Life of Marius, 42

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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42After greeting Cinna and presenting himself to Cinna’s soldiers, he at once began his work and greatly changed the posture of affairs. In the first place, by cutting off the grain-ships with his fleet and plundering the merchants, he made himself master of the city’s supplies; next, he sailed to the maritime cities and took them; and finally, he seized Ostia itself, which was treacherously surrendered to him, plundering the property there and killing most of its inhabitants, and by throwing a bridge across the river completely cut off the enemy from such stores as might come by sea. 2Then he set out and marched with his army towards the city, and occupied the hill called Janiculum. Octavius damaged his own cause, not so much through lack of skill, as by a too scrupulous observance of the laws, wherein he unwisely neglected the needs of the hour. For though many urged him to call the slaves to arms under promise of freedom, he said he would not make bondmen members of the state from which he was trying to exclude Marius in obedience to the laws. 3Moreover, when Metellus (son of the Metellus who had commanded in Africa and had been banished through the intrigues of Marius) came to Rome, it was thought that he was far superior to Octavius as a general, and the soldiers forsook Octavius and came to him, entreating him to take the command and save the city; for they would make a good fight, they said, and win the victory if they got a tried and efficient leader. Metellus, however, was indignant at them and bade them go back to the consul; whereupon they went off to the enemy. Metellus also left the city, despairing of its safety.

4But Octavius was persuaded by certain Chaldaeans, sacrificers, and interpreters of the Sibylline books to remain in the city, on the assurance that matters would turn out well. For it would seem that this man, although he was in other ways the most sensible man in Rome, and most careful to maintain the dignity of the consular office free from undue influence in accordance with the customs of the country and its laws, which he regarded as unchangeable ordinances, had a weakness in this direction, since he spent more time with charlatans and seers than with men who were statesmen and soldiers. 5This man, then, before Marius entered the city, was dragged down from the rostra by men who had been sent on before, and butchered; and we are told that a Chaldaean chart was found in his bosom after he had been slain. Now, it seems very unaccountable that, of two most illustrious commanders, Marius should succeed by regarding divinations, but Octavius should be ruined.

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