CHAPTER XXIII. THE CIMBRI AND TEUTONES. - POLITICAL QUARRELS.
The war with Jugurtha ended none too soon, for Marius was needed in a struggle requiring all his talents.
The CIMBRI and TEUTONES, barbarous nations from Northern Europe, were threatening the frontiers of Italy. Already the Roman armies had met with five successive defeats at their hands on the banks of the Rhone. Eighty thousand Romans and forty thousand camp followers are said to have fallen in these battles. Had the barbarians at this moment chosen to enter Italy, the destruction of Rome would have been a certain result. Fortunately, they turned to the Pyrenees, and, sweeping over the mountains, overran for a season the province of Spain.
Marius, appointed Consul a second time, devoted his energies to forming and training the army. He selected the plains on the banks of the Rhone in Southern Gaul as best adapted for his purpose. Here he drilled his troops, accustoming them to the greatest possible exertions. Many perished under the strain, but the survivors became hardened soldiers. Corps of engineers were attached to each legion, and the soldiers were taught the use of tools, as well as of arms. At length, in his fourth consulship (102), he felt prepared to meet the enemy.
The barbarians, on their return from Spain, separated their forces, the Cimbri marching around the northern foot of the Alps towards Noricum, with the intention of invading Italy from that quarter, while the Teutones remained in Gaul.
As the latter advanced, Marius took up his position in a fortified camp near AQUAE SEXTIAE (Aix). He allowed the enemy to march past him, and then followed cautiously, waiting for a favorable opportunity to fall upon them. In the battle that followed, the barbarians were no match for the drilled legionaries, who were irresistible. The contest lasted two days, and the vast host of the Teutones was cut to pieces (20 July, 102). At the close of this battle word was brought to Marius that he had been elected Consul for the fifth time.
Meanwhile, the Cimbri had crossed the Alps and were ravaging the fertile fields of Lombardy, meeting with but slight opposition from Catulus, the other Consul.
The next year Marius came to his rescue. Near VERCELLAE the Cimbri met the same fate as their brethren, and Italy was saved (101).
No sooner was the danger from the invasion over than political quarrels broke out at Rome with great fury. Marius was elected Consul for the sixth time. The popular heroes of the hour were two demagogues, the Tribune SATURNÍNUS and the Praetor GLAUCIA. They carried corn laws and land laws,[Footnote: These were the APPULEIAN LAWS (100): - I. Any Roman citizen could buy corn of the state at a nominal price. II. The land in Cisalpine Gaul, which the Cimbrians had occupied, should be divided among the Italian and Roman citizens. III. Colonies from the veterans of Marius were to be founded in Sicily, Achaia, and Macedonia.] and compelled the Senators to take an oath to execute their laws. Metellus Numidicus refusing to comply with their wishes, Saturnínus sent a guard to the Senate-House, dragged him out, and expelled him from the city.
During this troublesome time, Marius showed that he was no politician. He lacked judgment and firmness, and by endeavoring to please all parties he pleased none.
On the popular side there were two parties, the moderate one, led by MEMMIUS, who had exposed the Senate in its dealings with Jugurtha, and the radical one, led by Saturnínus and Glaucia. Memmius and Glaucia both ran for the consulship, and as the former seemed likely to be successful, he was murdered. A reaction then set in, and Saturnínus and Glaucia were declared public enemies. They took refuge in the Senate-House, the roof of which was torn off, and the wretches were stoned to death.
The fall of Saturnínus and Glaucia was followed in 99 by the recall of Metellus from banishment. He died shortly afterwards, and it was suspected that he was a victim of treachery.
Marius having now become generally unpopular on account of his vacillating course in the recent troubles, went into voluntary exile, travelling through Asia Minor, and visiting the court of Mithradátes, King of Pontus.
For the next eight years (99-91) Rome enjoyed a season of comparative quiet.