So, then, Marius, filled with high hopes, we are told, by this speech of Scipio in particular, as if it were a divine utterance in prophecy, set out upon a political career, and was made tribune of the people 1
with the assistance of Caecilius Metellus, of whose house he had always been an hereditary adherent.
While serving as tribune he introduced a law concerning the mode of voting, which, as it was thought, would lessen the power of the nobles in judicial cases; whereupon Cotta the consul opposed him and persuaded the senate to contest the law, and to summon Marius before it to explain his procedure. The senate voted to do this, and Marius appeared before it. He did not, however, behave like a young man who had just entered political life without any brilliant services behind him, but assumed at once the assurance which his subsequent achievements gave him, and threatened to hale Cotta off to prison unless he had the vote rescinded.
Cotta then turned to Metellus and asked him to express his opinion, and Metellus, rising in his place, concurred with the consul; but Marius called in the officer and ordered him to conduct Metellus himself to prison. Metellus appealed to the other tribunes, but none of them came to his support, so the senate gave way and rescinded its vote. Marius therefore came forth in triumph to the people and got them to ratify his law. Men now thought him superior to fear, unmoved by respect of persons, and a formidable champion of the people in opposition to the senate.
However, this opinion was quickly modified by another political procedure of his. For when a law was introduced providing for the distribution of grain to the citizens, he opposed it most strenuously and carried the day, thereby winning for himself an equal place in the esteem of both parties as a man who favoured neither at the expense of the general good.