PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Gaius Marius (Military Commander/Politician)
GAIUS Marius (c. 157-86 BCE) was an accomplished military commander and politician who was acclaimed for saving Rome from the brink of collapse. Yet, unfortunately, his name has only survived in relative obscurity because his achievements were eclipsed by his ultimate fall. Despite his copious misdeeds, he should also be remembered for his stunning political and military successes and the indelible imprint that he left on Rome.
Around 157 BCE, Marius was born to a plebeian family in an Italian settlement called Ceraete, near Arpinum. None of Marius’ ancestors had ever been elected to a Roman political office, and he even claimed to have been raised in poverty, which meant that he was not seriously expected to become a person of importance.
At an early age, he entered Rome’s legions and served with integrity. Then, by parlaying his relationships with influential Romans and expounding his honorable military service, he entered the political arena and climbed the political ladder, the cursus honorum. He was first elected to the military tribuneship, then tribune of the plebs in 119 BCE, praetor in 115 BCE, and he was subsequently assigned to govern the province of Farther Spain.