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Colonel Lynn, General Krulak and the Tartar Sauce

You could always count on the late Lt. Col. Chet V. Lynn for a story when a Marine made headlines.  On October 5, 2011, Inside Higher Education published an article by GEN. Charles C. Krulak about how he’d gone back “into the rodeo” by becoming president of Birmingham-Southern College this year reminded me of another of Chet’s yarns.  

In the years I was part of Chet Lynn’s online circle of friends, I never saw him at a loss. But the July 1, 1995 announcement that GEN Krulak, son of Gen. Victor “Brute” Krulak, had became the 31st Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps left even Chet a little floored.  No one was surprised that he had served with Charles Krulak.  (We would have been surprised if he hadn’t.)  He described the polished eagerness of the young officer he remembered and how determined he’d been to make good.  But Chet also told us about the lunch at which the tartar sauce went splat.

For reasons that seemed good and proper to Chet, he had been pounding a packet of tartar sauce with a spoon.  Just as Krulak joined him, the packet burst.  Tartar sauce erupted all over the then-junior officer’s impeccable uniform.

Although Chet still relished the dismay in Krulak’s “big brown puppy-dog eyes,” he now admitted to a certain constraint.  After all, what do you say to the Commandant whom you’ve bombed with tartar sauce? 

Once the LOLs and ROFLs faded off the computer screens, we agreed that it would be a very good idea if Chet wrote GEN. Krulak a letter of congratulations and enclosed a packet of tartar sauce. 

Some weeks later, Chet received a letter of thanks.  Commandant Krulak remembered the incident, sincerely thanked Chet for the letter and invited him to dinner when he was next in Washington, D.C.

Chet died before he could keep the date.  If he were alive today, however, I imagine he’d send President Krulak another letter.  And another packet of tartar sauce.

Now, ask me about Chet and George Peppard.

-- Susan Shwartz

Susan Shwartz, Ph.D., a financial writer and marketer on Wall Street, author of a number of science fiction and fantasy novels, a veteran of the old GENIE military chat line of which Chet was also a member, and long-time online gadfly.  Ask anyone. 

 

The Other Marius

Originating around Arpinum, in central Latium, the Roman gens Maria was a small clan and boasted few notables.  By far the most famous Marian was the brilliant military reformer and commander Gaius Marius (157-86 BC), seven times consul, and civil warrior with a very high body count.  But from time-to-time a few other Marians did manage to attain some distinction, such as Marcus Marius (c. 110-73 BC). 

His early life is obscure, but Marcus was clearly an adherent of the “populares”, the so-called “democratic” faction in Roman politics, as opposed to the “optimates” or so-called “aristocratic” faction.  His politics are obvious because by 76 BC, Marcus Marius, of senatorial rank, was in Spain, in the service of Quintus Sertorius (c. 123-72 BC).  Sertorius had seized control of the Spanish provinces in the name of the populares after their crushing defeat in Italy at the hands of the optimates led by Lucius Cornelius Sulla (c. 138-78 BC), who easily exceeded old Gaius Marius in citizen body count (dead barbarians not included). 

Marcus Marius was apparently a man of some talent, for Sertorius quickly appointed him a member of his Senate-in-Exile, and put him in charge of recruiting and training Spanish auxiliaries, a task which he performed successfully among the Celtiberian tribes of what would later come to be known as La Mancha.

Now meanwhile, King Mithridates VI of Pontus (120-63 BC), among the most inveterate of all of Rome’s many foes across the ages, was once again at war with the Republic over the ownership of various territories in Asia.  Seeing the wisdom of an alliance with Sertorius, in the Spring of A.D. 76 Mithridates dispatched two Roman renegades who were in his service to negotiate an alliance with the Roman rebel.  By late summer the men were back, with an agreement from Sertorius.  If Mithridates would supply 72 million sesterces and 40 ships to Sertorius, the latter would recognize the Pontic king’s ownership of territories not formally included in the Roman province of Asia (now western Turkey), and dispatched Marcus Marius as his representative him in Asia, and also to head what would today be called a “military advisory group” to assist the king. 

Mithridates agreed

Marius went to Asia with the rank of praetor, complete with the traditional fasces and other regalia of senior command, and brought with him a body Roman exiles.  Arriving in Asia, Marius helped organize and train Mithridates’ army along Roman lines (a common phenomenon among Rome’s enemies over the ages), and seems to have become a close advisor to the king. 

When the “Third Mithridatic War” broke out in 74 BC, Mithridates’ forces quickly overran much of Roman-held Asia.  Marius supported his operations with a small Roman army composed of exiles and recruits from the local Romanized population (at least those who’d survived Mithridates’ stupendous massacre of the Romans in Asia some years earlier) .  Marius helped Mithridates win land-sea battle at Chalcedon against the optimate governor-designate of Bithynia, Marcus Aurelius Cotta.  For a time Marius was co-commander with one of Mithridates’ generals and campaigned against Lucius Licinius Lucullus, a far better general than Cotta, while “liberating” several cities in Roman Asia (ancient Ionia, the region around modern Izmir).  This proved relatively easy.  With his “Roman Army” plus his fasces and other insignia, Marius would march up to a city, with Mithridates in tow in a seemingly secondary role.  Promising the city fathers lower taxes and relief from onerous regulations (some political lies are seriously old), Marius was able to win the cooperation of most of the Roman province.

But Mithridates was defeated by Lucullus at Cyzicus in 73 BC, and retreated into the heart of Anatolia, leaving Marius and a Pontic general to carry on the war with some 10,000 troops and about 50 ships, apparently based on the Dardanelles.  After some delay, in 72 BC Marius and his allies launched a naval offensive into the Aegean to cut Lucullus’ lines of communication.  After several inconclusive skirmishes, Marius’ fleet put in at Naea, a small island in the Aegean between Lemnos and Skyros, where Lucullus surprised them, and inflicted a crushing defeat.

Captured shortly after the battle, reportedly hiding in a cave, Marius was put to death, according to Plutarch “under 

FootNote: The Marians. It’s not clear what Marcus Marius’ relationship was to the great Marius, or to the mid-first century Aulus Marius Celsus, but presumably they were all at least distantly related, given the relatively small region from which they came. 

 


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