Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor
During the absence of Marius the influence of Sulla grew by leaps and bounds. It was this, it may be, that drew Marius back to Rome.
He came, hoping once again to win the goodwill of the people, and he even took a house near the Forum so as to be in their midst.
But the people paid little attention to the general whom in time of war they had courted and admired. In time of peace they had no use for one who was above all else a soldier.
Sulla, too, had proved himself a great general, but he, unlike Marius, was an educated man and an Optimate, and was useful in time of peace as in time of war.
The ever-ready jealousy of Marius was roused when he noticed that Sulla was now much more powerful in Rome than was he.
Nor were his feelings soothed when he saw on the Capitol a new statue of victory, which had been erected by Bocchus, King of Numidia. By the side of the chief figure were others in gold, representing Bocchus delivering Jugurtha to Sulla.
To Sulla! Marius was very angry when he saw that. Jugurtha would never have been captured but for him. It was he, Marius, who should have stood in the place Sulla had been given!
The old general determined to pull down the statue. But Sulla heard what Marius meant to do, and refused to allow it, so that a struggle between them was inevitable. But at this very time a new war broke out, and all private quarrels were laid aside.
The war that began in 89 B.C. was called the Social War. It was caused by the discontent of the Italian people, to whom the full rights of Roman citizens had not been given. Marius and Sulla both fought in this war.
As of old, Marius was never to be enticed to fight against his will. So slow, indeed, was he to lead his men to battle, that one of the generals on the other side doubted his courage. 'If you are indeed a great general, Marius,' he said, 'leave your camp and fight a battle.'
But all Marius answered was: 'If you are one, make me do so against my will.'
Although Marius was now sixty-six years of age, he was as good a commander as ever, and won a great battle, in which six thousand of the enemy was slain. But at the end of a year, although the war was not yet over, Marius resigned his command, saying that his health was not good.
Sulla also gained many victories in this Social War, which came to an end in 88 B.C., for the Senate then granted the Italians the rights of citizens, and to obtain this had been the object of the war. But while all the Italian cities enjoyed new privileges, Rome was still to continue the centre of the Republic, where magistrates were elected and laws were ratified.
Sulla returned to Rome in time to be elected Consul for the year 88 B.C. He was also appointed by the Senate to take command of the army which was now to go to Asia. For war had broken out against Mithridates, King of Pontus.
Now one of the tribunes, named Sulpicius, was not satisfied that Sulla should have this honour, and he proposed that Marius should be made pro-Consul and general of the war.
Marius, you remember, had laid down his command in the Social War on account of his health. So now those who wished Sulla to be commander of the army jeered at Marius, bidding him stay at home to tend his worn-out frame.
Marius was too eager to oust his rival to give heed to these taunts. He laid himself, indeed, open to more. For now he was to be seen out each day taking exercises with the youths of the city.
He had grown stout and heavy, but he soon showed that, in spite of this and of his infirmities, he could vault lightly enough into his saddle, and could claim still to be 'nimble,' even when he wore his armour.
Sulpicius now brought forward a series of laws, bribed, so said some, by Marius. It is certain that one of the laws proposed that Marius should be commander of the war.
As these laws, if they were passed, would make the Populares, or party of the people, powerful, the Optimates determined to overthrow them. But Sulpicius was not a man to yield without a struggle. He sent armed men to attack the Consuls, for they were on the side of the Optimates.
Rufus, the colleague of Sulla, escaped from the city, but in the riot raised by the people his son was killed.
Sulla saved his life only by hiding in the house of Marius, where no one dreamed of looking for him. When the riot was over, he escaped to the camp at Nola.
With the Consuls absent, and the Optimates for the time cowed, the laws which had caused all this trouble were passed, and became known as the Sulpician Laws.
By one of these laws Marius became commander of the army, and he at once sent two tribunes to Nola to warn Sulla that he would soon arrive at the camp to take over the command.
But, as Marius might have foreseen, Sulla did not mean to submit to such a defeat.
He, Sulla, had been appointed by the Senate, while it was by violence that Marius had been proclaimed commander.
Sulla knew that the army was devoted to him, and would do anything to win his favour. So he assembled the troops, and told them the story of his defeat, and how Marius was coming to lead them to Asia.
They at once broke out into loud shouts of protest, crying that none but he should be their leader. If it was his will they would follow him to Rome and overcome his enemies. In the meantime, they would put to death the two tribunes who had been sent by Marius to the camp.
Thus it was that before long Sulla was marching toward Rome, at the head of his troops, being joined on the way by Rufus.
Marius and Sulpicius, when they heard that Sulla had appealed to the army, had at once tried to raise a force to oppose him, even offering freedom to the slaves if they would fight faithfully.
But their efforts were vain, and they fled from the city before Sulla entered it.
From the people Sulla received but a sorry welcome, for so angry were they with him for bringing his army within the walls of the city, that they climbed to the roofs of the houses and flung stones and every missile that they could find upon the troops. But the Senate welcomed the Consuls with open arms.
Marius, Sulpicius, and twelve of their followers were at once declared public enemies. This meant that it was not only the right, but the duty, of every one to kill them.
Sulpicius, who had found shelter in a house in the country, was put to death by a slave.
Sulla gave the slave his freedom, and then, in dislike of his treachery, he ordered him to be hurled from the Tarpeian Rock.