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Land Reform: Doing Away with the Land Requirement:

The need for land reform had been felt for years by the army and by the small landholders, who feared losing their land whenever they were called for military service. The Gracchi brothers had seen the need of the people and had attempted land reform to fill the ever dwindling ranks of an army constituted by landholders. Gaius Gracchus had instituted such reforms as the state supply of equipment and clothes to legionnaires and the forbidding of enlistment of men under 17. These were meant to ease the economic hardships felt by the small farmers serving their military duties. These reforms, however, are more significant in the lengths the state was willing to go to remedy the declining army than in the good the reforms actually accomplished.

When Marius became consul (107 BCE) after his Numidian command, he became sure of himself and began to taunt the aristocracy. Plutarch suggests that Marius had a sympathy with the lower class because he himself grew up in the remote town of Arpinum. According to the source, Marius in his speech no longer wanted to force the landed aristocracy to enlist in the army if they did not want to, and he invited volunteers to enlist.


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Marius enrolled volunteers without thought to class or money, and they were quick to join with the prospects of booty and land. Marius was also careful to enlist veterans. The Senate did not oppose Marius' bold move for, according to Sallust, they believed that he would lose his popularity by inviting plebeians into the army. If anything, Marius' removal of the land requirement won him more popularity from the small landowners, who did not wish to lose or destroy their land by forced military service, and from the plebeians who had a chance at improving their financial situation through winning treasure and land through war.

The landless poor, who had received no help from the state, were now recruited into the army, a community in which they were taken care of. The recruits had to take an oath, the sacramentum, upon enlistment which was a promise to serve loyally and obediently.


Long-lasting Effects of Removal of Land Requirement


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