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Bocchus I
King of Mauretania
Bocchus.jpg
Reign c. 110 – c. 80s BC
Successor Mastanesosus
Born Mauretania

Bocchus was king of Mauretania from about c. 111-80 bce, often referred to for clarity as Bocchus I.

He was father-in-law to Jugurtha, with whom he initially allied against the Romans in the Jurguthine War, a lengthy and indecisive conflict.

King Bocchus would subsequently betray Jugurtha to the Romans in 105 bce. The Romans and Bocchus divided Jurgutha's Numidian kingdom between them.

Etymology of his name

A. Pellegrin suggests that the name Bocchus is only the Latin form of a Berber name, possibly Wekkus. This name may be related to the Touareg Aweqqas, which means "lion", and can be used as a male name. Several locations in North Africa bear this name, such as the city of Aokas in Algeria, and Djebel Ouekkas in Tunisia.

Life and Family

Very little is known about Bocchus I or his Mauritanian kingdom. He was probably the son or grandson of King Baga of Mauretania, a contemporary of King Massinissa of neighboring Numidia.

His North African kingdom was bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Moulouya River (Latin: Mulucha). Roman historian Sallust in Bellum Iugurthinum (The Jurguthine War) notes:

All the Moors were ruled by King Bocchus, who knew nothing of the Roman people save their name and was in turn unknown to us before that time either in peace or in war.

—C. Sallustius Crispus, Bellum Iugurthinum

According to Sallust, by custom Bocchus had many wives and four known children; his daughter ( name unknown) married to Jugurtha of Numidia, crown prince was Sosus/Mastanesosus, and sons Bogud and Volux.

Jugurthine War

Around 108 bce, as conflict between Rome and Numidia coalesced, Bocchus was indecisive. After Jugurtha promised Bocchus a third of his kingdom, Bocchus allied with Jurgutha. Their allied forces were defeated by Marius at the Second Battle of Cirta.

Bocchus began reconsidering the alliance and sought a consultation with an ambitious quaestor named Sulla. Mauritanian ambassadors were dispatched to Rome. The Senate was cautiously encouraging but requested a demonstration of commitment to the alliance. Bocchus again consulted Sulla. Bocchus requested a meeting with Jugurtha, who walked into their trap. Bocchus turned Jurgutha over to Sulla.

By treaty, Bocchus and the Romans divided the kingdom of Numidia between them. Marius was given a triumph for victory over Numidia, but Sulla always wore a gold ring King Bocchus made for him, which depicted Bocchus handing Jugurtha over to Sulla.

Bocchus was a reliable supplier of exotic African animals, including panthers and lions for Roman spectacles.

Successors

Bocchus was succeeded by his son Mastanesosus, who bequeathed the kingdom to his sons Bocchus II and Bogud, who each ruled half the kingdom of Mauritania. The two kings took opposite sides in Rome's civil war, and Bocchus II seized Bogud's half. When Bocchus II died in 33 bce, Mauretania became a client kingdom of Rome.

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