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Metellus, hearing from some deserters of the fate of Bomilcar, and the discovery of the conspiracy, made fresh preparations for action, and with the utmost dispatch, as if entering upon an entirely new war. Marius, who was still importuning him for leave of absence, he allowed to go home; thinking that as he served with reluctance, and bore him personal enmity, he was not likely to prove a very useful officer.

The common people at Rome, having learned the contents of the letters written from Africa concerning Metellus and Marius, had listened to the accounts given of both with eagerness. But the noble birth of Metellus, which had previously been a motive for paying him honor, had now become a cause of unpopularity; while the obscurity of Marius's origin had procured him favor. In regard to both, however, party feeling had more influence than the good or bad qualities of either. The factious tribunes,1 too, inflamed the populace, charging Metellus, in their harangues, with offenses worthy of death, and exaggerating the excellent qualities of Marius. At length the people were so excited that all the artisans and rustics, whose whole subsistence and credit depended on their labor, quitting their several employments, attended Marius in crowds, and thought less of their own wants than of his exaltation. Thus the nobility being borne down, the consulship, after the lapse of many years,2 was once more given to a man of humble birth. And afterward, when the people were asked by Manilius Mancinus, one of their tribunes, whom they would appoint to carry on the war against Jugurtha, they, in a full assembly, voted it to Marius. The senate had previously decreed it to Metellus; but that decree was thus rendered abortive.3

1 LXXIII. The factious tribunes] “Seditiosi magistratus.

2 After the lapse of many years] “Post multas tempestates.” Apparently the period since A.U.C. 611, when Quintus Pompeius, who, as Cicero says (in Verr. ii. 5). was humile atque obscuro loco natus, obtained the consulship; that is, a term of forty-three or forty-four years.

3 That decree was thus rendered abortive] “Ea res frustra fuit.” By a ex Sempronia, a law of Caius Gracchus, it was enacted that the senate should fix the provinces for the future consuls before the comitia for electing them were held. But from Jug. c. 26, it appears that the consuls might settle by lot, or by agreement between themselves, which of those two provinces each of them should take. How far the senate were allowed or accustomed in general, to interfere in the arrangement, it is not easy to discover; but on this occasion they had taken on themselves to pass a resolution in favor of the patrician. Lest similar scenes, however, to those of the Sempronian times should be enacted, they yielded the point to the people.

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