Although Rome now ruled throughout the Mediterranean, she
was constantly engaged in border wars in one corner or another of her wide
dominions. These wars brought to the front new military leaders, of whom the
first was Gaius Marius. He was a peasant's son, a coarse, rude soldier, but an
honest, courageous, and able man. Marius rose to prominence in the so- called
Jugurthine War, which the Romans were waging against Jugurtha, king of Numidia.
That wily African had discovered that it was easier to bribe the Roman
commanders than to fight them; and the contest dragged on in disgraceful
fashion year after year. Marius at last persuaded the people to elect him
consul and intrust him with the conduct of the war. By generalship and good
fortune he speedily concluded the struggle and brought Jugurtha in chains to
MARIUS AND THE WAR WITH THE GERMANS, 102-101 B.C.
A few years later Marius had another opportunity to win
distinction. He became the defender of Rome and Italy against a dangerous
invasion of Germanic barbarians, who were ravaging Transalpine Gaul and the Po
Valley. The decisive victories which Marius gained over them removed a grave
danger which threatened the Roman world. The time had not yet come for ancient
civilization to be submerged under a wave of barbarism.