Gaius Marius: 3 Reasons Why He Is Important To Roman History

Born157 BC
Died13th of January, 86 BC
Famous Quote“The law speaks too softly to be heard amidst the din of arms.”
Known ForReforming the legions of Rome, using assemblies to overturn Roman law, and drastic use of violence to impact Roman politics
Region of WorldItaly, Rome 2nd century BC
Further ReadingThe 10 Major Events That Led To The Fall Of The Roman Republic

Gaius Marius played an important role in the history of the late Roman Republic. Today Gaius Marius is important to the history of the late Roman Republic due to 3 major reasons.

Gaius Marius is important to the history of Rome for 3 distinct reasons. First, Marius reformed how the Roman army operated, drastically increasing its power. Second, Marius used assemblies to overturn or pass Roman law. Third, Gaius Marius would drastically increase the use of violence to pass Roman legislation.

These 3 reasons would forever cement Gaius Marius’s legacy as one of the most important Romans of the late Roman Republic. Further, because of his actions Gaius Marius directly set the Roman Republic on a track to shift toward an Empire.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 reasons why Gaius Marius is important to Roman History.

Marius Reformed the Roman Military Drastically Increasing Its Power

One of the main reasons that Gaius Marius is important to Roman history was his reform of the Roman military.

Before Gaius Marius Roman soldiers were expected to provide their own equipment and come from landholders. The urban peasants could not serve in the military.

This presented a problem for Rome. If Rome suffered a large defeat it would lose landholding wealthy people who were difficult to replace. Gaius Marius forever changed this.

Gaius Marius changed the enlistment requirements from holding land to being a Roman citizen. For the first time, the poor urban masses who have no other way of advancing in life could join the military and earn a living.

On top of this Gaius Marius convinced the Roman state to provide the weapons for his new army of poor urban people.

This created the first standing army in Rome that consisted of career soldiers.

These career soldiers would retain their knowledge and help to lead junior soldiers into battle. This proved vital in Rome’s massive expansion over the course of the Roman Empire.

As such, Gaius Marius’s reforms remain a primary reason why he is important to Roman history.

Marius Used The Roman Assemblies To Directly Interfere With Roman Politics

Another reason that Gaius Marius is important to Roman History is because of his numerous uses of Roman assemblies to interfere with Roman foreign affairs.

Normally the Roman Senate would create an army, issue a general, and engage in diplomacy with other states in the ancient world.

Gaius Marius broke tradition with this when he used the Roman assemblies to take command of the North African army away from Metellus with the Senate. This was a huge precedent, that a general outside the city of Rome could interfere with politics in the Roman city.

Marius drastically weakened the integrity of the Roman state by going around the checks and balances that existed between the people of Rome and the Senate.

Over the next century, Gaius Marius’s use of the Roman assemblies to go around the Roman Senate set a precedent. Other Roman generals such as Sulla, Julius Caesar, and Octavian would follow Gaius Maruis’s example and interfere directly with Roman politics.

This interference in Roman politics by appealing to the Roman assemblies remains one of the primary reasons that Gaius Marius is so important to Roman history.

Gaius Marius Drastically Increased The Use Of Political Violence

Another reason that Gaius Marius is important to Roman history was his widespread use of political violence in Rome.

In 87 BC Sulla had become dictator and marched against Rome with his legions. Marius attempted to defend this march but had to flee to North Africa.

Upon Gaius Marius would return from Africa with an army and team up with Latin allies. Then Marius would march back upon Rome to take the city back.

However, after entering into the city Marius and his men began to execute any notable Roman who supported Sulla’s dictatorship. This led to considerable amounts of illegal state executions which forever altered the history of Rome.

Normally a Roman citizen would have to be put on trial. However, Gaius Marius here was taking law into his own hands and administering what he thought was justice.

A Roman general using such violence to steer Roman politics was unheard of. Normally political violence in Rome was brief and only targeted a few people. Here Gaius Marius was targeting a large body of the population in order to control the city and the Senate.

This set a precedent of growing political violence in Rome. This political violence would forever impact Roman history and set the late Roman Republic on a course to turn into the Roman Empire.

This widespread political violence is one of the main reasons that Gaius Marius is so important to Roman History.


There you have it; an entire article on the 3 reasons that Gaius Marius is important to Roman history.

One of the great “what ifs” of history would be what would have happened if Gaius Marius did not die during his seventh consulship at the age of 70. Historians theorize that perhaps Sulla would have never become a Dictator or that the Social War would have happened.

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