Gaius Marcius Censorinus (d.82 BC)

Gaius Marcius Censorinus (d.82 BC) was a supporter of the Marian cause during Sulla's civil wars, and was executed after the battle of the Colline Gate.

Marcius Censorinus first appears after Sulla's return from the east in 94 BC. Sulla had been a successful governor Cilicia, where he expelled Tigranes the Great of Armenia from Cappadocia and the first Roman magistrate to meet with a Parthain ambassador. After Sulla returned to Rome, Censorinus charged him with bribery, claiming that he had gathered money illegally from a friendly and allied kingdom. This sort of legal attack on a political opponent was fairly common in the Roman Republic, but on this occasion nothing came of it, as Censorinus didn't turn up at the trial, instead dropping the accusation. Cicero considered Censorinus to have been one of the leading orators of his time, suggesting that he was willing to speak in the courts on a fairly regular basis, as that was where a reputation as an orator could be made.

Marcius was a support of Cinna and the anti-Sullan faction during Sulla's First Civil War. During the siege of Rome of 87 BC  Marcius led a cavalry force that advanced into the Janiculum, to the west of the Tiber, where it attacked and beheaded the consul Gaius Octavius. Octavius's head was then displayed on the rostra in the forum, the first time this had happened to a consul.

Marcius remained an opponent of Sulla during Sulla's Second Civil War. At the start of the campaign of 83 BC the consul Carbo campaigned against Sulla's ally Metellus Pius in the north of Italy, but he was forced to withdraw back towards Rome after his co-consul Marius the Younger was defeated at Sacriportus. Marcius was left in the north, where he was defeated by the young Pompey at Sena Gallica (on the Adriatic coast just to the north of Picenum.

After this setback Marcius rejoined Carbo's main army, which was in the vicinity of Clusium, about 80 miles north of Rome. Marcius was then given eight legions to try and lift the siege of Praeneste, but he was ambushed by Pompey while passing through a defile, defeated and forced to take refuge on a hill. Pompey's men surrounded the hill, but overnight Marcius's men managed to escape, after leaving their camp fires burning to make it look as if they were still in place. Marcius's men blamed him for the disaster. One legion marched to Ariminum (Rimini), which was at least still in Marian hands, but almost all of the rest of his army deserted. He only had seven cohorts (3,500 men) left when he returned to Carbo's camp.

After a series of further setbacks Carbo decided to flee into exile in Africa. Marcius was one of the senior Marian leaders left in Italy, and along with Brutus Damasippus and Carinnas he made a fourth attempt to raise the siege of Praeneste. This also failed. The Samnites, who were also attempting to raise the siege, decided to risk everything on an attack on Rome, and Marcius accompanied them. Sulla was forced to rush back to Rome, and he only just arrived in time to defeat the Samnites at the battle of the Colline Gate (1 November 82 BC). Marcius escaped from the battle, but he was captured on the following day and beheaded. His head was then sent to Praeneste, to prove to the defenders that their allies had been defeated. As a result the defenders surrendered. 

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 March 2018), Gaius Marcius Censorinus (d.82 BC) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_censorinus.html

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