(Caius Marius)

155–86 BC

Marius was from a family of humble origin, but he distinguished himself as a great soldier and rose to the highest ranks of government. He fought first with Scipio Aemilianus in Spain, and later with Metellus in Africa. In the Jugurthine War he served with such distinction that in 107 B.C. he was elected consul, and took over command. Within a year he had captured many towns and nearly brought the war to a close but still hadn't captured Jugurtha. Eventually, his lieutenant Sulla set up an ambush, and received credit for capturing Jugurtha. Unfortunately for Rome, this minor rivalry led to much more cataclysmic disputes in years to come.

Marius spent two years in Africa tending to local administration before returning to Rome. He won his second consulship in 104 B.C., and shortly afterward achieved great renown for defeating the Teutone and Cimbri invaders in northern Italy. These victories brought him great popularity with both the people of Rome, and the army, and he was elected consul five years in succession, from 104 to 100 B.C., an unprecedented run. During this period he reorganized the army, an achievement that laid the ground work for the Roman legions of imperial days. Under Marius, Rome established for the first time a standing army, manned by professional soldiers. During this period Marius achieved great things for Rome, enjoyed immense popularity, and was called the "Third Founder of Rome."

Once the Gauls were subdued there was no need for Marius to continue to be elected consul, but he disliked giving up his influence. He was not possessed with great oratorical powers or statesmanlike gifts, and in order be elected for the sixth time, he used treachery to drive his rival Metellus out of town. He allied himself with populist demagogues, and generally made himself hated by many of the patricians. Since it was impossible to be re-elected a seventh time he retired to Asia, hoping to stir up a war that would again put him back in power.

During the next decade the influence of his rival Sulla grew. When the Social War finally broke out in Italy, between Rome and some of her rival cities, Sulla took a leadership role, while Marius served only for a single campaign. He was sixty six years old, and his health was starting to fail. The following year however, when Sulla was appointed to lead an army against Mithradates, his jealousy overcame his better judgment, and Marius induced his allies in the senate to recall Sulla and give the command to him. Sulla would not stand for this and marched back to Rome with his army, sending Marius into exile. The exile of Marius was a dramatic episode, as he was chased all over Italy and eventually to Carthage, with Sulla's forces in hot pursuit.

The extremities of his situation, combined with his advanced age appear to have severely altered his judgment. Had he been killed at this time, his legacy would have been an overall positive one, but the events of the following year rendered him eternal ignominy. Once Sulla had left Rome and taken his army to fight Mithradates in Pontus, one of Sulla's rivals, named Cinna, raised an army in Italy and marched on Rome. Marius joined him and together with their outlaw army, they descended on Rome. At this point, the popularity of Marius with the army was critical, since many of the soldiers charged with protecting the city refused to fight Marius, and joined his army instead. Eventually the city surrendered, and Marius was free to take revenge on those who had opposed him. His band of followers cut down the consul Octavius in his consular chair, and brought his head to Cinna. Marius then charged his followers with taking terrible revenge on all of his enemies. Hundreds of Sulla's friends and supporters, and those who had passed sentence of exile on Marius were massacred. Marius had himself elected consul for the seventh time, but lived for only three months. He died at age seventy before Sulla had a chance to return to Rome and take revenge.

Key events during the life of Marius:

119 BC
Elected Tribune. Served under Scipio at Numantia.
115 BC
Elected Praetor
109 BC
Served under Metellus against Jugurtha. Wins great renown as commander.
107 BC
Elected consul. Assumes top command of Jugurthine War.
106 BC
With Sulla's help, captures Jugurtha and brings the war in Africa to a close.
104 BC
Returns to Rome in triumph; elected consul for second time.
102 BC
Defeated the Teutones at Aix.
101 BC
Defeated the Cimbri at Vercelli.
100 BC
Elected consul for an unprecedented sixth term, but his political treachery hurt his popularity.
99 BC
Left Rome to stir up trouble in the East, hoping another war would return him to power.
90 BC
Played a minor role in the Social War; outshone by his rival Sulla.
88 BC
Attempted unsuccessfully to wrest command of the army from Sulla, and was driven into exile.
86 BC
Returned to Rome with Cinna revolutionaries, and declared consul for the seventh time.
86 BC
Ruthlessly murders opponents, establishes reign of terror, and dies of fever.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Marius and Sylla  in  Julius Caesar  by  Jacob Abbott
Swarm from the North  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
General Who Ate Dry Bread  in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Barbarians  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Flight of Marius  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Marius  in  Famous Men of Rome  by  John H. Haaren & A. B. Poland
Caius Marius  in  Back Matter  by  books/horne/soldiers/_back.html
Caius Marius  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Gaius Marius Wins the Notice of Scipio Africanus in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Flight of Marius  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
norses and Romans  in  The History of Germany  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Exile and Revenge of Marius  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris
Caius Marius  in  Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston  by  

Image Links

 in Famous Men of Rome

Marius in the ruins of Carthage
 in Famous Men of Rome

The Teutones Wandering in Gaul
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

Marius among the Ruins of Carthage
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

 in Back Matter

Marius on the ruins of Carthage
 in Back Matter

Gaius Marius sitting in exile among the ruins of Carthage
 in The Story of Rome

Marius and the Ambassadors of the Cimbri
 in Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston

Exiled Marius amidst the Ruins of Carthage
 in Plutarch's Lives W. H. Weston

Short Biography
Metellus Commanded troops in Numidia against Jugurtha. Enemy of Marius.
Jugurtha Numedian king, flagrantly bribed senate to maintain power. Enemy of Rome.
Sulla Defeated Mithradates in Greece. Marched on Rome, defeated the party of his enemy Marius.
Saturnius and Glaucia Populist tribunes who helped Marius get elected consul for the sixth time.
Cinna With Marius, raised an army, and took possession of Rome for populist Party.
Sertorius Led rebellion against Rome in Spain; held out for 8 years.
Catalus General who had fought with Marius against the Gauls, but was slain by his followers.
Octavius Consul of Rome when Marius and Cinna marched on Rome. Killed by slaves of Marius.