Thus, then, his fifth consulship was coming to an end; but he was as eager for a sixth as another would have been for his first. He tried to win over the people by obsequious attentions, and yielded to the multitude in order to gain its favour, thus doing violence, not only to the dignity and majesty of his high office, but also to his own nature, since he wished to be a compliant man of the people when he was naturally at farthest remove from this.
In confronting a political crisis or the tumultuous throng, we are told, his ambition made him most timorous, and that undaunted firmness which he showed in battle forsook him when he faced the popular assemblies, so that he was disconcerted by the most ordinary praise or blame. And yet we are told that when he had bestowed citizenship upon as many as a thousand men of Camerinum for conspicuous bravery in the war, the act was held to be illegal and was impeached by some; to whom he replied that the clash of arms had prevented his hearing the voice of the law.
However, he appeared to be in greater fear and terror of the shouting in the popular assemblies. At any rate, while in war he had authority and power because his services were needed, yet in civil life his leadership was more abridged, and he therefore had recourse to the goodwill and favour of the multitude, not caring to be the best man if only he could be the greatest.
The consequence was that he came into collision with all the aristocrats. It was Metellus, however, whom he especially feared, a man who had experienced his ingratitude, and one whose genuine excellence made him the natural enemy of those who tried to insinuate themselves by devious methods into popular favour and sought to control the masses by pleasing them. Accordingly, he schemed to banish Metellus from the city.
For this purpose he allied himself with Saturninus and Glaucia, men of the greatest effrontery, who had a rabble of needy and noisy fellows at their beck and call, and with their assistance would introduce laws. He also stirred up the soldiery, got them to mingle with the citizens in the assemblies, and thus controlled a faction which could overpower Metellus. Then, according to Rutilius, who is generally a lover of truth and an honest man, but had a private quarrel with Marius, he actually got his sixth consulship by paying down large sums of money among the tribes, and by buying votes made Metellus lose his election to the office, and obtained as his colleague in the consulship Valerius Flaccus, who was more a servant than a colleague.
And yet the people had never bestowed so many consulships upon any other man except Corvinus Valerius. In the case of Corvinus, however, forty-five years are said to have elapsed between his first and his last consulship; whereas Marius, after his first consulship, ran through the other five without a break.