Life of Marius, 44

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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44Marcus Antonius also, the orator, found a faithful friend, but it did not save him. For this friend, who was a poor plebeian and had received into his house a leading man of Rome, whom he wished to entertain as well as he could, sent a slave to a neighbouring innkeeper to get some wine. As the slave tasted the wine more carefully than usual and ordered some of better quality, the innkeeper asked him what was the reason that he did not buy the new and ordinary wine as usual, instead of wanting some that was choice and expensive. 2The slave, in his great simplicity, conscious that he was dealing with an old acquaintance, told him that his master was entertaining Marcus Antonius, who was concealed at his house. As soon as the slave had gone home, the innkeeper, who was an impious and pestilent fellow, hastened in person to find Marius, who was already at supper, and on being introduced, promised to betray Antonius to him. 3When Marius heard this, as we are told, a loud cry burst from his lips and he clapped his hands for joy; he actually came near springing from his seat and hurrying to the place himself, but his friends restrained him; so he sent Annius and some soldiers with him, ordering them to bring him the head of Antonius with all speed. Accordingly, when they were come to the house, Annius stopped at the door, while the soldiers climbed the stairs and entered the room. But when they beheld Antonius, every man began to urge and push forward a companion to do the murder instead of himself. 4So indescribable, however, as it would seem, was the grace and charm of his words, that when Antonius began to speak and pray for his life, not a soldier had the hardihood to lay hands on him or even to look him in the face, but they all bent their heads down and wept. Perceiving that there was some delay, Annius went upstairs, and saw that Antonius was pleading and that the soldiers were abashed and enchanted by his words; so he cursed his men, and running up to Antonius, with his own hands cut off his head.

5Again, the friends of Catulus Lutatius, who had been a colleague of Marius in the consulship, and with him had celebrated a triumph over the Cimbri, interceded for him and begged Marius to spare his life; but the only answer they could get was: “He must die.” Catulus therefore shut himself up in a room, lighted up a great quantity of charcoal, and was suffocated.

6But headless trunks thrown into the streets and trampled under foot excited no pity, though everybody trembled and shuddered at the sight. The people were most distressed however, by the wanton licence of the Bardyaei, as they were called, who butchered fathers of families in their houses, outraged their children, violated their wives, and could not be checked in their career of rapine and murder until Cinna and Sertorius, after taking counsel together, fell upon them as they were asleep in their camp, and transfixed them all with javelins.[39]

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  • [39] Cf. the Sertorius, v. 5.

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