Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor
In 106 B.C., the same year that Jugurtha was captured, Rome was disturbed by the rumour that a great army of barbarians was approaching Italy.
They were tall and blue-eyed, these hordes of barbarians, and were believed to come from the shores of the North Sea, where the German races had their home.
The Senate sent brave generals and strong armies against these terrible foes, but the barbarians scattered the Roman legions and shamed the brave generals.
Their victories made the Teutones and Cimbri insolent and proud.
'We can destroy the Roman legions,' they said, 'so it will be an easy task to plunder Italy, and destroy even Rome herself.'
The Senate and the people grew more and more alarmed, while those who had sought to belittle the fame of Marius repented. For was he not the only general who could save them now?
So Marius, although he was still in Africa, was elected Consul a second time.
It is true that the law forbade the election of any one who was absent from Rome. But necessity knows no law, said the Romans, and Marius was elected.
When Marius was told of the honour that had been conferred upon him he was well pleased. It was another step in the ambitious path he was ascending. He at once sailed for Italy, that he might be ready to defend his country from the barbarians.
By the 1st January 104 B.C., Marius had reached the gates of Rome and celebrated a splendid triumph, Jugurtha and two of his sons being led in his procession loaded with chains.
Jugurtha had been a dangerous foe, and the people of Rome could scarcely believe, until they saw, that he was actually a captive and in chains.
When the triumph was over, many of them ventured to approach him, to put out their hand to touch the broken-spirited king. In wanton cruelty they snatched the clothing off his body, and even wrenched the gold rings from off his ears.
But soon he was led away and thrust into the prison at the foot of the Capitoline hill. His misery had confused his mind, and as he was left alone his foolish laughter echoed through his prison, while he cried, 'O Hercules, how cold your bath is.'
For six days he endured the pangs of hunger, for his gaolers gave him no food, and so at last the king, shorn of his strength and power, died.
After his triumph Marius at once set out with his army to fight against the barbarians. But the Teutones and the Cimbri had turned away from Rome, and it was a long time before Marius encountered them.
He was not, however, the kind of general to let his troops be idle. He kept them at work, and the discipline of the camp was strict.
If the soldiers marched, each was made to carry his own baggage, and each had also to cook his own food.
Soon the men, if they carried their loads without grumbling, were nicknamed 'Marian mules.'
Another story tells that this nickname arose in quite a different way.
When Marius first joined the army under Scipio, the general on a certain day inspected not only the arms and horses of his men, but their mules and wagons as well.
Both the horse and mule belonging to Marius were in perfect condition, and had evidently received more care than those of his comrades.
Scipio commended the beasts, and often reminded the soldiers of their well-groomed appearance, until at length, half in scorn and half in mirth, any man in Marius's army who worked harder and more persistently than his neighbour was called by his comrades 'a Marian mule.'
A year passed, and the barbarians had not yet appeared.
Marius was elected Consul for the third time, for the Senate still dreaded the appearance of the enemy, and wished him to be in command when it did descend into Italy.
Another year passed, and still they did not come.
At the end of 103 B.C. Marius went back to Rome. It was time for the new elections, and Marius pretended that he did not wish to be Consul again.
But Saturninus, one of the tribunes, said that if he refused office when his country was in danger he would be a traitor.
This was strong language, but it did not displease Marius, who in reality would have been greatly disappointed had he not been elected.
So now he promised to accept the office if it was the wish of the people that he should do so. Then for the fourth time Marius was chosen Consul, with Catulus as his colleague.