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Wong 1
Ruth Wong
Ms. Bergen , Mrs. Downer, Mrs. Ibrahim
English 10 – 2, Latin 2 – 3, History MWF
10 November 2010
Affects of the Marian Reforms on the Roman Republic
The impacts that one has on others gives birth to his or her own legacy in history. It is a memory
that will never be forgotten. An impact can range from something simple, to something big. As such,
anybody is capable of making an impact. A perfect example for this assumption is Gaius Marius.
Although he was born a plebian, Gaius Marius rose to the level of consul and made an impact that
changed Rome’s army and history forever.
Gaius Marius was born in Aprium, to a plebian family, which supported themselves with daily
labor (Plutarch 494). When he was twenty-one years old, he served as a soldier in the Numantine War, a
war against the Celtiberians. It was through this war, that he made himself unique. According to
Plutarch, “he encountered and vanquished an enemy in single combat, in his general’s sight” (495).
Afterwards, he received the famous pat on the shoulder from his general, Scipio Africanus, who then
proclaimed that Gaius Marius would have a promising future.
Gaius Marius did have a promising future, and can be seen when he became a senior assistant for
the consul Quintus Caecilius during the Jugurthine War. The Jugurthine War was a war where the
Roman troops were sent out to capture Jugurtha. Here, Marius gained a lot of popularity and influenced
many Romans. He was a hardened soldier, but also an affable leader that spared no physical labor and
shared the hardships of the rank and file. Plutarch discusses how some soldiers wrote home saying, “…
the war with Africa would never be brought to a conclusion unless they chose Gaius Marius” (497).
Plutarch’s tone shows the faith that the Romans had in Marius. They knew that he would be the best to
Wong 2
end the Jugurthine War and chose him. The Roman’s faith in Marius sets the stage for his campaigns as
he ran for consul. He easily won the hearts of Romans as he stepped into his first term of consulship,
which would not be his last, as he became a consul six more times.
During his six terms as consul, Marius altered Rome’s history, by being the first to be daring
enough to break unwritten Roman law, that no one else has dared to do so before. Roman law implied
that in order to be consul, there must have been at least a year in between the term that the consul
served, and the one he is currently campaigning for (Dillon et al. 458). Marius ignored this law, by
running for consulship in six consecutive years. He was the first to break that law, and was also the first
to abolish that law. Marius would have continued to be a consul, but the senate saw their chance to kick
him out when Sulla ran against him. This demonstrated Marius’s break through history, as Sulla won the
campaign, and declared himself dictator for life. If Marius did not break that implied law, Sulla would
not have broken it either. By being the first to break an implied Roman law, Marius made a break
through history.
While Marius was a consul, the senate hated him because he was a novus homo. When
translated, novus homo means “new man”. This was not a label that anybody can be, and it was not a
positive one. A novus homo was someone whose family never had a consul before its ranks (Dillon et al.
455). Marius achieved this through his marriage with Julia Caesar (Plutarch 496). Marius was very
wealthy, however he was a plebian. The Caesar family was very poor and hardly had enough money, but
they were patricians with a powerful stance in the senate. Through the marriage, the Caesar family was
able to earn more money, and Marius could gain some power. This was the only way he could become a
consul. Here Marius shows a willingness to ignore a name, or title to achieve something greater, that no
one in his family has ever done.
Wong 3
When Marius was a consul, he saw the changes that needed to be made in the army, and worked
on it. The first thing he changed was the way soldiers were recruited. He wanted more soldiers than what
the senate had authorized (Dillon et al. 448), so he moved away from the traditional way of recruiting
soldiers. It used to be that only those that owned land could serve, but he changed it. He created a client
army, dependant on its general for land at the end of its period of service, sixteen years, and also
recruited from the poorest (Dillon eat al. 448). Through this, Gaius Marius would not only recruit more
soldiers, but they would also become more loyal to him because of the land they would receive at the
end of their term. The land could be anywhere that Rome controls, but where Rome actually was.
By receiving land anywhere that Rome controls, the Roman soldiers could easily spread the
Roman culture around. Also, more Roman citizens could be produced, thus creating more soldiers to
fight in the Roman army. Another thing that benefits would be the veterans of the war, as they retire in
their land, can help train the young ones that are anticipating to go to battle (Dillon et al. 460). This
shows how Gaius Marius was constantly thinking of how he could not only benefit his soldiers, but
Rome itself. Through the spreading of Rome culture, the beliefs, values, and language could spread,
which could influence other empires. Also, with veterans training younger boys before they serve in the
military, the boys could then be bettered prepared as they enter the military. With more citizens
spreading around, getting married, and having children, the number of Roman citizens will increase.
Through this, Rome benefited from it greatly.
As a general, Marius did things differently than what normal generals would do. For example, a
general would camp near water so that his army would have easy access to water. Marius did not do
that, however. He used strategies that would encourage his soldiers to fight. The battle of Teutones was
a perfect example. The enemy camped by a river, so that the soldiers would be comfortable for the night.
Marius instead, camped away from the river, and if his soldiers wanted water, they would be forced to
Wong 4
ambush the enemy for water (Plutarch 504). His soldiers did just that. It was a surprise attack, so most
of the enemy soldiers were unprepared and many got killed. This exemplified Marius’s strategies.
Because his ideas were unique, his enemies could not figure out where or when he planned to attack. He
was able to launch many surprise attacks on his opponents such as the one against Teutones.
As a general, Marius’s strategies and plans were not the only things that he was good at. He also
improved weaponary to help the Romans fight better. One of the things that he improved would be the
Roman javelins. It used to be that the wood would be joined with an iron bolt. Marius changed that and
made it so that a weak wooden peg would join the wood, so that it would hold fast by crooked point
(Plutarch 509). This was called pilum. When it was thrown, the pilum would break in half on impact, so
that the opponent could not throw it back. He also invented a baggage that made it easier for his men to
carry and prepare their own meals and supplies. This earned them the expression, “Marius’ mules”
(Dillon et al. 467). His unique ideas helped the army become stronger. Not many generals throughout
history have thought of ways to improve the army. They only concentrate on the formation of the army,
and how to attack. Marius is set apart from all other generals.
Marius was constantly thinking ahead. Although it is not certain if he changed the formation of
the legions, Marius was known to be constantly training his army. Marius made them practice the runs,
and march many hours. He also made them practice like they were in war, carrying the bags he made so
that they will always be prepared. His army was also trained with gladiatorial techniques (Dillon et al.
466). The gladiatorial techniques were techniques that were taught to the gladiators in training. Marius
would hire gladiators to teach and train his soldiers. He made sure that his army would always be
prepared for the unexpected. It was very rare for a soldier to gain some training through a general.
Normally, they would have to train on their own, but because of the Marian reforms, they no longer had
to do that. Gaius Marius was great at war, and has incorporated what he knows, found ways to improve
Wong 5
it, and apply it to the Roman army, making the army better. Also, because they are practicing and
working together, the army can get to know each other more, and learn to trust each other.
The reforms that Gaius Marius made on the Roman army were drastic. Not only was he able to
recruit more soldiers, he was able to gain and strengthen the loyalty of his men. They were able to keep
the spoils of war and still be able to gain land when they return from war (Plutarch 335). They may also
come home with techniques that they may find useful later on in life. This shows how Marius does not
always think of the army but also the soldiers. Although the soldiers benefit from this, he was able to
strengthen the loyalty of the army, making the men more faithful towards him. With this, he can make
the army more loyal towards Rome when he leads his men in war for the Romans.
Leo Rosten once stated, “the purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive,
to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.” What Roster said is a perfect
description of the way Gaius Marius lived his life. The impacts he made were huge as he made a
breakthrough Rome’s history, and the Marian reforms he made were drastic. His legacy was left for
many generations that will never be forgotten.
Wong 6
Works Cited
Carney, T.F. "The Flight and Exile of Marius." 2nd ser. 8 (1961), pp 98-121.
Dillon, Matthew, and Lynda Garland. Ancient Rome from the Early Republic to The
Assassination of Julius Caesar. New York: Routledge, 2005. print.
Le, Glay Marcel., Jean-Louis Voisin, Bohec Yann. Le, and David Cherry. A History of
Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. print.
Plutarchus. The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. New York: Random House. print.
Maximus, Valerius. Memorable Deeds and Sayings. Trans. D. Wardle. Vol. 1. Oxford:
Clarendon, 1998. Print.