|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
MARIUS RETURNS TO ROME
SULLA, you remember, entered the city with his troops as
Marius fled from Rome. He at once revoked the laws of
Sulpicius, and ruled in his own way.
But he was impatient to go to war against Mithridates,
and so, in the summer of 87 B.C., he set out with his
army for Greece.
No sooner was he gone than Cinna, one of the Consuls,
proposed that Marius and his friends should be
recalled. But Octavius, his colleague, was greatly
opposed to this, and determined to frustrate Cinna's
The Consul soon gave Octavius the opportunity he
wished. For when the citizens assembled to vote for or
against the return of the exile, Cinna led a band of
armed men to the Forum, that they might be too
frightened to vote save as he wished. He drove away,
too, the tribunes who attempted to speak against him.
This was against all laws of justice, and Octavius did
not hesitate to go to the Forum at the head of an armed
force to punish Cinna's men.
In the struggle many of the rioters were killed, while
Cinna himself was forced to flee. The Senate then
declared that he was no longer Consul, but had become a
When Cinna heard of the Senate's decree he was very
angry, and determined to gather together troops to
fight against Octavius. He was speedily joined by
Marius, who was no sooner told what had happened in
Rome than he hastened back to the city.
 When he arrived Cinna received the exile with great
honour, and urged him to wear the robes of a
But Marius pretended to be too humble to don such
garments, and he persisted in wearing old and shabby
His hair, which had not been cut since his banishment,
he left still untouched, although it now reached to his
shoulders, while he walked as though bent with the
weight of his seventy years. It did not seem, to judge
from his pitiable appearance, as if the old man could
be of much use to Cinna.
But his enemies muttered that Marius was only trying in
these ways to make the people sorry for all he had
suffered. They needed only to look in his face to see
that he was harbouring grim thoughts of revenge on
those who had ever shown themselves to be his enemies.
Soon Cinna had four armies ready to march on Rome. One
was under Marius, another Cinna himself intended to
lead, while two more were under his legates, Sertorius
The city walls were in no fit state to stand an attack,
for in many places they were even broken down.
Octavius ordered these weak places to be repaired and
strengthened by fortifications, while at the same time
he sent messengers to the lieutenants of Sulla, bidding
them hasten to the aid of the city.
Two of these officers, Metellus and Strabo, hastened to
obey Octavius. But they did, perhaps, more harm than
good, so many of their troops deserted and joined
Metellus did not stay in the city long, and refused to
take the command of the troops, as Octavius wished.
Strabo did his best, for although his men were
suffering from fever he attacked Sertorius. But the
battle was undecided, and soon after this Strabo was
killed by lightning. Octavius was thus left without
the officers on whose help he had relied.
 Marius, meanwhile, had, as it seemed, thrown off the
weight of his years. He was as active and as
successful as in his earlier battles.
Ostia, the port of Rome, was taken by his troops, and
this, as he meant it to do, kept the corn supply from
reaching the city, and Rome began to fear that famine
was before her.
Before long Cinna and Marius were able to meet on the
Janiculum. Large numbers of the troops under Octavius
continued to desert and to join their army.
Then the Senate saw that they would gain nothing by
continuing to defy the successful generals. So they
bent their pride, and invited Cinna and Marius to meet
them within the city.
When the generals arrived, the Senate begged that they
would spare the lives of the citizens, even if they saw
fit to punish them.
Cinna did not scruple to promise that all should be as
the Senate wished. Marius, who stood close to the
chair of Octavius, said not a word, but
his face was stern and forbidding.
And again those who looked at him
foresaw that dire punishment would overtake his
Marius and his followers were still under the ban of
exile, so the first thing Cinna demanded was that the
sentence should be withdrawn.
But Marius was now within sight of his revenge, and he
was too impatient to begin his cruel work to wait for
the decision of the people.
When only a few tribes had voted, he dashed into the
Forum, closely followed by a band of slaves, which band
he called his bodyguard.
The slaves were ruffians hired to do his bidding, and
now, at a word or sign from their master, they began to
murder the citizens. The glance of Marius was enough
to show them whom to slay. Soon they did not even look
to him for a sign, but simply fell upon all whose
greetings Marius did not return.
 Octavius was cut down as he sat in his consular chair,
and his head was taken to Cinna.
Catulus, too, who had fought side by side with Marius
against the Cimbri, was doomed, although his friends
begged that his life might be spared. Marius answered
their petitions roughly, saying only, "He must die."
But Catulus did not wait for the cruel sentence to be
carried out. He shut himself up in a room, and making
a huge fire, he suffocated himself.
These were days of terror in Rome, for no man knew if
his life was safe.
At length even Cinna grew ashamed of the cruelty of
Marius's slaves, and he and Sertorius put a number of
the ruffians to death. After this the citizens' lives
were in less danger.
The time had now come to elect Consuls for the year 86
B.C. As usual the people assembled, but they had no
choice save to vote for Marius and Cinna. To do
otherwise would have been to court death.
Thus, as Marius had believed would happen, even during
the miserable days of his flight, he became Consul for
the seventh time. But he did not live many days to
enjoy the new honour, if honour it could be called,
when fear alone had bestowed it upon him. Worn out
with the passion of revenge to which he had yielded,
and attacked by fever, he died on the 13th of January
Cinna was now the most powerful man in Rome. He had no
difficulty in making the people elect himself and Carbo
Consuls for the years 85 and 84 B.C.
There was but one name Cinna dreaded, and that was the
name of Sulla. But he thought that, if he proclaimed
that the great general who was fighting for Rome in the
East was a public enemy, he soon would have no reason
to fear him. So he did this, and at the same time
ordered Sulla's house in the city to be pulled down.
Cinna, however, had now gone too far. Many of the
 Optimates, who belonged to the best families in Rome,
at once left the city and fled to Greece to the camp of
Sulla. So many senators also joined the general, that
Sulla could act in the name of the Senate more truly
than could his rival in Rome herself. He therefore
proclaimed that when the war was over he would come
back to Rome with his army and overthrow Cinna and his
The Consuls, when they heard this, at once began to
enrol troops, that they might be prepared to hold the
city against Sulla when he came.
But Cinna, after all, was not alive to meet his dreaded
enemy. For in 84 B.C. the soldiers of the Consul
mutinied and murdered him. Sulla did not return to
Italy until the spring of 83 B.C.
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