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The Story of Rome by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

GAIUS MARIUS WINS THE NOTICE OF SCIPIO AFRICANUS

[281] GAIUS Marius was born in 157 B.C. His parents were humble folk, who had to work for their daily bread.

Marius grew up knowing nothing of the indolence and luxury that surrounded so many Roman youths of noble birth.

His boyhood was lived in a mountain village, where, if his training made him rough and uncouth, it also taught him to endure hardness, and to eat and drink only what was needful for his health. It was many long years before Marius knew anything of the polished manners and indulgent ways of the city.

From his youth Gaius Marius was bold and active. As he grew older, his temper would often flash out in ungovernable passion when there was little to provoke it.

The lad first served as a soldier under the younger Scipio Africanus. He was used to frugal fare, and to him the simple manner in which Scipio insisted that his soldiers should live seemed only natural.

The young soldier's bravery gained the attention of his commander more than once, and it is easy to believe that such notice awoke his pride and roused his ambition.

One evening, as he sat at supper, Scipio was asked where the Romans would find another leader when he was no longer with them.

"Perhaps here," answered Scipio, and as he spoke he touched Marius lightly on the shoulder.

At these words the ambition of Marius leaped to greater heights than ever before.

[282] When he was thirty-eight years of age he became a tribune, and he at once set himself to win the favour of the people by bringing forward a measure to keep the election of magistrates free from bribery, but the Senate refused to allow the bill to be put to the vote.

Marius, nothing daunted, threatened that the Consuls should be imprisoned if they did not compel the Senate to let the bill take its course. So determined was he that he gained his end. The bill came before the people, and they, well pleased that Marius had compelled the Senate to yield, voted for it, and the bill became law.

In 115 B.C. he became a prætor, and was sent to service in Spain. Here he showed that he was a leader of men, for under him the Roman army speedily cleared the land of the robbers that had for long infested it.

At this time those who rose to fame in Rome were almost always either rich or eloquent.

But Marius was poor, and he had no gift of speech, yet these things did not prevent him from looking forward to the days when he, too, would be famous.

And already the people believed in him. He worked so hard and lived so simply that they looked on the uncouth soldier with goodwill.

A little later he married into the family of the illustrious Cæsars, and this improved his position, and added to his growing influence in the State. His wife Julia was the aunt of the great Roman, Julius Cæsar.

This was the lieutenant Metellus took with him to the war against Jugurtha.


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