Life of Marius, 43

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

« Plut. Mar. 42 | Plut. Mar. 43 | Plut. Mar. 44 | About This Work »

43Matters being at this pass, the senate met and sent a deputation to Cinna and Marius, begging them to enter the city and spare the citizens. Cinna, accordingly, as consul, seated on his chair of office, received the embassy and gave them a kindly answer; but Marius, standing by the consul’s chair without speaking a word, made it clear all the while, by the heaviness of his countenance and the gloominess of his look, that he would at once fill the city with slaughter. 2After the conference was over they moved on towards the city. Cinna entered it with a body-guard, but Marius halted at the gates and angrily dissembled, saying that he was an exile and was excluded from the country by the law, and if his presence there was desired, the vote which cast him out must be rescinded by another vote, since, indeed, he was a law-abiding man and was returning to a free city. 3So the people were summoned to the forum; and before three or four of the tribes had cast their votes, he threw aside his feigning and all that petty talk about being an exile, and entered the city, having as his body-guard a picked band of the slaves who had flocked to his standard, to whom he had given the name of Bardyaei. These fellows killed many of the citizens at a word of command from him, many, too, at a mere nod; and at last, when Ancharius, a man of senatorial and praetorial dignity, met Marius and got no salutation from him, they struck him down with their swords before the face of their master. 4After this, whenever anybody else greeted Marius and got no salutation or greeting in return, this of itself was a signal for the man’s slaughter in the very street, so that even the friends of Marius, to a man, were full of anguish and horror whenever they drew near to greet him. So many were slain that at last Cinna’s appetite for murder was dulled and sated; but Marius, whose anger increased day by day and thirsted for blood, kept on killing all whom he held in any suspicion whatsoever. 5Every road and every city was filled with men pursuing and hunting down those who sought to escape or had hidden themselves. Moreover, the trust men placed in the ties of hospitality and friendship was found to be no security against the strokes of Fortune; for few there were, all told, who did not betray to the murderers those who had taken refuge with them. 6All the more worthy of praise and admiration, then, was the behaviour of the slaves of Cornutus. They concealed their master in his house; then they hung up by the neck one of the many dead bodies that lay about, put a gold ring on its finger, and showed it to the guards of Marius, after which they decked it out as if it were their master’s body and gave it burial. Nobody suspected the ruse, and thus Cornutus escaped notice and was conveyed by his slaves into Gaul.

« Plut. Mar. 42 | Plut. Mar. 43 | Plut. Mar. 44 | About This Work »

Version menu

Table of contents