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Gaius Marius (c. 157 bc — 186 ad) Roman general and politician

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Of patrician, but not recently distinguished, family, fought successfully in the Social War and, against the opposition of Sulla, became consul 87 bc. Trying to rescind Sulla's legislation as passed by force, he was driven out of Rome by his colleague Gnaeus Octavius and illegally deposed; Lucius Cornelius Merula was elected to replace him. Collecting Italians and legionaries, he was joined by Gnaeus Papirius Carbo and Sertorius, and by Marius whom he summoned back to Italy. They marched on Rome and captured it late in 87 after the death of Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius' failure to relieve it. He punished those who had acted illegally, but tried (not very successfully) to stop indiscriminate violence on Marius' orders. Consul 86 with Marius and, after Marius' death, with Lucius Valerius Flaccus, he sent Flaccus to fight against Mithradates VI, while he restored ordered government in Italy. He gained the co-operation of the equites (knights) and the people by financial reforms (carried by Flaccus and Marcus Marius Gratidianus), and that of eminent consulars by moderation and return to mos maiorum (‘ancestral custom’), although he could not repair the economic disruption of Italy due to the Social and Civil Wars. Following Marius' precedent, he held the consulship again in 85 and 84 with Carbo, owing to the emergency caused by the Mithradatic War and the threatening behaviour of Sulla, with whom he continued to negotiate. Embarking on a campaign in Liburnia early in 84, probably to train an army for a possible conflict with Sulla's veterans, he was killed in a mutiny. Sulla now rebelled and the government disintegrated. Our uniformly hostile accounts of him derive from Sullani or men who deserted him to join the victorious Sulla.

Ernst Badian

Subjects: Classical studies

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