By Dr Jon Coulston
Last updated 2011-02-17
Reforms of Marius
Gaius Marius (157 - 86 BC) is credited with a number of reforms responsible for formalising trends which had long been developing in the recruitment and organisation of the Roman army. Under Marius, property qualifications for recruitment were relaxed, accelerating the army's evolution from a militia to a professional force of soldiers dependent on the state for equipment and pay.
At the same time, Jupiter's eagle became the prime standard of each legion, contributing to the development of these formations as standing institutions. Internally, the legion came increasingly to rely upon the cohort of 480 men, rather than the maniple of paired 'centuries' - a 'maniple' being 120 men. (The cohort continued to be orgainsed as six centuries in three pairs and the titles of their centurions continued in use for hundreds of years.) This battalion-sized formation was much more tactically resilient in the field against western barbarian warbands and eastern cavalry armies the Romans faced during the later republic.