Gaius Marius the Younger

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Gaius Marius
Gaius Marius Minor.jpg
Gaius Marius Minor from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum"
Consul of the Roman Republic
In office
82 BC – 82 BC
Serving with G. Papirius Carbo
Personal details
Born 110/108 BC
Died 82 BC
Political party Populares
Spouse(s) Licinia (~92 BC; his death)
Parents Gaius Marius and Julia

Gaius Marius Minor, also known in English as Marius the Younger or informally "the younger Marius"[1] (110 BC/108 BC – 82 BC), was a Roman general and politician who became consul in 82 BC alongside Gnaeus Papirius Carbo. He committed suicide that same year at Praeneste, after his defeat at the hands of Lucius Cornelius Sulla.


Marius the Younger was the son[2] of the Gaius Marius who was seven times consul and a famous military commander.[3][4] His mother, Julia, was an aunt of Julius Caesar.[5]

In his youth, Marius was educated with Titus Pomponius Atticus and Marcus Tullius Cicero by Greek tutors. Like his father, Marius advanced his political career through popularist tactics. During the Social War, he served under Lucius Porcius Cato, whom one source claims Marius killed at the Battle of Fucine Lake over Cato's claims that Cato's achievements were on par with the elder Marius's victory over the Cimbri.[6] Seeking to strengthen his political alliances, the elder Marius married his son to Licinia, a daughter of Lucius Licinius Crassus.[7]

In the political turmoil launched by his father in 88 BC to strip his rival Lucius Cornelius Sulla of command of the Roman forces in the First Mithridatic War, the Younger Marius accompanied his father into exile when Sulla unexpectedly marched on Rome, forcing them both to flee. At Ostia, young Marius went on ahead of his father and sailed to Africa.[8] There he went to the court of Hiempsal II of Numidia to seek his help against Sulla, but the king decided to hold him captive instead.[9] He managed to escape with the help of one of Hiempsal’s concubines whom the young Marius had seduced. He then joined up with his father who had also come to Africa, and they escaped to the Kerkennah Islands. Learning of Cinna’s fight to retain his consulship in 87 BC, father and son returned to Rome, where Marius the elder took control of the situation, gathering an army of slaves and gladiators, and murdering his enemies, both real and imagined.[10] According to Cassius Dio, the younger Marius inaugurated his father’s seventh consulship by murdering one Plebeian Tribune and sending his head to the newly installed consuls, while having another tribune thrown from the heights of the Capitoline Hill. He also banished two praetors, ordering that neither should receive fire or water from any Roman citizen.[11]

When his father died in 86 BC, the young Marius assumed leadership of his father’s adherents and clients, although overall control of the Marian faction was held by Cinna, who was elected consul on consecutive years until his death in 84 BC. The young Marius is said to have lacked his father's charisma and sought to achieve popularity on the family name.

Young Marius was elected to the consulship for 82 BC.[12][13] This was a political move by Carbo, his consular colleague, to drum up popular support and enthusiasm for the war against Sulla; Marius was much too young to be a legally elected consul. Two talented and better-qualified men among the Marian faction, his cousin Marius Gratidianus and Quintus Sertorius, were passed over in favor of the younger Marius's symbolic value.[14] However, many of the old veterans from the elder Marius’s former armies came out of retirement and flocked to the younger Marius’s side, and, by the battle of Sacriportus, his army numbered 85 cohorts.[15]

In the subsequent civil war in 82 BC, Lucius Cornelius Sulla and his army defeated the armies of Marius at the battle of Sacriportus, after which he retreated with around 7000 surviving troops to the fortress city of Praeneste, along with the treasury of the Capitoline temple.[16] Sulla's prefect Quintus Lucretius Ofella, conducted the siege,[17] throttling the town with a ring of rapidly constructed earth and tuff barricades. Marius gave orders to Lucius Junius Brutus Damasippus, the Urban Praetor to kill all those who were likely to support Sulla’s return, including his father-in-law, Quintus Mucius Scaevola Pontifex, the ex-consul Lucius Domitius, Publius Antistius and Papirius Carbo, among others.[18] Although both Gnaeus Papirius Carbo and Lucius Junius Brutus Damasippus attempted to break the siege, they were unsuccessful. Towards the end of the siege Marius made one final attempt to escape, this time by digging a tunnel under the walls, but the attempt was uncovered. Marius committed suicide so as not to fall into enemy hands.

In 45 BC, a man referred to as Amatius appeared in Rome, claiming to be the son of the Younger Marius.

See also[edit]

Preceded by
Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus Asiagenus and Gaius Norbanus
Consul of the Roman Republic
with Gnaeus Papirius Carbo
82 BC
Succeeded by
Gnaeus Cornelius Dolabella and Marcus Tullius Decula


  • T. Robert S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol II (1952).
  • Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol II (1867).


  1. ^ Minor means "the younger" in Latin; it was a nickname rather than part of this Marius's official name.
  2. ^ Said sometimes to be adopted, on the basis of Appian, who first describes him as the son of the great Marius, but in a subsequent passage, says the consul of 82 was the general's nephew (Bellum Civile, i. 62, 87). No other ancient sources suggest that the younger Marius was adopted.
  3. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita Epitome, 86.
  4. ^ Marcus Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History, ii. 26.
  5. ^ Smith, pg. 953
  6. ^ Orosius, Paulus, The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans, CUA Press (2001), pg. 210
  7. ^ Meijer, F. J. (1986). "Marius' Grandson". Mnemosyne. 39 (1/2): 112–121. JSTOR 4431470. (Registration required (help)). 
  8. ^ Smith, pgs. 956–957
  9. ^ Smith, pg. 957
  10. ^ Smith, pgs. 957–958
  11. ^ Dio, 30–35, fr. 102, 12
  12. ^ Broughton, pg. 65
  13. ^ In the Chronography of 354, the consul for this year is recorded as Marius’s cousin, Marcus Marius Gratidianus.
  14. ^ C.F. Conrad, "Notes on Roman Also-Rans," in Imperium sine fine: T. Robert S. Broughton and the Roman Republic (Franz Steiner, 1996), pp. 104–105 online, citing also G.V. Sumner, The Orators in Cicero's Brutus (Toronto, 1973), pp. 118–119.
  15. ^ Erik Hildinger, Swords Against the Senate: The Rise of the Roman Army and the Fall of the Republic (2003), pg. 206
  16. ^ Smith, pg. 959
  17. ^ Broughton, pg. 68
  18. ^ Broughton, pg. 67