(19559 bytes) The Army Before Marius 

To fully understand the significance of these military reforms, one must first understand what the army was like before the changes occurred. Before the time of Marius, war and military service was an obligation and privilege of the wealthy. Tradition holds that King Servius Tullius (c. 580 BCE - 530 BCE) organized 3 major military "wealth groups" which defined your military role based upon which equipment you could afford to purchase. For example. the cavalry was made up of the extremely wealthy because the cost to keep a horse in the Roman era was enormous (In fact horses were so valuable that the cavalry didn't really fight on them. They rode them to battle and then got off to fight.). The capite censi were formed primarily by men without any property. They could not serve in the military as it was a privilege denied to the poor.

According to Polybios, the Roman forces c. 311 BCE had been arranged into 4 legions who were supported by comparable alliance formations (socii). Polybios also claimed that as early as the fifth century BCE , the Roman treasury started to subsidize the army. The soldiers received a stipendium which helped them to meet living expenses, while they were away. By the second century, the legionary received a daily rate of one third of a denarius, while the equites (cavalry) got one denarius a day to cover the upkeep of their horses. However, by the time contemporaneous with Marius a soldier was still responsible for providing his equipment, and the stipendium was not enough to earn a living.


The Punic Wars began to stretch the limits of Roman manpower under the current system, which was designed for warfare on the Italian peninsula between city-states. In a typical arrangement of the legion during the Second Punic War there would be three lines of men, hastati, principes and triarii. By 211, during the height of the war, there was a creation of another force, velites which got this name for the cloaks they wore, since they did not have any defensive armor. The velites were a group of men who could afford very little defensive weaponry, but still needed to be incorporated into the legion In addition, after the defeat of Carthage in 201 BCE, Rome needed permanent garrisons and professional, standing armies. Clearly, this change in the legion and the necessity of a standing, larger army are linked to the lowering of requirements for service to the minimum census. This lowering of the property requirements coincided with an expansion of the annual levy to include all male citizens between the ages of 17 and 46. This included a minimum of six campaigns served before on would be ineligible for further enlistment.

In 107 BCE, Marius accepted property-less volunteers who were equipped by the state for the Jugurthine Wars, and this was the beginning of the end of the traditional structure of the Roman Army.

The Marian Reforms