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Wandering of Gaius Marius

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Gaius Marius
Gaius Marius

After the Social War that devastated Italy, in 88 BCE there was another major political crisis in the Republic between the two largest players of the world at the time, L. Cornelius Sulla and G. Marius. As a result of Rome’s capture by Sulla’s army, a completely lonely Marius had to flee the capital in the company of only a few of his slaves.

He was the recent conqueror of King Numidia Yugurta, the winner of the Germanic tribes Cimbri and Teutons, the great reformer of the Roman army and head of the popular party. Now expelled from Rome he only wanted to save his life. From the chaos of Rome, he fled south, wanting to get to the seaside port and sail to the safer province of Africa. The plan, however, was greatly hindered by the Sulla’s followers following Marius, who were promised the prize for the head of the former savior of the Republic, called the Third Founder of Rome.

Marius, after reaching the coast, could not go to sea due to strong winds and storms, which forced him to postpone his journey. At the same time, in nearby villages, the population learned that Marius was hiding near their homes, whose head was offering huge amounts of money in the capital. So they began to look for an exile, but Marius, thanks to the friendliness of his friends, found out that he was wanted by the local people, and Sullańske mites would sweep every patch of forests and fields. Marius, wanting to save his life, hid in the surrounding swamps, where he met all night long, immersed in the mud. Then he returned to the coast, where he found a boat, but from sailing into the sea he was visited by Sullaan messengers who captured the fugitive and brought contempt to the nearby city of Minturnae. A man who only a few years ago saved the state from Germanic extermination and celebrated triumphs, now he was led in the shackles to the house, where he was held like an ordinary prisoner. The house where Marius was kept belonged to a woman named Fania, who was known for her promiscuity. She began talking to the former father of the nation, reminding him that he had once severely punished her for prostitution. They both forgave each other, but Marius in a fit of honesty confessed to her that he was not going to humble himself before his enemies and would keep his honor for the rest of his life.

At the same time, the city deliberated on the case of Marius and was decided to be killed by a Gallic mercenary. When Gal arrived with a hidden knife to Marius, he immediately noticed and with a powerful voice said to the assassin “Do you dare to kill Gaius Marius?”. The Gaul became speechless and fled with horror, crying out all over the city, “I can’t kill Gaius Marius!!!” as if he were possessed. Residents understood that this is a sign from the gods who want to free Marius, which the inhabitants did. They supplied him with food and sent him away. Marius safely reached the African coast, reaching the shore within the ruins of the former Carthage.

At that time the province governor was Pb. Sextilius Rufus, who sent a messenger to Marius with the order to leave the land on pain of death. Marius once again noticed how the Romans are grateful to him for his past successes for the Empire. He was completely disappointed, but he did not lose his pride and said to him, “Tell him that you saw Gaius Marius sitting on the ruins of Carthage”, and then left the land. Eventually Marius hid in Numidia, but later came to Rome again, where he captured the seventh and last consulate, as he had been foretold.

This short story shows the tragedy of the last century of the Republic, which after hundreds of years of victories and conquests, was now heading for decline. Gaius Marius, who saved her from extermination at the hands of the Cimbri and Teutons, reformed the army and calmed the situation at the most dangerous moment, he was treated as the enemy of the homeland and chased after Italy like any scoundrel. Yes, the Republic thanked its savior…

Author: Cyprian Herl
  • Appian, Roman history 1.272-1280
  • M. Jaczynowska, Dzieje Imperium Romanum, str. 131
  • Plutarch, Marius 36-40
  • Ł. Schreiber, Sulla 138-78 p.n.e., str. 156

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