Bithya (Greek Βιθύας): Numidian chief, fighting for and against Rome during the Third Punic War (149-146 BCE).

Relief of a Numidian horseman

In 149 BCE, war broke out between the Carthaginians and Romans: the Third Punic War. In this war, both sides had Numidian allies. One of those fighting for Rome was Gulussa, who achieved considerable success. The Romans, however, were less successful. After their consul, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, had been unable to capture the towns of Aspis and Hippagreta (148), eight hundred Numidian horsemen, led by a man named Bithya, transferred their loyalty to Carthage.note

In 147, the Roman commander Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus laid siege to Carthage. While the Carthaginian commander Hasdrubal defended the city itself, Bithya served as a commander of the cavalry and was in charge of obtaining food from her African hinterlands. Our source, Appian, is ambiguous about the strength of his army, which certainly included a thousand horseman and perhaps also six thousand foot-soldiers.note The Roman blockade forced Bithya to send the supplies by sea.

Sometimes, his ships were able to evade the Roman galleys that blocked access to the port of Carthage.note As a countermeasure, Scipio closed the entrance to the southern port by means of a dam, but the besieged circumvented this by digging a canal to the sea from their northern, military port.

After the fall of Carthage in 146 BCE, the Numidian leader was, according to the Byzantine author Zonaras,note captured and sent to Rome. He was not executed but instead permitted to live under guard in one of the cities of Italy.

This page was created in 2020; last modified on 23 September 2020.