In the early Republican Army, the military service allowed only those with a set level of property possession to participate in campaigns. This limited the number of men who could serve regardless of age and health. When this rule was first implemented, it served a two prong purpose.
The number of military campaigns in the early years did not necessitate a large army of all men of Rome. Having a limited number of soldiers met the need at the time. This led to the problem that those on the lower end of the level could easily fall below the eligibility line as they were off on campaigns and could not tend to their properties to ensure enough income. The next campaign would mean that they were below the level to serve their country. This could happen despite the fact that the state paid them for their services. The desire to serve began to wane on the lower level.
The second advantage that the property level gave was the access to political power. As anyone who was decorated after a campaign could wear their decorations long after the event, their political aspirations could be obtained. Anyone wanting to rise politically wore these commendations to attract followers and appeal to the public.
The Marian reforms were very important as the number of military campaigns was increasing and the need for more men became apparent. The number of men above the property level was not enough to ensure victory. Marius allowed volunteers from all economic levels to serve in their army. They were also paid and supported by the state. Without this new type of army recruiting, the chances of Rome succeeding the way it did would have been low.
These reforms also opened up a new political game. Now, the decorated would not be just the aristocracy. In theory, anyone who served in successful campaigns from any economic and class level could be a candidate in politics and rise further than the upper class desired. Marius brought a better army and ensured victory, but he also ensured the weakening of the upper class’ hold on the political arena.
- Le Glay, Marcel, Jean-Louis Voisin, and Yann Le Bohec. A History of Rome. (Malden: Blackwell, 2009), 123.
- Goldsworthy, Adrian. Roman Warfare. (London: Phoenix, 2000), 53.