| Famous Men of Rome|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of twenty-eight of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Rome, from its founding to its fall. Includes most of the best known characters from the kingdom and republic of Rome, as well as the most prominent personages from the imperial age. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
 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.
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
 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
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.
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
 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
 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
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
 and he sent out a gladiator to fight with him in order to give sport to the
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.
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-  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
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
 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
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.
 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.
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
 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
 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
"Then follow me to Rome," said Sulla, "we will teach Marius and his friends
that they must not insult us."
 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
But next day Marius was taken by the horsemen. He saw them coming and waded
far into a great
 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
 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."
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
 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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