger. In this gallant attempt, he was unhorsed and made prisoner, and failed to rally his troops.

The Roman force pushed on to Cirta, and gained control of the town merely by showing the African leader in chains. Scipio's foothold in Africa was all but assured, and with the Carthaginian general Hannibal soon returning from Italy, the Battle of Zama would soon follow.


  • Livy, Titus (trans. Rev. Canon Roberts). The History of Rome, Volume 4. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Limited, 1905. pp. 11-12