The Numidian kingdom was famous for its light cavalry, which fought against the Romans in the Punic Wars, and for the Romans after the defeat of Carthage. However as this book makes clear, the Numidians also had a useful force of light infantry, and may have had a more heavily armed cavalry elite as well.
We start with a brief history of Numidia, from the first significant mentions of the kingdom during the First Punic war, to the end of the kingdom after their last king sided with the Republican forces during Caesar’s African War.
The most famous Numidian troops were the light cavalry, which fought with great success under Hannibal, before entering Roman service as auxiliaries, seeing service across the Mediterranean world. It’s interesting to have a proper look at what made the Numidian cavalry special and what they were used for.
The Numidians also fielded an effective force of light infantry, apparently originally trained with Roman help for use against Carthage, but later used as auxiliaries by the Romans as well as fighting against Caesar during the African War. We get an interesting account of how the two troops types were used together to trick the Roman legionaries into exposing themselves to attack. Finally they fielded a force of elephants, probably copying the idea from the Carthaginians. Once again our best documentation of these troops comes from the account of Caesar’s African Wars.
The section on the appearance of the Numidians has to largely rely on artistic representations, starting with the famous carving of Numidian cavalry on Trajan’s Column. This is supported by a number of carvings from North Africa, which tend to show un-armoured soldiers dressed in various tunics.
Sadly very little Numidian military equipment has survived, and it isn’t clear if those few items we do have actually represent the usual equipment of their troops, so once again we have to rely on the artistic evidence. The big debate here is about the purpose of the various monuments we have, and if they show Numidian equipment or that of defeated enemies. The account of the various javelins, spears and shields in regular use benefit from the author’s knowledge of Numidian archaeology and the debates that surround it. There is also a look at the evidence for sword use, helmets and armour, all of which may have been used by the Numidian elites but in limited numbers.
Appearances and Clothing
Weapons and Equipment
Author: William Horsted