But when Marius found that the words of the augur pointed in the same direction as his own inclinations prompted him, he requested of Metellus leave of absence, that he might offer himself a candidate for the consulship. Metellus, though eminently distinguished by virtue, honor, and other qualities valued by the good, had yet a haughty and disdainful spirit, the common failing of the nobility. He was at first, therefore, astonished at so extraordinary an application, expressed surprise at Marius's views, and advised him, as if in friendship, "not to indulge such unreasonable expectations, or elevate his thoughts above his station; that all things were not to be coveted by all men; that his present condition ought to satisfy him; and, finally, that he should be cautious of asking from the Roman people what they might justly refuse him." Having made these and similar remarks, and finding that the resolution of Marius was not at all affected by them, he told him "that he would grant what he desired as soon as the public business would allow him."1
On Marius repeating his request several times afterward, he is reported to have said, "that he need not be in a hurry to go, as he would be soon enough if he became a candidate with his own son."2
Metellus's son was then on service in the camp with his father,3
and was about twenty years old.
This taunt served only to rouse the feelings of Marius, as
well for the honor at which he aimed, as against Metellus. He suffered himself to be actuated, therefore, by ambition and resentment, the worst of counselors. He omitted nothing henceforward, either in deeds or words, that could increase his own popularity. He allowed the soldiers, of whom he had the command in the winter quarters, more relaxation of discipline than he had ever granted them before. He talked of the war among the merchants, of whom there was a great number at Utica, censoriously with respect to Metellus, and vauntingly with regard to himself; saying "that if but half of the army were granted him, he would in a few days have Jugurtha in chains; but that the war was purposely protracted by the consul, because, being a man of vanity and regal pride, he was too fond of the delights of power." All these assertions appeared the more credible to the merchants, as, by the long continuance of the war, they had suffered in their fortunes; and to impatient minds no haste is sufficient.