Marius, Gaius (157-86 B.C.)Gaius Marius (157-86 B.C.) - Roman general and politician who probably was the first figure to set Rome on the path to empire. He was known as a novus homo ("new man"), being the first in his family to obtain high political office, specifically that of consul. Eventually, he would hold that office more than any other Roman, seven times. But he achieved his greatest success in the military, a common thread for all those who would seek to raise their level of power above what the Roman political structure allowed. In 109 B.C., Quintus Caecilius Metellus was consul and commander of the Jugurthine War. He chose Marius to be his chief legate (basically second in command). In the first year, Rome was making little progress in the war under Metellus, and Marius conceived a plan to replace him. He returned to Rome in 108 and ran for consul himself on the promise that he could end the war quickly. Metellus realized Marius' ambition and tried to prevent him from leaving Africa, without success. In 107, Marius was elected consul and, as Metellus feared, replaced him as commander of the war. What Marius did next hinted at his wider ambition and populist streak. Against Roman tradition, he began recruiting non-land owning citizens to serve under him in the military. Until then, citizens were required to be wealthy enough to outfit themselves. He also promised them land grants upon completion of their service. While unpopular among the senate and land owning class, among the poor, it was hugely popular. In fact, it was the first move that would cause soldiers to show greater loyalty to their commanding general than to their country or senate (which would prove key in the Roman Civil War).

 

These changes became known as the Marian Reforms. Despite Marius' efforts to secure glory in the Jugurthine War for himself, however, he ultimately had to share it with another; Lucius Cornelius Sulla. The war proved to be more difficult to end than Marius had promised when campaigning for consul. Jugurtha fled to Mauretania whose king, Bocchus I, was his father-in-law. Sulla, who was quaestor and one of Marius' commanders, learned of Jugurtha's whereabouts and took the troops under his command to the Mauretanian capital. Bocchus I, fearing possible Roman retribution, handed Jugurtha over to Sulla, thus ending the war in 105 B.C.. While Marius, as consul, officially received credit for winning the war, news of Sulla's role reached the public and his popularity soared. From that time on, Marius and Sulla had been rivals, a rivalry which Sulla would ultimately win. Incidentally, Marius was married to Julia Caesaris, who was Julius Caesar's aunt. This would play a role in his rivalry with Sulla.