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History Discussion and 3 Replies


For this week’s discussion read Marius’ recruitment speech to the people from Sallust’s Jugurthine War (84-85). What are the major themes of Marius’ speech? What is Marius’ personal and political motivation for delivering such a speech to an assembly of the people?

“The major themes in Marius speech shows that he was calling for the common man that seeks virtue and desires glory. Marius does this by painting himself as one of the common people or humble birth. He also calls out the nobility by saying that their ancestors have nothing to do with their own personal accomplishments. He points out that he has no statues or that he didn’t learn how to command by reading a book. He has the first hand experience in leading men in battle. The reason he says this is because of military failures by generals that gained command only because of a forefathers past accomplishments. Marius is very much a soldier, he says that he would be present in the marches and share the same dangers. This says a lot about his character, he has the ability to connect with his men. This probably helped the men gain confidence in Marius as a general and see him not as another Consul that gained the position by birthright only.

His speech politically seems like a campaign rally to motivate the lower plebeians to see the nobility as inept and ignorant of military matters. He points out several times that his character is attacked by the Patricians. But he always counters with not his birthright, but his experience as a general and soldier. I think he did this to make a point that the Senate and nobles are not as intelligent or mainly, as important. To make them seem irrelevant will ultimately make his position a better one with the people.”

“According to this account/story of Marius’ speech, the theme is a “call to arms” and a demand that Rome be led by those with military experience. A bit of “patriotism” politics. We hear a lot of the same types today, spouting that the other side doesn’t care about the country, only “my side.” It is the type of speech that I would envision being told by one of Populares that we discussed last week.

His motivation fort he speech is to drum up his base. A rally cry, telling his people what they need to hear, while also giving a soft story about a rough life in order to relate to the commoners. From reading the speech, there is a clear “us vs. them” theme to it all. An attempt to gain power by first dividing and then amplifying the emotions of your side.”


“The three largest themes of Marius’ speech were focused upon patriotism, the “circumstances of birth,” and honour: his own, the people he wanted support from, and the lack had by those of the upper class, (Sallust). First, his focus on patriotism can be seen on blatant display as he calls forth the voters that had elected him to office to continue to remember why they had chosen him and what he promised to do for them, what they should do for their country. His desire to re-establish his reputation as a man for the people by the people apparent in his push for descension to their ranks. Secondly, the focus on noble status is ascertained as a slight to all. Marius attempts to clear the air that he has no desire, nor ever had any desire, to fall in line with those Senators that surrounded him. Third, his desire to recruit an army is done through a call for honour. He calls forth Roman rites of passage to manhood, wanting those of age to volunteer themselves for family values. There is war ongoing, so goes the past and future of the Republic and Empire, but Marius needs soldiers to have any success in winning a war.


Sallust. The Jugurthine War. Rev. John Selby Watson, M.A. New York and London. Harper & Brothers. 1899.”


Last Updated on May 2, 2019

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