At all this Metellus was evidently displeased. But it was the affair of Turpillius that most vexed him. This Turpillius was an hereditary guest-friend of Metellus, and at this time was serving in his army as chief of engineers. But he was put in charge of Vaga, a large city, and because he relied for safety on his doing the inhabitants no wrong, but rather treating them with kindness and humanity, he unawares came into the power of the enemy; for they admitted Jugurtha into their city. Still, they did Turpillius no harm, but obtained his release and sent him away safe and sound.
Accordingly, a charge of treachery was brought against him; and Marius, who was a member of the council which tried the case, was himself bitter, and exasperated most of the others against the accused, so that Metellus was reluctantly forced to pass sentence of death upon him. After a short time, however, the charge was found to be false, and almost everybody sympathized with Metellus in his grief; but Marius, full of joy and claiming the condemnation as his own work, was not ashamed to go about saying that he had fastened upon the path of Metellus a daemon who would avenge the murder of a guest-friend.
In consequence of this there was open enmity between the two men; and we are told that on one occasion when Marius was present Metellus said to him as if in mockery:
‘Dost thou purpose to leave us, my good Sir, and sail for home, and stand for the consulship? Pray will it not satisfy thee to be fellow-consul with this my son?’ Now the son of Metellus was at this time a mere stripling.
However, Marius was eager to be dismissed, and so, after making many postponements, and when only twelve days remained before the election of consuls, Metellus dismissed him. Marius accomplished the long journey from the camp to Utica and the sea in two days and one night, and offered sacrifice before he sailed. And the seer is said to have told him that the Deity revealed for Marius successes that were of incredible magnitude and beyond his every expectation.
Elated by this prophecy he put to sea. In three days he crossed the sea with a favouring wind, and was at once welcomed gladly by the populace, and after being introduced to the assembly by one of the tribunes, he first made many slanderous charges against Metellus, and then asked for the consulship, promising that he would either kill Jugurtha or take him alive.