Marius, however, paid no heed to them, but kept his soldiers inside their fortifications, bitterly rebuking those who would have made a display of their courage, and calling those whose high spirit made them wish to rush forth and give battle traitors to their country. For it was not, he said, triumphs or trophies that should now be the object of their ambition, but how they might ward off so great a cloud and thunder-bolt of war and secure the safety of Italy.
This was his language in private to his officers and equals; but he would station his soldiers on the fortifications by detachments, bidding them to observe the enemy, and in this way accustomed them not to fear their shape or dread their cries, which were altogether strange and ferocious; and to make themselves acquainted with their equipment and movements, thus in course of time rendering what was only apparently formidable familiar to their minds from observation. For he considered that their novelty falsely imparts to terrifying objects many qualities which they do not possess, but that with familiarity even those things which are really dreadful lose their power to affright.
And so in the case of his soldiers, not only did the daily sight of the enemy lessen somewhat their amazement at them, but also, when they heard the threats and the intolerable boasting of the Barbarians, their anger rose and warmed and set on fire their spirits; for the enemy were ravaging and plundering all the country round, and besides, often attacked the Roman fortifications with great temerity and shamelessness, so that indignant speeches of his soldiers reached the ears of Marius.
‘What cowardice, pray, has Marius discovered in us that he keeps us out of battle like women under lock and key? Come, let us act like freemen and ask him if he is waiting for other soldiers to fight in defence of Italy, and will use us as workmen all the time, whenever there is need of digging ditches and clearing out mud and diverting a river or two.
For it was to this end, as it would seem, that he exercised us in those many toils, 1
and these are the achievements of his consulships which he will exhibit to his fellow-citizens on his return to Rome. Or does he fear the fate of Carbo and Caepio, whom the enemy defeated? 2
But they were far behind Marius in reputation and excellence, and led an army that was far inferior to his. Surely it is better to do something, even if we perish as they did, rather than to sit here and enjoy the spectacle of our allies being plundered.’