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Marius vs. Sulla: Rome's Social Wars

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Author: Elizabeth Mazurek
The rivalry between Marius and Sulla, and Rome's conflicts with her allies.

Marius vs. Sulla: Rome's Social Wars

After the fall of the Gracchi, the conservative Optimates were in charge of the Senate

  1. The conservative faction controlled the Senate.
  2. Some questions remained about the senatus consultum ultimum; was it constitutional or not?
  3. The lex agraria and Tiberius’ Land Commission continued to operate.

Rome's Wars 111-84 BCE

Jugurthine War

Celtic War

Social War

1st Mithridatic Wa

111-104 BCE

105-101 BCE

90-88 BCE

88-84 BC

Against Numidia in northern Africa

Against German tribes,
including the Teutones and TIburini

Against Rome's Italian Allies
Against King Mithridates of Pontus (Asia Minor)

Rome’s Foreign Wars, 113-82 AD

This map was prepared to accompany theThe Romans from Village to Empireby Mary T. Boatwright, Daniel Gargola and Richard J.A. Talbert, Oxford University Press, 2004.
Copyright 2004, Ancient World Mapping Center:
This item may be reproduced and redistributed freely for non-profit, personal or educational use only. For all other uses, you must obtain prior, written permission from the copyright holder(s). The authorship, copyright and redistribution notices may not be removed from the map or altered

 

Marius' Career

A portrait bust of Marius by R. Scaife.  Rights for non-commercial use with attribution to vroma.org.  Accessed from http://www.vroma.org/images/scaife_images/075.jpg on 7/22/10.

Photo by R. Scaife. Image courtesy of the VROMA project at http://www.vroma.org

  1. He had been a novus homo, the first man in his family to hold high office.
  2. He was with with Scipio Aemilianus at the siege of Numantia in Spain.
  3. He was elected tribune of the people in 119 BCE, with the help of Quintus Metellus.
    1. He comes across as popularis, by pushing through legislation protecting clients from their patrons' intimidation during voting, legislation which causes enmity between Marius and Metellus
    2. He appears to be an optimate when he opposes extension of Gaius Gracchus' grain act.
  4. He is barely elected praetor, and is accused (but acquitted) of bribery in 115 BCE.
  5. He then goes to Farther Spain to be provincial governor, and becomes wealthy.
  6. He marries into a patrician family, marrying the aunt of Julius Caesar.
  7. He eventually mends his relationship with Q. Metellus,

Jugurthine War 111-104 BCE

  1. Was fought in Numidia, against its king, Jugurtha.
  2. Numidia's rule had been left to three brothers, who fought for control.
  3. In the process, Jugurtha, one rival, took Cirta, an important port city for grain, massacring many Roman merchants there.
  4. Rome tried to settle dispute by dividing the territory, but to no avail.
  5. In 111, people in Rome grew incensed over lack of action, so the consuls and senate were shamed into declaring war. Accusations of bribery had been leveled.
  6. Roman generals, at first, were unable to defeat the wily Jugurtha.
  7. Metellus took command, was more successful, but could not capture the king.
  8. Metellus blamed for prolonging the war, which tradesmen wanted ended as soon as possible.
  9. Marius encouraged such thinking, hoping to win a consulship.

First consulship 107 BCE

  1. Marius won the election, although Metellus tried to obstruct it by detaining him in Africa.
    1. The Plebeian Assembly vote him command of Africa.
  2. Bold move: enroll any able bodied man into army, regardless of property qualification.
    1. This move seriously changed the status of the army within the Roman political system.
    2. The soldier became more loyal to general, not to the state.
    3. Successful generals gained more political clout, making military command more desirable.
    4. Powerful commanders could then resort to civil war in order to achieve their ambition.
  3. Marius was successful against Jugurtha in battle, but never captured him himself (which Sulla finally did).
    1. Marius led Jugurtha through the streets of Rome in chains in his triumph at the end of the war.

Celtic War 105-101 BCE: against the Cimbri and Teutones

  1. Second consulship: 104 BCE (very soon after first, because of threat of northern invasion).
    1. Celtic neighbors to the north were pushed out of their territory, and had petitioned Rome for land, but were rejected.
    2. In 105 BC, Rome lost 80,000 men in a battle at the Arausio.
    3. This led to panic, which led to Marius' second consulship (104).
  2. Marius reorganizes the legion.
    1. He increased the size of the legion from 4000 men to 5000-6000 men, all heavily armed, with no class distinctions.
    2. He divided the legion into tactical units called cohorts, of 500-600 men (1/10 of legion).
    3. Each cohort was divided into 5 or 6 centuries with a seasoned leader.
    4. The cohort was much stronger than the old maniple (120 men), and so could be independent on the battlefield.
    5. Marius also trained his men in one-on-one style, dualists (a thrust and parry style), like gladiators.
    6. He eliminated property distinctions in formations, since soldiers no longer provided their own weapons.
  3. Aquae Sextiae 102 BCE: The decisive victory against Celts.
  4. In 101, near Turin, the final battle took place,
    1. A noteworthy competition for glory occurred between Marius and his co-consul, Catulus.

Marius' Poltical Fall 100-86 BCE

  1. Sixth consulship 100 BCE; Marius rode a wave of popularity because of his victories.
  2. Lacking a political agenda, he relied on a tribune, Satuninus, who used violence to achieve his aims.
  3. Saturninus' crimes forced Marius to invoke a senatus consultum ultimum to have Saturninus captured and executed.
  4. Shamed by association with Saturninus, Marius retired from Rome to Asia where he allegedly tried to instigate a war with Mithridates.

Sulla

Sulla, portrait bust (later copy with alterations after original of the 2nd century B.C.) marble Roman (Republican period) Glyptothek, Munich.Photo by R. Scaife.  Rights for non-commercial use with attribution to vroma.org Accessed from http://www.vroma.org/images/scaife_images/074.jpg on 7/22/10.

Photo by R. Scaife Image courtesy of the VROMA project at http://www.vroma.org

  1. Sulla was from a patrician family that had fallen on hard times.
  2. He had a reputation for always supporting the senate.
  3. He was an officer in Jugurthine and Celtic wars.
  4. He became consul in 88 BCE
    1. Social War: commander of southern campaign against Samnites.
  5. War against Mithridates 88-84 BCE
    1. Marched on Rome to secure command.
  6. Dictator 82-80 BCE
    1. Proscriptions (lists of political enemies to be killed)
    2. Political reforms.

Social War 91-88 BCE

  1. Discontent of Allies : They want more rights.
    1. They could not hold office, and could not govern the new provinces.
    2. They were not equal according to Roman Law, and had no right of appeal before Roman courts.
    3. More of the wealth from the conquests went to Rome, which Rome used for funding more wars.
    4. The allies, however, had to tax themselves to pay for the wars.
    5. The Gracchan land reforms had encroached on their territory.
  2. Rome's opposition

    1. 95 BCE, consuls established special courts to expel Italians from citizenship rolls.
    2. Before this, individual Italians with connections to powerful Romans were regularly on rolls.
  3. Attempted reforms of Livius Drusus Jr., tribune 91 BC

    1. The son of Drusus who had opposed Gaius Gracchus.
    2. He expanded the number of equestrians in the senate.
    3. He staffed the juries in extortion courts with this new, mixed senate.
    4. He passed legislation for public distribution of grain at reduced prices.
    5. He created Roman colonies in Sicily.
    6. Unsuccessfully tried to grant citizenship to all Italians.
    7. Drusus assassinated.
  4. Italians revolt: create confederacy of "Italia."

Social War

This map was prepared to accompany theThe Romans from Village to Empireby Mary T. Boatwright, Daniel Gargola and Richard J.A. Talbert, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Copyright 2004, Ancient World Mapping Center:
This item may be reproduced and redistributed freely for non-profit, personal or educational use only. For all other uses, you must obtain prior, written permission from the copyright holder(s). The authorship, copyright and redistribution notices may not be removed from the map or altered

Conduct and Outcome of the Social War

  1. Strategic advantages for Romans
    1. Rome controlled the sea and could import troops from the provinces.
    2. Rome controlled the roads and commerce within Italy.
    3. Rome had pockets of loyal allies within enemy territory.
  2. Strategic advantages for Allies
    1. Perhaps had the moral high ground
    2. Were as well trained as the Roman legions and knew their tactics.
  3. Rome gradually grants citizenship to most allies in Italy
    1. The Julian Law, 90 BCE, and the
    2. Plautian-Papirian Law of 89 BCE
  4. Results of War
    1. Economic devastation:
      1. It disrupted farming and trade
      2. Debtors increased in number.
      3. Grain prices increased.
    2. Dangerous precedent for future civil wars.
    3. More unified Italian peninsula
      1. Italo-Roman culture begins to form
      2. Latin language spreads more
      3. Rome becomes a regional state, no longer a city state.

Mithridatic War 88-84 BCE

  1. Mithridates (134-63 BCE), King of Pontus
    1. He was an old style Hellenistic monarch, who, like Alexander the Great, wanted an empire.
  2. The threat of war with Mithridates brings the social war to a swifter end.
  3. Eastern Provinces hailed Mithridates as a liberator.
  4. 1000's of Romans living in the East were slaughtered.
  5. Competition for Command against Mithridates
    1. Sulla and Senate vs. Marius and People's Assembly
      1. Marius uses a tribune, Sulpicius, to pass a law giving him command.
      2. Sulla had been promised command by his senate friends.
        1. Sulla marches on Rome to wrest command from Marius, creating first outright civil war.
          He sets fire to the city, killing many innocent city dwellers.
    2. Continued civil unrest 87-86 BCE
      1. The election of a censor never takes place, leaving an issue of which tribes to enroll new citizens into.
      2. There were 35 tribes, or 31 regular and 4 urban tribes, each with one vote (majority ruled).
      3. New citizens were enrolled in 4 urban tribes, only in order to dilute the strength of their votes.
    3. Sulla settles war with a lenient peace, in hopes of returning quickly to Rome.

Sulla's Reign of Terror, 83-80 BCE

  1. Civil War between Sulla and Populares
    1. Crassus and Pompey - young officers in Sulla's army.
    2. Battle at Rome's Colline Gate: Sulla nearly defeated.
  2. Sulla's proscriptions of his political opponents
    1. Plutarch recounts that 6000 equites were killed in the Circus.
    2. Rewards were given for heads of enemies.
    3. People with money were targeted, because Sulla needed land and money for his soldiers.
  3. Sulla proclaimed Dictator by Centuriate Assembly.

Sulla's Settlement

(see Romans pp 120-121)

  1. Enlarged membership of Senate
  2. Reformed court system
    1. Abolished trials before Public Assemblies
    2. Separate courts for different types of crimes
    3. New courts staffed by Senate members only.
  3. Restricted access to consulship.
  4. Stripped tribuneship of its power.
  5. Restricted powers of provincial governors.

Questions:

Although their politics may seem very different, what do Marius and Sulla have in common as Roman senators?

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