Gaius Marius

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This article is about the Roman statesman who reorganized the army, and was seven times Consul. For other people with the name Marius see Marius (Disambiguation)

Gaius Marius (Latin: C·MARIVS·C·F·C·N)<ref>Official name of Marius. The meaning in English is, "Gaius Marius, son of Gaius grandson of Gaius"</ref> (157 BCJanuary 13, 86 BC) was a Roman general and politician elected Consul an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his dramatic reforms of Roman armies, authorizing recruitment of landless citizens and reorganizing the structure of the legions into separate cohorts.


[edit] Early Career

Marius was born in 157 BC in the town of Arpinum in southern Latium. The town had been conquered by the Romans in the late fourth century BC and was given Roman citizenship without voting rights. Only in 188 BC did the town receive full citizenship. Although Plutarch claims that Marius's father was a laborer, this is almost certainly false. The fact is that Marius had connections with the nobility in Rome, that he ran for local office in Arpinum, and that he had marriage relations with the local nobility in Arpinum. All combine to indicate that he was born into a locally important family of equestrian status. The problems he faced in his early career in Rome show the difficulties that faced a new man.

There is a legend that Marius, as a teenager, found an eagle's nest with seven chicks in it. Since eagles were considered sacred animals of Jupiter, the supreme god of the Romans, it was later seen as an omen predicting his election to the consulship seven times.

In 134 BC, he was serving in some capacity with the army at Numantia and his good services brought him to the attention of Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus. Whether he arrived with Scipio Aemilianus or was already serving in the demoralized army that Scipio Aemilianus took over at Numantia is not clear. It would seem that even at this early stage in his army career, Marius had ambitions for a political career in Rome. He ran for election as one of the twenty-four special military tribunes of the first four legions who were elected (the rest were appointed by the magistrate who raised the legion). Sallust tells us that he was unknown by sight to the electors but was returned by all the tribes on the basis of his accomplishments.

We next learn that he ran for the Quaestorship after losing an election for local office in Arpinum. This is hard to interpret. The military tribunate shows that he was already interested in Roman politics before the Quaestorship. Perhaps he simply ran for local office as a means of gaining support back home, and lost to some other local worthy. Nothing is known of his actions while Quaestor.

Image:Marius Carthage.jpg
"Marius Amid the Ruins of Carthage" by John Vanderlyn

In 120 BC Marius was returned as plebian tribune for the following year. He won with the support of Quintus Caecilius Metellus, who was an inherited patronus. The Metelli, while neither ancient nor Patrician, were one of the most powerful families in Rome at this time, another indicator that Marius' family was not of completely common stock. During his tribunate, Marius pursued a populares line. He passed a law that restricted the interference of the wealthy in elections. In the 130s voting by ballot had been introduced in elections for choosing magistrates, passing laws and deciding legal cases, replacing the earlier system of oral voting. The wealthy continued to try to influence the voting by inspecting ballots and Marius passed a law narrowing the passages down which voters passed to cast their votes in order to prevent outsiders from harassing the electors. In the passage of this law, Marius alienated the Metelli, who opposed it.

Soon thereafter, Marius ran for the curule aedileship and after losing ran unsuccessfully for the plebeian aedileship. (Plutarch says the two defeats actually happened on the same day, but for technical reasons this is unlikely). In 116 BC he barely won election as Praetor for the following year (presumably coming in sixth) and was promptly accused of ambitus (electoral corruption). He barely won acquittal on this charge, and spent an uneventful year as Praetor in Rome (as Urban Praetor, Peregrine Praetor or President of the extortion court). In 114 BC Marius' imperium was prorogued and he was sent to govern Lusitania, where he engaged in some sort of minor military operation. During this period in Roman history governors seem regularly to have served two years in Hispania, so he was probably replaced in 113 BC.

He received no triumph on his return and did not apparently run for the consulship, but he did marry Julia, the aunt of Gaius Julius Caesar. The Julii Caesares were a patrician family, but at this period seem to have found it hard to advance above the Praetorship (only once in the second century – in 157 BC – was a Julius Caesar consul). To judge by this marriage, Marius had apparently achieved some substantial political influence by this point. The birth of his son, Gaius Marius the Younger, places the date of the marriage at roughly 110 BC.

[edit] Legate to Metellus

The Marii were the inherited clients of the Caecilii Metelli and a Caecilius Metellus had aided Marius's campaign for the tribunate. Although he seems to have had a break with the Metelli as a result of the laws he passed while tribune, the rupture was not permanent, since in 109 BC Quintus Caecilius Metellus took Marius with him as his legate on his campaign against Jugurtha. Legates (legati) were originally simply envoys sent by the Senate, but men appointed as legates by the Senate were used by generals as subordinate commanders, usually becoming the general's most trusted lieutenant. Hence, Metellus had to have asked the Senate to appoint Marius as legate to allow him to serve as Metellus' subordinate. In Sallust's long account of Metellus' campaign no other legates are mentioned, so it is assumed that Marius was Metellus's senior subordinate and right-hand man. Thus Metellus was using Marius' military experience, while Marius was strengthening his position to run for the consulship. The rupture in 119 BC may have been exaggerated after the fact in light of his later, much more serious disagreement with Metellus about Numidia.

[edit] Run for the Consulship

By 108 BC, Marius conceived the desire to run for the Consulship. Seeking permission from Metellus to go to Rome to do so, he was urged to reconsider, and advised by Metellus to wait to run with Metellus's son (who was only twenty, which would signify a campaign twenty years in the future). Following this meeting, Marius spent the summer ingraining himself with the troops by relaxing military discipline and with the Italian traders by claiming that he could capture Jugurtha in a few days with half Metellus' troops. Both groups wrote home in praise of him, suggesting that he could end the war quickly unlike Metellus, who was pursuing a policy of methodically subduing the countryside. Eventually Metellus gave in, realizing that it was counterproductive to have a resentful subordinate.

Under the circumstances it is not difficult to understand how Marius was triumphantly elected Consul later that year, for 107 BC. He was campaigning against Metellus's apparent lack of swift action against Jugurtha. Given the repeated military debacles from 113 BC to 109 BC and the accusations that the oligarchy was open to flagrant bribery, it is not at all surprising that the virtuous new man who had worked with difficulty up the ladder of offices was elected as an alternative to the inept or corrupt nobility. The Senate had a trick up its sleeve, however. In accordance with the provisions of the Lex Sempronia on Consular provinces, which dictated that the Senate in a given year was to determine the Consular provinces for the next year at the end of year before the elections, the Senate decided not to make the war against Jugurtha one of the provinces and to prorogue Metellus in Numidia. Marius got around this through a ploy that had been used in 131 BC. In that year there was a dispute as to who should command the war against Aristonicus in Asia, and a tribune had passed a law authorizing an election to select the commander (there was precedent for this procedure from the Second Punic War). A similar law was passed in 108 BC and Marius was voted the command by the People in this special election. Metellus shed bitter tears when he learned of the decision. Upon returning home, he avoided meeting Marius, and was granted a Triumph and the agnomen Numidicus (conqueror of Numidia).

[edit] Recruitment

Main article: Marian reforms

Marius needed more troops, and to this effect he made a change in procedure used for recruiting troops, probably unaware of the momentous implications of this change. All of the Gracchan agrarian reforms had been premised on the traditional Roman levy, which excluded from service those whose property qualification fell below the minimum property qualification for the fifth census class. The Gracchi had tried to restore the smallholders who would constitute the majority of those qualified to serve. The end of the Gracchan land legislation did nothing to change the military crisis that gave rise to that legislation. It seems that the minimum qualification for the fifth census class (the lowest one eligible for military service) was lowered from 11,000 to 3000 sesterces of property, and already in 109 BC the Consuls had had to seek suspension of Gaius Gracchus' restrictions on the levy. In 107 BC Marius decided to ignore the census qualification altogether and to recruit with no inquiry into the property of the potential soldier. From now on Rome's legions would largely consist of poor citizens (the "capite censi" or "head count") whose future after service could only be assured if their general could somehow bring about a land distribution on their behalf. Thus the soldiers had a very strong personal interest in supporting their general against the Senate (i.e., the oligarchy) and the "public interest" that was often equated with the Senate. Marius did not avail himself of this potential source of support, but in less than two decades Marius' ex-Quaestor Sulla would use it against the Senate and Marius.

[edit] War in Numidia

Marius found that it wasn't as easy to end the war as he had claimed. He arrived comparatively late in 107 BC and in that year and the next he forced Jugurtha to the south and west toward Mauretania. Marius' Quaestor in 107 BC had been Lucius Cornelius Sulla, the son of a patrician family that had fallen on hard times. Marius was supposedly unhappy at receiving the dissolute youth as his subordinate, but Sulla proved a competent military leader. By 105 the king of Mauretania, Bocchus, who was also Jugurtha's father-in-law and reluctant ally, was worried about the approaching Romans. After receiving word that an accommodation with them was possible, Bocchus insisted that Sulla make the hazardous journey to his capital, where Sulla induced Bocchus to betray Jugurtha, who was duly handed over to Sulla, thus ending the war. Since Marius held the imperium and Sulla was acting as his subordinate, the honor of capturing Jugurtha belonged strictly to Marius, but Sulla had clearly been immediately responsible and had a signet ring made for himself commemorating the event. Though it seems not to have mattered now, Sulla would later claim that the credit for ending the war was his. Meanwhile, Marius was the hero of the hour, and his services would be needed in another emergency.

[edit] Cimbri and Teutones

The arrival of the Cimbri in Gaul in 109 BC and their complete defeat of Marcus Junius Silanus had resulted in unrest among the Celtic tribes recently conquered by the Romans in southern Gaul. In 107 the Consul Lucius Cassius Longinus was completely defeated by the Tigurine clan, and the senior surviving officer (Gaius Popillius Laenas, son of the consul of 132) had saved what was left only by surrendering half the baggage and suffering the humiliation of having his army "march under the yoke." The next year (106 BC) another Consul, Quintus Servilius Caepio, marched to Gaul and captured the disloyal community of Tolosa (Toulouse), where a huge sum of money (the Gold of Tolosa), was taken from shrines. The larger part of it mysteriously vanished when being transported to Massilia (Marseille). Caepio was prorogued into the next year, when one of the new Consuls, Gnaeus Mallius Maximus, also operated in southern Gaul. Mallius was a new man like Marius, and he and the noble Caepio found it impossible to co-operate.

The Cimbri and the Teutones (both migrating Germanic tribes) appeared on the Rhône, and while Caepio was on the west bank he refused to come to the aid of Mallius on the left. Eventually the Senate got Caepio's reluctant agreement to co-operate, but even when he crossed the river to help the threatened Mallius, he refused to join forces and kept his own at a fair distance. First the Germans routed Caepio and then destroyed Mallius's army on October 6, 105 BC at Arausio. Since the Romans fought with the river at their back, flight was not possible and reportedly 80,000 were killed. The losses in the preceding decade had been bad enough, but this defeat, apparently caused by the arrogance of the nobility and its refusal to co-operate with talented non-nobles, was the last straw. Not only had huge numbers of Romans lost their lives but Italy itself was now exposed to invasion from barbarian hordes. Popular dissatisfaction with the oligarchy reached its pinnacle.

[edit] As Consul

In late 105 BC Marius was elected consul again while still in Africa. Election in absentia was unusual enough, but at some time after 152 BC a law had been passed dictating a ten-year interval between consulships, and there is even some evidence to indicate that by 135 BC a law had been passed that prohibited second consulships altogether. Nonetheless by this time news of a new advancing tribe known as the Cimbri had reached Rome and in the emergency Marius was again chosen consul. The law was repealed, as Marius was then elected to an unprecedented five successive consulships (104 BC - 100 BC). He returned to Rome by January 1, 104 BC, when he celebrated his triumph over Jugurtha, who was first led in the procession, then killed in the public prison.

The Cimbri conveniently marched into Hispania and the Teutoni milled around in northern Gaul, leaving Marius to prepare his army. One of his legates was his old quaestor, Sulla, which shows that at this time there was no ill-will between them. In 104 BC, Marius was returned as Consul again for 103 BC. Though he could have continued to operate as Proconsul, it seems that the position as consul would make his position as commander unassailable and avoid any problems with the Consuls if he was only a Proconsul. Marius seems to have been able to get exactly what he wanted and it even seems that his support determined whom the People would elect as his colleagues (his choice was apparently determined on the basis of their malleability). In 103 BC, the Germans still did not emerge from Hispania, and conveniently Marius's colleague (L. Aurelius Orestes, son of C. Gracchus's commander in Sardinia in 126 BC - 124 BC) died, so Marius had to return to Rome to oversee the elections, being re-elected for 102 BC.

[edit] Showdown With the Germanic Tribes

In 102 BC the Cimbri returned from Hispania into Gaul and together with the Teutoni decided to invade Italy. The Teutoni were to head south and advance toward Italy along the Mediterranean coast; the Cimbri were to attempt to cross the Alps into Italy from the northwest by the Brenner Pass; and the Tigurini (the allied Celtic tribe who had defeated Longinus in 107) were to cross the Alps from the northeast. This decision proved fatally flawed. The Germanic soldiers divided their forces, making each contingent manageable, and the Romans could use their shorter lines of communication to concentrate their forces at will.

First Marius had to deal with the Teutoni, who were in the province of Narbonensis marching toward the Alps. First, he refused to give them a battle where they wanted, and withdrew to Aquae Sextiae (a settlement founded by Gaius Sextius Calvus in 124 BC), which blocked their path. The leading contingent of the Germanic warriors, the Ambrones, foolishly attacked the Roman position without waiting for reinforcements and 30,000 were killed. Marius then hid 3,000 troops in ambush, so when the main Germanic contingent finally attacked, the hidden Roman troops could fall on them from behind. In the ensuing defeat, the Teutoni were completely annihilated, to the number of something over 100,000.

Marius's colleague Quintus Lutatius Catulus Caesar in 102 BC did not have as much luck. He botched the holding of the Brenner Pass, allowing the Cimbri to advance into northern Italy by late 102 BC. Marius was in Rome, and after becoming elected Consul for 101 BC and deferring his Triumph over the Teutoni, he marched north to join Catulus, whose command was prorogued into 101. Finally, in the summer of that year a battle was fought at Vercellae in Cisalpine Gaul. Once again, Roman discipline overcame a larger barbarian force. At least 65,000 were killed (perhaps as many as 100,000 again) and all the remainder enslaved. The Tigurini gave up their efforts to enter Italy from the northeast and went home. Catulus Caesar and Marius celebrated a joint Triumph, but in popular thinking all the credit went to Marius. Catulus Caesar became alienated from Marius and would later become one of his chief opponents. As a sort of reward (the danger was now gone) Marius was returned as Consul for 100 BC. This year would not go at all well for Marius.

[edit] Sixth Consulship

During this year Lucius Appuleius Saturninus was tribune and advocated reforms like those earlier put forth by the Gracchi. He pushed for a bill that gave colonial lands to the veterans of the recent war and offered to lower the price of wheat distributed by the state. The Senate, however, opposed these measures and violence broke out. The Senate then ordered Marius, as Consul, to put down the revolt. Marius, although he was generally allied with the radicals, complied with the request and put down the revolt in the interest of public order. He then went to the east and into retirement.

[edit] Social War

Main article: Social War

During the time when Marius was away and later when he returned, Rome knew several years of relative peace. In 95 BC, however, Rome passed a decree that all residents who were not Roman citizens but rather citizens of other Italian cities besides Rome should be expelled from the capital. In 91 BC Marcus Livius Drusus was elected tribune and proposed a greater division of state lands, the enlargement of the Senate, and a conferral of Roman citizenship upon all freemen of Italy. Drusus was however assassinated, and the Italian states then revolted against Rome in the Social War of 91-88 BC. Marius then took command and fought along with Sulla against the rebel cities.

[edit] Sulla and the First Civil War

After the conclusion of the Social War, Mithridates of Pontus began his bid to conquer Rome's eastern provinces and invaded Greece. In 88 BC, Sulla was elected consul. The choice before the Senate was to put either Marius or Sulla in command of an army which would aid Rome's Greek allies and defeat Mithridates. Sulla was given the job by the Senate, however a short time later Marius won appointment to the command by the Assembly. In this unsavory episode of low politics, he was helped by the unscrupulous actions of Publius Sulpicius Rufus, whose debts Marius had promised to erase. Sulla refused to acknowledge the validity of the Assembly's action.

Sulla left Rome and traveled to the army waiting in Nola, the army the Senate had asked him to lead against Mithridates. Sulla urged his legions to defy the Assembly's orders and accept him as their rightful leader. Sulla was successful and the legions stoned the representatives from the Assembly. Sulla then commanded six legions to march with him to Rome. This was a momentous event, and was unforeseen by Marius, as no Roman army had ever marched upon Rome - it was forbidden by law and ancient tradition.

Once it became obvious that Sulla was going to defy the law and seize Rome by force, Marius attempted to organize a defense of the city using gladiators. Unsurprisingly Marius' ad-hoc force was no match for Sulla's legions. Marius was defeated and fled Rome. Sulla and his supporters in the Senate passed a death sentence on Marius, Sulpicius and a few other allies of Marius. A small number of men were executed but not Marius, Plutarch tells us that he narrowly escaped capture and death on several occasions and eventually he found safety in Africa.

There was disapproval of Sulla's actions by many Romans; some who opposed Sulla were actually elected to office in 87 BC. (Gnaeus Octavius, a supporter of Sulla, and Lucius Cornelius Cinna, a supporter of Marius, were elected Consul). That said, Sulla was confirmed again as the commander of the campaign against Mithridates, so he took his legions out of Rome and marched east to the war. See the First Mithridatic War for more details.

[edit] Seventh Consulship and Death

While Sulla was on campaign in Greece, fighting broke out between the conservative supporters of Sulla, lead by Octavius, and the popular supporters of Cinna. Marius along with his son then returned from exile in Africa with an army he had raised there and combined with Cinna to oust Octavius. This time it was the army of Marius that entered Rome. Based on the orders of Marius, some of his soldiers went through Rome killing the leading supporters of Sulla, including Octavius. Their heads were exhibited in the Forum. After five days, Cinna ordered his more disciplined troops to kill Marius's rampaging soldiers. All told some 100 Roman nobles had been murdered. The Senate passed a law exiling Sulla and Marius was appointed the new commander in the eastern war. Cinna was chosen for his second Consulship and Marius to his seventh Consulship. However, just one month after his return to Rome, Marius died suddenly at the age of seventy-one.

[edit] Epilogue

Cinna was elected to two more Consulships afterwards and then died during a mutiny when trying to lead his forces into Greece. The forces of Sulla returned to Italy at Brundisium in 83 BC, and the sons of Marius died defending Praeneste, a city east of Rome. Upon his return to Rome, Sulla instituted a new reign of terror that dwarfed everything that came before. Thousands of Senators, Knights and other Roman nobles who had supported Marius in any way were outlawed and executed. Julius Caesar, a nephew of the wife of the older Marius, and married to a daughter of Cinna, was one of the many who were outlawed. He was later reluctantly pardoned by Sulla, who remarked: " this youth are many a Marius..."

Marius was a successful Roman general and something of a reformer. His improvements to the structure and organization of the Roman Legion were profound and effective. However he was, in part, responsible for the breakdown in relations with Sulla which led to Sulla's march on Rome. He himself had broken with tradition on previous occasions and his effort to reverse the Senate's appointment of Sulla as commander of the Mithridatic War was highly questionable under Roman constitutional tradition. The five days of terror upon his return to Rome is his responsibility. The Roman Republic was torn to pieces by the struggle between Marius and Sulla and in a real sense, it never recovered.

[edit] Chronology

  • 157 BC - Birth in Arpinum
  • 134 BC - Military Tribune
  • 122 BC - Quaestor in Transalpine Gaul
  • 120 BC - Plebeian Tribune
  • 116 BC - Praetor
  • 114 BC - Sent to govern Lusitania
  • 110 BC - Marriage to Julia
  • 109 BC - Returned to army service as Legate to Caecilius Metellus
  • 108 BC - First Consulship
  • 107 BC - Abolished land ownership qualification for military service (Marian reforms)
  • 104 BC/100 BC - Elected as Consul for five consecutive years.
  • 101 BC - Led successful Roman defence during the Germanic Invasions
  • 91 BC/88 BC - Returns to lead Roman army in the Social War
  • 87 BC
    • Competes with Sulla for military command against Mithradates
    • Sulla assaults Rome, defeating Marius
    • Marius exiled to Africa
    • Returns from exile leading a new army, successfully assaulting Rome
  • 86 BC

[edit] Consulships

Preceded by:
Servius Sulpicius Galba and Lucius Hortensius
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Cassius Longinus
107 BC
Succeeded by:
Quintus Servilius Caepio and Gaius Atilius Serranus
Preceded by:
Gnaeus Mallius Maximus and Publius Rutilius Rufus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Gaius Flavius Fimbria
104 BC
Succeeded by:
Lucius Aurelius Orestes and Gaius Marius
Preceded by:
Gaius Flavius Fimbria and Gaius Marius
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Aurelius Orestes
103 BC
Succeeded by:
Quintus Lutatius Catulus and Gaius Marius
Preceded by:
Lucius Aurelius Orestes and Gaius Marius
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Quintus Lutatius Catulus
102 BC
Succeeded by:
Manius Aquillius and Gaius Marius
Preceded by:
Quintus Lutatius Catulus and Gaius Marius
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Manius Aquillius
101 BC
Succeeded by:
Lucius Valerius Flaccus and Gaius Marius
Preceded by:
Manius Aquillius and Gaius Marius
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Valerius Flaccus
100 BC
Succeeded by:
Aulus Postumius Albinus and Marcus Antonius Orator
Preceded by:
Lucius Cornelius Cinna and Gnaeus Octavius
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Cornelius Cinna
86 BC
Succeeded by:
Lucius Cornelius Cinna and Gnaeus Papirius Carbo

[edit] Notes


[edit] External links

Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans
Alcibiades and Coriolanus - Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar - Aratus & Artaxerxes and Galba & Otho - Aristides and Cato the Elder
Crassus and Nicias - Demetrius and Antony - Demosthenes and Cicero - Dion and Brutus - Fabius and Pericles - Lucullus and Cimon
Lysander and Sulla - Numa and Lycurgus - Pelopidas and Marcellus - Philopoemen and Flamininus - Phocion and Cato the Younger - Pompey and Agesilaus
Poplicola and Solon - Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius - Romulus and Theseus - Sertorius and Eumenes
Tiberius Gracchus & Gaius Gracchus and Agis & Cleomenes - Timoleon and Aemilius Paullus - Themistocles and Camillus
ca:Gai Màrius

cs:Gaius Marius da:Gaius Marius de:Gaius Marius et:Gaius Marius es:Cayo Mario fr:Marius (consul romain) it:Gaio Mario he:גאיוס מריוס ka:გაიუს მარიუსი la:Caius Marius hu:Caius Marius nl:Gaius Marius ja:ガイウス・マリウス no:Gaius Marius pl:Gajusz Mariusz pt:Gaius Marius ru:Гай Марий fi:Marius sv:Marius zh:马略

Gaius Marius

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