The people of modern-day Algeria have always had been fierce warriors.
Two thousand and twenty five years ago, in 213 B.C., the land was Numidia, famed for its cavalry. Numidia was divided at this point between the Masaesyli tribe, who ruled Western Numidia, and the Massyllii tribe, who ruled Eastern Numidia.
King Syphax ruled Western Numidia, and following the death of his rival King Gala of East Numidia, Syphax made huge gains. He was consolidating, and set to become ruler of all Numidia.
Meanwhile, King Gala was succeeded by his son Massinissa, who became ruler of the now-weak East Numidians.
Numidia at the time was in friendly neutrality with Carthage, the nearby power, but entertained Roman offers for peace and diplomacy as well.
Iberia (modern day Spain) was under full Carthaginian control, until a young Republican-minded general, Publius Cornelius Scipio, systematically dismantled the much-superior Carthaginian forces there, starting with Scipio's brilliant assault on the seemingly impenetrable New Carthage. Scipio realized that, while New Carthage had three Carthaginian full armies within two weeks' march, he identified he could evade them and take New Carthage before they arrived. And, he did.
This greatly threatened Carthaginian naval supremacy, which had always been their hallmark, and cut off their major source of infantry recruiting in Europe. They had lost their key port, their key foothold, a key supply-chain and information center, and had been dealt a huge morale and symbolic blow.
At the time, young Massinissa was allied with Carthage, and King Syphax was leaning towards Rome. He invited Scipio to come to his capital along with Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother. He entertained both.
Scipio won him over, and Syphax knew - he could tell - that the young Scipio was destined for legendary things. With Rome and Numidia in alliance, Carthage would fall.
The treaties were sealed, the agreement was made, and Syphax and Scipio became allies...
...or did they?
The young Massinissa was, at the time, betrothed to a legendarily beautiful Carthaginian princess, Sophonisba. Being a strong ally of Carthage and a menace to the Romans, Massinissa was a logical choice to marry and solidify the relationship with the leaders of Carthage.
However, as the winds started to turn, the Carthaginians started to desert their Iberian allies. Scipio showed tremendous courtesy in returning Massinissa's nephew Massiva to him after capturing him in battle.
Massinissa declared for Rome, putting Numidia fully under Roman alliance. The Carthaginians needed to do something about it...
And what would the legendarily beautiful princess do? Would she stand with her husband, or her tribe?
And the answer came. She deserted Massinissa at the prodding of her father, who offered Sophonisba to Syphax to break his treaty and word to Rome and Scipio.
Both Syphax and Massinissa had known which way the wind was blowing... Massinissa chose the good of the Numidian people, and common sense, and lost one of the most beautiful woman in Northern Africa as his part of the bargain. She deserted him for Syphax.
Syphax broke his word, broke his treay, and betrayed Scipio.
Now, the fight was on. Eastern Numidia was caught between Carthage and Western Numidia, and Massinissa had to take to flight. He gathered his best cavalry and fought his way to a rendezvous with Scipio after he brought his full forces to Africa.
Scipio and Massinissa's united command was badly outnumbered, and pinned down near Utica by Syphax and Hasdrubal. Then, in a brilliant nighttime raid, Scipio and Massinissa set fire to both of the core enemy camps, destroying or capturing 40,000 combined West Numidian and Carthaginian forces in one night with minimal losses.
Trying to simultaneously escape and stop his troops from deserting, Syphax fought a defensive retreating action, but was caught by the Romans and led back to his capital in chains, with Massinissa in front of the procession.
Numidia was unified, and Massinissa was crowned king.
But what of Sophonisba? She led her husband, whose original instincts were correct, into a ruinous alliance that lost him everything. Tens of thousands of his tribe were killed, he lost all his wealth and prestige, and became a prisoner and spectacle for the rest of his life. His rival now ruled from Syphax's capital.
What did Sophonisba do? Did she appreciate the mighty sacrifice?
No, she did not!
Upon Massinissa triumphantly entering the city and palace, Sophonisba fell at his feet, crying and begging him to take her back.
Again, her beauty and sway over men was legendary. Massinissa immediately took Syphax's wife to bed, and they pledged their love to each other. Sophonisba, who had deserted Massinissa for Syphax (which then ruined Syphax and his tribe), now re-joined the man she had betrayed, deserted, and had stormed out of his kingdom.
Scipio heard of this, and immediately demanded Sophonisba to be put in chains and brought to Rome as a prisoner. Massinissa, stuck between infatuation for the woman and the weight of strength, friendship, and virtue with Scipio, took a tough decision.
Sophonisba, full of pride, took poison and died rather than be taken as prisoner. She did not do so upon deserting her first fiance, she did not so upon bringing ruin to her first husband, but only did so now for her own vanity and pride.
Massinissa became King Massinissa, and the joint Numidian/Roman command under Massinissa and Scipio defeated Hannibal himself at the Battle of Zama a few months later, ending Carthaginian hegemony in Africa. Numidia stayed a regional power for centuries, Carthage was completely eliminated 100 years later, and people still write in tragic words of the young beautiful princess who brought ruin to everything she touched.
Hmm. I have to be somewhat autobiographical to tell this story, but I used to work on oilrigs. It is, as you can imagine, a hard place for a woman to work.
I recognized fairly early on that a capable woman was incredibly threatening, and not necessarily on a conscious level. By which I mean even guys who weren't trying to run me off were visibly irritated and sometimes even uncomfortable when I demonstrably knew more, knew better, and didn't need any help.
So by a dozen small triggers and subconscious tweaks, I stopped making them feel threatened by reminding them in every way I could of a daughter or a kid sister. That way, when I 'needed help' it made them feel good. And when I did things on my own, they felt like they had helped me somehow, by smoothing my way, and they became very protective, almost like bodyguards.
I spent three years at it, and although it was a sample of one, it was fascinating gender studies research, and I still don't claim to understand it fully. Only enough to say that equality does not come naturally to us, and we're often governed by drives we don't even realize are there. Extrapolating to evo-psych.
"I do guess that Syphax made the huge mistake since at that time women had lesser “agency” than today"
Thank you, I agree.
I do see your argument. Trust me, I've seen my 'irrational power' over men, even used it to my advantage fairly regularly. It's balanced on the whole by the misogyny I've experienced, so I call it a draw. You play the hand you're dealt.
What boggles my mind is, every time I turn on the charm and get my way, *I* know I'm manipulating the guy, and the guy knows he's being manipulated, but he's *still* happy to do it. It's his conscious awareness of the whole game, and yet it still works. Where's the logic?
Sociology-wise, it makes sense since "It is the case of everyone and everything to be determined by their environment[...]" (Ian K, 2012) and in the typical "north-american" society a man provides whatever to the woman. He brings home the bacon. When he doesn't, he loses his identity and meaning to his life (relatively). That's for most people.
Very clever way of fitting in. You remind me of strong girls that I've met. Strong, so they lead and yet they try to be feminine somehow. Perhaps by subconsciously ignoring that they can lead those men with or without breasts because they want to fit in society. I do not know. I like them hard-working and beautiful anyway.
I think reason has nothing to with it. It something more primitive than that. If we want to extrapolate to evolutionary biology we might say that in a tribe a guy is most likely to find a honest willing mate than a dishonestly willing one. Flirting is fun.
She could have made a stand. Be integer, samurai-style. But then again she couldn't you say, "vain and spoiled". So what? It is the case of everyone and everything to be determined by their environment Syphax included (I'll include everything material in environment, hence everything). You being a woman, I do not think you fully grasp your irrational "power" and effect on men, therefore I suppose you do not take responsibility for it as she did. Syphax made the mistake of overestimating his power and ability and that of his ally, normal stuff for a guy, we're born cocky, it is called testosterone.
Everyone deal with the cards destiny dealt us. ..
Arg, I do guess that Syphax made the huge mistake since at that time women had lesser "agency" than today
"the young beautiful princess who brought ruin to everything she touched."
That ain't fair. She probably was spoiled and vain (she'd been valued her whole life for her looks after all) but by your own account, she was first prodded by her father, then acted to save herself. How else would she have acted?
Besides, it wasn't HER breaking sworn treaties so as to fuck a more beautiful woman. Syphax could have had any number of women, but some perversion of pride made him want that one, even if he had to throw everything else away. HE should be the cautionary point. Not her. She was doing what she could with the cards she was dealt.
A reader of this site recommended, JW Deming, recommended B.H. Liddel Hart's "Scipio Africanus" to me - and I'm damn pleased I got it.
It's excellent. It combines a mix of strategic thought and analysis with diplomacy and looking deeply into motivations for actions. From chapter 3, after leading a surprise attack and taking the city of New Carthage -
Chapter III: The Storm of Cartagena
"Some young Romans came across a girl of surpassing bloom and beauty, and being aware that Scipio was fond of women brought her to him… saying that they wished to make a present of the damsel to him. He was overcome and astonished by her beauty, and he told them that had he been in a private position no present would have been more welcome, but as he was the general it would be the least welcome of any… So he expressed his gratitude to the young men, but called the girl's father, and handing her over to him, at once bade him give her in marriage to whomever of the citizens he preferred. The self-restraint and moderation Scipio showed on this occasion secured him the warm approbation of his troops."
Livy's account enlarges the picture, saying that she was previously betrothed to a young chief of the Celtiberians, named Allucius, who was desperately enamoured of her; that Scipio, hearing this, sent for Allucius and presented her to him; and that when his parents pressed thank-offerings upon him, he gave them to Allucius as a dowry from himself. This kindly and tactful act not only spread his praises through the Spanish tribes, but earned a more tangible reinforcement, for Allucius reappeared a few days later with fourteen hundred horsemen to join Scipio.
This is a continuation of the story, How I Became a Famous Pickup Artist Part 1. If you haven't read that already, you should do so before reading this article.
Papa was notorious for being in contact with everyone in the pickup scene. I couldn't blame him, either - he was the business side of "Real Social Dynamics", a company that taught seminars and workshops to aspiring players. Not surprisingly, he was the only person at the seminar that I knew.
In order to extract every last precious second out of my experience, I had gotten on the earliest flight to Chicago that I could book. I called Papa when I arrived at the hotel at 10am. I could hardly make out his voice. He'd been out in the clubs until very late and was still sleeping.