Gaius Marius - The Rise and Fall of Rome’s Saviour, Marc Hyden

Gaius Marius - The Rise and Fall of Rome’s Saviour, Marc Hyden

Gaius Marius was one of the most important figures in the late Roman Republic. As a military leader he saved the Republic from a large scale barbarian invasion, but as a politician he was less skilful, and in old age his ambitious saw him use extremely underhand methods to try and take a military command away from his younger rival Sulla, triggering the first in the serious of civil wars that eventually destroyed the Republic.

Hyden has produced a biography of Marius that is aimed at the general reader rather than the specialist in Roman history. The focus is on keeping things readable, rather than attempting to explain some of the problems with the sources, which are often distorted at least in part because Marius’s opponents outlived him, and in some cases wrote memoirs that influenced later historians. Even some of the best known periods of his life are fairly poorly documented. This approach works well here - Marius had a long career, and was militarily active in North Africa, against the barbarians, during the Social War and briefly during the period of Sulla’s Civil Wars, as well as having a fairly lengthy political career. He was also credited with introducing a series of reforms into the Roman army, and there is a useful section looking at how many of these he can genuinely take credit for.

Hyden has done an impressive job of staying open minded about his subject, a rare achievement in biographies of figures from this period. 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.

1 - Arpinum
2 - Numantia
3 - Cursus Honorum
4 - Jugurtha
5 - Metellus
6 - Novus Homo
7 - Consul
8 - Cimbri
9 - Triumph
10 - Muli Mariani
11 - Aquae Sextiae
12 - Vercellae
13 - Pax
14 - Drusus
15 - Socii
16 - Mithridates
17 - Justitium
18 - Hostis
19 - Proconsul
20 - Sulla
21 - Triumvirate
22 - Amatius
23 - Principate
24 - Legacy

Author: Marc Hyden
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 331
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2017

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