Masinissa or Massinissa (both: măsĭnĭsˈə) [key], c.238–148 B.C., king of Numidia. He succeeded (c.207 B.C.) his father as king of E Numidia. Brought up in Carthage, he fought in a Carthaginian campaign in Spain in the Second Punic War (see Punic Wars) but eventually went over (c.206) to the Roman side. After defeating his old rival Syphax, king of W Numidia, he joined Scipio Africanus Major and led his cavalry in a decisive charge at the battle of Zama (202), which ended the war. Rome awarded him the Punic territory E of Carthage. His tragic relationship with Sophonisba at the end of the Second Punic War has been the subject of numerous literary interpretations. During his long reign he extended his power and converted his land of turbulent tribespeople into a formidable and prosperous kingdom. He goaded Carthage into resisting Numidian encroachments; the resistance furnished Rome with a pretext for beginning the Third Punic War.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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