Academic journal article Acta Classica

Gaius and Marcus Marius in Iberia and Gaul: Family Affairs and Provincial Clients

Academic journal article Acta Classica

Gaius and Marcus Marius in Iberia and Gaul: Family Affairs and Provincial Clients

Article excerpt

Marius's first attested service overseas was in the campaigns against the Numantines (Plut. Mar. 3.2), who were Celtiberians living in the region west of the Roman province of Hispania Citerior. (2) At that stage, still in his twenties, Marius was obviously not influential, yet even then, before starting a public career but being of equestrian status, he probably attracted the attention of local figures seeking to attach themselves to any well-connected and wealthy young Roman to further their interests at Rome. And as Marius's military exploits brought fame (Sall. Iug. 63.4), his potential as a patron would certainly have increased; and it can be assumed with some confidence that in the 130s in central Iberia he initiated the formation of what would eventually become the elaborate network of clients which any successful Roman republican politician had at his disposal. (3)

A fragment of Diodorus (34/5.38.1) stating that Marius 'was said to have become a public official' and to have barely secured the lower magistracies of the cursus honorum, has been employed to emphasise instead his connections among Roman business interests, and an occupation as a tax farmer or publicanus. (4) While this may appear to have been in keeping with the strategy of creating a client base for a novus homo, the evidence is suspect. Firstly, this extract is from a late epitome, and so could represent a garbled version of the original. The original itself may not be authoritative since Diodorus is not particularly assertive in his claim and suggests he had some misgivings about his data. Moreover, the translation of this word 'public official' in the text of Diodorus is not found elsewhere as a collective noun for Roman equestrians who had won contracts from the censors for collecting taxes. Strabo (12.3.40), the only other example cited, employs it to describe a mining contract in Pontus. (5) It is likely, therefore, that modern scholars have rather employed Diodorus's statement to reinforce nineteenth-century notions of Marius as a politician who rose from a lower social stratum, a sort of democrat from the commercial classes. Quite clearly, Diodorus does not mean this at all and, indeed, even if this statement is an accurate reflection of what the historian wrote, that Marius had some public position, it must refer to a time after his subject had been in the army in Iberia. But here again there are problems. If Marius was elected a military tribune about 130/129 as Sallust seems to indicate (Sall. Iug. 63.4), then this event shows the subject to be still intent on a political career. He could only participate in business ventures thereafter by renouncing any intent to canvass for further magistracies, again for which there is no evidence. (6) The military tribunate, although a very junior position in the cursus honorum, was still de iure a magistracy because it entailed election by the comitia populi tributum; and Marius would subsequently have fallen foul of the lex Claudia (218 BC), obliging senators not to participate openly in any form of business. No politician would easily have avoided a law essentially enforced by the jealousy of his fellow senators. Marius was never accused of such pursuits when he was vulnerable to such accusations at crucial times in his career. Therefore, Diodorus's mention of some unspecified public position which was related to the financial sector of the community should be discarded as part of a mostly modern construction of Marius both as a novus homo and an outsider. (7)

Successful election to the plebeian tribunate in 120 for 119 suggests that Marius was already a well-known figure in Rome for some time before the electoral campaign. Furthermore, his narrow acquittal--a tied vote--on a charge of ambitus in 116 before a jury composed of equites would have been much more decisive had he possessed exceptional influence over them. (8) Marius certainly appears to have been not exceptional in his connections and just like any other member of the senatorial elite. …

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