Gaius Marius

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Marius, Gaius


Born circa 157 B.C. in Cereatae, near Arpinum; died 86 B.C. in Rome. Roman military leader and political figure.

Marius came from a plebeian family. In 119 B.C. he became a popular tribune. In 115, after his marriage to the patrician Julia, the aunt of Julius Caesar, he became a praetor. In 109, during the war with Jugurtha, he became a legate. With the support of the equites and plebes he was elected consul in 107. In 105 he brought the war with Jugurtha to a victorious conclusion. The threat of an invasion of Italy by the Cimbri and Teutons forced the Romans, in violation of the law, to elect the popular military leader consul for several years in a row (104-101 B.C.). In 102, Marius routed the Teuton tribes, and in 101 he defeated the Cimbri. During the wars Marius reformed the army; historical sources report the recruitment of poor people into the army contrary to tradition and tell of other changes. Marius promoted professionalism in the army.

Marius was again elected consul in 100 B.C., and in alliance with the popular tribune Apuleus Saturninus he pressed the popular assembly to pass a law allocating land to veterans. However, he then turned against Saturninus and as consul helped suppress the latter’s movement. He took part in the Social War of 90 (or 91) to 88. With the assistance of the popular tribune Sulpicius Rufus in 88 he received command in the first Mithridatic War (89-84 B.C.), but when Sulla took Rome (88), Marius was forced to flee to Africa. After Sulla left for Greece, Marius landed in Etruria, collected an army (admitting even runaway slaves), and in alliance with Cinna, who had been exiled by the followers of Sulla, took Rome (87). After dealing harshly with his political enemies, Marius took up once again (for the seventh time) his office as consul, but after a few days he died.


Carney, T. F., “A Biography of G. Marius.” Proceedings of the African Classical Association, 1962, supplement, no. 1.