Caius (Gaius) Marius was a Roman general and statesman in the 1st century BC. He held the office of consul an unprecedented seven times and was noted for his important reforms of Roman armies. He worked to authorize recruitment of landless citizens, eliminate the manipular military formations, and reorganize the structure of the legions into separate cohorts.  Sometimes he is referred to as the “third founder of Rome.” for his success defeating the invading Germanic tribes.

Marius made dramatic and influential changes to the Roman army. These were named the Marian Reforms. Fearing a barbarian invasion, Marius saw the dire need for an increase in troop numbers. Marius boosted the numbers of the army by relaxing recruitment policies. He removed the necessity to own land, and allowed all Roman citizens entry regardless of social class.  The unemployed masses quickly enlisted for military service alongside the more wealthy as poorer citizens were drawn to lifelong service with the prospect of a death settlement in conquered land. Unfortunately for Marius, these new troops had a strong person interest in supporting their general as their future was only secured if he would be in charge of land distribution on their behalf.

It was this series of changes that lead Marius to unexpectedly help overthrow his power and bring the rise to the dictatorship of Sulla. Sulla’s became dictator at the worst point in the struggle known as the Social War. The Romans’ policy of land distribution had led to great inequality of land-ownership and wealth throughout the Italian peninsula. Sula’s contemporary and eventual rival, Gaius Marius, represented the populares. He challenged the existing order to further rights for the general body of free citizens that were not in the aristocracy. His efforts would have granted Roman allies’ full Roman citizenship and given them a say in Roman Republic policies. The optimates greatly opposed this idea, and sought to preserve keep power among the rich and the Senate.

In a dispute over army command, Sulla unconstitutionally marched his armies into Rome and waged war on Marius. When he defeated his rival in battle, Sula revived the office of dictator.

Sulla’s decision to seize power permanently destabilized the Roman power structure. Ironically, Sulla was only able to wage war on the capital because of Marius’s military reforms bound the army’s loyalty with the general instead of the Empire.

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