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Plutarch on Marius and Sulla
Marius was elected by a large margin. Even though it was against the laws and traditions of
the Roman army, he allowed poor people to become soldiers. Normally a commander would only
give weapons to a soldier whose family already paid a large amount of money to Rome, but Marius
gave weapons to poor men who paid nothing. This wasn’t what made people angry with Marius the
most. He also made rude and arrogant speeches in which he cursed the nobles of Rome. He
claimed he had won the office of Consul because the rich were weak. Marius claimed he had
wounds from battle to prove himself, not statues of his grandparents.
Metellus became jealous of Marius because he had fought the war against the barbarians in
Africa led by Jugurtha, but Marius was going to get all of the glory from the victory as consul.
As soon as the people of Rome heard about the capture of Jugurtha, they were being
threatened by invasion from the Teutones and the Cimbri. 300,000 barbarians of these two groups
were heading south towards Rome.
The people made Marius consul a second time, even though it was against Roman law to
allow a man absent from Rome (Marius was in Africa) to serve two consecutive terms as Consul.
Marius returned to Rome in January and displayed Jugurtha in a parade after he had accepted
his consulship.
Sulla was becoming more powerful because the nobles who Marius had angered supported
him. This made Marius angry because Sulla was becoming more powerful by picking arguments with
Marius in the senate.
Though Marius was angry, so was Sulla and civil war was about to break out between these
two men. Before war could break out, the Social War started and both Marius and Sulla had to fight
with each other to stop this war.
This war made Sulla look strong and powerful. It made Marius look old and weak, however.
After the war, Sulla called upon his army and attacked Rome. They killed the tribunes Marius
had sent against them first.
Marius killed many of Sulla’s friends and freed their slaves if they agreed to fight with Marius.
Not many slaves joined him and Sulla took Rome forcing Marius to flee the city. As soon as Marius
fled, Sulla had to take his army and defeat Mithridates who was starting a revolution against the
Romans in Greece. While he was gone, Marius returned and was elected Consul a seventh time.
Then Marius died, seventeen days after he had become consul a seventh time. Rome
celebrated his death because they thought he was a tyrant.