Throughout time, certain individuals have been known as revolutionaries. Some of these were political, others social, others military. While some excel in one of these realms, the greatest figures will impact all of these. Marius was the most “revolutionary” of the individuals that shaped the course of the Roman Revolution, in that his action departed the most radically from the traditional framework of the Roman mos maiorem and from the actions of his predecessors.
One of the grandest impacts Marius had was on the political and social scene. To fully understand the how remarkable his political career was, one must first consider that he was born into a poor family of little political esteem. In fact, his family had never seen a senator elected, and there is little belief that any other significant political position was held by a relative. At the time, it was very unusual that anyone of such a background would even consider a political aspiration. This in itself makes Marius’s first political appointment so remarkable. In fact he denounced the traditional social education of the Greek language and other qualities associated with social standing. In a strong step in political reform, Marius proposed a bill that effectively limited aristocratic domination of the electoral process. This strong step certainly did nothing to endear him to many reputable politicians, but did show his aspiration to change the political system from its social base. Marius took another unusual step toward political change, when he successfully sought absentee reelection. As his career continued, so did his ambition. While he continued to attack conceptions of nobility, he continued to win election. Even though terms in office generally was considered the informal limit, Marius continued through the fifth term to a seventh consecutive term. This unprecedented reign definitely changed the Roman political scene of that time. All the while, he built his support on the people. Obviously, Marius’s devotion to the populous was a key step in the Roman Revolution.
The other scene where Marius’s influence affected the revolution was the military realm. However, many of these changes not only affected the military system, but also the political and social situation. In a dynamic resolution, Marius opened the military legions to those without land, money, property, or even freedom. Obviously, opportunities for military service vastly improved the economic opportunities for the impoverished and social underlings. In addition, Marius demanded even the most socially elite legionnaire carry his own armor and supplies, rather than rely on a slave or steward. As a result, the army was forced to operate on a more equal basis, less characterized by social benefit. Extending even to the senate, Marius defended his actions by degrading his socially elite but inept contemporaries. In an effort to stress the importance of the common soldier, Marius even declined a celebration in his honor until the time when all of his soldiers could join him. This gave the common soldier/citizen a place in society never before realized. Even more astonishing were his demands to ignore the constitution and allow full freedom to men of Camerinum for bravery in combat. In effect, anyone willing to fight for the Roman Empire was shown their just reward, a policy that revolutionized military systems. Even further, Marius is credited with the establishment of the first full time, professional army. Through military policy, Marius had an unequaled effect on the Roman Empire.
In the end, Marius was the most influential revolutionary figure in the Roman Empire. Through his manipulation of the public and military, he changed that civilization, both then and even now. He set precedents in military and political realms. All things considered, no one has equal claim to be the most important revolutionary figure of the Roman Empire.
Plutarch:The Roman Empire
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