|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 CONQUERS THE TEUTONES
 SOON after Marius had been chosen Consul for the fourth
time, the Teutones, and the Ambrones, another of the
fierce barbarian tribes which Rome had feared, did
actually approach Italy.
So Marius marched toward the Rhone, and here, not far
from the river, he set up his camp. His first work was
to secure a safe passage to the sea, so that he could
be sure of getting provisions for his army.
As the mouth of the Rhone was choked with huge banks of
sand and mud, Marius ordered his soldiers to clear the
bank away, and then set them to work to dig a great
Now soldiers would usually rather fight than dig, and
as the summer passed, and still their general did not
lead them to battle, they began to grumble.
"Has Marius found us cowards," they cried, "that he
should thus like women lock us up from encountering our
enemies? Come on, let us show ourselves men, and ask
him if he expects others to fight for Italy. Does he
mean merely to employ us to dig trenches and cleanse
places of mud . . . and turn the course of the river?"
These complaints reached the ear of Marius, but they
did not at all displease him. He wished that his
soldiers should be eager to fight, and bade them wait
but a little longer and he would lead them against the
The Teutones were encamped not far off, and they,
seeing that the Romans did not attack them, began to
 these legions, of which they had heard so much, were,
after all, as brave as they had been told. They would
at least find out what the enemy was worth, and they
determined themselves to attack the Roman camp.
But their attempt was discouraging. Many of them were
killed and wounded, and this although the Romans were
restrained by the orders of their general from rushing
out upon the foe, and could only hurl upon them any
missile on which they were able to lay their hands.
The barbarians now resolved to take no more notice of
the Romans. Since the enemy would not fight, they
determined to break up their camp, cross the Alps, and
invade Italy, as had been their intention before Marius
placed his army in their path.
So the vast hordes of Teutones and Ambrones began to
march slowly past the Roman camp. For six days, it is
said, Marius refused to let his men stir, while the
great procession filed past their tents.
The Roman soldiers were like caged lions, and when some
of the barbarians jeered at them as they passed, asking
if they had any message for their wives in Rome, they
all but broke loose.
At length the long line of the barbarian hosts came to
an end, and then Marius broke up his camp, and to the
undisguised relief of his soldiers marched after the
The barbarians had encamped a few days' march from the
pass into Italy, at a place called Aquæ Sextiæ.
Marius set up his camp near to the enemy, but while he
had not enough water for his army, the barbarians were
close to a river, and had a plentiful supply.
When the Roman soldiers complained that they were
thirsty, Marius pointed to the river which flowed past
the camp of the enemy.
"There," said he, "you
may have drink if you will buy
it with your blood."
 "Why, then," answered the soldiers, "do you not lead
us to it before our blood is dried up in us?"
"Let us first fortify our camp," replied the general,
and reluctantly the men began to obey.
But the servants and slaves belonging to the Roman army
determined to get water at once for themselves and for
the horses. So, carrying pitchers in one hand, and
swords and axes in the other, they went boldly down to
the edge of the river.
On the bank sat a band of the enemy. It had been
bathing, and was now carelessly eating and drinking.
But seeing the Roman servants, the barbarians sprang to
their feet, and with loud shouts fell upon them.
Their cries and the clash of their weapons were heard
in both camps, and, hastily arming, Romans and
barbarians alike rushed to the river. Soon the
Ambrones and the Romans were engaged in a fierce
But the Ambrones were not a match for the
strictly-trained soldiers of Marius. Numbers of them
were cut to pieces, while others turned and fled to the
wagons which surrounded their camp, hotly pursued by
When the Ambrones reached the wagons, they met with
neither welcome nor help.
The women, in anger that their men had turned their
back upon the foe, had climbed into the wagons,
carrying with them the first weapon which they had been
able to find. And now, shouting the wild war-cry of
their peoples, they attacked with sword or hatchet all
who came within their reach, were they friends or foes.
The arms of the women were bare, and as they fought
they received many wounds. Then they tried to pull
from the Romans the shields with which they protected
Still the battle raged, and only when night fell did
the Romans retire, leaving the field strewn with the
dead bodies of the Ambrones.
 But there was no rest for the Roman soldiers that
night, nor did they dare to rejoice as though the
barbarians were vanquished. For the Teutones were not
yet beaten. Even then their wild cries and
lamentations over the dead, mingled with threats
against their enemy, reached the ears of the Romans.
In the darkness the strong soldiers trembled, lest they
should be attacked that night, while their camp was
defended by neither trench nor rampart.
But although the terrible cries never ceased, the
Teutones did not attempt to attack their enemy.
Next morning Marius saw that it would be easy to set an
ambush beyond the camp of the Teutones.
So he ordered Marcellus, one of his officers, to take
three thousand men and hide them in the thickly wooded
hills behind the camp of the enemy. His orders were
strict, that Marcellus should not stir from the hill
until the Teutones were in the thick of the battle with
the main body of the Romans.
The Roman camp was on a hill, and Marius now ordered
his cavalry to ride down to the plain.
But when the Teutones saw the horsemen coming toward
them, they threw prudence to the winds, and dashed up
the side of the hill to meet the enemy.
Marius, who had followed his cavalry with the main body
of his army, saw that the steepness of the ground would
make the foothold of the Teutones uncertain and their
blows less strong than they would have been on the
So he bade his troops to stand and await the attack of
the barbarians, and then, after hurling their javelins
into the midst of the foe, to force them steadily
backward with sword and shield.
Marius himself stood by the side of his men, ready to
fight where the danger was greatest.
Against the solid front of the Roman army the Teutones
threw themselves in vain. They could not break its
 Slowly and in disorder they found themselves being
pushed back toward the plain.
At length they were once more on level ground, and
immediately they attempted to form their front ranks
anew, meaning again to attack the enemy.
Suddenly those in front heard behind them wild cries of
despair. Swords flashed in the air, javelins seemed to
fall among their ranks as thickly as a storm of fail.
Marcellus, with his three thousand men, had dashed out
of his ambush, and had fallen upon the rear of the
This was more than the barbarians could bear. With the
terrible enemy before and behind, they yielded to
panic, broke their ranks, and fled.
The Romans followed, determined that the enemy should
not escape, and cut down more than one hundred thousand
For long months the bones of the barbarians were left
in the field, until at length, bleached clean, they
were used by the neighbouring folk to fence their
After this great victory, Marius chose the most
splendid treasures from the spoil and laid them aside,
to grace his triumph when he returned to Rome.
He then ordered the rest to be gathered into one great
heap, to be sacrificed to the gods.
Around the huge pile the soldiers were presently
gathered, their arms in their hands, their clothes
decked with garlands. In their midst stood Marius,
wearing a robe with the purple border, and holding
aloft a lighted torch with which to set fire to the
But at that moment horsemen were seen in the distance
spurring their horses toward the assembled army.
What tidings did they bear? No one in the great
gathering stirred until the horsemen rode up, and
crying that Marius had been elected Consul for the
fifth time, handed him letters from the Senate to tell
him of this new honour.
 The soldiers were well pleased that their general
should be so distinguished, and clashed their shields
to show their delight, while the officers crowned him
with a wreath of laurel.
Marius then touched the pile of treasures with his
lighted torch. The flames leaped up, crackled, and
soon the sacrifice was consumed.
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