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Micipsa (pronounced: Mikipsa, Berber name: MKWSN; died: c. 118 BC) was the eldest legitimate son of Masinissa, the King of Numidia, a Berber kingdom in North Africa. Micipsa became the King of Numidia.

Early life

In 151 BC Masinissa sent Micipsa and his brother Gulussa to Carthage to demand that exiled pro-Numidian politicians be allowed to return, but they were refused entry at the city gates. As the royal party turned to depart, Hamilcar the Samnite and a group of his supporters attacked Micipsa's convoy, killing some of his attendants. This incident led to a retaliatory strike on the Carthaginian town of Oroscopa that heralded the start of the Carthaginian–Numidian War and eventually precipitated the Third Punic War.

Succession to the throne

In the spring of 148 BC Masinissa died and the tripartite division of the kingdom among the elderly king's three sons, Micipsa, Gulussa, and Mastanabal, took place by Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, to whom Masinissa had given the authority to administer his estate. Micipsa received as part of his inheritance the Numidian capital of Cirta (along with the royal palace and treasury there in), Gulussa the charge of war and Mastanabal the administration of justice.

The sons continued their father's policy and his support of Rome during its war on Carthage. Though Micipsa wavered somewhat in his support for Rome, "always promising arms and money ... but always delaying and waiting to see what would happen" (Appian Pun. 111). In 146 BC, when Mastanabal's illegitimate son Jugurtha was fourteen years old, Carthage was destroyed by the Romans. Shortly afterwards Galussa died and later still Mastanabal, leaving Micipsa control of the entire kingdom. During Micipsa's reign Numidian cultural and commercial progress was aided when thousands of Carthaginians fled to Numidia following the Roman destruction of Carthage.

Micipsa had two natural sons, Hiempsal and Adherbal, and is reported to have added his illegitimate nephew Jugurtha to his palace household. Jugurtha was treated as the king's son and received a sound military training. Micipsa continued to be a loyal ally to Rome, providing military assistance when asked. In 142 BC the Roman commander Quintus Fabius Maximus Servilianus wrote to Micipsa asking for a division of war elephants to help in Rome's struggle against the Lusitanian rebel Viriathus, and again in 134 BC Micipsa sent archers, slingers, and elephants to aid Scipio Aemilianus besieging Numantia in Spain, sending Jugurtha to command his units.

After the fall of Numantia, Jugurtha returned home with a letter from Scipio addressed to his uncle; in it, the commander praised Jugurtha's exploits and congratulated Micipsa for having "a kinsman worthy of yourself, and of his grandfather Masinissa" (Sallust Iug. 9). On this recommendation the king formally adopted Jugurtha and made him co-heir with his own children.


In 118 B.C. Micipsa died and Numidia, following the king's wish, was divided into three parts, ruled by Adherbal, Hiempsal and Jugurtha.