T HE long life of Caius Marius began about the middle of the second century before Christ. It falls naturally into two divisions; an earlier one in which the soldier of humble birth raised himself to the highest position in the state and rendered his country almost unequalled services, a later and shameful one in which his insane greed of power brought upon Rome and her provinces the horrors of a savage and merciless civil war.
It has often been said with truth that had Marius died after he had overthrown the Teutones and the Cimbri, he would have left behind him one of the most glorious names in Roman history. But he could not bear to surrender in time of peace the foremost position which he had won by his skill in war. He found himself outdistanced by others in the arts which win popularity in civil life, and he then stooped to the basest acts in order to maintain his power. His mad jealousy of his aristocratic rival Sulla led to the outbreak of the civil war. He fell, but after a series of hairbreadth escapes and terrible hardships he returned to Rome during the absence of Sulla for a spell of power, brief in duration, but long enough for a hideous slaughter of all whom he knew or imagined to be his enemies. Mad with the lust of blood, he abandoned Rome to his band of four thousand freed slaves, who for five days and nights murdered and pillaged at their will.
He died in time to escape the triumph of his rival Sulla, who in his turn took his vengeance in a second reign of terror in which some thousands of the party of Marius perished. Marius himself was beyond his vengeance, but his dead body was torn from its grave and cast into the waters of the river Anio. The poet Lucan tells how the ghost of the terrible old warrior was wont to appear and frighten the peasants from the plough when revolutions in the state were at hand.
C AIUS MARIUS was the son of humble parents, who earned their living by the labour of their hands.
As regards his personal appearance, a stone statue of him which I saw at Ravenna entirely bore out what is said of the hardness and severity of his character. He was always naturally inclined to deeds of courage and the exercises of war, and his character was formed rather by the discipline of the camp than by the training of civil life. Hence his temper was ungovernable when he was possessed of power.
It is said that he never studied Greek, and that he declared it to be absurd to study the language of a people who were the slaves of others. But had the character of Marius been softened by the influence of the Grecian muses and graces, he would never have brought a glorious military and civil career to so ill an end, nor have permitted his boundless love of power and selfish vainglory to lead him to close his career by an old age of ferocious cruelty.
It was not until somewhat late in life that Marius saw Rome, and learnt the habits of life in the city. Up to that time he had dwelt in a village among the Volscian mountains. There he lived in a fashion rude indeed as compared with the polished and artificial manners of a great city, but temperate and agreeable to the old Roman ideas of bodily discipline.
His first service in war was under Scipio Africanus, when that general was besieging Numantia. There he gained the special notice of his commander by his valour, in which he surpassed all the other young soldiers, and by the readiness with which he fell into the severer style of living which Scipio introduced among the soldiers, whose fibre had been weakened by luxury and extravagance. It is said, also, that he killed one of the enemy in single fight in the presence of Scipio.
Scipio rewarded the merit of the young soldier by several honourable distinctions. On one occasion it chanced that the conversation after supper turned upon the subject of generals. Thereupon one of the company, either because he wished to flatter Scipio, or because he really wished to resolve a doubt in his own mind, asked the general where the Roman people would find such another leader when he was dead. 'Perhaps here,' said Scipio, touching Marius, who was next to him, upon the shoulder. Such was the promise of Marius and such the discernment of Scipio.
It is said that the encouragement which Marius derived from these words largely induced him to enter upon a political career. He obtained the tribuneship and established a reputation as a resolute and determined man, who would do nothing to please either senate or people if he judged it contrary to the interest of the state.
After Marius had served as praetor, he obtained by lot the government of the farther province of Spain. The country was still in a very savage state, for the natives were not yet sufficiently civilised to regard robbery as a dishonourable pursuit. Marius, however, is said to have broken up all the robber bands during his term of government.
Though he had by this time thoroughly entered upon political life, Marius possessed neither eloquence nor wealth, which were the two means by which politicians at that time were wont to prevail with the people. But he gained the popular favour by his determined character, his unwearied industry, and his temperate mode of life, and he increased so much in influence that he became connected by marriage with the illustrious house of the Caesars. His wife was Julia, whose nephew Julius Caesar, the greatest of the Romans, to some extent moulded his life upon the career of Marius.
There is a story which affords a striking evidence of the endurance of Marius. It is said that he suffered from varicose veins in both legs, and in order to rid himself of this trouble placed himself in the surgeon's hands. He would not allow himself to be bound for the operation, but held forth one of his legs to the surgeon, and, without flinching or groaning, bore the severe pain of the operation with a steady countenance and without uttering a sound. When, however, the surgeon was about to proceed to operate upon the second leg, Marius refused to hold it out, saying that the cure was not worth the pain.
When Metellus was made consul and given the command in the war against Jugurtha, he took Marius with him to Libya as his lieutenant. There Marius greatly distinguished himself. He took care, however, that his deeds should redound rather to his own credit than to that of his general. Indeed, he scorned to be a lieutenant of Metellus, and looked upon the war as a wide field of action in which he could display his courage to advantage and gather glory for himself. The service was full of hardships, but Marius shrank from no danger, however great. Nor did he think any detail too trivial for his attention, but in prudence and foresight surpassed all the other officers, while he lived on fare as hard, and endured hardships as great, as the common soldiers. Thus he gained the affections of the troops, to whom it was no small consolation to see him voluntarily taking part in their labours. Nothing indeed pleased the Roman soldier more than to behold his general eating the same dry bread as that upon which he himself subsisted, or sleeping upon a camp bed, or sharing in the actual labour of digging trenches and raising earthworks. The soldiers loved those officers who shared their labours and dangers more than those who distributed honours and money among them, and were more attached to a general who helped them in the work of the camp than to an officer who indulged them in idleness.
Thus Marius gained the devotion of the soldiers, and his fame and glory spread throughout Africa and extended even to Rome. The soldiers wrote to their friends at home extolling him, and saying that Marius should be made consul, since he was the only man capable of bringing the war to a fortunate end. These matters caused much anxiety to Metellus, who, however, was still more distressed by the affair of Turpulius. This man, and indeed the whole of his family, had long been faithful retainers of the family of Metellus, by whom Turpulius was made governor of an important town in the enemy's country. He treated the people of the town with great humanity and with an unsuspicious openness, which gave them an opportunity of delivering up the place to Jugurtha. Turpulius himself, however, was not injured when the place was taken, for the townsfolk prevaHed upon Jugurtha to spare him. His escape uninjured caused a suspicion that he had betrayed the place, and Marius, who was one of the council of war, was most bitter in pressing the accusation against him. He prevailed upon most of the other judges, and thus it happened that Metellus, much against his own will and judgment, was forced to pronounce sentence of death against his friend. Shortly after his execution it became plain that the charge was false, and Metellus was overwhelmed with sorrow. The other officers could not but sympathise with him, but Marius openly gloried in his distress, and boasted of the part he had taken in the matter.
Metellus and Marius henceforth became open enemies. We are told that one day Metellus, by way of insult, said to his rival: 'You intend, then, to go home to seek the consulship. Will you not be content to wait and be consul with this little son of mine?' In spite of the gibe, Marius continued to apply for leave to go to Rome, and Metellus kept finding pretexts for detaining him in Africa. At last, however, when but twelve days remained before the election, he permitted his enemy to depart.
Marius had a long journey from the camp before he reached the coast. He covered the distance, however, in two days and a night. Then, before he embarked, he offered sacrifice, and the diviner, it is said, promised him success beyond his hopes. Cheered by the prophecy, he set sail, and with a fair wind crossed the sea in four days. The people received him with favour, and he proceeded to bring many charges against Metellus. In order to secure the consulship for himself, he further promised the citizens that if he were given the command he would either kill Jugurtha or take him alive.
He was elected with applause, and at once set about making his levies for the army. In doing this, he did not observe the custom of previous generals of admitting only persons of some property. He did not hesitate to enrol many needy persons and even slaves. He made many bold speeches, too, in ill-mannered and insulting style, which gave great umbrage to the patricians. Thus, for example, he declared that he had snatched the consulship as a prey from the feebleness of the rich and high-born. He told the people that for his part he boasted of his own wounds, and not of the glory of great ancestors. He frequently referred to generals of high birth, who had been unsuccessful in the war in Africa, as examples of high-born incapacity. 'Would not the ancestors of such men,' he asked, 'prefer for descendants such men as I am? They themselves achieved fame not by their birth, but by their courage and lofty deeds.' He used such language not merely out of vanity and arrogance, but because he perceived that the people took pleasure in these insults to the great, and that they regarded such arrogant talk as a mark of a man of parts.
Upon the arrival of Marius in Africa, Metellus was overcome with mortification. He had, in a measure, finished the war, since only the capture of Jugurtha was necessary to complete the victory, and now his enemy, a man who had risen to greatness by ingratitude to him, was come to snatch from him the glory of the victory. Unable to endure the mortification of meeting his successful rival, he withdrew and left to his lieutenant the task of handing over the army to Marius. But before the war was ended, the retribution of Heaven overtook Marius. For, just as he had robbed Metellus of the glory of his exploits, so he himself was robbed by Sulla, a matter which happened in this wise.
The King of Upper Numidia, Bocchus, was the father-in-law of Jugurtha, but gave him very little help in the war. He pretended that he hated his son-in-law's faithlessness, but really he feared the increase in his power. Now, however, that Jugurtha was a wandering fugitive, and had applied as a last resource to his father-in-law for shelter, Bocchus received him, though without any great show of affection, and at once proceeded to play a double game. Publicly he wrote to Marius on behalf of his son-in-law, and declared that he would defend him to the last, but privately he sent to Lucius Sulla, who had done him many services during the war, intending to betray Jugurtha into his hands. When Sulla arrived to take over the prisoner, however, the king was in some doubt whether he should not change the form of his treachery, and hold the Roman officer prisoner. But at length he resolved to adhere to his first plans, and accordingly delivered his son-in-law alive into the hands of Sulla.
In this event lay the seeds of the desperate and implacable enmity between Marius and Sulla which almost ruined Rome. For many, out of envy of Marius, gave Sulla the whole credit for the success. Sulla, too, seemed to claim it, for he caused a seal to be made representing the delivery of Jugurtha to him, and constantly used it to seal his letters. This bitterly incensed Marius, whose passionate ambition would not suffer him to brook the existence of a rival in glory. The enemies of Marius did not fail to claim that the foundations of success and the chief actions of the war were achieved by Metellus, and that the finishing stroke was due to Sulla. By such reasoning they sought to deprive Marius of the renown of being the greatest commander of his time.
Soon, however, the danger which approached Italy from the west silenced the clamour which envy, hatred, and calumny had roused against Marius. For, casting about for an able pilot to take the helm of the ship of state in the terrible storm which threatened to overwhelm it, the people found that no rich or high-born Roman would stand for the consulship in this time of danger, and they therefore again elected Marius as consul, although he was absent from the city.
The danger was indeed great. No sooner had the Romans joyfully received the news of the taking of Jugurtha, than reports spread abroad of the coming of the Teutones and the Cimbri. And, though these reports appeared incredible as regards the numbers and strength of the enemy, it afterwards appeared that they fell far short of the truth. Three hundred thousand well-armed warriors marched in the barbarian hosts, and with them came their women and children, who were said to be much more numerous. These vast hordes sought lands where they might live and cities in which they might settle, just as beforetime the Celtae had driven out the Tuscans and taken possession of the richest part of Italy.
It is not known whence came this cloud of people, which now hovered like a storm over Gaul and Italy, or who they were. Some, because the barbarians were a blue-eyed people of great stature, believe that they belonged to the German nations who dwell by the shores of the North Sea. Others suppose that they were a mixture of Celtic and Scythian peoples; others again, that they came from Cimmerian lands where day and night divide the year into two equal parts. But these are matters of doubt.
Most historians, however, agree that their numbers were greater rather than less than those we have mentioned. Their courage and their vigour was like a devouring flame. Nothing could withstand their onset, everything that came in their way was trampled upon or driven before them, like cattle before the herdsmen. Many strong armies under experienced generals, maintained by the Romans on guard beyond the Alps, were swept before them like chaff. Their successes drew the barbarians on towards Rome, for, having beaten all the Roman troops they had met and loaded themselves with plunder, they despised that people, and decided not to settle down anywhere until they had laid waste all Italy and destroyed Rome itself.
It was in the alarm which the news of these terrible foes caused that Marius was elected consul a second time, although it was against the law for any one to be elected in his absence. But it was felt that at such a time the law must give way to the public safety. Accordingly Marius returned with his army from Africa and, on the first day of his new consulship, led up his triumph for the war in Numidia. In this procession he showed the Romans a spectacle none of them had ever expected to see, Jugurtha a captive in chains. Nobody had ventured to hope that Rome would end the war while Jugurtha remained alive, so fertile was he in expedients, and of a nature at once so courageous and so cunning. It is said that his mind became unbalanced through his being led in the triumphal procession by his captors. After the triumph some tore the clothes from his body, and others, to secure his golden earrings, pulled them off and with them the lobe of the ear. He was then thrust naked into a deep pit in the prison, and in his madness cried out with horrid laughter, 'O Hercules, how cold is your bath!' Six days he struggled against famine, and then by his death paid the penalty of his monstrous crimes. It is said that three thousand and seven pounds of gold, five thousand seven hundred and seventy-five pounds of uncoined silver, and two hundred and eighty-seven thousand drachmae in money were carried in this triumphal procession.
After the triumph Marius met the senate in the Capitol and, either through carelessness or vulgar ostentation, entered the place of assembly wearing his triumphal dress. Seeing, however, that the senate took offence at this, he went out and returned wearing the ordinary purple-bordered robe.
When Marius marched forth to meet the Cimbri, he constantly exercised his troops in various ways, such as in running and in making forced marches. More over, he made every man carry his own baggage and prepare his own food. Hence it came about that men who were fond of labour and obeyed orders promptly and without complaint came to be called Marian mules. Some, however, give a different account of the origin of this expression. They say that when Scipio was besieging Numantia, he determined to inspect not only the arms and the horses, but even the mules and the waggons. On this occasion Marius produced his horse, which he groomed himself and kept in excellent condition, and also a mule which in appearance, training, and strength far excelled all the others. The general was much pleased, and often spoke of these beasts of Marius, whence there arose the scoffing title of Marian mule for a persevering, plodding, and hard-working man.
A singular piece of good fortune favoured Marius in this expedition. The torrent of the barbarians turned aside for a time, and flowed towards Spain before it again shaped its course towards Italy. The respite gave Marius time to strengthen the discipline of his troops and to stiffen their courage. Moreover, it gave the soldiers an opportunity of learning what manner of man their general was. This was of great importance, for the first impression derived from his sternness and the severity of his punishments was unfavourable. But, when discipline was thoroughly established, the soldiers could not but admire the justice of Marius, and the success of the means which he had employed to train his troops. Even his harsh voice, his violent temper, and his ferocious expression of countenance came to be regarded by the soldiers not as things to be feared by them, but as things terrible to their enemies.
His strict but impartial justice contributed in some degree to his being elected consul a third time, a course which also appeared advisable to the Romans, because the barbarians were expected to make their invasion during the following spring, and the citizens wished to retain Marius as their commander for the struggle. However, the barbarians did not come so soon as had been expected, and the time of Marius's consulship was expiring. When the next election drew near, Marius therefore repaired to Rome, leaving one of his officers in command of the army. It happened that there were many candidates of great worth for the consulship, but one of the tribunes, who had very great influence with the people, was gained over by Marius. In his speeches the tribune urgently advised the people to elect Marius for a fourth term as consul. Marius himself pretended to wish to decline the honour, whereupon the tribune called him a traitor to his country for refusing the chief command at a time of such danger. It was evident to all that the tribune was playing a part at the bidding of Marius. Nevertheless the majority, seeing that the times required a man of his energy and success, voted for him and gave him as a colleague Catulus Lutatius.
Hearing that the enemy was now getting near, Marius rapidly crossed the Alps, and established himself in a fortified camp near the river Rhone. In order that he might not be forced to fight against his better judgment on account of lack of provisions, he set to work to supply the camp with an abundance of stores. The carriage of these by sea, however, was tedious and difficult, because the mouths of the Rhone were choked up by banks of sand and mud, and the navigation was thereby made difficult. Marius therefore made his soldiers, who would otherwise have been idle, dig a great canal, into which he diverted much of the water of the river. This channel he caused to terminate at a convenient point on the seacoast. Thus he formed a deep and safe passage for his supply vessels.
As they approached, the barbarians divided themselves into two bodies. The Cimbri directed their march so as to enter Italy from the north-east, where Catulus was stationed to oppose them. The other body, composed of the Teutones and Ambrones, marched along the seacoast against Marius. The advance of the Cimbri was somewhat delayed, but the other body rapidly traversed the space which lay between it and the Romans. They made their appearance before the camp of Marius in countless numbers, and, when they pitched their tents, the encampment covered a great part of the plain. In aspect they were hideous, and their language and the cries with which they challenged Marius to battle were unlike those of any people known to the Romans.
Marius took no notice of these taunts. He kept his soldiers strictly within the lines of their entrenchments, and sternly rebuked those who made a show of their courage by their eagerness to leave the camp and fight in the open. Such soldiers, he told them, were traitors to the interests of their country, for the objects of the army now should not be to gain triumphs and trophies, but to ward off the threatening tempest of war and secure the safety of their land. The commanders and chief officers he especially addressed in such terms as these. As for the soldiers, he caused them to be stationed on the ramparts by turns, so that they might become used to the appearance of the barbarians, and to the sound of their savage shouts. He believed that familiarity would render the enemy less terrible to them, since he was of opinion that the imagination invests that which is unknown with fancied terrors. It proved indeed that the daily sight of the enemy not only lessened the alarm with which they were at first regarded, but that their boastings and insolent pride aroused the anger and the courage of the Romans. For the barbarians ravaged the country all around, and attacked the ramparts of the camp with such boldness that the Romans began to chafe under their inaction, and their impatient words were reported to Marius. 'Has Marius found us cowards,' said they, 'that he keeps us here like women under lock and key? Is he waiting for others to fight for Italy, intending to use us only as labourers to dig canals and scour mud from river-beds? Is it to this end that he has disciplined us with so many toils?'
Marius was pleased to hear his soldiers use such words as these. He quieted them by the assurance that he did not mistrust them, but that he was waiting for the time and place for victory which had been pointed out by certain oracles. He did in fact have carried about with him in a litter, and treated with great respect, a Syrian woman, who was said to have the gift of foretelling the future. Marius sacrificed according to her directions, while she assisted at the sacrifices clad in a purple robe fastened with a clasp, and holding a spear adorned with wreaths and ribands.
One matter which is reported is certainly wonderful. It is said that two vultures accompanied the army, and were always seen hovering over it before a victory. They were recognised by brass rings about their necks, for the soldiers had caught the birds, and, after fastening the rings upon them, had let them go. Ever afterwards the soldiers saluted the birds when they appeared hovering over the army, and rejoiced in the confidence of victory.
As Marius continued to keep quiet within his camp, the Teutones determined to attempt to take it by storm. But a number of them were killed and many wounded by the missiles hurled from the ramparts, so they abandoned the attempt and prepared to resume their march, expecting to cross the Alps without being attacked. Accordingly, laden with their baggage, they marched past the Roman camp. Some idea could now be formed of their numbers by the length of the column and the time it took for it to pass by. It is said that they marched past the camp for six days without any interruption. As they went by, the barbarians taunted the Romans, and asked if they had any messages to send to their wives in Rome.
As soon as the wild hordes had all passed by, Marius also broke up his camp and followed them. He always took care to keep them in touch, and chose strong places which he fortified for his camps, and in which his army passed the nights in safety. Thus the two armies moved on until they came to a place called Aquae Sextiae, which is but a short march from the Alps.
There Marius prepared for battle, and pitched his camp in a spot which afforded an excellent military position, but only a scanty supply of water. He did this advisedly, we are told, in order to incite his men to action. When many of them complained of thirst, he pointed to a river which ran close to the enemy's camp. 'There,' said he, 'is water which you must purchase with your blood.' 'If that be so,' answered the soldiers, 'lead us thither at once before our blood is quite dried up.'
To this request Marius replied in a gentler tone that he would indeed lead them thither, but that they must first fortify the camp. With some reluctance the soldiers obeyed his command. The servants of the army, however, being in great need of water, both for themselves and for their cattle, determined to have it even at the cost of fighting. Taking their pitchers and arming themselves with such weapons as came to hand, some with pickaxes, some with axes and some with swords and javelins, they rushed in crowds to the stream. The mob of servants encountered a small body of the enemy, some of whom were bathing in the hot wells which abound in this district, while others, having bathed, were eating their dinners. The disorder of the enemy enabled the Romans to cut off a number of them, and their cries brought others of their comrades running to their assistance.
Marius had now great difficulty in restraining the impetuosity of his soldiers, who were much concerned about their servants. Moreover, the Ambrones, who numbered thirty thousand, and were the best troops in the enemy's army, were by this time drawn up. Though they had eaten too freely and were somewhat flushed by wine, the barbarians did not advance in a wild or disorderly way. Clashing their arms at regular intervals, and shouting their name, 'Ambrones! Ambrones!' all together, they came on to the attack.
The Ligurians were the first of the Italians to move against them, and when they heard the war-cry 'Ambrones!' they themselves echoed back the same shout, for the word was indeed the ancient name of their people. Thus the two bodies advanced against one another, shouting the same warcry and vying with one another as to which should shout it the louder.
It was necessary for the Ambrones to cross over the river to reach the enemy, and during the passage their ranks were thrown into some disorder. Before they could re-form upon the opposite bank, the Ligurians charged into them, and thus the battle began. Meanwhile the Romans came pouring down from the higher ground to support their comrades.
This attack upon the barbarians was pressed home so hard that they were soon thrown into disorder. Many were slain in a confused fight upon the banks of the river, and the stream itself was filled with the bodies of the slain. Those of the Ambrones who got back safely across the river did not dare to make any stand, and many were cut down by the Romans as they fled to their camp. Meanwhile the women in the barbarian camp seized swords and axes, and with hideous yells fell upon fugitives and Romans alike, the ones as traitors, the others as enemies. Mingling with the fighting men, they clutched at the shields of the Romans or seized their swords with their naked hands, and would not let go their hold until they were cut to pieces. Thus the battle was fought confusedly upon the banks of the river, rather in a haphazard way than according to any plans of the general.
Great numbers of the Ambrones were thus destroyed, and, when darkness was beginning to fall, the Romans retired. But their camp did not resound that night, as might have been expected after such a success, with songs of victory. There were no feasts and merrymakings in the tents, nor did the soldiers enjoy the greatest solace of the tired warrior, sound and refreshing sleep. Indeed, the night passed in dread and anxiety, for the camp was undefended by trench or rampart, and vast myriads of barbarians still remained unconquered. From their camp came horrible sounds of grief and rage, which seemed not like the sighs and groans of men, but like the howling and bellowing of wild beasts. The horrid din re-echoed from the mountains and the hollow river-banks, and filled all the plains with affrighting sounds. The Romans could not help feeling some terror, and Marius himself dreaded the chances of a confused night battle. However, the barbarians did not attack either that night or the next day, but spent the time in seeking to arrange their forces to the best advantage.
Meanwhile Marius, observing that the enemy's camp was overhung by wooded hills, sent one of his officers with three thousand men to lie in ambush there. He instructed them not to move until the battle was begun, and then to fall upon the enemy's rear. The rest of his troops he ordered to take their evening meal and to retire early to rest.
Next morning, at break of day, Marius drew up his army in front of the camp, and then ordered his cavalry to march down into the plain. As soon as the Teutones perceived this movement, they could not restrain themselves nor wait until the Romans had reached the plain. Arming themselves hastily, and thirsting to avenge their fallen comrades, they pressed up the hill to the attack. Marius at once sent officers through the whole of his army with orders to the troops to stand still and await the onset. He further ordered that, when the barbarians were within reach, the Romans should cast their javelins and then take to their swords, thrusting upon the enemies with their shields with all their strength. For he knew that the slope of the hill was so slippery that the foes, in struggling to keep their balance, could not put any great weight into their blows, nor would it be easy for them to keep in close order. Not only did Marius give these orders, but he was himself the first to put them into practice, for in activity he was inferior to none of his soldiers, and in resolute courage he excelled them all.
The firm and united charge of the Romans prevented the barbarians from ascending the hill, and little by little pressed them back into the plain. There the foremost ranks were beginning to form anew, when wild disorder showed itself in the enemy's rear. For the commander of the Roman ambush, having been warned by the noise which reached him that the battle was begun, dashed out of his hiding-place, and with loud shouts impetuously attacked the enemy's rear. Thus assailed in front and rear, the barbarians broke their ranks and took to flight. The Romans pursued, and either killed or took prisoners over one hundred thousand of the foes, and also made themselves masters of the enemy's baggage and tents. They afterwards voted that such of these as had not been plundered should be presented to Marius as a reward for his services in a time of such pressing danger.
After the battle Marius chose out from the arms and other spoils the finest specimens to grace his triumph. All the rest he caused to be piled in a great heap, in order to make a splendid sacrifice to the gods. Around stood the soldiers, crowned with laurel wreaths, while their general, clad in a purple robe girt in the Roman fashion, took a lighted torch. With both hands he raised it towards heaven, and was then just about to fire the sacrificial pile when horsemen were seen galloping towards him. Silence and expectation fell upon the assembly, but gave way to shouts of joy and exultant clashing of arms when the horsemen, leaping from their saddles, saluted Marius as consul for the fifth time, and handed him letters confirming his appointment. The officers thereupon brought their general fresh crowns of laurels, and amidst great rejoicings and loud acclaims he set fire to the pile and completed the sacrifice.
But there is something in life which will not long allow us to enjoy unmixed prosperity, but chequers human fortune with mingled good and evil. It may perchance be Fortune or some avenging deity, perchance Necessity or the very nature of things. Howsoever it be, but a few days had passed since this joyous sacrifice before dreadful news was brought to Marius of what had befallen his colleague Catulus. Like a cloud arising in a blue sky, the news threatened Rome with a fresh tempest.
Catulus, whose duty it was to oppose the advance of the Cimbri, had decided not to defend the passes of the Alps, because he feared that to do so he would have to weaken his force by splitting it up into a number of small bodies. He therefore withdrew his troops from the heights and descended into the plain of northern Italy, where he took up a position behind the line of the river Adige. Here he fortified posts on both sides of the river, across which he threw a bridge so that he might if necessary send supports to those of his troops who were stationed on the farther side.
The Cimbri, full of confidence in themselves and contempt for the Romans, advanced through the mountains with much bravado. In order to display their strength and daring rather than because there was any necessity for them to do so, they bore the snowstorms of the mountains without any covering. They climbed through snow and ice to the summits of the mountains, and then, seating themselves upon their broad shields, slid down the steep slopes over the great rocks.
When they reached the river, they examined the ford, and then proceeded to dam up the stream. For this purpose they worked with such strength and in such numbers that they seemed to tear up the hills in the neighbourhood like the giants of old. Whole trees were pulled up by the roots and, together with masses of rock and mounds of earth, were cast into the river. Moreover, the barbarians sent heavy timbers floating down the stream, which drove against the piles of the bridge and shook it so that it seemed likely to fall.
The Romans were terrified by all these things, and most of them left the main camp and began to retreat. Catulus then acted like a noble general, who preferred the reputation of his nation to his own. As he could not prevail upon his soldiers to stand, he ordered the standard of the eagle to be advanced, and, hastening to the van of the retiring troops, put himself at their head, so that the army might not seem to be flying, but to be following the general in retreat.
The fort on the other side of the Adige was taken by the barbarians, though there the Romans fought with a courage worthy of their race. Their valour aroused the admiration of the barbarians, who spared their lives and allowed them to go after they had sworn to certain conditions. The land was left defenceless, and the hordes of barbarians poured over it and ravaged far and wide.
Marius was now summoned to Rome. The senate had without hesitation voted him a triumph, and it was generally expected that he would celebrate it upon his arrival. He refused, however, to do so, perhaps because he felt that his soldiers and comrades ought to share in it. He then set out to join Catulus and, at the same time, sent a summons to his own army to join him. When the troops arrived, he crossed the river Po, and endeavoured to keep the barbarians from invading the regions south of that river.
The Cimbri declined his offer of battle. They were waiting, so they said, for the Teutones, but it is doubtful whether they were really still ignorant of the fate which had befallen their comrades. At any rate, they treated those who brought the news of the defeat very cruelly. They also sent a demand to Marius for lands for themselves and their brethren, and for a sufficient number of towns for them to dwell in. Marius asked the ambassadors who brought this demand whom they meant by their brethren. He was told that they were the Teutones, whereupon all the Romans who were present at the interview burst out into laughter. Marius sneeringly answered, 'You need not worry about your brethren. They have land which they shall hold for ever, for we have given it them.' The ambassadors understood the point of this reply, and began to abuse him and to threaten him with the vengeance of themselves, the Cimbri, and of the Teutones also when they should arrive. 'They are with us already,' said Marius, 'and it is only fitting that you should embrace your brethren before you depart.' So saying, he ordered that the kings of the Teutones, who had been captured in their flight amongst the Alps, should be brought forward in chains.
After the ambassadors had reported this interview to their countrymen, the Cimbri at once advanced against Marius, who, however, remained quietly in his camp. It was at this time, so it is said, that he introduced an alteration in the spears used by the Romans. Previously the head had been fastened to the wooden shaft by two iron nails. Marius ordered that one of these should be withdrawn and a wooden peg, which would be easily broken, put in its place. He gave this order, designing that the spear when it struck the enemy's shield should, upon the breaking of the wooden peg, bend over on the single iron nail, and the end of the shaft drag along the ground and encumber the enemy so long as the head remained fixed in the shield.
The king of the Cimbri with only a few men now came riding up to the Roman camp, and challenged Marius to fix a time and a place to do battle for the possession of the country. Marius answered that it was not the custom of the Romans to take the enemy's advice about fighting, but nevertheless he was willing to oblige the Cimbri on this occasion. The adversaries then agreed that the battle should take place on the third day from that time upon the plain of Vercellae, a situation which suited the Roman cavalry on the one hand, and on the other allowed full room for the great numbers of the Cimbri.
When the day came, the Romans prepared for the battle. Catulus with twenty-two thousand three hundred men occupied the centre, while the thirty-two thousand soldiers of Marius were divided between the two flanks. Meanwhile the infantry of the enemy advanced slowly from their fortified camp in a square formation, each side of which measured thirty stadia, while their fifteen thousand cavalry came on in splendid style. The horsemen wore helmets, shaped like the open-mouthed heads of hideous beasts, surmounted by lofty plumes of feathers, which added to the apparent height of the wearers. They also wore breastplates of iron and carried gleaming white shields. Their custom in war was to hurl two javelins and then to close with their foes and use their big heavy swords.
On this occasion the cavalry of the Cimbri did not advance directly against the Romans, but turned off to the right, hoping to draw some of their foes little by little away from their supports before attacking them. The Romans generals saw the object of this manœuvre, but the soldiers were deceived. They raised a cry that the enemy was in flight and, regardless of their officers, rushed in pursuit.
Meanwhile, the barbarian army came on like a huge moving sea. As was to be expected, the movement of so many men raised a great cloud of dust. Hence it happened that Marius, rushing to the attack at the head of his men, missed the enemy entirely, and wandered for some time in the plain without knowing exactly where he was. By this time the barbarians had closed with Catulus, upon whose soldiers, therefore, fell the brunt of the fighting. Sulla was one of those who fought in this division.
He tells us that the heat of the day, and the fierce sun, which shone full in the faces of the barbarians, were a great aid to the Romans. For the Cimbri, being natives of a cool forest-covered country, were hardy in enduring cold, but the heat distressed them and made them sweat freely and labour in their breathing. Indeed, they were fain to shelter their faces from the sun with their shields, for the battle was fought in the summer season during the month now called August. The dust also favoured the Romans, for it hid from them the vast numbers of the enemy. So well were their bodies disciplined to toil and activity, that not one of the Romans was seen to sweat or heard to breathe heavily in spite of the excessive heat, although they closed with the enemy running at full speed.
The best soldiers of the barbarians were cut to pieces where they stood in their ranks, for, in order to prevent the line from being broken, those soldiers who were in the foremost rank had been fastened together by long chains passing through their belts. The others who fled were driven back to their encampments, where a most terrible scene was witnessed. For the barbarian women, who, clothed in black, were mounted upon the waggons in the camps, slew the men as they ran. Some killed their husbands, others their fathers or brothers. Then they strangled their little children and cast their bodies under the wheels of the waggons or the feet of the cattle, and, last, killed themselves. One woman, it is said, hanged herself from the pole of a waggon with her children tied to her feet with cords. Some of the men, too, fastened themselves to the horns or the feet of oxen and then goaded the beasts till the animals gored or trampled them to death. Many died in this manner, but nevertheless more than sixty thousand were taken prisoners, and more than twice that number are said to have been killed in the fight.
The most valuable part of the booty fell to the soldiers of Marius, but the military ensigns and spoils were carried to the tent of Catulus, who relied upon this fact as a proof that the victory had been won mainly by the soldiers under his command. A dispute arose concerning this point, and certain ambassadors who were present were chosen as arbitrators. The soldiers of Catulus pointed out to them that the dead bodies of the barbarians were pierced by spears upon the shafts of which the name of Catulus was inscribed. Nevertheless, Marius gained the whole credit for the victory, partly because of his previous success, and partly because of his higher rank, for Catulus was no longer consul. The proudest title which the people conferred upon Marius was that of 'The Third Founder of Rome.' They thought, too, that he should celebrate his triumph alone. He, however, shared the honour with Catulus, for he wished to show that he was not unduly elated by his victories. He knew, moreover, that the soldiers were unwilling that he alone should triumph and Catulus be deprived of the honour.
Though Marius was now fulfilling his fifth consulship, he was very anxious to be appointed a sixth time to the office. He therefore set himself to gain favour by courting the people. In this he went beyond what was befitting the rank and dignity of his position, and beyond what agreed with his own character, for, instead of being naturally easy and complaisant, he was in truth just the opposite.
It is said that the undaunted courage which he showed on the field of battle quite deserted Marius in civil rivalry and in the din of popular assemblies. There is a story told concerning the censure which fell upon him for giving the citizenship to a thousand people of a certain town. When complaint was made to Marius that his action was illegal, he answered, 'The law speaks in too quiet a voice to be heard above the clash of arms.'
Certain it is that though Marius was first in military matters, he found that he could not by his own abilities attain the highest position in civil affairs. This led him to pander to the many, in order to obtain their support; and, in order to remain the first man in Rome, he sacrificed all claim to be the noblest. Hence he came into sharp conflict with the aristocratic party in the state.
Out of all the members of that party he feared Metellus most. Not only had Metellus experienced the ingratitude of Marius in former time, but he was, moreover, a man of upright character, who was the natural foe of those who sought the favour of the people by dishonourable means and for their own selfish ends. Marius therefore plotted to get Metellus driven from Rome, and with this end allied himself with Glaucia and Saturninus, two bold and unscrupulous men, who had at their command a rabble of turbulent fellows. He also used his influence with the soldiers, and, it is said, spent large sums in bribery. By these means he secured his sixth consulship.
It was during this term of office that Marius drew upon himself most hatred, on account of the part he took in promoting many of the violent measures of Saturninus. One of these foul deeds was the murder of a rival candidate for the tribuneship. Having thus secured the office, Saturninus brought forward a certain measure to which was added a clause requiring that the members of the senate should take an oath to assent to any measure whatsoever which was voted by the people.
In the senate Marius pretended to oppose this proposal, and declared that he would not take the oath. He was, however, speaking falsely. His object was to entrap Metellus into declaring also that he would not take the oath, for Marius knew that his enemy would in no case go back upon his word. The perfidy succeeded; Metellus declared his determination not to take the required oath, and the senate separated. A few days later Saturninus summoned the senators, and pressed the oath upon them. Then Marius came forward amidst profound silence, for all were on the alert to see what he would do. In spite of his bold assertions in the senate, and with but a few words by which he hoped to coyer the shame of his perfidy, he declared that he would take the oath. Thereupon the people were delighted and applauded loudly, but the nobles were cast down and looked upon Marius with hatred. However, through fear of the people, the other senators followed his example, until it came to the turn of Metellus. In spite of the entreaties of his friends, he would not swerve from his word. He refused to take the oath and withdrew from the Forum.
Thereupon Saturninus put it to the vote that Metellus should be placed under a ban and excluded from the use of fire, water, and house in the city. Some of the worst of the mob were indeed minded to murder Metellus, but those of more worth crowded around him in sympathy. He would not, however, suffer any civil strife to be raised on his account, and like a wise and prudent man quitted the city. 'If better times come, the people will invite me to return,' said he, 'while if things remain evil, I am better away.'
Marius had, however, purchased the support of Saturninus dearly, for he was now forced to wink at his supporter's excesses, even when it became evident that he was aiming at obtaining supreme power by bloodshed and murder. Though the chief men in the state came to Marius and urged him to take action against Saturninus, it was with difficulty that he could be prevaHed upon to do so. At length, however, the senators and knights began to combine, and their indignation drove Marius to action. He drew out his soldiers into the Forum, and drove Saturninus and his followers to the Capitol. There thirst compelled them to surrender, for the water-pipes had been cut. Marius did everything he could to save the lives of the prisoners, but without avail, and as soon as they came down to the Forum, they were set upon and massacred. These events caused Marius to be hated by both the nobles and the people.
After the expiration of this consulship, Marius spent some time in Asia. He left Rome because he could not endure to witness the return of Metellus, for, in spite of his opposition, the people favourably received a measure for the recall of his enemy. In Asia he sought to stir up the kings to war, for he thought that by war alone should he renew his ascendency in the state.
When he returned to Rome, he built himself a house near the Forum, in order that those who wished to court his favour might have no difficulty in waiting upon him. Nevertheless, he found himself neglected in favour of others, for his want of affable manners and of aptitude for political affairs caused him to be passed over, like a weapon of war cast aside in times of peace. He was particularly chagrined at the popularity of Sulla, who founded his political conduct upon enmity to Marius, and who had risen to power on account of the hatred which the nobles bore to his rival.
One circumstance in particular threw Marius into a frenzy of rage and jealousy against Sulla. Bocchus, the Numidian king, received the title of 'Ally of the Romans,' and, in return, erected in the Capitol figures of Victory, by the side of which he placed gilded figures representing himself giving up Jugurtha to Sulla. So furious was Marius, that he began to make preparations to destroy the figures by force, and, as Sulla prepared to oppose him, civil strife between the two seemed to be upon the point of breaking out.
The conflict, however, was prevented by the Social War which suddenly burst upon Italy. In this struggle the most warlike and numerous of the Italian peoples combined against Rome, because they were refused the rights of citizenship. They were well supplied with war-like stores, their soldiers were brave and hardy, and their commanders showed such courage and skill that the war came near to overthrowing the supremacy of Rome.
The struggle was marked by many reverses and by many changes of fortune. On the whole, it detracted as much from the reputation of Marius as it added to the fame of Sulla. For Marius seemed both slow in forming his plans and also over-cautious and hesitating in carrying them out. It may be that age was beginning to quench his former fire, for he was now in his sixty-sixth year. Nevertheless, he won a great battle in which he killed six thousand of the enemy. He never allowed his foes to take him at a disadvantage, and when he was entrenched within his camp the insults and challenges of the enemy faHed to provoke him to battle. It is said that when the most famous of the enemy's generals said to him, 'Come down and fight, Marius, if you are indeed a great general,' he replied, 'Not so, but do you, if you are a great general, make me fight against my will.'
Marius himself stated that his nerves were disordered, and that his body was incapable of bearing the fatigues of the campaign. Nevertheless, he endured the hardships of war to a degree beyond his physical powers. At last, however, his weakness forced him to give up the command.
After the Italians had given in, intrigue became busy in Rome about the choice of a commander for the war in Asia. Many sought the position, but everybody was surprised when the tribune Sulpicius, a bold and daring man, proposed that Marius should be made proconsul and entrusted with the prosecution of the war. The proposal met with a mixed reception. Some indeed were in favour of Marius, but others supported Sulla for the command, and mockingly advised Marius to go to the warm baths of Baiae, near which he had a magnificent house, and look after his health. Marius, however, stirred by boyish emulation of Sulla, now endeavoured to throw off his age and infirmities. He went daily to the Campus Martius, where he exercised himself with the young men, and showed, though he was now very stout and heavy, that he was still active in arms, and had a firm seat in the saddle. Some were pleased to see the old warrior still full of martial ardour, but wise people regretted that greed for gain and glory did not permit him to be content with the vast wealth and high rank to which he had risen from poverty and obscurity.
The disease of civil war, which had long been rankling in the body of the state, at length broke out, mainly through the audacity of Sulpicius. This man was an admirer of Saturninus, and copied him in everything except that he considered his model lacking in boldness and promptitude. Certainly Sulpicius, who kept a kind of bodyguard of six hundred men about him, was prompt and bold enough himself. He even attacked the consuls with an armed force while they were holding a public meeting. One consul escaped, but his son was seized and murdered. The other consul was Sulla, who escaped by slipping into the house of Marius, which was the last place in which his pursuers, who ran past the place while he was within, expected him to take refuge. By such desperate means Sulpicius enforced his will and got Marius appointed to the command.
Marius now began to prepare to set out, and sent two of his officers to take over the troops who were at the time under the command of Sulla. His enemy, however, successfully incited the soldiers to resist. They fell upon the officers whom Marius had sent, and then, to the number of thirty-five thousand well-armed men, set out to follow their commander in an advance against Rome. Meanwhile Marius, in revenge, put to death many of the friends of Sulla who happened to be in the city. Then, in order to increase his forces, he offered freedom to the slaves if they would join him. But only three, so it is said, avaHed themselves of his offer.
When Sulla entered the city, Marius was only able to make a feeble resistance, and was forced to endeavour to seek safety in flight. He quitted Rome, and in the darkness became separated from his friends. He fled first to one of his farms, and then sent his son to the estates of his father-in-law to get provisions, while he himself hurried to Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber, where one of his friends had provided a vessel for him. When he arrived at the port, he set sail without waiting for his son. Meanwhile, young Marius arrived at the estates and busied himself in getting the necessary things together. Daylight surprised him, however, before he had finished his task, and he narrowly escaped falling into the hands of the enemy. Some of their cavalry, thinking he might be at the place, came riding to the farm. When the overseer saw them coming, he hid young Marius in a waggon loaded with beans, yoked the oxen to it, and met the horsemen as he drove along the road to the city. In this manner Marius was taken to his wife's house, and then, making his way to the sea by night, escaped in a vessel to Africa.
The elder Marius saHed along the coast of Italy with favouring winds. He was especially anxious to avoid the neighbourhood of the town of Tarracina, because one of his enemies, Geminius, was a very powerful man there. He therefore ordered the sailors to keep clear of that place. They were willing enough to obey him, but, as it chanced, the wind suddenly changed and blew so strongly from the sea that the sailors feared that their ship would not weather the storm. Besides, Marius was sea-sick and ill, and the sailors, therefore, determined to make the land. They did so with great difficulty at a place not many miles distant from Tarracina. As the storm continued to increase in violence, and their provisions were almost gone, they landed there and wandered up and down, not knowing what to do or whither to go. They were indeed in great perplexity. Land and sea were alike hostile to them. They dreaded to meet any men, and yet they dreaded not meeting them, for they were by this time in dire want of food. At last the wanderers came across a few herdsmen who had no food to give the starving men. They recognised Marius, however, and told him to quit those parts at once, for only a little while ago a body of horsemen had ridden by that very spot in search of him.
Marius was now in the greatest difficulties and his companions were ready to faint with hunger. In order to hide themselves they left the road and plunged into the recesses of a thick wood, where they passed the night in great anxiety. The next day found Marius sorely distressed for want of food, and he determined to drag himself down to the seashore while he had still strength enough to do so. On the way he begged his companions not to desert him. He sought also to encourage them by telling them to wait for his last hope, which he based upon an old prophecy. For he said that, when he was very young and lived in the country, an eagle's nest, with seven young ones in it, once fell into his lap. His parents consulted the diviners about this strange occurrence, and were told that it signified that their son would become the greatest of men, and that he would seven times hold the highest office in his country.
The starving wanderers had arrived at a distance of about two and a half miles from the sea, when at the same time they espied on the landward side a troop of horse a long way off making towards them, and, seaward, two vessels sailing near the shore. They ran down, therefore, with all the speed and strength they had left, to the seashore, plunged into the water and swam to the ships. The stepson of Marius reached one of them, and was taken over to an island opposite. Marius, who was very stout and heavy, was meanwhile with difficulty borne along above the water by two servants, and put on board the other vessel. By this time the horsemen had ridden down to the water's edge. There they shouted loudly to the sailors, ordering them either to put ashore immediately or else to throw Marius overboard. The fugitive with tears implored the sailors to save him, and at last the masters of the vessels, after changing their minds more than once, shouted a refusal to give him up.
The soldiers now rode away in anger. But the crew of the vessel which Marius had reached soon repented of their decision, for they feared the danger of protecting the fallen man. They therefore made for the land at a point where the mouth of a river overflows and forms a marsh. There they advised Marius to go ashore and rest himself, while they waited for a favourable wind. They assured him that the sea breeze would fall, and a favouring wind arise from the land at a certain hour of the day. Marius believed them, and the sailors helped him ashore, where he seated himself upon the grass, little dreaming of what was to befall him. For the sailors, unwilling to give him up and yet fearing to protect him, at once hurried on board their ships, weighed anchor and saHed away.
Marius was thus left alone and deserted by everybody. For some time he sat there on the shore silent and stupefied. Then, recovering himself at last, he rose and walked sadly forward along wild and winding paths till, by scrambling over deep bogs and ditches full of muddy water, he came to the hut of an old man who worked in the marsh. Marius threw himself at the stranger's feet, implored him to save him, and promised, if the present danger were escaped, to reward him far beyond his greatest hopes. The cottager replied that his hut would afford Marius shelter, if that was all he required, but that, if enemies were seeking his life, he would show him a safer hiding-place. He then led Marius through the fens down to the river, where he hid him in a hollow under the river-bank, and covered him over with reeds and rushes.
Marius had not been long in this hiding-place before he was disturbed by the sound of loud noise and wrangling coming from the cottage. His enemy, Geminius, had sent out a number of men to scour the country in search of him, and one party of the pursuers had just come that way and were loudly threatening the cottager for having helped an enemy of the Romans.
Marius now thought it unsafe to remain in the cave. He therefore stripped himself and plunged into the slimy water of the bog. By doing so he did not escape, but in fact revealed himself to his pursuers. They pulled him out of the bog, naked and covered with mire, and bore him off to the town of Minturnae, where they handed him over to the magistrates.
A proclamation had been made through all the towns in those parts that strict search should be made for Marius, and that he should be put to death wherever found. The magistrates of Minturnae, however, thought it well to deliberate about the matter before carrying out the order. They therefore sent Marius under a guard to the house of a woman named Fannia. Now, in the time of his sixth consulship, Marius, in a law-suit which came before him, had inflicted a fine upon this woman as a mark of disgrace. It might therefore have been expected that she would have been filled with resentment against him. Fannia, however, rose above such feelings, and did all she could to comfort and encourage the prisoner.
The magistrates of Minturnae having deliberated upon the fate of Marius, decided that he should be put to death. None of the citizens would undertake to do the deed, but a barbarian horse-soldier was induced to do so, and took a sword with the intention of killing the prisoner. Now it happened that the room in which Marius lay was somewhat dark, and it is said that when the assassin entered a light seemed to gleam from the eyes of Marius through the gloom, while his deep voice blared out, 'Darest thou kill Caius Marius?' Thereupon the soldier was smitten with terror. Throwing down his sword, he fled from the room crying, 'I cannot kill Marius.' This turn of events deeply impressed the people of the city, and they began to ask whether it was not right that they should aid the man who had saved Italy, rather than put him to death. 'Let the exile go,' said they, 'and await his fate in some other place. And for our part, let us implore the gods to pardon us for refusing shelter to the poor naked wanderer.'
Impelled by such feelings they conducted Marius down to the seacoast. There he set sail and was carried by the wind to the island upon which his stepson and some friends had taken shelter. Together they then saHed for Africa, but, being obliged to put in for water on the coast of Sicily, they had a very narrow escape. The Roman governor of the island was on the lookout for the fugitives, and nearly succeeded in capturing Marius when he landed. Indeed, sixteen of the watering party from the ship were slain.
Soon after this escape Marius learnt for the first time that his son had managed to make his way to Africa, and was gone to seek aid from the King of Numidia. The news encouraged him to press on for Africa, and he landed in the neighbourhood of Carthage. As the Roman governor of the district around had never been either injured or favoured by Marius, it was expected that he would feel sufficient compassion for the exile to give him some aid. But, immediately after he landed, the fugitive was met by an officer, who delivered this message: 'The governor of Libya forbids you, Marius, to set foot in this province, and warns you that he will treat you as an enemy if you disobey this command.' Sorrow and anger at this reception for a time deprived Marius of the power of speech. He stood a long time silent, staring fixedly at the officer. When, at last, he was asked what reply he had to make to the message of the governor, Marius answered with a deep sigh, 'Tell him that you have seen Caius Marius an exile sitting amidst the ruins of Carthage!' a speech in which he fittingly compared his own fallen fortunes with the fate of the city.
Meanwhile, the King of Numidia had been in doubt how to act. He treated young Marius and his companions with honour certainly, but he kept them about him, on one pretext or another, whenever they proposed to depart, so that it appeared that he was detaining them with no good object towards them. By the aid of one of the women about the court, however, they succeeded at last in escaping, and made their way down to the coast. There young Marius embraced his father, and together they left the mainland for an island at no great distance from it. Their departure was timely, for no sooner had they set sail than they saw a body of horsemen, sent by the king to seize them, riding down to the shore.
Meanwhile, Sulla had left Rome in order to command the army in the war against Mithridates. While he was absent, the two consuls, Octavius and Cinna, quarrelled, and civil war broke out between them. Octavius got the better of the struggle and deposed Cinna from his office. But the defeated consul determined to continue the contest, and collected troops in Italy in order to make war upon his rival.
When Marius heard this news, he resolved to take advantage of the strife in order to return to Italy. He knew that Cinna was the enemy of Sulla, and was disposed to make changes in the government. Marius therefore hoped to establish his position once again by an alliance with Cinna.
As soon as he had landed in Italy, Marius proclaimed freedom for such slaves as would join him. He also persuaded the most stalwart of the freemen who, attracted by his fame, flocked down to the seashore upon hearing the news of his arrival, to enrol themselves with him. By these means he succeeded in a few days in gathering a considerable force, and in manning forty ships. He then sent a message to Cinna, recognising him as consul and offering to obey him in all things. Cinna gladly accepted the proffered aid, named Marius proconsul, and sent him the insignia of that office. The returned exile, however, declared that such signs of honour did not become his fallen fortunes. He dressed himself in mean robes; his disordered hair, uncut since his exile, streamed over his shoulders; and he walked with a slow and measured gait which might, indeed, well agree with his age, for he was now about seventy years. But, in truth, his dress and his halting gait were means by which he hoped to awaken the pity of the people. Despite his abject look and garb, a more than usually terrible expression of face belied his pretended humility, and showed that his pride was infuriated rather than humbled by the buffets of fortune.
After Marius had met Cinna, he at once began his operations, and very soon completely changed the aspect of affairs. His fleet cut off the enemy's convoys, he plundered their store-ships and made himself master of their food supplies. Then, sailing along the coast, he captured the seaports one by one. At last Ostia itself, the port of Rome, was treacherously betrayed to him. He plundered the town, killed most of the inhabitants, and then threw a bridge across the Tiber to prevent the carrying of any provisions to Rome by way of the sea. Next, he marched against Rome itself, and took up his position on the hill called Janiculum.
Meanwhile, the cause of Octavius suffered less from his lack of ability than from his scrupulous observance of the laws. Thus, for example, he refused to grant freedom to the slaves as the price of their support. He depended, too, much upon diviners and soothsayers, and spent more of his time with them than with men of military and political abilities. At last, the consul was dragged from the tribunal and murdered by some persons employed for that purpose.
The senate assembled while affairs were in this condition, and, despairing of defending the city, sent some of their members to Cinna and Marius, inviting them to come into the city, but beseeching them to spare the inhabitants. Cinna received them seated in his chair of state as consul, and returned them a smooth answer. Marius stood by the consul's chair but said not a word, and the gloom upon his brow and the menace in his eye revealed his intent to fill Rome with blood.
The two generals then moved forward towards the city. Cinna entered the city with a strong guard, but Marius stopped at the gates. He pretended unwillingness to enter, declaring that, as he was a banished man, the law forbade his return. 'If the country needs my services,' said he, 'the law by which I was driven into exile must first be repealed.' The people were therefore assembled for this purpose.
Very soon, however, Marius threw off the mask, and, when only a few of the tribes had given their votes, he entered the city with his bodyguard, a company made up of slaves who had joined his standard. This band of scoundrels murdered all whom Marius, by the slightest word or sign, singled out for destruction. Indeed, when a certain senator of high rank saluted Marius, and the salutation was not returned by their leader, they immediately fell upon the man and killed him. After this time the bodyguard regarded the failure of Marius to return a salute as a sentence of death, so that the very friends of their general were in terror of their lives when they went to pay their respects to him.
When great numbers had been butchered, Cinna's thirst for blood began to be satiated. But the frenzy of Marius seemed to increase and his appetite for vengeance to be sharpened by indulgence in bloodshed. He continued to slay all upon whom fell the slightest shadow of his suspicion. Every road was beset by his soldiers, and every town was full of his assassins employed in hunting out the wretched victims of his vengeance.
Dread of his resentment broke down the bonds of friendship and the ties of hospitality, so that there were very few who did not betray the fugitives who sought shelter with them. On this account the conduct of the slaves of Cornutus is the more worthy of high admiration. They hid their master within his house, and then, taking up a dead body from among those which lay in the street, they put their master's ring upon the finger of the corpse, which they then hanged by the neck. This they showed to Marius's assassins as the body of their master, and afterwards they prepared it for the funeral and buried it in his name. No one suspected the trick, and after the most severe danger had passed, the slaves safely conveyed their master out of the country.
Mark Antony, the orator, also had a faithful friend, but this did not avail to save his life. He took refuge with a man in poor circumstances, who, wishing to entertain his distinguished visitor as well as he could, often sent into a neighbouring town to get wine for him. The wine-seller noticed that the servant who came to fetch the wine was very particular about the quality, and insisted upon having the best. His curiosity was aroused, and he asked the servant why his master was no longer satisfied with the ordinary new wine which he was accustomed to buy, but demanded the best and dearest quality. The foolish servant told him, in confidence as a friend, that the wine was wanted for Mark Antony, who lay hid in his master's house. Directly the servant was gone, the wine-seller hastened to Marius, whom he found at supper, and told him that he could put Mark Antony into his hands. Marius clapped his hands with joy, and but for the persuasions of his friends would himself have hastened to the spot. In his stead he sent an officer with a body of soldiers and ordered him to bring the head of Antony. When the troop arrived at the house, the officer stood at the door, while at his command the soldiers climbed by a ladder to the room of Antony. The orator, however, met them with such moving appeals to spare his life, that the intending assassins could not find it in their hearts to lay hands upon him. They stood before him with downcast eyes, till at last the officer, wondering at the delay, burst into the room. He, upbraiding his men for their weakness, with his own hand struck off Antony's head.
Catulus, the former colleague of Marius, who had shared in their joint triumph over the Cimbri, sought by every means to put a stop to the slaughter, but found his prayers and intercessions vain. Sickened with the horror of the time, he shut himself up in a small closed chamber, and allowed himself to be suffocated by the fumes arising from a charcoal fire.
The bodies of the slain were thrown out into the streets and trodden under foot. In this horror of bloodshed, the conduct of the bodyguard of Marius was especially atrocious, for they wreaked their vengeance not only upon men but upon helpless women and children. Indeed, their violence and crime went beyond all bounds, until at length Cinna and one of his officers were revolted by their cruelty. They took counsel together, and falling upon the guards while the ruffians slept cut them off to a man.
At this time a sudden change happened in affairs. News came that Sulla had finished the war against Mithridates, and, having reduced the provinces, was returning to Rome with a great army. The intelligence brought a brief respite from the horrors of slaughter, and during this period Marius was chosen consul for the seventh time. But by this time his violent passions and the vicissitudes of his life had worn him out, and his faculties were failing him. He trembled at the thought of the approaching conflict. He could not but reflect that he had now to deal not with Octavius or with some desperate leader of a petty rising, but with Sulla, the conqueror of Mithridates, and the man who had before driven him into exile. Torn by these anxieties and unable to bear the suspense of awaiting the approach of his enemy, he had recourse to wine, and indulged in excesses by no means suited to his years. At last, when certain news came by sea of the approach of Sulla, he fell into a fever of which he died. Some, however, say that he died of the excess of his ambition, which threw him into a frenzy in which he imagined himself to be carrying on the war against Mithridates and shouting orders to his troops.
Thus died Caius Marius at the age of seventy, distinguished by the unexampled honour of seven consulships, and possessed of more than regal wealth. Yet he died in all the misery of an unfortunate wretch. His death happened on the seventeenth day of his seventh consulship, and was haHed with joy by the citizens, who trusted to be freed by it from the most hideous of tyrannies.