157 BC2016-11-01T10:47:24+00:00

Gaius Marius Born
Called the 3rd founder of Rome, Marius was born in Arpinum, same place as Cicero. Although it is stated by Plutarch that he was low born, Marius probably came from a locally prominent equestrian family. Like Cicero after him, Marius was a homo novus (new man), the first in his family to achieve Senatorial rank and rise to the Consulship. In his early career he was a client of the Metelli, a powerful family in Rome. Marius’ politics were clearly in the camp of the populares and he introduced a law limiting intervention by the rich in counting election ballots. His advocacy for this law resulted in a rupture with the Metelli which caused him a host of political problems. Nevertheless, Marius moved up the Cursus Honorum (course of offices; aedile, praetor) being elected consul in 107 BC. His reforms of the Roman army were profound; he professionalized it and vastly expanded its recruitment base.

Between 107 and 101 BC, Marius held the consulship 6 times. In 101 BC he led a successful defense of Italy against 3 barbarian nations; Teutones, Cimbri and Tigurini. After settling this threat, Marius sided with the senate in crushing radical political opposition which had turned violent. Shortly thereafter he retired from politics. With the advent of the Social War (Italian cities fighting for full Roman citizenship), Marius returned to politics and along with Sulla took command of the Roman forces. Shortly thereafter, however, he retired due to ill health.

With the outbreak of the Mithridatic War, Sulla was given command of the Roman army by the Senate, but the Assembly appointed Marius. Sulla met with his troops at Nola and marched on Rome in order to settle the matter. By doing so, he broke the law as well as a longstanding tradition that prohibited Roman troops within city walls. Marius fled along with his supporters to Africa where we proceeded to raise an army. Sulla extracted vengeance by executing members of the Marian party. Sulla then departed for the East and Marius and his army had occasion to return to the city and extract their vengeance. The cowed Senate appointed Marius to command of the army and he stood for and won a 7th consulship. However, shortly into his term of office, Marius died.

Plutarch. The Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans Volume I. The Dryden translation, edited and revised by Arthur Hugh Clough. The Modern Library Edition. New York. 1992.