Caius Marius, a Roman soldier, born near Arpinum in 157 B. C, died in Rome in 80. His origin was humble, and his parents are said to have been clients of the Ilerennii, an eminent plebeian family. That he ever labored for wages may be doubted, and may have been one of the reports invented to injure him by the ophmates, and accepted by him to make his elevation see, the greater by contrast with his original position. Marias had no third name or cognomen, nor did he ever win one, notwithstanding hi- brilliant military services A passage in Yelleius Paterculus, which represents him to be of equestrian birth, is believed to he an error of some transcriber. Plutarch expressly states that his parents were obscure and that they gained their living by the labor of their hands. The first mention of him in history is as a soldier in the army with which the second Scipio Africanus besieged Numantia in 134, when he was but 23 years old. His bravery, his sobriety, and the readiness with which he submitted to the severe reforms that Scipio found it necessary to introduce into the Roman army, attracted the attention and won the commendation of that great general.
The tradition was, that Marius was so encouraged by Scipio's words, deeming them to form a divine intimation, that he entered on a political career; yet it was not until 15 years later that he achieved his first political success, being then chosen tribune of the people (119). This office he obtained through the influence of Metellus, who belonged to the Caecilian gens, one of the most distinguished plebeian houses in Rome. He had previously been unanimously elected military tribune. As tribune of the people lie introduced a bill calculated to promote the freedom of elections, which was opposed by the optimates, then at the height of their power, immediately after the fall of Caius Gracchus; but Marius, by the most vigorous measures, carried his point, though the opposition was headed by his patron, the consul Metellus. He showed his firmness in another way, by opposing a distribution of corn among the people, because he believed it injurious to their interests. He sought the curule sedile-sliip, but was forced to withdraw from the contest; and he was beaten as a candidate for the plebeian aedileship. Elected praetor, his name was the lowest on the list. He was then proceeded against for bribery, but escaped conviction, the votes of Iris judges being equally divided.
He was praetor in 115, but did not leave Italy. As propraetor, the next year, he served in Further Spain, which he is reported to have cleared of robbers. Shortly afterward he married Julia, a sister of the father of Julius Caesar, who belonged to one of the most illustrious of the patrician gentes. When Q. Caecilius Metellus took command of the Roman army employed against Jugurtha (109), Marius became one of his legates, and distinguished himself in the war, being very popular with the common soldiers, and attracted the attention of his countrymen at home. He asked leave of Metellus to go to Rome, that he might offer himself as a candidate for the consulship; but his commander, after first seeking to argue against his supposed unreasonable ambition, and then declaring that he could not be spared from the army, finally refused his request in an insulting manner. Marius then commenced intriguing against Metellus, whom he accused of prolonging the war, which he offered to bring to a prompt conclusion with one half the force then employed against Jugurtha. These things were all known at Rome, where they increased the popularity of Marius. To get rid of an enemy, Metellus granted him the permission he had asked, but only 12 days before the time of election.
Arriving at Rome, Marius entered on the contest at once, and became consul in 107, at the age of 50. He did not bear his success with meekness, but made use of the harshest language when speaking of the aristocracy. The province of Numidia was assigned him, which made him the successor of Metel-lus. In levying soldiers he did not confine himself to the classes whence the legions had formerly been recruited, but enrolled men from the lowest orders, and slaves, which is regarded as the first of those acts through which the Eoman armies were led finally to look for law more to their commanders than to the state. He led his new levies to Africa, where he vigorously waged the war against Jugurtha until the latter took refuge with Bocchus, king of Mauritania, who betrayed him to Sulla, the quasstor of Marius (106). This caused Sulla to claim the merit.of having closed the war, and so laid the foundation of a personal quarrel destined to have memorable consequences. Marius remained two years longer in Numidia, bringing the country into order and establishing the Roman government there.
While thus engaged, he was elected consul without opposition, the approach of the Teutons and Cimbri and the Ambrones, who had destroyed several Eoman armies, having caused great fear in Italy, and drawn all men's minds to the conclusion that power could be intrusted to no one but the conqueror of Numidia. His Ju-gurthine triumph took place Jan. 1, 104, the first day of his second consulship. Jugurtha walked in the procession, and afterward was thrown into a dungeon and starved to death. The barbarians not appearing in Italy, Marius employed the time in effecting reforms in the army, and in disciplining the newly raised troops. His discipline was severe, but the impartiality of his conduct made him a favorite with the men, who had the utmost confidence in his ability and good fortune. He was chosen consul a third time for the year 103. The enemy still remaining in Spain, the aristoerati-cal party determined to oppose his reelection; but the people supported him, and he was elevated a fourth time. This year he encountered the Teutons and Ambrones in Gaul, totally destroying them in a great battle fought near Aquae Sextiae, the modern Aix. Just after the battle Marius received news that he had been elected consul for the fifth time.
Meantime the Cimbri, who had separated from their allies, had penetrated into Italy, where the terror of their name caused the army of Catulus, the other consul, to fly before them. Marius was recalled to Rome. Refusing the triumph offered him by the senate until the Cimbri should be conquered, he joined the army of Catulus, with which the troops who had conquered the Teutons were now united. On July 30, 101, the Cimbri were annihilated in a pitched battle, fought on a plain called the Campus Raudius, near Vercellas, the modern Vercelli. The victory was due to Marius, though his enemies sought to give the credit of it to Catulus, who was then proconsul; but the Romans were so convinced that they owed their deliverance to the consul, that among; other high honors they gave him the title of third founder of the state, thus ranking him with Romulus and Camillus. His triumph was brilliant, and Catulus was allowed to share in it. For the sixth time he was chosen consul; but the good fortune which he had experienced in the field deserted him in the city, where his ignoranceof civil life led him into various mistakes, which caused his popularity to decline as rapidly as it had risen.
The aristocracy artfully placed him in opposition to the tribune Saturninus, who was his instrument and a ciate, and whom he had to proceed against to the tribune's ruin and death. lie entrapped his old enemy Metellus into a position that caused him to be banished. So low had Marius sunk by the time his sixth consulship was drawing to a close, that he durst not become a candidate for the censorship. The next year (99) he visited Asia, where he sought to rouse Mith-ridates to make war on Rome, being confident that he should recover his popularity when once more placed at the head of an army.He-was chosen augur during his absence. After his return to Rome, he did not rise in popular esteem; he could obtain no command in the East, and Sulla, who had supplanted him in the popular favor, exasperated him by his conduct. The Mauritanian king had set up in the capitol figures showing the surrender of Jugurtha to Sulla. Marius was making preparations to pull down these figures, and Sulla to resist him, when, in 90, the social or Marsic war broke out, which threatened the subversion of the Roman power in Italy. Roth Marius and Sulla had to contend against the confederate Italians in the social war, and both did so with success.
It was thought, however, that the exploits of Sulla were the more striking, but it is certain that Marius twice defeated the Marsi, the most warlike of all the allies, ami whose name furnished to the Romans a title for the war. He returned to Rome after these victories, avowedly because of his inability to encounter the fatigues of the service, He was 67 years old, and had grown fat and unwieldy. After this war had been finishedz, the rivalry of Marius and Sulla was resumed. War against Mithridates having been commenced, Marius sought the command in the East He frequented the Campus Martins, and went through exercises appropriate to the young, in order to show that he was equal to the fatigues of war. He failed, and Sulla was appointed to the office he sought (88). Marius now procured the passage of a law to distribute the Italian allies, who had been admitted to the Roman franchise, among all the tribes, so that they should control the old citizens. His tool was P. Sulpicius Rufus, a tribune, and he was successful, though not without having resort to violence.
The Italians then conferred the eastern command upon Marius; but Sulla, who had joined the army destined to act against Mithridates, incited it to resistance, marched to Rome, and compelled Marius and his friends to tly, they having no force to send against him. Marius vainly endeavored to raise an army by offering freedom to all slaves who should join him. He then sought to reach Africa, hut was compelled by had weather and want of provisions to land in Italy, near which he was coasting. Taking refuge in a wood, and suffering from cold and hunger, he predicted that he should yet receive a seventh consulship. He told his companions that in his childhood a nest with seven eaglets in it had fallen into his lap, and that the soothsayers had prophesied to his parents that he should seven times enjoy supreme power. Flying from immediate pursuit, he and his company were forced to swim to two merchant vessels, the crews of which refused to give them up, but afterward made them land at the mouth of the Liris. Here, while concealed in a marsh, Marius was found by his pursuers, and imprisoned at Minturna3. A Cimbric soldier was ordered to despatch him, but was so affected by the old man's look and language that he lost courage, and declared that he could not kill Caius Marius. The people of the town rose in his favor, and furnished him with a vessel, in which he sailed to Africa, meeting with many dangers on the way.
He landed at Carthage, where a message was sent him by the Roman prcetor, ordering him to leave the country. His answer was: Tell the praetor that you have seen Cains Marius a fugitive sitting on the ruins of Carthage;" a reply, says Plutarch, in which he not inaptly compared the fate of that city and his own changed fortunes. He was soon compelled to leave, and went with his son to the island of Cercina. Meantime a revolution had taken place in Italy, where the consul China, who was of the Marian party, had placed himself in opposition to the Sullan faction, headed by his colleague Octavius. The latter, after a severe struggle, expelled Cinna from Rome, who raised a large army, composed of the new citizens. Marius. on hearing of this, returned to Italy, and on landing proclaimed freedom to the slaves, and sent to Cinna, offering to obey him as consul. Cinna accepted the offer, and named him proconsul. This office Marius would nut accept, saying its title and insignia wen- not suited to one in his state. One idea, that of vengeance, alone had possession of his mind. Rome was soon compelled to surrender to the army headed by Cinna and Marius. The former was disposed to proceed mildly, but Marius had other intentions.
At first he refused to enter the city until the comitia repealed the law under which he had been banished; but while the voting for that purpose was going on. he entered at the head of his guards, who were composed of the slaves by whom he had been joined, and an immediate massacre of the anti-Marians was begun. The slaughter was continued for several days, and among its victims were many of the noblest of the Romans. Cinna and Marius declared themselves consuls for the next year, 86. But though Marius had thus irregularly obtained his seventh consulship, he did not long enjoy it, dying on its 18th day, from illness brought on by age, fatigue, and care. The statement that his mind was disordered by fear of Sulla's return is probably one of the libels of the Sullan party. After the triumph of Sulla, the ashes of Marius were thrown into the Anio, by order of the victor. The representative and leader, though perhaps not in strictness the founder, of the party which bears his name in the subsequent history of the Roman republic, and which he was clearly incompetent to conduct to success, his character lias probably suffered, like that of other party chiefs, at the hands of his enemies.
No Roman ever rendered greater services to the state, and no Roman ever rose so high, to fall so low, with the single exception of Pompey, who in the next generation headed the opposite party.