Gaius Marius (157 - 86 BC)
Gaius Marius was born near Arpinum, and was the son of a small plebeian farmer. Contrary to popular belief, the Marius clan was influential locally, and maintained some limited client relationships with those in Rome.
Of equestrian but outside roots, Marius would find his early attempts to climb the Roman social and political ladder difficult at best. Using the Legion as his route to fame, fortune and power, he would become among the most influential men of his day, and the history of Rome. Ancient sources suggest that Marius was pre-destined, through the visions of a seer, to be Consul of Rome 7 times. Not only would this prove true, but he would eventually be hailed as the third founder of Rome, and its savior.
Military glory and personal ambition drove Marius straight to the top of the Roman system, but perhaps even more importantly, the man and his legacy would have a profound impact on the life of his nephew, Gaius Julius Caesar.
As a youth Marius may have used his modest family influence to join the legions as a junior officer, or may have risen from the ranks. It is difficult to determine exactly, but it is known that he spent his early career in Hispania under Scipio Aemilianus, grandson of Scipio Africanus. Performing his duties admirably he quickly was promoted. By 123 BC, at the age of 34, the veteran officer was elected as quaestor and his political career was off the ground.
As a novus homo, or new man, Marius found the rise in the Roman cursus honorum a daunting challenge. It is certain that he used his old family client contacts and his military relations as a source of support. Among these contacts were the powerful Metelli family, and their early support was to prove to be a disaster for them. Just a few short years after his service as Quaestor, Marius was elected Tribune of the Plebes in 119 BC. In this position so soon after the political turmoil and murder of the Gracchi brothers (Gaius murdered 123 BC), Marius chose to follow the populares path make a name for himself under similar auspices. As Tribune, he would ensure the animosity of the conservative faction of the Senate, and the Metelli, by passing popular laws forbidding the inspection of ballot boxes. In do doing, he directly opposed the powerful elite, who used ballot inspection as a way to intimidate voters in the citizen assembly elections.
Immediately devoid of political support from the social elite, Marius was unsuccessful in several attempts to be elected as an aedile. His persistence, and disregard for his new man status made him several enemies, but he would persevere. In 115 BC, he was elected Praetor, but was bogged down by politically motivated challenges to his election. After a year of service in Rome, Marius was assigned the province of further Spain for his proprietorship. While a seemingly inglorious position, he served well, and his military experience played a significant role. Putting down several small revolts, and amassing a considerable personal fortune in Spanish mineral wealth in the process, Marius returned to Rome as a successful and perhaps more modest new man. Sensing the resistance, he put off any attempts to run for the next stage of Roman offices, the Consulship.
Perhaps his decision not to run for Consul, his amassing of personal wealth or other factors cooled the animosity between him and the optimate powers. In 110 BC, in taking advantage of the calmer political environment, Marius would make an arrangement that would send shock waves through his own life and Rome itself. The Caesar branch of the Julii family, as impeccably Roman and patrician as they could come, had completely fallen from political prominence and at this point, didn't have the personal wealth to change matters. Likely heavily influenced by Marius' money, as he was socially considered an uneducated, ill-mannered barbarian, a marriage was arranged between Julia Caesar and Gaius. Marius gained the benefit of entry into social and political circles that he would never have had, and the Julii were immediately re-established as a power player through the financing of political campaigns by Marius. As a result of this marriage and his apparant relaxed political motivations, the breach that existed between Marius and the Metelli was soon also healed. By 109 BC, the consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus, would select Marius as a chief subordinate for his campaign against Jugurtha of Numidia.
The Rise of Marius
With his new found good fortune, coming in the form of marriage to Julia Caesar, and his apparent reconciliation with the Metelli family, Marius was in a position to make political strides. At this time, the War with Jugurtha had been carrying on for nearly 4 years in Numidia. With no settlement in sight, and charges of corruption and bribery running rampant against the Roman generals in charge of the operation, Quintus Caecilius Metellus was elected Consul in 109 BC. Charged with carrying out the Roman war effort against Jugurtha, Metellus knew Marius was a quality soldier, and appointed him to serve as his chief Legate.
Metellus' first two years in Africa were much the same result as his predecessors. Aside from some minor victories by Marius, the Romans did little to really alter the situation. Marius, sensing the political and popular frustration in Rome, had the perfect opportunity to run for Consul on the basis of being able to finish the war. His time spent as Metellus' subordinate was put to good use by ensuring good terms and popularity among the legionaries. He put the word out to those friends he had in Rome that he alone could win the war, and that the people must elect him. Campaigning essentially through others, and in abstentia, Marius went to Metellus to request dismissal from his service so that he could return to Rome for proper campaigning. Marius was abruptly refused and was forced to continue using his client base to run his campaign. Presenting himself as the blunt, honest general with more capability, and without personal motivation, he was presented as the popular alternative to the ineptness and corruption of the aristocratic elite. Eventually, with the stalemate in Numidia continuing, the strategy worked, and in 107 BC Gaius Marius was elected Consul for the first time.
Metellus was recalled even though the senate wanted to continue his service in Numidia as Proconsul. Through more political wrangling (some say illegal), Marius managed to be appointed as commander in Africa. Due to a military crisis from Germanic victories in Gaul, Marius was forced to take unprecendented measures and recruit his armies from the Roman landless masses. Even so, within two years, Marius completed what he said he would, conquering Numidia and putting an end to the war. Though, there was military success in the field, it was through the service of a young patrician officer, Lucius Cornelius Sulla that the war finally came to a close. Jugurtha himself was betrayed by his ally Bocchus, the King of Mauretania, into the arms of the Romans. Sulla organized the capture, but Marius, having Imperium as Consul, would receive the credit, while Sulla maintained the war only ended through his achievement. The incident was the beginning of a terrible rivalry between the two men that would have monumental repercussions in later years.
For the time being, however, Marius was at the beginning of his hold on Roman political power. Germanic invasions into northern Italy would propel Marius to new heights and his reform of the armies would have an impact on the Roman social structure, previously unmatched. Even the attempted reforms of the Gracchi brothers would pale in comparison to what Marius did.
Marius Reforms the Legions
With his election as Consul in 107 BC, and his subsequent appointment as commander of the Roman legions in Numidia, Marius faced a difficult challenge. Invasions of Germanic Cimbri and Teuton tribes into southern Gaul had forced large Roman armies to counter them. Thoroughly defeated in every engagement, Rome faced a manpower crisis similar to those faced during Hannibal's offensive in the Second Punic War. Prior to Marius, Rome recruited its main legionary force from the landowning citizen classes, men who could equip themselves and who supposedly had the most to lose in the case of Roman defeat. In previous wars, temporary relief from this traditional rule would be applied, but never on a long term basis. Recruits from the Roman capite cens (head count) and freed slaves (voluntarii), were used primarily in support and militia style functions.
Especially since the end of the Punic Wars and conquests in the east, the small landowning classes had dwindled to dangerous numbers. Wealthy senatorial aristocrats and equestrian elite land owners bought up small farms from struggling families and worked them with vast numbers of imported slaves. The jobless and landless mobs in Rome swelled out of control and led directly to the rise of the Gracchi, who championed political reform for the common citizens. By the time Marius came to power, the typical Roman recruiting base was literally non-existant. There simply weren't enough landowners available who weren't already fighting the Germanics or Jugurtha to field a new army.
Marius' idea would turn out to be the single greatest reform the Roman legions would undergo. Probably without realizing the massive implications his reform would have on a social or political basis, he had little choice but to 'break' the law in order to fulfill his political and military ambitions. He offered the disenfranchised masses permanent employment for pay as a professional army, and the opportunity to gain spoils on campaign along with retirement benefits, such as land. With little hope of gaining status in other ways, the masses flocked to join Marius in his new army.
Besides gaining an army, Marius gained something else: the extreme personal loyalty of the Roman head count. The recruiting of the masses would change the entire relationship between citizens, generals, the Senate and Roman institutional ideology. Prior to Marius, the armies may have been loyal to a general, but were fighting in theory for the survival or expansion of the state, including their own lands. After Marius, they fought for their Legate, provided they liked him of course, and for the plunder and glory he could provide. With nowhere to return to in Rome or beyond, these new soldiers became career full-time professional soldiers, serving terms from 20 to 25 years. A whole new class of citizen was developed from this simple change in military philosophy. While providing an immeasurable impact on the common people, this change would also have a profound effect on the entity of Rome itself. The extreme loyalty to generals rather than state would lead to open rebellion, civil war, military political power and eventually the crowning of emperors.
Besides the social impact of Marius' decision, he made several major changes to legion structure and tactical formations. Most importantly, he mostly replaced the maniple structure which consisted of four distinct legionary units (though it did continue as a style of formation at least until the mid 1st century AD). Each used different weapons, served different purposes tactically and were arranged in varying sizes and formations, essentially based on the class of citizen they were recruited from. Each soldier in the pre-Marian system provided his own gear and armor, resulting in wide ranges in quality and completeness. Marius supplied his new army's gear partially through the resources of the state, and through his own vast wealth. In the future, most new recruits would be uniformly equipped through the state treasury, or thier recruiting general.
To replace the maniple as a formation, the cohort was adopted (though the formation had been used in moderation at least since the Punic Wars). Each soldier was equipped the same and assigned to one of six identical centuries of 80 men, making up the cohort unit. There were then 10 cohors of 480 men making up a legion, which standardized the entire system. The legion was made into a single large cohesive unit with interchangeable parts, capable of tactical flexibility not available with the complex structure of the Republican manipular system. The long single lines used prior to Marius were also eliminated in favor of a tiered 3 cohort deep battle line. This allowed rapid and easy support or rotating of fresh troops into combat.
Additionally, officers began to be recruited from within the ranks on a regular basis. While political appointments and promotions based on social or client status would still occur, this now allowed the common soldier a way of advancing based on merit. This improved the strength of the legion as a whole and instilled confidence in the soldiers, knowing their officers were capable leaders, not favored clients of Senators in Rome. Marius, while adopting uniform gear for all, such as the gladius and scutum, also made significant changes to the common legionary spear (the pilum). It was made for the point to break off upon impact, making it ineffective to be thrown back by the enemy.
To eliminate another problem, the way the soldier's kits and baggage were carried was completely adjusted. From this point on, the legionary would carry their entire standard package including weapons, armor, food, tents, supplies and tools. The "Marius' Mules" allowed bulky, slow and cumbersome baggage trains to be shortened, making the infantry faster and more efficient. Finally, the legionary standards of the Eagle, wolf, minotaur, horse and boar were reduced to a single standard. The Eagle, representing Jupiter Optimus Maximus, replaced them all as the single symbol or loyalty, duty and pride among the soldiers.
Cimbri and Teutons
Just as Marius was coming to power as Consul in 107 BC, a major migration by Germanic (perhaps Celtic) Cimbri was causing consternation along Rome's northern frontier. Apparently under threat of starvation from poor harvests and from external threats by other tribes, the Cimbri were on the move looking for new, more promising land. By 113 BC, the Germanics made their first appearance in Roman written history. These movements, and associated great losses in the Roman army stood as the main reason for Marius' military reforms, and not some great advocacy for the plebes, as the people of the time generally believed.
There is some evidence that the Germanics wanted little to do with the Romans, and that they simply sought safe passage to better lands. Others argue that they were an aggressive army looking for plunder. The Roman generals of the time, ambitious and politically motivated in a time of great change and opportunity for personal glory, may very well have provoked the Cimbri at every step. Regardless, the Cimbri did wander the Danube region for several years, involved in a number of engagements with local Celts. At some point a Roman army was sent to meet them in Noricum, modern Carinthia. Under Gnaeus Paprius Carbo, the Romans were routed and sent scrambling home (112 BC), while the Cimbri continued to move west towards Gaul.
After the defeat of Carbo, the Cimbri crossed the Rhine and threatened territory belonging to the Roman allied Allobroges. Tribal leaders attempted to negotiate land rights for their people, but all such requests were denied. By 109 BC, the Romans sent another force under the Consul Marcus Junius Silanus but again were soundly defeated, losing as many as 30,000 men. The Cimbri, however, not showing any desire to invade or cause trouble, went about their own business, looking for land in Gaul. In 107 BC another Roman army under the command of Longinus met up with the Cimbri near modern Tolosa. In addition to fresh recruits Longinus also led the veterans of Metellus' army from Africa, whose ultimate defeat along with the earlier losses, forced Marius to recruit from the Roman head count. Longinus was initially successful, but was eventually caught in an ambush. Killed in action, his subordinate, Laenas was forced to surrender his position and return to Rome with fewer than 4,000 survivors.
As if the crisis were not dire enough, the following two years were more disastrous still. In 106 BC, Quintus Servilius Caepio marched a fresh army towards Tolosa to enact revenge. When he arrived he was sidetracked by the discovery of the infamous 'Gold of Tolosa', a vast treasure. Winning a minor engagement, he let the Germanics move off, while he secured the treasure and prepared it to be returned to Rome. While en route, it 'mysteriously' disappeared, and the Caepio family suddenly became very wealthy and was the target of suspicion and accusations from that point on.
While he sat idle, the Senate was apparently unsatisfied with Caepio's performance and authorized another army to be raised. This time, a force of over 6 legions was hastily prepared under Mallius Maximus, and he was given imperium over both armies. He marched to join Caepio, but Caepio, feeling that Mallius was inferior in social position, refused to obey or join his command. Bitter in-fighting between the two men, and armies, would prove to be disastrous. In 105 BC, the Cimbri returned and came across the Romans arranged in two separate camps, with two full armies functioning completely independent of one another. At the battle of Aurasio (modern Orange), the Cimbri crushed both Roman armies, killing nearly 80,000 men while sustaining minimal losses of their own.
Despite this monumental victory, and the opening of the doorway to invade Italy, the Cimbri were still only interested in finding new land. They then divided their force, with some remaining in southern Gaul, but with the bulk moving on towards the Pyrenees and Spain. Bitter resistance by Celtibereans in Spain would eventually force the Germanics to return, but for the time being, Rome was granted a brief respite.
It was at this time that the opportunistic Marius returned to Rome to celebrate his triumph over Jugurtha. Rome, feeling the pinch of several successful military disasters, essentially granted complete military authority to Marius. In a breach of the Roman Republican constitution, 104 BC saw his election as Consul for the second time in only a few short years. The law required at least 10 years intervals between elections as Consul, but his election was proof of the faith that both the Senate and the people had in Marius' ability. A generally unpopular figure among the Senate, he was elected to an unprecedented 5 straight terms as Consul from 104 to 100 BC in order to deal with the Germanic threat.
In 104 BC however, the Cimbri had moved on, and Marius spent the time reforming his legions, building roads and generally improving the condition of the provincial public works. Within 2 years, the Cimbri had joined up with more Germanics, including the Teutons, Helvetii and Ambrones. Failing to win new land in Spain from the Celts, they returned to what they may have thought would be easier adversaries in the Romans. In 102 BC, the Cimbri moved around the Alps to the eastern side of Italy preparing to invade. The Teutones moved to the west and followed the Alps south along the coast into Italy. Marius caught the Teutones and Ambrones at the battle of Aquae Sextiae late in the year 102 BC. This time, under competent Roman command, the Germanics were annihilated, and the Romans could focus on their other enemy, the Cimbri.
By early 101 BC, the Cimbri moved down from the Alps and started to press into eastern Italy. An army, technically under the command of Q. Lutatius Catulus, but practically led by Marius' subordinate Sulla, met the Cimbri at Vercellae. Again, the Germanic invaders were crushed with losses approaching 100,000. Two great Germanic tribes were nearly routed completely from historical existence, and the three Roman commanders bickered over who could claim the victory. In the end, Marius shared a joint triumph with Catulus, but it was Marius who was heaped with the credit by the Roman people, and he was named the 'savior of Rome'. Perhaps, even more significant than the victory, was the political and personal impact. While Marius, without an enemy to fight, would soon prove his inability as a politician, the personal rivalry between Marius and Sulla grew ever more fractured.
Marius returned from his Germanic campaign in triumph once again. First hailed as the 3rd founder of Rome (Romulus was first of course, followed by Marcus Furius Camillus of the 'conquest of Veii' fame), and savior of the city, his success would be short lived.
Elected to his 5th straight, and 6th overall Consulship in 100 BC, he was proven to be out of his element without a war to fight. With the Republic secure from outside threats such as Jugurtha and the Germanics, Marius' policies were no longer to be tolerated. Directly on the battlefield after the defeat of the Cimbri, Marius had already pushed the envelope too far in the eyes of the Roman senate.
To appease his army, and of course to secure political support through their loyalty, Marius made unauthorized grants of citizenship to the Italian allied soldiers fighting for him. He then further pushed the Senate by demanding colonization and settlement rights for his large body of veterans. This strategy, under normal circumstances, would've been shot down immediately, but in this age of political turmoil, anything was possible. Using a popular and outspoken Tribune, Saturninus, Marius pushed through these proposals and others like it through the use of the citizen assemblies, mob tactics and open street violence. Saturninus used Marius to climb the political ladder, while Marius used Saturninus to push through his popular agenda, ripping apart the status quo and tearing down the traditions of Roman politics.
Marius lost what little credibility he had as a politician, and his strong-arm tactics eventually led to the exile of his old enemy Metellus. With the situation spiraling out of control already, Saturninus continued to push the limits of Tribunal power. In 99 BC, Saturninus organized the assassination of a political rival and mob violence grew to an unprecedented level. With Saturninus effectively taking control of the streets, the Senate had little choice but to turn to the one man who could stop it, the one man who gave Saturninus the power in the first place. A senatus consultum ultimatum, the highest authority provided for in the Roman constitution beyond the dictatorship, was issued by the Senate giving Marius the authority to stop Saturninus. Marius then ordered his troops into the city to quell the violence and take control from his former political ally. Saturninus and his supporters sought refuge in the Senate House, but despite efforts to have him arrested peacefully, angry political opponents took matters into their own hands. Climbing onto the roof of the Senate house, they pelted Saturninus and his mob with roof tiles, killing the majority of them. The crisis was over, but at the cost of Marius' reputation and the effectiveness of Republican law.
Except for the settlement of Marius' veterans, the Senate then declared the laws of Saturninus illegal and removed them from practice. While its probable that they would've like to void the veteran settlement laws as well, Marius' veterans proved an intimidating force of their own that would not go unnoticed by rising men such as Sulla. Even Marius' nephew, Julius Caesar, born only the previous year in 100 BC, would be highly influenced by Marius' use of the army to achieve political ends. Caesar, however, not only had the popular will of the people on his side, but the finest line of patrician roots as well. For Marius, however, his political career was coming to a temporary end. The Senate recalled Metellus, despite objections by Marius, and he knew life in Rome was getting to be too dangerous for him to stay.
At the close of his consulship, when a former magistrate could become legally liable for actions taken during his term, Marius went into a form of self-imposed exile. Satisfying the anger of the Senate, he took a voluntary leave and went east. But while his reputation as a politician in Rome was crumbling, Marius the general was a different matter. While traveling he met with Rome's future enemy Mithridates VI. Simply through a single conversation and his military reputation, he apparently convinced Mithradates that any plans for actions against Roman territory would be a disaster for him. His reputation as a force of power increased substantially, even while the Senate reviled him. While Marius drifted into political obscurity however, it was not to be the last of him. Rebellion among the Italians would force Marius to return within a decade, just as one major opponent, Sulla, was growing in power.
The Social War
With the death of Saturninus and self exile by Marius in 99 BC, a period of relative calm slipped into Roman politics. The calm wouldn't last long, however, and a new Tribune in a mold similar to the Gracchi brothers, came to the forefront. Marcus Livius Drusus was actually the son of a political opponent of the Gracchi, but he took up the cause of the Italian people with a new zeal. Drusus, among several reforms, attempted to distribute land and citizenship for the Latin rights Italian allies.
His objective was actually the preservation and strengthening of the Senate, but in practice it didn't appear as intended. He hoped that by including the Italian allies as voting citizens, he would bring in a new voting force loyal to the traditional Senatorial authority and not to the demagogue tribunes who used popular ideas to incite the Roman mobs. Unfortunately for him, and as a result of their own short sightedness the Senate saw things in a completely different light.
As Tribune in 91 BC, Drusus reformed the corrupt court system by promoting 300 of the top Equites into the roles of the Senate, thereby doubling the number of Senators. This altered the financial stake of potential jury members and helped to balance the system. New land and grain laws were introduced to win over the rural and urban plebes respectively. And finally, he introduced the citizenship law that would end in his demise, and open revolt.
After much political wrangling, as was common in the late Republic, Drusus' laws were eventually dismissed, but he persisted in trying to push them through. His actions and proposals, which were holding the angry Italian allies in check as they hoped for a political resolution to their complaints, led directly to his murder late in his term. Stabbed in the thigh by an unknown assailant, and certainly an affiliation of the elite, the death of Drusus fueled the flames of revolt.
Led chiefly by the Marsi and the Samnites, several Italian tribes, who for 2 decades had been trying to gain citizenship through the political system, decided enough was enough. A new state, in the image of Rome, was set up with its capital in Corfinium. A Senate complete with Consuls and Praetors was organized mimicking Rome, only without Rome as a part. Back in Rome itself, armies were organized to oppose this new breakaway Republic and by 90 BC, the war was on.
Things went badly for the Romans initially. In the north, Marius had returned to help his Consular relative, P. Rutilius Lupus, whom held the overall command. One mistake after another led to defeat in several battles until Lupus was finally killed in action. Never one to miss an opportunity, Marius took full command of the northern campaign and the impact was immediate. Within a few short months, the northern Italians were on the defensive and the focus of the war shifted to the south. The southern Italians captured and sacked several towns before the Romans could intervene. First led by Lucius Julius Caesar, several defeats eventually gave way to a victory that saw Caesar hailed as an imperator in the field. But the situation was far from over, and things were still in doubt when Lucius returned to Rome for the elections of 89 BC.
In order to bring the revolt to a close, Caesar instituted the Lex Julia. It was a law that granted full citizenship to any Italian ally who did not revolt, and to any Italians that were currently in a state of revolt who would immediately lay down their arms. Its passage essentially granted the Italians the victory they initially set out to get, but many refused to lie down their arms. The following year resulted in more political wrangling than anything, but nevertheless, the war continued. By this time, Sulla had returned from a praetorship in Cilicia and was granted command in the south. As a slight against Marius another political opponent, Caepio, was placed in command of the north, but he was soon killed in battle; leaving Marius with another opportunity for prominence.
Gnaeus Pompeius (father of Pompey the Great) took over command of the north and laid a punishing siege on the Italians at Asculum. After a protracted hold out, Pompeius captured the town and the defenders were brutally dispatched. Sulla meanwhile methodically defeated the opposition in the south and he returned, at the end of the year, to stand for the Consulship. Sulla would win the office for 88 BC and Gaius Marius, aged and perhaps in the early stages of mental illness, reacted horribly.
The Social War came to an end with the Italians essentially gaining everything they wanted, even though they had been defeated in the field. Various mopping up activities would take place, but new developments in the east would create an entirely new scenario. Mithridates of Pontus saw the Roman internal struggle as an opportunity for his own expansion and he began to press against Roman territory. The conflict over who should command would send the rivalry between Marius and Sulla to new heights, which would eventually result in bloody proscriptions and violence against both sides.
The Fall of Marius
At the end of the Social War Sulla was elected Consul for 88 BC just as war with Mithradates was breaking out. Mithradates took control of Asia Minor, slaughtering Roman citizens by the thousands. Sulla, in his senior Consular position was appointed to command the campaign, but the aged Gaius Marius desperately sought the command for himself. Opposed by the Senate, Marius was unsuccessful through traditional methods, and Sulla assembled his legions and began the march to the east.
No sooner was Sulla out of Rome, however, than Marius, at the age of 70 and probably mentally unbalanced, reverted to his old political tactics of circumventing the system through the Plebeian Tribunes. Sulpicius Rufus, acting on Marius' behalf, proposed that Marius be given command through the citizen assemblies. Extremely popular with the common citizens, Marius was successful and the command was officially and legally transferred. Sulla though, was not a man to be so easily dismissed.
Hearing the news of Marius' appointment and his dismissal, Sulla reversed course and headed back to Rome with his 6 legions. This marked the first time that a Roman commander marched upon Rome with a full army, with malicious intent and against legally appointed government authority. Sulla took Rome with a vengeance, killing Rufus and other Marian supporters. Marius managed to escape through the Italian countryside, but Sulla's men caught up with him near Minturnae in Latium. The ancients suggest that despite Sulla's proclamation for Marius to die, Marius was still larger than life among the army and non-Roman citizens. A Gallic trooper who was supposed to behead Marius was unable to do so when faced by the old legend. The infamous quote, "I cannot kill Gaius Marius" was supposed to have been recorded when the trooper looked into Marius' eyes, and the local residents refused to do him harm. Sending him off to safety by ship, Marius fled to Africa. The political ramifications of helping Marius vs. allowing him to pass were different matters however, and rather than oppose the authorities in Rome he was refused entry to a colony near Carthage. Settling on the island of Cercina with his son, Marius simply bided his time.
Back in Rome, Sulla got his political agenda in order and then set out to deal with Mithradates as originally intended. Lucius Cornelius Cinna then took center stage in Roman politics, causing a fervor with his new Italian enfranchisement proposals. Attempting to organize the new countryside citizens into the city existing assemblies, Cinna was removed from his office and exiled from Rome. Much like Sulla, Cinna was not to be denied. Turning to the one man who could help implement his agenda Cinna organized a revolt with Marius and recruited heavily from among the Italians and marched on Rome himself. Marius landed in Italy shortly after with a force of cavalry and supplemented them with locals on his way to join Cinna. On the way, the Roman port of Ostia was sacked to finance the operations and 87 BC turned into a siege of Rome itself.
Thousands were killed by Cinna in his purge and his killing only stopped when the Senate surrendered and opened the gates to the city. Marius however, made no arrangements to enter peacefully and took his vengeance on the inside. 5 days of murder and mayhem ruled supreme in which Marius killed anyone with the slightest opposition to him or support of Sulla. Severed heads of his enemies were placed on spears all around the Forum as a show of Marian strength. But in Marius unstable mental condition and advanced age, neutral bystander and foe were often confused. Massacred enemies were equally mixed with the innocent, forever staining the streets and Marius' reputation. Clearly in command through brute force, Marius and Cinna next forced through their own elections as joint Consuls of 86 BC. Before additional plans could be put into action, however, the brief reign of terror ended just 17 days into Marius 7th consulship, when he died of a 'fever'.
Once again, violence and bloodshed was proving to be the order of the day in Roman politics. The mass murders conducted by Marius and Cinna would be nothing compared to those of Sulla when he would return some years later. Marius was both a great general and sometimes adequate, if not good politician. He was credited with saving Rome by defeating the Germanics, and created an atmosphere of enfranchisement with the Italians that was a necessity for Roman growth. The reform of the legions was of the greatest benefit to the army and Roman power, but perhaps above all else, he was a deep influence on the life of his nephew Gaius Julius Caesar.
Without Marius, and the lessons taught by using the Tribunes and the people as a source of power, Caesar may never have come to power. The parallels in their careers are striking despite the differences in them personally. Marius was a new man and an outsider, while Caesar was as patrician as a Roman could be, but both saw the advantage in power derived from the support of the people and through military success. While Marius and his successor, Sulla, used proscription and murder to settle scores and establish power, Caesar learned that such actions did nothing but destroy healthy Roman politics.
With the death of Marius, however, there was still a long time for the 14 year old Caesar to come into his own. This was still the time of Cinna and Sulla. Events in the 80's BC and beyond would continue to rip apart the fabric of the Republican system. A series of demagogues now ruled Rome and the fate of the Republic rested with these men.
Did you know...
Novus Homo meant literally "new man." A Roman family was considered ennobled once one of its members achieved the rank of consul, a novus homo is the first member of a family to do so.
Did you know...
To run for office in absentia was illegal. A candidate had to be present in Rome to win, but Marius and succeeding Imperators (Sulla, Pompey, Caesar) changed all that forever.
Did you know...
Maniple is Latin for "Handful". An army unit composed of two 80 man Centuria. Three Maniples were usually joined to form a Cohort of six Centuries. The Maniple unit fell out of favor with the reforms of Marius in 106BC and the Cohort unit came into wider use. Legions composed of 10 Cohorts instead of 30 Maniples became the standard into the Imperial Period.
Did you know...
The Senatus Consultus Ultimatum was first used in 121 BC to deal with the violence of Gaius Gracchus and his supporters.
Did you know...
The daughter of Cinna, Cornelia, was married to Julius Caesar at a very young age. Later, Cinna's son was one of the conspirators involved in Caesar's assassination.