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Famous Men of Rome by  John H. Haaren & A. B. Poland

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MARIUS

I

[148] AT the time of the death of Caius Gracchus there was in Rome a great man named Caius Marius. This man came forward and said to the people that if they would elect him tribune he would get them their rights.


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MARIUS

The people elected him tribune and, true to his word, he did everything he could to improve their condition. He was afterwards elected consul seven times, and for a long while he was the greatest man in Rome.

Marius was a tall and very powerful man and had a strong will. When he said he would do anything he would do it in spite of all difficulties. He was a very great soldier. Many people thought him the best of the Roman generals.

He succeeded in a war against Jugurtha, king of [149] Numidia, after other generals had failed. He took many cities from Jugurtha and at last captured the king himself and all his treasure.

Jugurtha was brought to Rome and compelled to walk behind the chariot of Marius in a grand triumphal procession. He was afterwards put into a foul dungeon and left there to die.

The nobles did not like Marius. He was the son of plebeian parents and he had taken the side of the plebeians against the nobles. Therefore the nobles hated him, and they would have done everything they could against him, only that they needed his help to protect Rome from very dangerous enemies.

A host of barbarian people, called Cimbri, Teutones, and Ambrones, had left their homes on the shores of the Baltic Sea and invaded the southern lands. They were strong, fierce men, and they laid waste every country they passed through. They defeated several Roman armies that were sent against them. Some of the tribes of Helvetia (the country now called Switzerland) joined them and one of those tribes defeated and killed a Roman consul and made his army pass under the yoke.


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A ROMAN ARMY PASSING UNDER THE YOKE

The Romans were, therefore, very much frightened. They thought that the barbarians would soon be in Italy. So Marius was appointed to go against them with a great army. He crossed the [150] Mediterranean into Gaul and met the Teutones and Ambrones near the city of Arles on the River Rhone. The Cimbri had already gone to Italy.

Marius first made a strong entrenched camp. He wanted to give his men time to get accustomed to the manners of the strange enemy before attempting [151] to fight them. The Roman soldiers had shown fear at sight of the barbarians. They had never before seen such people.

The Teutones were like giants. They had large, wild, staring eyes and long hair, and they made terrible war-cries. The Ambrones and the Cimbri were as savage in appearance. The king of the Teutones was very tall and so active that he could leap over six horses placed abreast.

When the barbarians saw that the Romans would not fight, they began to taunt and insult them. They walked up and down in front of the Roman camp day after day, calling the soldiers cowards.

"Why don't you come out and fight us like men?" they cried. "Are you afraid? Come out, come out; we are in a hurry! We are going to Rome after we kill you!"

Marius had hard work to keep his men from rushing out upon the barbarians. He did not yet want to fight, but he said to his soldiers:

"When the proper time comes we will give these savages all the fighting they want."

One day a gigantic Teuton chief, with a long shield and spear, came up to the very entrance of the Roman camp and called loudly for Marius himself to come out and fight. The great general laughed heartily at the impudence of the barbarian, [152] and he sent out a gladiator to fight with him in order to give sport to the Romans.


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GLADIATORS

Gladiators were men who fought one another in the shows at Rome for the amusement of the people. They were usually slaves and were very strong, active, and well-trained fighters.

It did not take the gladiator long to defeat the Teuton. In a few minutes he laid the savage giant low, and the Romans shouted with joy at the sight.

After the Teuton was killed the Romans still remained in their camp. Marius was not yet prepared to fight. At last the barbarians got tired waiting and they started off to march to Italy.

II

SO great was the number of the barbarians that it took them six whole days to march past the Roman camp. When all had passed Marius left his camp and followed them by slow marches. Be- [153] fore long the two armies arrived at the city of Aix on the south coast of Gaul.

Marius thought it was now time to fight, so he led out his fine army against the enemy. The first battle was fought with the Ambrones. They astonished the Romans with their war-cry. They held their shields upright and at a little distance from their mouths and shouted: "Ambrones! Ambrones!" as if to terrify the Romans by letting them know who they were. Then they rushed furiously across the field.

The Romans met the charge with wonderful courage. Their lines were scarcely broken. Three times they drove back the enemy, and then they themselves moved steadily forward with their whole force. They cut down the Ambrones by thousands, took many prisoners, and sent the others fleeing away in terror.

Next day there was another battle. The Teutones and Ambrones together attacked the Romans, but the Romans were again victorious. When the battle was over it was found that more than a hundred thousand barbarians had been killed or taken prisoners.

Marius now turned his attention to the Cimbri, who had gone to Italy. They had encamped on a beautiful, fertile plain near the River Po, and were [154] enjoying the warm Italian sun and the sweet fruits of the country.

But Marius was not very long in reaching the same place with his victorious army. When the Cimbri saw the Romans marching on to the plain where they were encamped, they were astonished. To gain time they sent a messenger to Marius to ask him to give them lands to live on in Italy.

"Give us," said the messenger, "lands in Italy for ourselves and for our friends, the Teutones and Ambrones, and we will all live at peace."

"Never mind the Teutones and the Ambrones," said Marius, "they have lands already. We have given them some which they will keep forever. We will give you the same."

Then a battle began between the two great armies. The foot soldiers of the Cimbri were formed into an immense square, and the men in the front ranks were chained to one another by iron chains so that they could not run away. There were fifteen thousand horsemen, wearing on their helmets the heads of wild beasts.

The battle was a hard one for a while, but it did not continue long. Time after time the Cimbri were driven back, and at last they were put to flight. Thousands of them were killed, and thousands made prisoners.

[155] When Marius and his soldiers returned to Rome they got a splendid reception. There was a parade through the streets, and a great feast was given to the people. A large sum of money was divided among the soldiers to reward them for their brave conduct.


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A VINTAGE FESTIVAL IN ANCIENT ROME

Marius was now in high favor at Rome. The nobles did not dare to speak a word against him. He was elected consul seven times, so that he was master of the Republic for a long time.

In the sixth year that Marius was consul the war called the Social War broke out. It lasted for three years. It was a war with some of the nations of Italy which Rome had formerly conquered. The people of those nations did not want to separate from Rome, but they wanted to have the right of [156] voting as the Romans themselves had. Rome refused to give them this right, and at last they resolved to go to war.

All the greatest Roman generals of the time took part in this war. One of them was a young noble named Sulla. He was a very successful soldier and won a number of great victories. The nations were defeated in the war, but Rome soon granted them most of the rights they had asked for.

The nobles gave great praise to Sulla for his victories in the Social War. They declared that he was a better general than Marius. So many fine things were said about the young noble that Marius became jealous and did a very foolish thing. He suddenly left his army in the field and came back to Rome. He complained that he was nervous and he shut himself up in his house and refused to see any of his friends for weeks.

The nobles then started a story that Marius was getting silly and weak-minded from old age. He was about seventy at this time, and the nobles said he ought to retire from the army. This made the old hero angry and he declared he was as strong in mind and body as any of the young Romans.

One morning he went to the place where the young men of Rome used to practise athletic sports, and for two or three hours he wrestled and ran and [157] leaped with as much skill and strength as any one. Some of the nobles who happened to pass by saw him and were very much amused.

About this time Sulla was elected consul on account of his victories in the Social War. Shortly afterwards Rome declared war against Mithridates, King of Pontus in Asia Minor, who had cruelly put to death a number of the citizens of a Roman province in Asia.

The Senate appointed Sulla to command the Roman army in this war. But as soon as he left Rome with his army one of the tribunes proposed at an Assembly of the people that the command should be taken from him and given to Marius. The Assembly agreed to this and Marius accepted the appointment. He sent word to the army, which was not far from Rome, that he would come in a short time to take command.

When Sulla heard this he became very angry. He called his soldiers around him, told them what had been done, and asked them if they would submit to be the slaves of Marius and his party.

"No, no!" cried the soldiers, "we will not submit. We want you for our general."

"Then follow me to Rome," said Sulla, "we will teach Marius and his friends that they must not insult us."

[158] So the soldiers marched quickly back to Rome with Sulla at their head. They declared that they would take the city out of the hands of rebels, as they called the friends of Marius. When they entered the city they were met by Marius and his followers and there was a battle, in which Marius was defeated. Then a law was passed declaring Marius a traitor and that he should be put to death.

But Marius fled from Rome with some friends and went down the Tiber in a boat to the Mediterranean. He sailed along the coast and then he and his companions went ashore to seek for food. They wandered through the country for some time without seeing any one. At last they met a farmer, who gave them something to eat. He told them that horsemen from Rome were riding through the place searching for Marius.

They were frightened at this and they ran into a thick wood where they stopped all night. But while his companions were downcast Marius was cheerful and hopeful.

"This bad state of things," he said, "will last only a short time. I know it, because the gods have revealed to me that I shall be once more consul of Rome!"

But next day Marius was taken by the horsemen. He saw them coming and waded far into a great [159] marsh and hid himself among some high, thick reeds. The horsemen rode into the marsh and found him, and they put a rope round his neck and dragged him to the shore. Then they shut him up in a hut and began to think what they should do with him.

At last they decided to put him to death at once. They thought this would please Sulla, and that perhaps he would reward them for it. So they gave a sword to a slave and sent him to kill Marius. The slave entered the hut and stood for a few moments looking at the great general. Marius glared at him like a wild beast and said in a stern voice:

"Slave, will you dare to kill Caius Marius?"

The slave started back in terror and ran out of the hut. Then he threw down his sword at the feet of the soldiers and cried out that he could never have the courage to slay Marius.

It was now decided to send Marius out of the country. So he was taken to a ship and carried to Africa. After going ashore he wandered through the country until he came to the place where Carthage once stood. Nothing now remained of the famous city but a mass of gloomy ruins, for the Romans had entirely destroyed it a few years before in the third Punic War. In these ruins Marius lived for a short time. One day a soldier came to tell him [160] that the governor of Africa wanted him to leave the country.

"Go to your governor," answered Marius, "and tell him that you saw Caius Marius sitting on the ruins of Carthage."


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MARIUS IN THE RUINS OF CARTHAGE

Not long afterwards, when Sulla was away fighting King Mithridates, there was great trouble at Rome. One of the consuls named Cinna, aided by many of the plebeians, attempted to get the control of public affairs, but was defeated by the nobles. Then Cinna and his followers were forced to leave the city. They organized an army among the Italians who had been complaining of [161] not getting their rights from Rome, and they sent to Africa for Marius to come and be their commander.

When Marius arrived he made an attack on Rome and soon captured it. Then he marched in through the gates at the head of his army and took possession of the city. At the next election the people elected him consul.

Marius now resolved to have vengeance on the nobles who had driven him from Rome. And for several days the old Roman, surrounded by a guard of freed slaves, went through the city seeking the nobles in their houses, in the temples, in the Forum, and everywhere that they could be found, and killing them without mercy.

These were dreadful days. Some of the noblest men of Rome were put to death. None of Sulla's friends was spared. Even his wife and children were harshly treated and forced to leave the city.

Marius did not stop the bloody work until he had killed all his enemies that he could find. But his triumph was short. He died in a little more than two weeks after he had become consul for the seventh time.


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