[Illustration: THE CATAPULT.]
There the council decided on his death, and sent a soldier to kill him, but the fierce old man stood glaring at him, and said. “Darest thou kill Caius Marius?” The man was so frightened that he ran away, crying out, “I cannot kill Caius Marius.” The Senate of Minturnae took this as an omen, and remembered besides that he had been a good friend to the Italians, so they conducted him through a sacred grove to the sea, and sent him off to Africa. On landing, he sent his son to ask shelter from one of the Numidian princes, and, while waiting for an answer, he was harassed by a messenger from a Roman officer of low rank, forbidding his presence in Africa. He made no reply till the messenger pressed to know what to say to his master. Then the old man looked up, and sternly answered. “Say that you have seen Caius Marius sitting in the ruins of Carthage”—a grand rebuke for the insult to fallen greatness. But the Numidian could not receive him, and he could only find shelter in a little island on the coast.
There he soon heard that no sooner had Sulla embarked for the East than Rome had fallen into dire confusion. The consuls, Caius Octavius and Publius Cornelius Cinna, were of opposite parties, and had a furious fight, in which Cinna was driven out of Rome, and at the same time the Italians had begun a new Social War. Marius saw that his time was come. He hurried to Etruria, where he was joined by a party of his friends and five hundred runaway slaves. The discontented Romans formed another army under Quintus Sertorius, and the Samnites, who had begun the war, overpowered the troops sent against them, and marched to Rome, declaring they would have no peace till they had destroyed the wolf’s lair. Cinna and an army were advancing on another side, and, as he was really consul, the Senate in their distress admitted him, hoping that he would stop the rest; but when he marched in and seated himself again in the chair of office, he had by his side old Marius clothed in rags.
[Illustration: ISLAND ON THE COAST.]
They were bent on revenge, and terrible it was, beginning with the consul, Caius Octavius, who had disdained to flee, and whose head was severed from his body and displayed in the Forum, with many other senators of the noblest blood in Rome, who had offended either Marius or Cinna or any of their fierce followers. Marius walked along in gloomy silence, answering no one; but his followers were bidden to spare only those to whom he gave his hand to be kissed. The slaves pillaged the houses, murdered many on their own account, and everything was in the wildest uproar, till the two chiefs called in Sertorius with a legion to restore order.
Then they named themselves consuls, without even asking for an election, and thus Marius was seven times consul. He wanted to go out to the East and take the command from Sulla, but his health was too much broken, and before the year of his consulate was over he died. The last time he had left the house, he had said to some friends that no man ought to trust again to such a doubtful fortune as his had been; and then he took to his bed for seven days without any known illness, and there was found dead, so that he was thought to have starved himself to death.