But when the Italians had at last made their submission, and many persons at Rome were suing for the command in the Mithridatic war, with the aid of the popular leaders, contrary to all expectation the tribune Sulpicius, a most audacious man; brought Marius forward and proposed to make him pro-consul in command against Mithridates. The people were divided in opinion, some preferring Marius, and others calling for Sulla and bidding Marius go to the warm baths at Baiae and look out for his health, since he was worn out with old age and rheums, as he himself said.
For at Baiae, near Cape Misenum, Marius owned an expensive house, which had appointments more luxurious and effeminate than became a man who had taken active part in so many wars and campaigns. This house, we are told, Cornelia bought for seventy-five thousand drachmas; and not long afterwards Lucius Lucullus purchased it for two million five hundred thousand. So quickly did lavish expenditure spring up, and so great an increase in luxury did life in the city take on.
Marius, however, showing a spirit of keen emulation that might have characterized a youth, shook off old age and infirmity and went down daily into the. Campus Martius, where he exercised himself with the young men and showed that he was still agile in arms and capable of feats of horsemanship, although his bulk was not well set up in his old age, but ran to corpulence and weight.
Some, then, were pleased to have him thus engaged, and would go down into the Campus and witness his emulation in competitive contests; but the better part were moved to pity at the sight of his greed and ambition, because, though he had risen from poverty to the greatest wealth and from obscurity to the highest place, he knew not how to set bounds to his good fortune, and was not content to be admired and enjoy quietly what he had,
but as if in need of all things, and after winning triumphs and fame, was setting out, with all his years upon him, for Cappadocia and the Euxine sea, to fight it out with Archelaüs and Neoptolemus,the satraps of Mithridates. And the justification for this which Marius offered was thought to be altogether silly; he said, namely, that he wished to take part personally in the campaign in order to give his son a military training.