1st Century B.C. Rome Timeline > Marius Quiz | Marius and the Agrarian Laws
Marius successfully stood for his 6th consulship by forming a coalition with L. Appuleius Saturninus and C. Servilius Glaucia, who were to be praetor and tribune. Saturninus had curried popular favor by proposing to reduce the price of grain. Grain was the main Roman food, especially for the poor. When the price was too high, it was the ordinary Roman who starved, not the powerful, but the poor had votes, too, and giving them a break garnered votes.
Saturninus also proposed distributing land in Africa to Marius' veterans. He succeeded in this, although we don't know the outcome of the grain price bill. Settling veterans had become an issue since Marius' reforms of the army. In doing so, he had opened a new career path to landless men. Upon discharge, they did not receive a pension, or anything else from Rome. Instead, they expected their leader to procure something for them; hence, the African agrarian bill. Success in the African land bill came by forcibly evicting a veto-wielding tribune from the assembly.
In office, settling the veterans on land was high priority for the newly elected coalition. Saturninus brought forth the agrarian bill in 100 B.C. with the plan to settle 100 jugera of land on each of Marius' veterans of the wars in Numidia. He made no distinction between Latin and Roman veterans in the land allotment.
Although passed, the law was not enforced and a new agrarian bill was introduced three years later, following Marius' campaign against the Germanic Cimbri and Teutones in Cisalpine Gaul, at Aquae Sextiae, and joint triumph with Catulus, in 100. It contained a binding oath clause for senators. The veterans were to be settled in Gaul, Sicily, Macedonia, and Achaea, and colonies established under the leadership of Marius. By the time the law was to take effect, Marius was out of favor. Then Saturninus and Glaucia were murdered.
In 99, another agrarian law was proposed by the tribune Titius, but it, too, failed to be enacted. Also in 99, Rome finally suppressed a four-year slave war in Sicily.
In 93, a conflict between the equestrian order (the wealthy business class from which came the publicani or tax-farmers for the provinces) which had taken control in the court system and the provincial governing class, which did its own share of extorting, came to a head in the condemnation of P. Rutilius Rufus, probably the great-uncle of Julius Caesar. Theodor Mommsen says that provincial governors seemed to be working for the business class instead of for Rome if they wished to stay out of legal trouble with the equestrian-run court system. Too much integrity to line the tax-farmers' pockets was P. Rutilius Rufus' problem. Here's Mommsen's passage on the trial and sentence:
"The charge that such a man had allowed himself to perpetrate exactions in Asia, almost broke down under its own absurdity and under the infamy of the accuser, one Apicius; yet the welcome opportunity of humbling the consular was not allowed to pass, and, when the latter, disdaining false rhetoric, mourning robes, and tears, defended himself briefly, simply, and to the point, and proudly refused the homage which the sovereign capitalists desired, he was actually condemned, and his moderate property was confiscated to satisfy fictitious claims for compensation. The condemned resorted to the province which he was alleged to have plundered, and there, welcomed by all the communities with honorary deputations, and praised and beloved during his lifetime, he spent in literary leisure his remaining days."
Roman History Books
M. Livius Drusus, tribune for 91, attempted to reform the court system and proposed a new agrarian law that would have granted Italians equal rights with Roman citizens. This was important because, by this time, most of Rome's soldiers -- but not the generals -- were Italian allies of Rome and not Roman citizens. However, Drusus was murdered, and this agrarian bill also failed to take effect. The equestrians held on to their court control. The people of Rome jealously guarded their citizenship rights and did not wish to extend the privilege. Depending on which tribes men were added to, individuals could reasonably fear the influx would affect the power of their tribe. Some of the Italians worried that their own land might be taken. Drusus had tried to appease the allied veterans with promises of citizenship and was suspected by men who were already Roman citizens of colluding with the allies.
In 90 B.C., Tribune T. Varius Hybrida established a court with equestrian jurors to try anyone suspected of colluding with the Italian allies, who, by this time, were on the brink of revolt against Rome. Because of the suspicion under which Drusus had been held, his supporters suffered exile.
- Public Lands and Agrarian Laws of the Roman Republic, by Andrew Stephenson 2006.
- From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome 133 BC to AD 68, by H. H. Scullard