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The Life of Gaius Marius

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"The Defeat of the Cimbri by Marius Gaius"

Gaius Marius was born c.157 BCE in Cirrhaeaton, near Arpinium. He was born into a family which had only recently acquired equestrian status, but who had political connections with such influential figures as Scipio Aemilianus and the Metelli. Marius served under Scipio as quaestor at Numantia in 123 BCE. He was then elected to a military tribunate in 119 BCE after recieving notice and praise from Scipio.
Marius was elected urban praetor in 115 BCE, and, soon after, married Julia the aunt of Julius Caesar (whom Plutarch claims was strongly influenced by Marius, p.18). Marius' next career move was to serve as senior legate to his patron Metellus in the Jugurthine Wars. According to Plutarch, Marius gained the admiration of the soldiers in these campaigns for his willingness to enjoy the same hardships as they did. Marius became increasingly disconcerted with Metellus as the campaign war on, and in 107 BCE returned to Rome and was elected Consul for the first time. He returned and, with the help of his quaestor Sulla, captured Jugurtha.

At this time, Marius began the first of his reforms. "Contrary to law and custom he enrolled in his army poor men with no property qualifications..." (Plutarch, p.20). Marius addressed the problem of manpower and an increasing urban poor in one stroke. Many of these urban poor could be enlisted in the army and equppied by the state, swelling the Roman legions.

Marius was elected consul for a second time c. 105 BCE in order to deal with the threat of a barbarian incursion into Italy. The barbarians did not immediately attack, and Marius was consecutively elected to a third, fourth, and fifth consulship when he finally ended the looming barbarian threat. In addition, Marius enacted many other reforms during these consulships (see here). Marius then tried to delay Metellus' return from exile, but when he failed he left for the east to confront Mithradates. In his absence he was elected to an augurate and reurned. He then was brought back into command during the Social Wars, where he was very successful on the norhtern front. However, when he was not given supreme command, Marius retired. Later, while Sulla was fighting Mithradates, Sulspicius had the concilium plebis transfer command to Marius. Sulla returned, however, and perhaps due to Marian reforms, the soldiers remained loyal to Sulla who had the command returned to him and drove Marius out of Rome. During his dramatic and ardous flight, Marius was allegedly inspired to continue because of a vision he had. In this vision, Marius saw seven eagles for his life. He understood this to stand for the seven consulships he would hold in his life (he had held six to this point). Whether the legend is true or not, Marius was elected consul for a seventh time in 86 BCE. However, 17 days later his health gave out and he died.

 

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