Gaius Marius
(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 Metellus.

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.

The Reforms

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 the army.

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.

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