DBA Resources

Army Notes


To Juba's standard: Moors of swarthy hue
As though from Ind; Numidian nomads there
And Nasamon's needy hordes; and those whose darts
Equal the flying arrows of the Mede:
Dark Garamantians leave their fervid home;
And those whose coursers unrestrained by bit
Or saddle, yet obey the rider's hand
Which wields the guiding switch.

Lucan, The Civil War

Numidian (215 BC-25 AD) (DBA II/40) and
Moorish (25AD-700AD) (DBA II/57)

By Stephen Montague and Tony De Lyall

Introduction
Numidian history
Moorish history
Numidian Enemies
Moorish Enemies
Numidian Army Composition
Moorish Army Composition
Specific Numidian Lists
Tactics
DBA Camp Suggestions
Built-up areas
Painting guide
Possible Use in Other Armies
Historical Resources
DBx Related Resources

Introduction

Here are two armies, with a large number of interchangeable figures, that allows you to fight the Roman Empire from inception to its fall; and a few others as well. These are the armies of the peoples of that part of north west Africa that abuts the Mediterranean. The lands were known to the Romans as Numidia and Mauretania, and the peoples as the Numidians, Gaetulians and Moors (Mauri).

Numidian history

Numidia suffers from being one of history's extra's, only being noticed when they are dragged into the spotlight by the star. This explains why they are ignored until the second Punic war by most reference works. The following is therefore a brief and biased history of Numidia and Mauretania from 215 BC to 700 AD. 1000 years in 100 seconds.

Numidia at the start of the Second Punic War (219-202 BC) was part of the Carthaginian empire. The Romans tried to persuade them to change sides including sending a mission to train their infantry in 213 BC. They failed initially but in 206 BC the king of east Numidia Masinissa became an ally of Rome. Syphax king of eastern Numidia stayed allied to Carthage. When the Second Punic war came to an end the Romans rewarded their ally by making him king of all Numidia. Later expansion by Numidia gave the Romans the excuse they needed to start the third Punic war (149-146 BC).

During the power struggle over who would rule Numidia in 118 BC some Italians were murdered. This lead to Rome declaring war upon the winner of the struggle Jugurtha. This lasted until 111 BC when peace was made, however while visiting Rome to explain his actions Jugurtha had a rival murdered and this caused the war to resume. The war lasted until 105 BC after Jugurtha had been betrayed by his father-in-law and handed over to the Romans.

During the Roman civil wars of the first century BC the King Juba I sided with Pompey. Since he had backed the loosing side Numidia lost its independence and became a Roman province in 46 BC. Caesar did have some support in Numidia from Bogud, and from King Bocchus of Mauretania who received the western part of Numidia as a reward.

At the death of King Bocchis in 33 BC Mauretania was bequeathed to Rome. Augustus set up Juba II, the son of the last Numidian king, as the client ruler in 25 BC. (Trivia: Juba II married Cleopatra Selene the daughter of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.)

Around this time the Third Augustan Legion moved to North Africa which it permanently garrisoned for the next three hundred years. The less important Mauretania was defended by 13,000 auxiliaries. A frontier of 1500 miles from the Atlantic to the Libyan desert was held by some 30,000 troops.

Constant frontier and internal revolts continued until 6 AD. The period 17 AD - 24 AD saw the revolt of Tacfarinas in Numidia. Fighting flared up again in AD 23 when Juba I died and Mauretania did not take to the rule of his son Ptolemy. The Moors united in rebellion with Tacfarinas's Musulammii tribe. The rebellion ended with Tacfarinas's defeat and death during a surprise dawn attack on his camp at Auzea (Aumale) by Publius Dolabella.

In 40 AD Ptolemy was murdered on orders of the emperor Caligula (his cousin). He left no heir and Mauretania was annexed to the Roman Empire as the two provinces - Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania Tingitana. A rebellion lead by Aedemon a freedman loyal to Ptolemy followed which took four years to put down.

Moorish history

During the next two hundred years there was peace except for raids from the desert. Carthage become the 2nd largest city in the western Mediterranean after Rome with a population of perhaps 250,000 people. The Third century saw the mass conversion of the peoples of North Africa, especially the poor, to Christianity. Numidia and Mauretania become the strongholds of the Donatist schism from 312 AD.

In 372 the depredations of the Roman administrator Count Romanus leaded to a rebellion of the Jubaleni tribe (perhaps descendants of King Juba) under Firmus. Firmus received support from the Donatist peasantry and was declared king. The revolt failed although one of his brothers held Caesarea for four years until defeated by Count Theodosius.    in 397 another revolt of the Jubaleni broke out under Firmus's brother Gildo supported by the Donatist again. Gildo was declared an enemy of the state and was defeated by his own brother at Theveste (Tebessa). The Donatist now discredited, were assailed by St Augustine bishop of Hippo, and Donatism declared a heresy in 405 AD

In AD 429 Africa was invaded by the Vandals under Gaiseric. In AD 439 he took Carthage and with it control of the North African provinces. In a sea borne raid in AD 455 Gaiseric with an army of Vandals and Moors looted Rome. Booty included the seven branch candle stick of the Jews bought to Rome after the sack of Jerusalem by Titus and the bronze tiles from the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol. After Gaiseric's death the Vandals lost control of Mauretania Caesarionsis. Subsequently the Vandals fought incursions of horse riding Moors in Numidia and Mauretania and camel borne nomads from the south leading to a gradual shrinking of the area under Vandal control and its surrounding by semi-independent Moorish tribal principalities. Procopius records how Vandal army under Thrasamund was defeated by a desert tribe who stood behind a barricade of their camels which the Vandal horse would not approach and showered the Vandals with javelins.

In AD 533 the Eastern Roman Empire on orders of the Emperor Justinian was able to reconquer the African province around Carthage (Africa Proconsularis) when a small Byzantine army under Count Belisarrius defeated the last Vandal king Gelimer. Belisarrius's successor Solomon then moved into Numidia to bring the tribes there under control. Most of Mauretania, except the coastal towns, remained independent and tribal. In AD 543 Solomon was killed in battle near Theveste (Tebessa) during a tribal insurrection. The AD 546-8 period saw the Byzantine Commes Africae, John Troglita, subdue the province which remained at peace for the next 15 years. In AD 563 the new governor murdered the main tribal ally of the Byzantines, Cutzinas, resulting in more warfare until the end of the century. During this period at least three Byzantine generals met their death in battle against Moorish king Garmul who was defeated and killed in AD 579 by Gennadius. Little is known of Africa in the late Sixth and early Seventh century but the area was sufficiently prosperous and peaceful that the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius considered moving the capital of the empire to Carthage.

North Africa was conquered by the Islamic Arabs in the Seventh century. Caliph Othman authorized the governor of Egypt Abdallah ibn Saad to invade the area in AD 647. The Arabs defeated and killed the Byzantine exarch Gregory and his Moorish allies outside his capital at Sufetula (Sbeitla). The Arabs, unable to conduct sieges and bribed, returned to Egypt. The Arabs returned in AD 669 under Okba supposedly with a force of just 10 thousand cavalry. They conquered around the Gulf of Syrte and build a fortress at Kairouan as a base of operations. During this time many of the tribes converted to Islam. Meanwhile a strong Moorish kingdom arose in Mauretania under Koseila. Okba was severely mauled in a series of battles near Bagai, Lambaesis (Lambese) and Tiaret by the Moors as he pushed to the Atlantic in AD 683. On the way back he and his army was destroyed by Koseila supported by Byzantine reinforcements near Thabudoes (Thouda). Kairouan was abandoned. The Moorish alliance fell apart when Koseila died.

The next invasion occurred under Hassan in AD 695 who with 40 thousand men captured Carthage. Opposition came from "The Kahena" Queen of the Aures in Numidia. The Byzantines recaptured Cathage in AD 697 and lost it again to Hassan in AD 698 along with province. Kahena called upon the tribes to fight to the death from her stronghold in the Aures mountains but her insistence on a scorched earth policy lost her support and many defected to Hassan. Somewhere between the Aures and the Gulf of Syrte in AD 700 a long and bloody battle was fought where she was defeated and lost her life. Legend had it that the Roman amphitheatre at Thysdrus (El Djem) was her last citadel. So ended Romanised Africa. Some small communities of Christianity and Latin speaking survived until the 12th Century.

Numidian Enemies

Early Libyan (I/7cd),Later Carthaginian (II/32), Polybian Roman (II/33), Numidians (II/40), Marian Roman (II/49), Early Imperial Roman (II/56).

Numidian Allies: Early Imperial Roman (II/56)

Moorish Enemies

Early Imperial Roman (II/56), Middle Imperial Roman (West) (II/64a), Late Imperial Roman (West) (II/78a), African Vandal (II/84), Early Byzantine (III/4ab), Arab Conquest (III/25b), Thematic Byzantine (III/29), Umayyad Arab(III/31).

To this I would add Moorish (65) to cover internecine strife and Early Vandal (II/66) covering the initial invasion of Africa in 429AD.

Moorish Allies: None

Numidian Army Composition

2LH The famous Numidian light horsemen
2Ps or 3AX The not so famous Numidian light foot. The primary sources recount the Numidians either fighting loosely, as guerrillas, from ambush and raiding which would suit the 2Ps choice while at times they faced off the Romans in battle lines which would suit the 3Ax option.
El African elephants were employed in the armies of Jugurtha and Juba 
3Cv or 2Lh Generals element, Cavalry option are Spanish/Gallic mercenaries, who formed Juba's bodyguard
3/4Aux or 4Bd Aux are Roman trained foot, Gaetuli, Spanish scutari, or Ligurian deserters. Blade are imitation legionaries or Roman deserters.

Moorish Army Composition

3Cv or 2LH Generals element. Cavalry are bodyguards.
2LH Moorish horsemen
2Ps Moorish infantry

Specific Numidian Lists

As with many DBA army lists, this Numidian list actually represents armies from several different periods all put together in one list. The following specific Numidian lists indicate which elements should be used by which king. They are based upon the DBM 2nd edition list and WRG's Armies of the Macedonian and Punic wars.

(II/40a) Early Punic wars and before, up to 213 BC

  • 2LH
  • 2Ps or 3Ax

(II/40b) Syphax army 213-203 BC also Masinissa 206-148 BC or Micipsa 148 to 118 BC

  • 2LH
  • 2Ps or 3Ax
  • 4Aux (Roman trained Infantry)

(II/40c) Jugurtha 118-105 BC

  • 2LH
  • 2Ps or 3Ax
  • 4Aux (Gaetuli)
  • 2Ps or 3Aux (Ligurian deserters)
  • 2Ps or El

(II/40d) JubaI 55-46 BC

  • 2LH
  • 2Ps or 3Ax
  • 3Cv (Spanish/Gaul)
  • El
  • 4Bd (Imitation legionaries)

(II/40e) Bogud 47 BC

  • 2LH
  • 2Ps or 3Ax
  • 2Ps or 3Aux (Spanish foot)

(II/40f) Tacfarinas

  • 2LH
  • 2Ps or 3Ax
  • 4Bd (imitation legionaries)

Notes on Army and Variants

After 213 BC there was usually less cavalry than infantry so I would suggest being allowed to replace up to two Light Horse elements with Psiloi after that date if the player wishes.

One Psiloi element can be slingers or archers.

"He [Juba] himself followed on more slowly with the rest of his forces and sixty elephants." from Caesar, The Civil War. (From the description of Curio's annihilation by Juba's Numidians.)

Elephants were not used until the second century BC so are not allowed before that. The elephants are the African forest elephant species which were smaller than Indian Elephants used in the East and stood 7-8 feet (2.15m - 2.45m) tall at the shoulder.

"When Juba was informed by Saburra of the battle during the night he sent him as reinforcements two thousand Spanish and Gallic cavalry, whom he was accustomed to keep by him as a personal bodyguard together with the most reliable part of the infantry", from Caesar, The Civil War. (From the description of Curio's annihilation by Juba's Numidians.)

The Spanish/Gallic cavalry in Juba's army represent his bodyguard. They are therefore the general's element. I would suggest you represent this element by having a Numidian prince figure flanked by Gallic and/or Spanish cavalry figures. Similarly the Cavalry element in the Moorish army represents the bodyguard and therefore should be the general's element.

"In this same year a war broke out in Africa, where the enemy was led by Tacfarinas. A Numidian by birth, he had served as an auxiliary in the Roman camp, then becoming a deserter, he at first gathered round him a roving band familiar with robbery, for plunder and for rapine. After a while, he marshalled them like regular soldiers, under standards and in troops. The army was so divided that Tacfarinas kept the picked men who were armed in Roman fashion within a camp, and familiarized them with a commander's authority, while Mazippa, with light troops, spread around him fire, slaughter, and consternation.", from Tacitus, Annuals, Book 2.

At various times Numidian/Moorish armies had Roman like troops, either because they were trained by Romans such as by the Roman mission to the Numidians in 213 BC sent by Scipio Africanus and headed by the centurion Quintus Statorious, or because they deliberately adopted Roman practice as did Tacfarinas. These troops are treated Auxilia or Blade depending on their amour and training.

Only Juba II is allowed early Imperial Romans allies in 3 to 6 AD

Specific Moorish Lists

The DBM army list has small numbers of allies listed at various times. One of the following elements could replace a single element from the Moorish army.

533 to 548 AD 1x3Kn Vandal fugitive allies
546 to 548 AD 1x3Cv Byzantine Deserters Kavallaroi)

The list also mentions Roman deserters in 373-374 AD but the numbers are too small to appear in a DBA army

Note in the DBM army list Moors can substitute 3Ax for the 2Ps like the Numidians.

Tactics

Float like a butterfly, sting like a Bee. OK so its more of a case of float like a butterfly, sting like a butterfly. Yes this is a very mobile army but one that lacks punch. If your preferred tactics are a screaming charge or to sit and let your opponent come to you then this is not the army for you. If you prefer lots of manoeuvring whilst waiting to make the decisive move then this is the army for you.

Classic tactics for this army are to send your infantry forward to keep the enemies infantry occupied whilst your Light Horse hover about the flanks. These wait to make a dash for the enemy camp or to try and sandwich enemy elements that are being engaged from their front. As has been noted by others Light Horse hovering about the flanks can have a psychological impact on your opponent out of all proportion to the actual threat.

The following selection of contemporary descriptions will give you an idea of how the real army operated.

"For it was remarkable to what extent the enemy light infantry had occasioned worry and anxiety among our men [Caesar's Romans]. Their constant javelin fire caused casualties among the horses and kept the cavalry from engaging while their speediness wore out the legionaries; for as soon as any of the heavy infantry, under pursuit, halted and attacked them, they easily ran out of danger. Consequently, Caesar was seriously worried; for whenever there was an engagement he found himself totally unable to match the enemy cavalry and light infantry with his own cavalry unsupported by legionaries....And yet another source of anxiety was the persistent feeling of panic engenderedin his men by the size and numbers of the elephants"
Pseudo-Caesar, The African War.

"The forces [Caesar] had were accustomed to fighting in Gaul, on level terrain, and against the Gauls, an open-natured people and not at all given to guile, who were accustomed in warfare to rely on their valour, not on trickery. Now, however, he had to try to accustom his men to recognize the guiles, traps and ruses of the enemy, and know when they should pursue and when to give them a wide berth."

".... and the Numidians, with the light armed infantry, who are wonderfully nimble, and accustom themselves to fight intermixed with the horse, with whom they keep an equal pace, either in advancing or retiring, fell a second time upon our foot. As they repeated this often, pressing upon our troops when we marched, and retiring when we endeavored to engage, always keeping at a certain distance, and with singular care avoiding a close fight, and considering it enough to wound us with their darts...."

"Meanwhile, both the main bodies advancing to engage, the enemy's cavalry, intermixed with some light-armed Numidians, suddenly sprang forward, from their crowded troops, and attacked the legions with a shower of darts. Our men, preparing to return the charge, their horse retreated a little, while the foot continued to maintain their ground, till the others, having rallied, came on again, with fresh vigor, to sustain them."
Caesar, The African War

"Jugurtha would not fight except from ambush or on ground of his own choosing."

"Meanwhile, as soon as Rutilius had marched past him, Bomilcar, who, as related above, had been placed by Jugurtha in command of the elephants and a part of the infantry, slowly led his men down into the plain, and, while the Roman officer continued his hasty advance towards the river to which he had been dispatched, marshalled his army as noiselessly as the occasion demanded, and kept ceaseless watch on every movement of the enemy..... In his [Bomilcar's] distrust of his men's courage he had drawn up his line in close order, but he now extended it so as to block the enemy's march, and in this order advanced against the camp of Rutilius.... At last [the Romans], understanding what was really happening, they hastily seized their arms, and, in obedience to order, took up a position in front of the camp. The distance between the two armies diminished, and they charged each other with a loud shout. The Numidians stood their ground only as long as they thought to find help in their elephants; as soon as they saw them entangled in the branches of the trees and thus scattered and surrounded, they took to flight, and most of them, with the loss of their arms, escaped whole and sound under cover of the hill and of the night, which was now falling. Of the elephants four were captured, the rest, to the number of forty, were killed."
Sallust, The Jugurthine War.

"Dolabella. then fortified suitable positions, and at the same time beheaded some chiefs of the Musulamii, who were on the verge of rebellion. Next, as several expeditions against Tacfarinas had proved the uselessness of following up the enemy's desultory movements with the attack of heavy troops from a single point, he summoned to his aid King Ptolemaeus [of the Moors] and his people, and equipped four columns, under the command of his lieutenants and tribunes. Marauding parties were also led by picked Moors, Dolabella in person directing every operation."
Tacitus Annuals, Book 4.

DBA Camp Suggestions

"To this very day the dwellings of the Numidian country people, which they call mupalia, are of an oblong shape and curving roofs while resemble the keels of boats."
Sallust, The Jugurthine War.

Since mupalia were very quick to construct they could also be used for a camp.

The Numidians and Moors were mainly pastoralists in the Punic period. Initially under the Numidian kings and to a much greater degree under the Roman empire the North African provinces were given over to extensive grain production. The area became a granary for Rome and later for the Byzantines. Many of the nomads become peasants. Nomadism (sheep, horses, mules) continued on the frontiers and wilder areas. A Numidian/Moorish camp could be represented by pack animals - horses and mules and, from the late 5th AD Century, camels. (Camels were rare in North Africa before then.).

Built-up areas

Could be a small hamlet of mud-walled huts (gourbis) or less permanent straw huts (mupalia see above). Also Numidians had fortified towns eg. Zama and Cirta. When you read Sallust you see on many occasions the Romans had to lay seige to towns. Sallust records penthouses being used in assaults. A BUA could therefore included walled towns. These would probably be in the classical style for public and high status buildings with local style buildings for the lower status ones. For the Numidians you would expect to see a strong Carthaginian influence. This would be replaced as the Romans gained dominance in this area. For the Moors Roman style would be the norm.

Painting guide

In the painting guide to the Carthaginian army, Jonathan Lim describes the Numidian cavalry thus, "They wore brown clothes, had brown hair and brown ponies....even their shields were covered in brown cow hide, Very boring to look at". The only thing I have to add to that is that the clothes were unbleached wool so would be a variety of off white colours ranging from grey to brown.

The above description applies to the Light Horse and Psiloi. Armies of the Macedonian and Punic wars has a figure that may be a Roman trained Auxilia he would have looked similar to the above types but may have had a helmet and carried an oval thureos. Whether the thureos would be brown like the normal shield or coloured I don't know but Roman or Carthaginian styles of shield decoration may not be unreasonable.

Numidian/Moorish horses were ridden bareback ridden either without bridles or with very primitive bridles. The rider held a rope passed around the horse's neck and guided it by tapping with a small stick.

What the imitation legionaries look like I don't know. Given that they could be Roman deserters or trained in Roman fighting, depending on the period, using late republican or early imperial Roman legionaries to represent the Blades would seem reasonable.

Finally we come to the general. Armies of the Macedonian and Punic wars has an illustration of a Numidian prince. He wears a long robe and a cloak has his hair tied back by a diadem and carries a sword and shield. The diadem is a symbol of kingship, which looks like a strip of white cloth tied around the head. The cloak could be red or purple, which suggests allegiance to Rome. The colour of the robe isn't mentioned, however since it is the upper class version of commoners clothing I would suggest that it would be bleached wool and therefore white. It would also be reasonable to use a Roman or Carthaginian general figure to command your army but remember to make the skin colour darker.

Possible Use in Other Armies

Numidians and Moors fought in other people's armies. So there is a chance to recycle your Numidians/Moors and save on some extra painting.

Early Carthaginian (I/61b) 1x 2Lh
2x 2Ps
Later Carthaginian (II/32) 2x 2Lh
1x 2Ps
1x El (at a pinch)
Polybian Roman (II/33) 1x 2Lh (The Polybian DBA list does not have a LH element but Numidians were used in small numbers and are included in the DBM army list).
Marian Roman (II/49) 1x 2Lh
2x 2Ps
(It is especially appropriate to include such along with Numidian Ps if you representing the Roman Civil War armies in Africa.)

Early Imperial Roman (II/56)

1x 2Lh
Middle Imperial Roman (II/64a) 1x 2Lh
African Vandal (II/84) 1x 2Lh
Early Byzantine (III/4) 1x 2Lh
Early Vandal (II/66) 1x 2Ps or 2Lh. (Although not mentioned in the DBM army lists,Chris Brantley in his essay on the Early Vandals suggest that a Vandal army could have some Moorish elements in it representing the early Gothic invasion of Africa in 429 AD.)
Maurikian (III/17) 3x 2Lh
2x 2Ps
(Tony Stapells contacted me when our article first went up and suggested that we also include Numidians in the Maurikian list. This would represent the army Nicetas took from Carthage as part of Heraclius's overthrow of Phocas. We are assuming it would have had some Moorish elements but we haven't found a primary source to confirm this.

Historical Resources

Polybius' Histories and Livy's War with Hannibal cover the Second Punic War.

The Roman historian Sallust's book, The Cataline Conspiracy and the Jugurthine War, records Rome's war with Jugurtha.

Julius Caesar's The African Wars include descriptions of his campaigns in Numidia against Juba.

Tacitus' Annuals covers the various Roman campaigns against Tacfarinas.

Procopius' History of the Wars: The Vandalic War covers the Byzantine period. See his The Secret History for the behind the scenes sex and gossip.

Barker, Phil. and Scott, Richard Bodley. DBM Army Lists, Book 2 & Book 3

Barker, Phil. The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome, WRG

Head, Duncan. Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars, WRG.

Osprey men-at-arms, No121 Armies of the Carthaginian Wars 265-146 BC. This has a small section on Numidians, a nice picture and a useful map.

Raven, Susan. Rome in Africa, Evans Brothers, 1969.

Warry, John. Warfare in the Classical World, Lansdowne Press, 1980.

DBx Related Resources

Frederic Bey's "The Revolt of Tacfarinas," (Great Battles of History scenario originally published in Vae Victis #6, translated by David Townsend).

Tony De Lyall's Article on Conversions for Numidian & Moorish Armies.

Richard Bodley Scott on Wargaming With Numidians.


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Last Updated: Dec. 12, 2001

My thanks to Stephen Montague and Tony De Lyall for contributing this detailed essay. Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page can be sent to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.