These things brought to a head the secret disease from which the state had long been suffering, and Marius found a most suitable instrument for the destruction of the commonwealth in the audacity of Sulpicius, who was in all things an admirer and an imitator of Saturninus, except that he charged him with timidity and hesitation in his political measures.
Sulpicius himself was not a man of hesitation, but kept six hundred of the Knights about him as a body-guard, which he called his anti-senate; he also made an attack with armed men upon the consuls as they were holding an assembly, and when one of them fled from the forum, Sulpicius seized his son and butchered him; Sulla, however, the other consul, as he was being pursued past the house of Marius, did what no one would have expected and burst into the house. His pursuers ran past the house and therefore missed him, and it is said that Marius himself sent him off safely by another door so that he came in haste to his camp.
But Sulla himself, in his Memoirs, says he did not fly for refuge to the house of Marius, but withdrew thither in order to consult with Marius about the step which Sulpicius was trying to force him to take (by surrounding him with drawn swords and driving him to the house of Marius), and that finally he went from there to the forum and rescinded the consular decree for the suspension of public business, as Sulpicius and his party demanded. 1
When this had been done, Sulpicius, who was now master of the situation, got the command conferred upon Marius by vote of the people; and Marius, who was making his preparations for departure, sent out two military tribunes to take over the command of Sulla's army. Sulla, however, called upon his soldiers (who were no fewer than thirty-five thousand legionaries) to resent this, and led them forth against Rome. His soldiers also fell upon the tribunes whom Marius had sent and slew them.
Marius, too, put to death many of Sulla's friends in Rome, and proclaimed freedom to the slaves if they would fight on his side. It is said, however, that only three of them joined his ranks, and after a feeble resistance to Sulla's entry into the city he was speedily driven out and took to flight. 2
As soon as he had made his escape from the city his companions were scattered, and since it was dark, he took refuge at one of his farmsteads, called Solonium.
He also sent his son to get provisions from the estate of his father-in-law, Mucius, which was not far off, while he himself went down to the coast at Ostia, where a friend of his, Numerius, had provided a vessel for him. Then, without waiting for his son, but taking his step-son Granius with him, he set sail. The younger Marius reached the estate of Mucius, but as he was getting supplies and packing them up, day overtook him and he did not altogether escape the vigilance of his enemies; for some horsemen came riding towards the place, moved by suspicion.
When the overseer of the farm saw them coming, he hid Marius in a waggon loaded with beans, yoked up his oxen, and met the horsemen as he was driving the waggon to the city. In this way young Marius was conveyed to the house of his wife, where he got what he wanted, and then by night came to the sea, boarded a ship that was bound for Africa, and crossed over.