THE MARIAN REFORMS
"This gave Marius time to toughen the bodies of his men and improve their morale and – most important of all – to make them understand what sort of man he was himself. That fierce manner of his in command and his inflexibility in imposing punishments seemed to them, once they got the habit of discipline and obedience, not only right and proper but a positive advantage. His angry temper, rough voice and that forbidding expression with which they gradually grew familiar, seemed more terrible to the enemy than to themselves."
- Plutarch, Life of Marius
The Marian Reforms refers to a complete restructuring of the entire Roman Military instituted by Gaius Marius in 107 BC. These reforms laid the foundation for the successful expansion of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. The most significant reform being: creating a a fully professional force ready for combat 24/7.
Prior to these reforms, Rome's senate would draft soldiers from their perspective social classes to form an Army and only do so in times of war. An eligible solider would have to have the following requirements:
- be a tax paying citizen
- have 3500 sesterces (about $5500) in property value
- supply his own weapons and equipment
The structure of the army was then essentially divided by those who could and who could not afford the better gear. With the poorest classes being unarmed javelin throwers and the wealthier classes making up the calvary.
In 108 BC, Marius was appointed a Consul (think combination; Speaker of House and General) to wage war in northern Africa. To Marius's frustration, he struggled to recruit an adequate force. He discovered that after years of constant war, inept leadership and the rise of land monopolies there was a shortage of men who qualified under these strict requirements. Dedicated to completing his mission, he implemented a series of reforms that allowed him to recruit from a wider pool of men and standardize military training.
The reforms were extensive and universally popular, especially with the lower classes. Marius allowed for the recruitment of landless peasants. He offered steady pay in return for their loyal service and if they were victorious they could benefit from the "spoils" of war. Furthermore, he was able to convince the Roman Senate to subsidize his war efforts; he standardized and manufactured weapons, armor and equipment for ALL soldiers, he instituted rigorous year-round training programs, and created "retirement packages” for men who had served their full 16 year enlistment. At the completion of their enlistment his veterans would be provided land in Rome’s new provinces, allowing them to join the middle or even upper class in their middle years.
Ultimately these reforms allowed Rome to be a nearly unstoppable military force in the ancient world. However, these reforms did mean that the duty of "Soldering" was no longer attached to the Senate, but their loyalty resided to the General who commanded them. The Senate soon learned that the power of Rome no longer resided in the senate halls, but in the War tent of the most successful General.