Marius in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Gaius, a distinguished Roman general and statesman, who was born near Arpinum in B.C. 157 of an obscure family in humble circumstances. His father's name was C. Marius, and his mother's Fulcinia; and his parents, as well as Marius himself, were clients of the noble plebeian house of the Herennii. So indigent, indeed, is the family represented to have been, that young Marius is said to have worked as a common peasant for wages, before he entered the ranks of the Roman army. (Cf. Juv. viii. 246.) The meanness of his origin has probably been somewhat exaggerated; but, at all events, he distinguished himself so much by his valour at the siege of Numantia in Spain (B.C. 134) as to attract the notice of Scipio Africanus, who is said to have foretold his future greatness. His name does not occur again for fifteen years; but in 119 he was elected tribune of the plebs, when he was thirty-eight years of age. In this office he came forward as a popular leader, and proposed a law to give greater freedom to the people at the elections; and when the Senate attempted to overawe him, he commanded one of his officers to carry the consul Metellus to prison. Marius now became a marked man, and the aristocracy opposed him with all their might. He lost his election to the aedileship, and with difficulty obtained the praetorship; but he acquired influence and importance by his marriage with Iulia, the sister of C. Iulius Caesar, who was the father of the future ruler of Rome. In 109 Marius crossed over into Africa as lieutenant of the consul Q. Metellus. Here, in the war against Iugurtha, the military genius of Marius had ample opportunity of displaying itself, and he was soon regarded as the most distinguished officer in the army. He also ingratiated himself with the soldiers, who praised him in the highest terms in their letters to their friends at Rome. His popularity became so great that he resolved to return to Rome, and become at once a candidate for the consulship; but it was with great difficulty that he obtained from Metellus permission to leave Africa. On his arrival at Rome he was elected consul with an enthusiasm which bore down all opposition before it; and he received from the people the province of Numidia and the conduct of the war against Iugurtha (B.C. 107). On his return to Numidia he carried on the war with great vigour; and in the following year (B.C. 106) Iugurtha was surrendered to him by the treachery of Bocchus, king of Mauretania. (See Iugurtha.) Marius sent his quaestor Sulla to receive the Numidian king from Bocchus. This circumstance sowed the seeds of the personal hatred which afterwards existed between Marius and Sulla , since the enemies of Marius claimed for Sulla the merit of bringing the war to a close by obtaining possession of the person of Iugurtha. Meantime Italy was threatened by a vast horde of barbarians, who had migrated from the north of Germany. The two leading nations of which they consisted were called Cimbri and Teutoni, the former of whom are supposed to have been Celts, and the latter Gauls. To these two great races were added the Ambrones, and some of the Swiss tribes, such as the Tigurini. The whole host is said to have contained three hundred thousand fighting men, besides a much larger number of women and children. They had defeated one Roman army after another, and it appeared that nothing could check their progress. The utmost alarm prevailed throughout Italy; all party quarrels were hushed. Every one felt that Marius was the only man capable of saving the State, and he was accordingly elected consul a second time during his absence in Africa. Marius entered Rome in triumph on the first of January, 104, the first day of his second consulship. Meanwhile, the threatened danger was for a while averted. Instead of crossing the Alps, the Cimbri marched into Spain, which they ravaged for the next two or three years. But as the return of the barbarians was constantly expected, Marius was elected consul a third time in 103, and a fourth time in 102. In the latter of these years the Cimbri returned into Gaul. The barbarians now divided their forces. The Cimbri marched round the northern foot of the Alps, in order to enter Italy by the northeast, crossing the Tyrolese Alps by the defiles of Tridentum (Trent). The Teutoni and Ambrones, on the other hand, marched against Marius, who had taken up a position in a fortified camp on the Rhône. The decisive battle was fought near Aquae Sextiae (Aix). The carnage was dreadful. The whole nation was annihilated, for those who did not fall in the battle put an end to their own lives. The Cimbri, meantime, had forced their way into Italy. Marius was elected consul a fifth time (B.C. 101), and joined the proconsul Catulus in the north of Italy. The two generals gained a great victory over the enemy on a plain called the Campi Raudii, near Vercellae (Vercelli). The Cimbri met with the same fate as the Teutoni; the whole nation was destroyed. Marius was received at Rome with unprecedented honours. He was hailed as the saviour of the State; his name was coupled with the gods in the libations and at banquets, and he received the title of third founder of Rome. Hitherto the career of Marius had been a glorious one; but the remainder of his life is full of Gaius Marius. (Duruy.) horrors, and brings out the worst features of his character. In order to secure the consulship the sixth time, he entered into close connection with two of the worst demagogues that ever appeared at Rome, Saturninus and Glaucia. He gained his object, and was consul a sixth time in 100. In this year he drove into exile his old enemy Metellus; and shortly afterwards, when Saturninus and Glaucia took up arms against the State, Marius crushed the insurrection by command of the Senate. (See Saturninus.) His conduct in this affair was greatly blamed by the people, who looked upon him as a traitor to his former friends. For the next few years Marius took little part in public affairs. He possessed none of the qualifications which were necessary to maintain influence in the State during a time of peace, being an unlettered soldier, rude in manners, and arrogant in conduct. The Social War again called him into active service (B.C. 90). He served as legate of the consul P. Rutilius Lupus; and after the latter had fallen in battle, he defeated the Marsi in two successive engagements. Marius was now sixtyseven, and his body had grown stout and unwieldy; but he was still as greedy of honour and distinction as he had ever been. He had set his heart upon obtaining the command of the war against Mithridates, which the Senate bestowed upon the consul Sulla at the end of the Social War (B.C. 88). In order to gain his object, Marius allied himself to the tribune, P. Sulpicius Rufus, who brought forward a law for distributing the Italian allies, who had just obtained the Roman franchise, among all the Roman tribes. As those new citizens greatly exceeded the old citizens in number, they would of course be able to carry whatever they pleased in the Comitia. The law was carried, notwithstanding the violent opposition of the consuls; and the tribes, in which the new citizens now had the majority, appointed Marius to the command of the war against Mithridates. Sulla fled to his army, which was stationed at Nola; and when Marius sent thither two military tribunes, to take the command of the troops, Sulla not only refused to surrender the command, but marched upon Rome at the head of his army. Marius was now obliged to take to flight. After wandering along the coast of Latium, and encountering terrible sufferings and privations, which he bore with unflinching fortitude, he was at length taken prisoner in the marshes formed by the river Liris, near Minturnae. The magistrates of this place resolved to put him to death, in accordance with a command which Sulla had sent to all the towns in Italy. A Gallic or Cimbrian soldier undertook to carry their sentence into effect, and with a drawn sword entered the apartment where Marius was confined. The part of the room in which Marius lay was in the shade; and to the frightened barbarian the eyes of Marius seemed to dart out fire, and from the darkness a terrible voice exclaimed, "Man, durst thou murder C. Marius?" The barbarian immediately threw down his sword, and rushed out of the house. Straightway there was a revulsion of feeling among the inhabitants of Minturnae. They got ready a ship, and placed Marius on board. He reached Africa in safety, and landed at Carthage; but he had scarcely put his foot on shore before the Roman governor sent an officer to bid him leave the country. This last blow almost unmanned Marius; his only reply was, "Tell the praetor that you have seen C. Marius a fugitive sitting on the ruins of Carthage." Soon afterwards Marius was joined by his son, and they took refuge in the island of Cercina. During this time a revolution had taken place at Rome, in consequence of which Marius was enabled to return to Italy. The consul Cinna (B.C. 87), who belonged to the Marian party, had been driven out of Rome by his colleague Octavius, and had subsequently been deprived by the Senate of the consulate. Cinna collected an army, and resolved to recover his honours by force of arms. As soon as Marius heard of these changes he left Africa, and joined Cinna in Italy. Marius and Cinna now laid siege to Rome. The failure of provisions compelled the Senate to yield, and Marius and Cinna entered Rome as conquerors. The most frightful scenes followed. The guards of Marius stabbed every one whom he did not salute, and the streets ran with the blood of the noblest of the Roman aristocracy. Among the victims of his vengeance were the great orator M. Antonius and his former colleague Q. Catulus. Without going through the form of an election, Marius and Cinna named themselves consuls for the following year (B.C. 86). But he did not long enjoy the honour: he was now in his seventyfirst year; his body was worn out by the fatigues and sufferings he had recently undergone; and eighteen days after his assumption of the consulate he died of an attack of pleurisy. See Plutarch's life of Marius; Beesly, The Gracchi, Marius, and Sulla (N. Y. 1878); and Mommsen, Hist. of Rome, vol. iii.

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