(157 - 86 BC)
Marius was born in the region of Arpinum, a province conquered by Rome that
was granted partial and then full citizenship (with the right to vote in the
Senate), rose to power thru great military deeds and was elected Consul of Rome
seven times. His most important contribution to the history of the empire
was without doubt all the reforms he introduced in order to strengthen the
army for his african campaigns.
Life of Marius
Born of unremarkable parents (by roman standards) his father had his same
name and his mother was called Fulcinia1 and spent most of his youth
in his native village before serving in the army under Scipio Africanus, in the
war against the Celtiberians.
He married Gaius Julius Caesar's aunt Julia, and befriended Sulla, with whom
he waged war against King Jugurtha of Numidia, under the command of
His first consulship was won on 107 BC and re-elected from 105 BC thru 101 BC
(five consecutive consulships) aided, no doubt, by the barbarian threat he was
so effective countering. He spent most of his consulships away on
campaigns being sometimes re-elected in absentia.
Towards the end of his life he suffered several strokes that partly paralyzed
his body. By that time, Sulla was after the consulship himself and to
fight the opposition, led his soldiers in a mock siege against Rome.
Marius was elected consul a seventh time and died shortly after.
Chief among the reforms Marius introduced to the republic, was the
inclusion of capite censi2 on the lists of men allowed to take arms and
fight for the empire. In the early days of the republic, only land owners
were allowed to form part of the army. There were no professional soldiers
and the roman campaigns where scheduled around planting and harvesting time3 to
allow for soldiers to return to their farms and resume the crop growing.
Of course, as the empire grew in size, the enemies where found farther and
farther away. Given the roman custom of not granting full citizenship to
recently conquered provinces, not everyone was eligible to expand the numbers of
Marius changed all that when he decreed that the capite censi was to
be allowed to take arms and would be fitted with weapons and armor at expense of
the state. He even went so far as to decree that the conquered lands be
granted to those who participate in the campaigns thus becoming landowners and
spreading the romanization thru the provinces. This of course was met with
resistance from the aristocracy, whose land by right of conquest would be
diminished and in some cases usurped to comply with the reforms.
Other reforms were of a military nature: tactics and strategy.
The modification of weapons and lines of supply.
1. Caius Marius by Plutarch.
2. Capite censi: The head count. Landless romans whose name was
not taken during the census, hence the term head count.
3. Gaius Marius:The Reforms and the Man, Bert Lott. http://vassun.vassar.edu/%7Ejolott/republic1998/marius/