Generals' Homes: Marius and Dannatt

The Mail is trying make a fuss of the fact that my favorite British soldier, General Sir Richard Dannatt, is living in Kensington Palace. And in the apartment which once belonged to Princess Diana. British generals often live in royal palaces, and tend to have large 'cribs' - which frankly, they deserve: military salaries are quite low, and they probably couldn't fund family homes in central London. And soldiers do things like put their lives on the line for their countries, so it seems rather churlish to argue over the number of bathrooms they have.

Army chief is given keys to Diana's old London home - and taxpayers picks up the tab - Daily Mail.

Gaius Marius had one of the largest and most lavish homes in Rome, located on the lower slopes of the Palatine just off the Forum. He built it on his return from Asia, where he had met Mithridates VI [Plutarch 32.1]:
On returning to Rome, he built a house for himself near the forum, either, as he himself said, because he was unwilling that those who paid their respects to him should have the trouble of coming a long distance, or because he thought that distance was the reason why he did not have larger crowds at his door than others.

Marius also had commercial ties to the area around Naples, and a holiday home in the shadow of Vesuvius [Plutarch 34.2]:
For at Baiae, near Cape Misenum, Marius owned an expensive house, which had appointments more luxurious and effeminate than became a man who had taken active part in so many wars and campaigns. This house, we are told, Cornelia bought for seventy-five thousand drachmas and not long afterwards Lucius Lucullus purchased it for two million five hundred thousand. So quickly did lavish expenditure spring up, and so great an increase in luxury did life in the city take on.

Adrian Murdoch, in The Last Roman, thinks that this is the home to which Romulus Augustulus retired. I think it was a different villa of Lucullus. The producers of The Last Legion sent him to Britain instead.

Although under the Empire the Atrium Villa died out - since without clients one no longer needed to keep open house for them - Marius would have had one. To see how these work, go to a city like Marrakesh. Light is provided by a central atrium, which has a pool in which water can be stored; the water also helps to reflect the light. The exterior walls have no windows, only one main entrance door which can be bolted in case of emergency to secure the property.

In the Later Republic, when rivals divided the mob into factions, security was key. Sulla found refuge from Sulpicius in Marius' house [Plutarch 35.2-3]:
Sulpicius himself was not a man of hesitation, but kept six hundred of the Knights about him as a body-guard, which he called his anti-senate; he also made an attack with armed men upon the consuls as they were holding an assembly, and when one of them fled from the forum, Sulpicius seized his son and butchered him; Sulla, however, the other consul, as he was being pursued past the house of Marius, did what no one would have expected and burst into the house. His pursuers ran past the house and therefore missed him, and it is said that Marius himself sent him off safely by another door so that he came in haste to his camp.
3 But Sulla himself, in his Memoirs, says he did not fly for refuge to the house of Marius, but withdrew thither in order to consult with Marius about the step which Sulpicius was trying to force him to take (by surrounding him with drawn swords and driving him to the house of Marius), and that finally he went from there to the forum and rescinded the consular decree for the suspension of public business, as Sulpicius and his party demanded.

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