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THEIMPERIALREPUBLIC:GAIUSMARIUS

TheconstitutionalcrisisprecipitatedbyTiberiusGracchusandhisbrotherde stabilizedtheRomansystembyinjectingthepoorintopoliticsandshowinghowa politicianmightemploydemagogictacticstounderminetheauthorityofthesenate.The oldpatternofshiftingalliancesamongthesenatorialfamiliescontinued,buttherenow appearedsomethinglikeanideologicaldivisioninRomansociety.Romeseemed polarizedbetweentwogroups,twoattitudes:theoptimates (thebestpeople)andthe populares (thoseforthepeople).Intheshortrun,thesenateseemedvictorious.After all,thesenateruledovermuchoftheMediterraneanworld.Theworldwassubservientto thejudgmentofthepatres,asthesenatorswerecalled.Thesenatecouldinvokeacloak oflegalitytocovertheirmostrepressiveactionsbypassingadecreecalledthesenatus consultumultimumwhichauthorizedtheconsulstotakeanyaction,toseethatthe republictooknoharm. Suchadecreewasusedtojustifythemurderof Tiberius GracchusyoungerbrotherGaiusGracchus.Suchdecreesbecameafeatureoflast decadesoftherepublic,illustratingboththeRomantasteforviolenceaswellasthe Romantasteforlegalism. From thecrisisofGracchi in133downto44BCwhenJuliusCaesarbecame dictatorforlife,itispossibletodiscerntoloosepoliticalgroupingswithinRomansociety. OPTIMATES: Ingeneral,thesewerethepeoplewhowishedtomaintainthestatusquo. TheyinsisteduponthesupremacyoftheSenateandthesocialsupremacyofthesenatorial order.Politically,theoptimateswereopposedtoanyreformsthatevenhintedatadrift towardsdemocracyorincreasingpopularinfluence. POPULARES: Thepopulareswerealsoledbyaristocrats,buttheywerewillingto followtheexampleoftheGracchiandturntotheRomanplebsforsupportandmoney. TheyoftenfavoredtheextensionofRomancitizenshipthroughoutItalylargelyasaway ofincreasingtheirnetworkofclients.Theywerewillingtoextendgrantsoffood,or grantsoflandtotheplebsinexchangeforsupport.Ifwelookaheadacentury,bothJulius CaesarandhissuccessorCaesarAugustuswouldsupportthepopularprogram anduse thatideologicalposition asajustificationforareturntoamonarchicalsystem.Onlyatrue fatherofthecountryorEmperorcouldriseabovethepettyrivalriesofthesenateand representtheinterestsofallRomancitizens. Iftheseconceptsarevague,sotooweretheagendasofthosepeoplewhojoined thesetwofactions.Onepersonmightwantreforminoneareaandbeconservativein anotherinotherwords,thesefactionsorgroupingsmightshiftaccordingtotheissueat hand.Itwouldbeinaccuratetoseetheoptimates andpopulares astheRoman equivalentofmodernconservativesandliberals.Itisnotevenpossibletoforcethe optimates andpopulares intoasocialmodelofsenatorsandthemob,noblesand commoners.Theseattitudescutthrougheverysocialgroup.TherewereRomannobles liketheGracchiandJuliusCaesarwhowerepopulares andnotedplebeianslikeC. PompeyMagnuswhotooktheoptimate side.Itwasunknownpeasantsafterall,who

2 killedTiberiusGracchuseveniftheywereactingontheinstigationofsomesenatorial patron. Bothsidesjustifiedtheiractionsbyappealstoconstitutionalprinciple,butboth sidespracticeddirtypolitics.Bothgroupsusedviolencetofurthertheirendswhen possible,althoughthepopulares, hadtobecarefulinitiallybecauseofthefateofthe Gracchi.TheactionsoftheGracchiopeneduppermanentwoundsinthesocialfabricof Romelessthanacenturyaftertheirbriefcareer,therepublicwouldtearitselfapart.In thewordsof Appian: TherewasnocivilslaughteruntilTiberiusGracchuswasthefirsttofallvictimto internalcommotion.Unseemlyviolenceprevailedalmostconstantly,togetherwith shameful contemptforlawandjustice.Whenevereithersidegotpossession ofthecity,theopposingsidemadewar,ostensibly againsttheiradversaries,but actuallyagainsttheircountry.(Appian,p.2) OnefactionbrokethelawandpersecutedtheirenemiesinthesameoftheSenateand traditiontheothercarriedoutsimilarunlawfulactsinthenameofthepeople. The inevitableoutcomeofthispersistentcrisiswasagradualslidetowardsopencivilwar. Andascivilwarbecamemoreandmorelikely,boththeoptimatesandthepopulares turnedtowardstheRomanarmy.Whicheversidethatcouldcommandtheloyaltyofthe armyhadthebestchanceofvictoryandsurvival.Controlofthearmy,asinanysocietyin crisis,wouldbecrucial.IfTiberiusGracchushadbroughtthepoorintoRomanpolitics, anotherpopularis, GaiusMariuswouldbringtheRomanarmyintopoliticswith consequencesthatwouldlastfarlongerthantheRomanrepublicitself.

GaiusMarius:(15786BC)
IntheclosingyearsofthesecondcenturyBC,aseriesofmilitarysetbacksin NorthAfricatriggeredanotherwaveofpopularangeragainstthesenatorialorderandled totheemergenceofthepopularmilitaryheroinRomanpolitics.GaiusMariuswasthe firstexampleofaRomangeneralusinghismilitarysuccessandthesupportofhisarmyto carveoutapoliticalcareer. AHellenizedNorthAfricankingJugurthacausedRome considerableproblemsby leadingaveryeffectiveuprisingagainstRome.Tomakematters worse,hebribedanumberofRomansenatorstogaintheadvantageonhisbrotherswho wererivalsforthecrownofNumidia(Libya)andgenerallyassureafavorablepolicyfrom thesenate.JugurthamadethecommentthatRomeonlylackedabuyer,everythingwas forsale.Thisproofofcorruptiononthepartofseveral nobileswasenoughtotrigger popularangerinRomeagainstthesenate. ThesenatorialcommanderssentouttoAfricatofightJugurthafailedtowinthe warquickly.Jugurthausedhiscavalrytofightaguerrillawar.TheRomancommander Metellusadoptedthestandardstrategytofightguerrillas,hetriedtodenyJugurthaaccess tothepopulationbyroundingupthecivilianpopulationintocastella(fortifiedcamps).In theBoerWar,theBritishcalledthemconcentrationcampsinVietnam,theAmerican armycalledthemstrategichamlets.Mariuswasservingasquestor inMetellus'andhe decidedtomakepoliticalcapitaloutofthefailuretowinaquickvictory.Hereturnedto

3 Rome,andranforConsulonaWintheWarslogan.HealsoaccusedMetellusof briberyandcitedhisfailuretoforceadecisivebattleonJugurthaasevidence.Mariuswas electedConsulfor107BCandthePopularAssemblyvotedtogiveMariuscommandof theNorthAfricanarmy,aclearencroachmentonthesenate'srighttoconductwars. Marius'problem wasthatheshouldhavebeenanatural optimate buthewas forcedintotheroleof popularis bynecessity.Tothesenatorialorder,hewasmerelya richsocialclimber,andhiscampaigntoreplaceMetellusinAfricaseemedabetrayalofthe fidesaclientowedhepatron.Hissenatorialenemiestooktocallinghim The Ploughboya referencetohissupposedlyhumbleorigins.ThesenateorderedMarius torecruitanewarmyinthehopesofmakinghimunpopularwiththepeople,buttheplan misfiredbecauseMariuscameupwith atrulyrevolutionaryideatherebymadetheworst nightmareofthesenatorialorderreal. Herecruitedlandlessmen forhisnewprofessional army onthepromisethattheywouldreceiveaparceloflandafterthewar.In other words,MariusinvokedtheoldlandreformprogramofTiberiusGracchusinanewguise. Mariuspromisedhissoldiersagrantoflandtofarminreturnfortheirmilitaryservice. Thisideacertainlymadehimpopularwiththepeopleanditdidopenmilitaryserviceand economicopportunitytothepoor.Ontheotherhand,intheviewofthesenate,Marius instantlybecamethemostdangeroussocialrevolutionarysincethedaysofTiberius SemproniusGracchus. Inthewordsof Plutarch: Heproceededtolevysoldierscontrarytobothlawandcustom,enlistingslaves andpoorpeoplewhereas,formercommandersbestowedarms,likeotherfavors, asamatterofdistinction,onpersonswhohadpropertyqualifications,aman's propertybeingthusasortofsecurityforhisgoodbehavior.ButMariusmade enemiesinotherwaysthanthisparticularlyintheviolentspeeches,fullof contemptandarrogance,bywhichheoffendedthearistocracy.(Plutarch,pp. 2021) Theconscriptionoflandlessmen intothearmywasoneofthemostimportant policychangesinallofRomanhistory.Amongotherthings,itallowedthecreationof armiesmoreloyaltotheircommanderthantoRomeortheRomansenate,andsuch armiesinthehandsofmenlikeMarius,Sulla,Pompey,andCaesarwouldbethemost importantfactorinthecollapseoftheRomanrepublic. Ontheotherhand,itmadethe Romanmilitarypotentiallythemostpowerful,professionalarmyinallofhistorybefore theFrenchRevolution. Italsoopenedupapathforsocialmobilitytothepoorthatwould havebeeninconceivableundertheoldRepublicansystem.Thepositiveaspectsofthis fundamentalchangewouldonlybecomeapparentundertheImperialsystemestablishedby CaesarAugustus.Intheshortrun,itwasthepotentialtodestabilizedRomanpoliticsand evenSenatorialrulethatcaughttheattentionoftheRomanelite. Mariusrequiredhismentoswearanoath(sacramentum)tohimself,nottothe republic.Thesesoldierssawtheirmilitaryserviceasaprofessionthey wouldfightforpay duringthewar,bootyfromthecampaigns,andlandasabonusafterthewar. Knowfull wellthattheycouldexpectlittlerewardfromthesenateexceptfinewordsofgratitude, theyturnedtotheircommander,Mariushimself,fortheirexpectationsofpersonal economicsecurity.Fromthetimeof MariustotheendoftheRomanEmpirecenturies later,theRomanstatewouldbeplaguedbyapersistentcaseof militarismthetendency ofthearmytointerveneoverandoveragaininpolitics.

4 Hewasatough,butcharismaticcommanderwhowontheheartsofthecommon troops.Plutarchwrote: Thatfiercemannerofhisincommandandhisinflexibilityinimposing punishmentsseemedtothem,oncetheyhadgotthehabitofdisciplineand obedience,notonlyrightandproperbutapositiveadvantage.Hisangrytemper, roughvoice,andthatforbiddingexpressionwithwhichtheygraduallygrew familiar,seemedmoreterribletotheenemythantothemselves.(Plutarch,p.26) MariusalsodidalottotransformtheRomanarmyfromamilitiaintoahighly trained,professionalforce.Hegavethelegionstheirsymbol:thesilvereaglestandard, badgesofrank,anddecorationsforbravery.Healsodidalottoestablishtheespritde corpsandlegendofthearmy.Heassignedeachlegionanamelikevenetrixthesonsof Venus,orrapaxtherapaciousones.Heorderedhismentosingonthemarchand trainedthemthoroughlyin swordtacticsmakinguseofgladiatorsasinstructors.Marius alsoreorganizedeachlegionintoaselfcontainedforcecombiningengineers,cavalry, artilleryrangingfromthesmall onager catapultuptohugeballistaecapableofthrowing stonesamile. Hedroppedtheoldpracticeofbaggagetrainsandinsistedthateachman carryallnecessitiesontheirbacks:rations,tents,weapons,andengineertools.His legionariesbegancallingthemselvesMarius'Mules. Hedemandedmuchfromthemen, butwaspopularbecauseofhiscommontouch: Itisthemostobligingsightintheworld totheRomansoldier, wrotePlutarch,toseeacommandereatthesamefoodas himself,orlieuponanordinarybed,orassisttheworkindiggingatrenchandraisinga wall. (Plutarch,p.19)ItwasMariuswhofashionedtheRomanlegionintoitsclassic form.HeevendesignedthethrustingandthrowingspearthePilumthatthe legionariescarriedforcenturies.Itwasawoodenshaftconnectedtoalongsteelshaftby awoodenrivetifthrown,theweaponwasdesignedtobreakinhalfonimpact,so opponentscouldnotthrowitback. Inthehandsofatrainedsoldier,thePilumwasa lethalweaponwhenthrowninahigharc,itcould,wearetold,gothroughamananda horseinfullarmor.

TheRomanArmy
Intheory,theRomanarmywassimplytheRomancitizenbody(andallies)inarms. Romancitizensdefendedthecityinwartimeandreturnedtotheirfarmsinpeacetime. MariuschangedallthatandRomewouldneverbethesame.Thenewprofessional Roman army,liketheoldconscriptedforce,consistedofLegions.EachLegionnumberedabout 6,000menorganizedintothirtysmallerunitscalledmaniplesnumberingabout130men. Eachmaniplewastrainedtofightindependentlyorjointogetherwiththerestoftheunit tofightinacheckerboardpatternformation.UnliketheGreekphalanx,thelegioncould deploy,maneuver,orfightonbrokenorhillygroundwithoutlosingitscohesion.This formationallowedtheRomanstowithstandtheshockofwildonrushesbyCeltsor disciplinedattacksbytheGreeksaseachmaniplecouldfallbackintothegapsinthe checkerboardandformasolidline.

5 TheRomanswerenotsupermenandinfacttheyhadsomeobviousmilitary weaknesses.Romancavalrywaspoorandtheygenerallyhadtorelyontheiralliesfor effectivefightersonhorseback.Nordidtheydistinguishthemselvesinmissilewarfare onceagain,theRomandependeduponalliedcontingentsofarchersandslingers.Their strengthlayinmassesoforganized,welltrainedinfantrydrawuponthatlargeItalian populationbase.Romeproducedafewgenuinemilitarygeniuses(JuliusCaesarand ScipioAfricanustocitetwo)butforthemostpart,thetypicalRomancommanderwasa patricianoftheSenatorialorderwithsomemilitaryexperience.MostRomanvictories weretheproductofsuperiororganizationandtraining.TheJewishhistorianFlavius JosephusdescribedRomantrainingintheFirstCenturyA.D.inthesewords: IfyoustudytheorganizationoftheRomanarmy,youwillrealizethatthey possesstheirgreatempireasarewardforvalor,notasagiftoffortune. Theydo notwaitforwartocometobeginbeforehandlingtheirarms,nordotheysitidlein peacetimeandtakeactiononly when theemergencycomesbutAsifbornfor thesolepurposeofwieldingarms,theynevertakeabreak fromtraining, never waitforasituationrequiringarms.Theirpracticesessionsarenolessstrenuous thanrealbattles.Itwouldnotbewrongtocalltheirpracticesessionsbloodless battlesandbattlesbloodypracticesessions. (Josephus,pp.19495) AstheRomanRepublicexpanded,itsarmiesbecamemoreprofessionalandmore permanentandthelegionswerenolongerraisedeachspringanddismissedeachfallfor theplowingseason.Theindividualsoldiermightserveaslongas20yearsbeforehis officialdischarge.ThefamousRomandisciplinewasenforcedbythedeathpenaltyif necessaryandbycorporalpunishmentsforlesserbreachesofmilitarylaw.TheRoman Centurions,thenoncomsofthelegionsweredescribedbytheGreekhistorianPolybiusas notsomuchboldandadventurousasmenwithafacultyforcommand,steady,and ratherofadeeprootedspirit,notproneprematurelytoattackorstartbattle,butmen, who,inthefaceofoverwhelmingpressure,wouldendureanddieindefenseoftheir post. (Polybius,p.322)OnesuchcenturionshowedJuliusCaesarhisshieldaftera battleithad120javelinholesinit,buthehadstoodhisground. (Starr,p.111)

TheGermanCrisis
ItwaswellthatRomehadsuchanarmyandsuchacommanderasMarius,because aseriousthreattonationalsecuritysuddenlyappearedovertheAlps.Acoalitionof GermantribesmigratedintosouthernGaulanddefeatedtwoRoman armiessentto containthemitwasthegreatestdefeatforRomanarmssinceCannae.Accountsofthese GermaninvadersshockedtheRomans.AccordingtoPlutarch,Atfirstwhatwas reportedaboutthenumbersandstrengthoftheinvadingarmiesseemedincrediblelater itappearedthatrumorfellshortofthetruth.Threehundredthousandarmedwarriors wereonthemarch,andhordesofwomenandchildreninmuchgreaternumberswere saidtobemarchingwiththem. (Plutarch,p.23) Inthiscrisis,thesenatecouldnotaffordtodispensewiththeservicesofMarius, howevermuchtheymighthavewishedtodoso.Heinsistedonhisterms:extended consulshipsandgrantsoflandforhissoldiers.Heridiculedthesenatorsbeforethe assemblyandaskedthepeopleiftheywouldnotpreferaleader,whogloriedinthe

6 woundshereceivedforthem,ratherthantheeffeminatesenatorswhomademuchof statuesoflongdeadancestors.(Plutarch,p.21) Marius'militaryreformsdidcreatea powerful,professionalforcecapableofmeetingtheGermans.TheRomansencountered theTeutonesandCimbriasAquaeSextiaeinsouthernGaul.Mariusdidnotofferbattleat once,butbuiltafortifiedcamp.TheGermans,itwassaidmarchedinasteadystream pastthefortificationsofMariusforsixdaysonend.Theymarched...bythecamp askingtheRomans...whethertheyhadanymessagesfortheirwives,'for',theysaid,'we shallsoonbewiththem. (Plutarch,p.31)Despitethisprovocation,Mariusdidnot offerbattleuntilhehadselectedhisgroundcarefully.TheGermanmasswasencamped onbothsidesofariverandMariussawachancetodefeattheenemyindetail.Ina gruelingtwodaybattle,Marius'smallerprofessionalforcedestroyedtheTeutones. The nextyearhedestroyedtheCimbriatVercellaeinSouthernGaul.Marius'brilliant generalshipagainsttheTeutonesandtheCimbrisavedtheRomanworldfromutter disaster.AccordingtoPlutarch,Mariussavedhisnew,secretweapon(thepilum)forthe Germans: TheysayitwasinpreparationforthiscomingbattlethatMariusfirstalteredthe constructionofthejavelin.Beforethistimetheshaftwasfastenedintotheiron headbytwonailsofironnowMarius,leavingoneofthesenailsasitwas, removedtheotherandputinitsplaceaweakwoodenpin,theideabeingthaton impactwiththeenemysshieldthewoodenpinwouldbreakand,insteadofthe javelinstickingstraightout,theshaftwouldtwistsidewaysandtraildown,though stillfirmlyfixedtotheironhead. (Plutarch,p.37) HisvictoriesovertheGermansearnedhimenormousgratitudefromtheRomans whoneverfullylosttheirterrorofthebarbarians.MariusreturnedtoRomeand celebratedagreattriumph: Dressedin triumphal garbandwearingbraceletsonhisarmsandacrownonhis head,hesummonedthepeopletogether.Thenhepraisedthesoldierswhohad servedunderhim,both collectivelyandindividually,andmadethemgiftsofmoney andhonoredthemalsowithmilitarydecorations,presentingarmbraceletstosome andspearstoother,crowns,somegold,somesilvereachcrownbearingthename ofthehonoredindividualandarepresentationofhisbravedeed.Ifhewasfirst overawall,hiscrownborethelikenessofawall.Aman whowonaseabattle receivedacrownadornedwithships.Butasoldierwhohadsavedthelifeofa fellowcitizenreceivedacrownofoakleaves,whichwasconsideredamuch greaterhonorthanalltheothercrowns. TheRomanpeople,accordingtoPlutarch,whentheycelebratedtheoccasionwiththeir wivesandchildren,theywouldmaketheirofferingsandlibationsinhonorofthegods andMarius. (Plutarch,p.40) HewaselectedConsulanunprecedentedseventimes,hereceivedtriumphsfor victoriesinAfricaandagainsttheGermansandheexpectedtobecometheelderstatesman ofthesenate,censorandprincepssenatus, thefirstmaninRome. EvenCicero,the senatorialorator,whodespisedMariusandcondemnedhimasapoliticaltraitortothe Romanconstitution,conceded: EverlastinghonorattendsthenameofMarius,who

7 twicefreedItalyfromsiegeandthedreadofslavery. (Cicero,SelectedPolitical Speeches,p.143)Unfortunatelyhispoliticalskills(nottomentionhisobviousdisregard formatterofconstitutionallegality)laggedfarbehindhismilitaryaccomplishments.After histriumph,heinsultedsenatorsbywalkingintothesenatehousestillwearinghis triumphalgarb.Infact,thepoliticalmaneuveringofhislastyearsneednotconcernushere inanydetail.Eventually,sufficeitsay,hemanagedtoalienateboththesenateandthe people.Atthatpoint,Outmaneuveredbythesenate,hispopularityinsteepdecline, Mariuswasforcedtoresign frompubliclifeindisgrace.Theoptimatesremainedin control. Totheoptimates,Mariusseemedtobeadangerouscombinationofdemagogue andmilitaryhero,anutterlyirresponsiblemanwhowoulddoanythingforpopularity.As Plutarchputit: Inwarhisgreatreputationandsupremepowercametohim becausehewas needed incivilianlifehissupremacywasrestrictedandsoheresortedtoattempts towin thegoodwill ofthemob,notmindingsomuchwhetherhewasthebest man solongashecouldbethegreatest. Hethusbecamevery odioustothe nobility.(Plutarch,p.41) Agenerationlater,thesenatorandphilosopherCiceroinvokedthenameofMariusina curiousdiscussionaboutthenatureofthegods: DaylightwouldovertakemeifIsoughttorecountthecatalogueofgoodmen overtakenbymisfortune,andequallyifweretorecalltheevilmenwhoprospered. Forexample,whydidMariusenjoysevenconsulshipsanddieasanoldmanin hisbed?So,asDiogenesclaimed,thesuccessandprosperityofthewickedwholly refutethenotionofthegodsforceandpower.(Cicero,TheNatureoftheGods, p.14043) Forourpurposes,theimportanceofMariusliesinhismilitaryreformsand particularlyinhisopeningofmilitaryservicetothelandless.Hisdemandthathissoldiers swearanoath(sacramentum)tohimselfsetadisastrousprecedent.Itamountedtoa declarationofindependencefortheRomanarmy.Itwouldbecomemoreandmore difficultforthesenatetocontrolthearmyin thefuture.WhydidMariusdothis?Hewas primarilyinterestedinfurtheringhispoliticalcareerandseeingtotheretirementofhis veterans.TherewasnosystemofstatepensionsforsoldiersandeveryRoman commander,followinghisexample,duringthelaterepublicfeltconstrainedtotake extraordinarystepstolooktothewelfareofhismen.TheRomansenatewasnotoriously reluctanttofacesocialproblemslikepoverty. AstheRomanarmybecamemore professional,theywerealsobecomingmoreisolatedfromtheirfellowcitizensandfrom civiliancontrol. Legionostrapatriathelegionisourfatherlandbecamea characteristicattitudeformanysoldiers.