One reason which induced the Senate to bring the Social War to a conclusion was the necessity of attacking Mithridates, king of Pontus, one of the ablest monarchs with whom Rome ever came into contact. The origin and history of this war will be narrated in the following chapter. The dispute between Marias and Sulla for the command against Mithridates was the occasion of the first Civil War. The ability which Sulla had displayed in the Social War, and his well-known attachment to the Senatorial party, naturally marked him out as the man to whom this important dignity was to be granted. He was accordingly elected Consul for the year 88 B.C., with Q. Pompeius Rufus as his colleague; and he forthwith received the command of the Mithridatic War. But Marius had long coveted this distinction; he quitted the magnificent villa which he had built at Misenum, and took up his residence at Rome; and in order to show that neither his age nor his corpulency had destroyed his vigor, he repaired daily to the Campus Martius, and went through the usual exercises with the young men. He was determined not to yield without a struggle to his hated rival. As he had formerly employed the Tribune Saturninus to carry out his designs, so now he found an able instrument for his purpose in the Tribune P. Sulpicius Rufus. Sulpicius was one of the greatest orators of the age, and had acquired great influence by his splendid talents. He was an intimate friend of the Tribune M. Livius Drusus, and had been himself elected Tribune for B.C. 88, through the influence of the Senatorial party, who placed great hopes in him; but, being overwhelmed with debt, he now sold himself to Marius, who promised him a liberal share of the spoils of the Mithridatic War. Accordingly, Sulpicius brought forward a law by which the Italians were to be distributed among the thirty-five tribes. As they far outnumbered the old Roman citizens, they would have an overwhelming majority in each tribe, and would certainly confer upon Marius the command of the Mithridatic War. To prevent the Tribune from putting these rogations to the vote, the Consuls declared a justitium, during which no business could be legally transacted. But Sulpicius was resolved to carry his point; with an armed band of followers he entered the forum and called upon the Consuls to withdraw the justitium; and upon their refusal to comply with his demand he ordered his satellites to draw their swords and fall upon them. Pompeius escaped, but his son Quintus, who was also the son-in-law of Sulla, was killed. Sulla himself took refuge in the house of Marius, which was close to the forum, and in order to save his life he was obliged to remove the justitium.
Sulla quitted Rome and hastened to his army, then besieging Nola, which
was still held by the Samnites (see p.
Mount Argæus in Cappadocia