Saturday, 13 October 2012

Marius

Poul Anderson deploys historical knowledge to dramatic effect in both historical fiction and science fiction. In the second century BC, the Cimbrian barbarians devastated Europe, defeated Roman armies and invaded Italy where, however, an army led by the Roman general Marius annihilated them. Anderson describes that battle in The Golden Slave.

In his short story, "Marius," two powerful men, Fourre and Reinach, meet to discuss the way forward for a devastated near future Europe. Fourre addresses Reinach as "Marius" and explains this nickname by describing the Roman general's victory over the Cimbri. Reinach is puzzled but flattered.

However, almost immediately, Fourre, in a carefully planned mutiny, deposes Reinach and explains this action by again referring to Marius. It seems that Marius used his military prestige to go into politics where he got it all wrong, unintentionally paving the way for Caesarism and the end of the Republic.

Fourre comments over Reinach's corpse, " 'I would like to think that I helped spare Jacques Reinach the name of Marius.' " (1)

(1) Anderson, Poul, The Psychotechnic League (New York, 1981), p. 28.    

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