Cultures > Kingdom of Numidia

Kingdom of Numidia


The Kingdom of Numidia, located in the region corresponding to modern-day Algeria and parts of Tunisia, played a significant role in the history of North Africa during the Hellenistic period. Numidia, in ancient times, referred to a region in North Africa that stretched along the Mediterranean from the boundaries of Mauretania to those of the Roman province of Africa. When the Romans first clashed with Carthage in the 3rd century B.C., the name Numidia encompassed the entire area from the river Mulucha (now the Muluya), approximately 100 miles west of Oran, to the frontier of the Carthaginian territory, which roughly aligns with the modern regency of Tunis.

This definition of Numidia is used by Polybius and all historians until the end of the Roman Republic. The Numidians were divided into two major tribes: the Massyli to the east and the Massaesyli to the west, with the river Ampsaga, entering the sea west of the promontory known as Tretum (now the Seven Capes), serving as the boundary between them. During the Second Punic War, the eastern tribe was ruled by Massinissa, who allied with the Romans, while Syphax, king of the Massaesyli, supported the Carthaginians. Following the war, the victorious Romans confiscated Syphax's dominions and granted them to Massinissa. Massinissa's kingdom then extended from the Mauretanian frontier to the Carthaginian boundary and south and east as far as the Cyrenaica, completely encircling Carthage except towards the sea. Massinissa, who lived to a great age, retained control of these territories until his death in 148 B.C., after which his son Micipsa succeeded him, ruling until his death in 118 B.C.

The Kingdom of Numidia

Numidia in the Hellenistic Period

  1. Carthaginian Influence:

    • Alliance and Rivalry: The Numidians had a complex relationship with Carthage, often alternating between alliance and rivalry. Carthage relied on Numidian cavalry in its military campaigns, particularly during the Punic Wars against Rome.
    • Economic and Cultural Exchange: Carthaginian influence brought economic prosperity and cultural exchanges, integrating Numidia into the broader Mediterranean trade networks.
  2. Rise of the Numidian Kingdom:

    • Masinissa: The most significant figure in the rise of the Numidian Kingdom was Masinissa, a prince of the Massylii tribe. Initially allied with Carthage, Masinissa switched allegiance to Rome during the Second Punic War.
    • Support for Rome: Masinissa’s support was crucial for Rome in its war against Carthage. He provided valuable cavalry and strategic assistance, contributing to the Roman victory at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC.
  3. Consolidation of Power:

    • Kingdom Under Masinissa: After the war, Masinissa was recognized by Rome as the king of a unified Numidia. He worked to consolidate his power, extending his control over neighboring tribes and territories, and transforming Numidia into a strong and centralized kingdom.
    • Economic Development: Masinissa encouraged agriculture, trade, and urbanization. He introduced Roman agricultural practices and established new cities, fostering economic growth and stability in Numidia.
  4. Relations with Rome:

    • Roman Ally: Numidia remained a loyal ally of Rome throughout Masinissa’s reign. The kingdom served as a buffer state between Carthage and the Roman territories, and its cavalry continued to play a vital role in Roman military campaigns.
    • Expansionist Ambitions: Masinissa’s expansionist ambitions occasionally brought him into conflict with Carthage, leading to border disputes and skirmishes. Rome generally supported Masinissa in these conflicts, further weakening Carthage.

Transition to Roman Province

  1. Succession and Civil War:

    • Micipsa: After Masinissa’s death in 148 BC, his kingdom was divided among his three sons: Micipsa, Gulussa, and Mastanabal. Micipsa eventually emerged as the sole ruler, continuing his father’s policies of Roman alignment and internal development.
    • Jugurthine War: The most significant challenge to Numidian stability came during the reign of Jugurtha, the grandson of Masinissa. Jugurtha’s aggressive expansion and conflict with Rome led to the Jugurthine War (112-105 BC). Despite initial successes, Jugurtha was ultimately defeated and captured by the Romans.
  2. Roman Annexation:

    • End of Independence: Following Jugurtha’s defeat, Numidia’s independence was gradually eroded. The kingdom was divided and placed under the control of client kings loyal to Rome.
    • Formal Annexation: In 46 BC, during the Roman Civil War, Julius Caesar annexed Numidia, transforming it into a Roman province known as Africa Nova. This marked the end of Numidia as an independent kingdom and its full integration into the Roman Empire.


During the Hellenistic period, the Kingdom of Numidia played a crucial role in the geopolitical dynamics of North Africa. Under the leadership of Masinissa, Numidia emerged as a powerful and centralized kingdom that maintained a strategic alliance with Rome. The kingdom’s relationship with Rome and its economic and military contributions significantly influenced the outcome of the Punic Wars and the broader history of the Mediterranean region. Despite its eventual annexation by Rome, Numidia’s legacy endured through its contributions to Roman military and agricultural practices.

Kings of Numidia

Here's a comprehensive table of the kings of Numidia, including their years of reign, consorts (where known), successors, predecessors, and contributions:

Kings of the Massylii (Eastern Numidia)

MonarchYears of ReignConsortsSuccessorPredecessorContribution
ZelalsenUnknownUnknownGaiaUnknownEarly leader of the Massylii, laid foundations for later unification.
Gaia? – 207 BCEUnknownOzalcesZelalsenStrengthened Massylii power, father of Masinissa.
Ozalces207–206 BCEUnknownCapussaGaiaShort reign, details are limited.
Capussa206 BCEUnknownLacumazesOzalcesBrief reign, little impact.
Lacumazes206 BCEUnknownMasinissaCapussaBrief reign, faced rivalry with Syphax.
Masinissa206–202 BCEUnknownUnified NumidiaLacumazesUnified Massylii and Masaesyli, established the Kingdom of Numidia.

Kings of the Masaesyli (Western Numidia)

MonarchYears of ReignConsortsSuccessorPredecessorContribution
Syphaxbef. 215–202 BCESophonisbaVerminaUnknownAllied with Carthage, captured by Romans, kingdom absorbed into unified Numidia.
Vermina202 BCE – ???UnknownArchobarzaneSyphaxContinued resistance against Rome, eventually subdued.
Archobarzane??? – ???UnknownMasinissaVerminaLittle is known, likely subdued by Masinissa, contributing to Numidian unification.

Kings of Numidia

MonarchYears of ReignConsortsSuccessorPredecessorContribution
Masinissa I202–148 BCEUnknownMicipsa, Gulussa, MastanabalUnified NumidiaUnited the Massylii and Masaesyli, allied with Rome, expanded Numidian territory.
Micipsa148–118 BCEUnknownHiempsal I, Adherbal, JugurthaMasinissaExpanded Numidia's influence, engaged in significant development projects.
Gulussa148–145 BCEUnknownMicipsa (sole rule)MasinissaShared rule with brothers, died early, leaving Micipsa in control.
Mastanabal148–??? BCEUnknownJugurthaMasinissaShared rule with brothers, focused on judicial and internal affairs.
Hiempsal I118–117 BCEUnknownAdherbalMicipsaBrief reign, assassinated by Jugurtha's supporters.
Adherbal118–112 BCEUnknownJugurthaHiempsal IConflict with Jugurtha, sought Roman intervention, eventually killed.
Jugurtha118–105 BCEUnknownGaudaAdherbalFamous for the Jugurthine War against Rome, ultimately captured and executed.
Gauda105–88 BCEUnknownHiempsal II, MasteabarJugurthaEstablished two lines of Numidian kings, maintained reduced kingdom under Roman oversight.
Hiarbas??? – 81 BCEUnknownHiempsal IIGaudaBrief usurper, restored by Roman intervention.

Key Contributions:

List of Settlements

Here's a comprehensive table of known ancient settlements in the Kingdom of Numidia, including their latitude, longitude, year founded, estimated population, and modern location. Please note that the population estimates are approximations based on historical records and archaeological findings. The year founded is based on ancient sources and modern archaeological research.

Ancient SettlementLatitudeLongitudeYear FoundedEstimated Population (Ancient)Modern Location
Cirta36.36506.6147c. 4th century BC25,000 - 35,000Constantine, Algeria
Hippo Regius36.90007.7667c. 12th century BC20,000 - 30,000Annaba, Algeria
Thugga (Dougga)36.42089.2200c. 4th century BC10,000 - 15,000Dougga, Tunisia
Timgad35.48336.4667c. 100 AD10,000 - 15,000Timgad, Algeria
Lambaesis35.44696.2728c. 1st century AD10,000 - 15,000Tazoult, Algeria
Calama36.46257.4358c. 3rd century BC10,000 - 20,000Guelma, Algeria
Madaurus36.01147.7839c. 3rd century BC5,000 - 10,000M'Daourouch, Algeria
Sicca Veneria36.35008.1167c. 4th century BC5,000 - 10,000El Kef, Tunisia
Zama Regia36.10619.3847c. 4th century BC5,000 - 8,000Jama, Tunisia
Capsa33.50008.9167c. 1st century BC5,000 - 8,000Gafsa, Tunisia
Rusicade36.86676.9000c. 4th century BC10,000 - 15,000Skikda, Algeria
Tipasa36.58992.4494c. 5th century BC5,000 - 10,000Tipaza, Algeria
Thubursicum Numidarum36.28337.9500c. 4th century BC5,000 - 10,000Khamissa, Algeria
Saldae36.75005.0833c. 4th century BC10,000 - 15,000Béjaïa, Algeria


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Numidia

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