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Gaius Marius: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Saviour


Written by Marc Hyden, Gaius Marius focuses on the fascinating life of the Roman by the same name. I will admit that prior to reading this book, I had not heard of Gaius Marius (157 - 86 BCE). Let alone, the very vital but important role he played in shaping Rome’s early history. What is just as interesting is that through marriage Marius will eventually be uncle to the infamous future Roman ruler, Julius Caesar.

Author Marc Hyden displays a unique and wonderful talent, that is, he knows how to tell a story. The book begins by painting a picture of the social, political (corruption and all), and economic climate of the Western Mediterranean.The reader is introduced not only to the Roman world of the 2nd century BCE but also the struggles faced by the now powerful and very influential empire, just after the Roman-Carthaginian Punic Wars.

The reader is also given insight into the everyday lives of the Roman citizen, from the elite all the way down to the lowly peasant. Marius first comes into the picture from humble beginnings. Born a simple man in the town of Arpinium located in southern Latium from a simple and non-influential family, Marius would eventually strive and climb to the top of the Roman social and political ladder.

The earliest documented resources introducing Marius’ exploits begin during his young adult life during the war against the barbarians in Numantia (i.e. Spain). From his successes abroad, Marius would earn a great reputation back home and his humble background would earn him the respect of the plebeians (i.e. the commoners). This early support would kick off his political career via the cursus honorum (or courses of offices); that is, the order of public offices an aspiring politician held under the Roman Republic.

The publication highlights the many successes of Marius but also sheds light on his failures. It portrays Marius as an imperfect man and rightly so. At times he comes across as a just and righteous individual worthy of Rome’s recognition and praise while at others, he is the exact opposite; earning both political and foreign enemies along the way.

The book follows the very detailed life of Marius, through his every documented exploit in both the Republic and on the battlefield, protecting Rome from some of its most threatening enemies bordering its empire. Even after his death, the book continues with the story that immediately follows and the legacy Marius left behind to influence that history.

I was very impressed with Hyden’s attention to detail. He has done a wonderful job in putting this topic to words. Through his words, the reader is able to visualize a lot of the content within, although a few images would have also helped. Aside from the maps at the beginning of the book, the book contains no additional photographs. Regardless, this was an excellent book depicting an excellent historical figure. I highly recommend it.

By Petros Koutoupis