Gaius Marius was one of the most remarkable and significant figures of the late Roman Republic. At a time when power tended to be restricted to a clique of influential families, he rose from relatively humble origins to attain the top office of consul. He even went on to hold the post an unprecedented seven times. His political career flourished but was primarily built on military success. First serving in the Numantine War in Spain, he later rose to high command and brought a long-running war in North Africa to a successful conclusion, bringing the Numidian King Jurgurtha back in chains. His return was timely as northern barbarian tribes threatened Italy and had previously defeated several Roman armies. Marius reformed and retrained the Republic’s forces and decisively defeated the invaders that had easily overpowered his predecessors. Marius’ subsequent career was primarily that of an elder statesman, but it was dominated by his rivalry with his erstwhile subordinate, Sulla, which ultimately led to the latter’s bloody coup. Marius, once hailed as the saviour of Rome, eventually became a desperate fugitive, literally fleeing for his life from his pursuers.However, after several harrowing brushes with death, Marius seized an opportunity to return to Rome and mete out justice to his enemies, which tarnished his once-enviable reputation.
GAIUS MARIUS The Rise and Fall of Rome’s Saviour
Hyden does a masterful job of tracing Marius’s rise to power through his successful military campaigns, his conclusion makes it clear that he sees Marius as a flawed figure, operating in a flawed system, but also unlucky in that he survived just long enough to tarnish his own reputation with the brutality of the last period of his life.