Gaius Marius was the son of a small plebeian farmer near Arpinum.
“1 Born of parents who were altogether obscure — poor people who lived by the labour of their own hands (Marius was his father's name, Fulcinia that of his mother), it was not till late that he saw the city p469or got a taste of city ways. In the meantime he lived at Cirrhaeaton,2 a village in the territory of Arpinum, in a manner that was quite rude when compared with the polished life of a city, but temperate, and in harmony with the rearing which the ancient Romans gave their children. 2 His first service as a soldier was in a campaign against the Celtiberians, when Scipio Africanus was besieging Numantia,3 and he attracted the notice of his general by excelling the other young men in bravery, and by his very cheerful acceptance of the changed regimen which Scipio introduced into his army when it was spoiled by luxury and extravagance. It is said, too, that he encountered and laid low an enemy in the sight of his general. 3 Therefore he was advanced by his commander to many honours; and once, when the talk after supper had to do with generals, and one of the company (either because he really wished to know or merely sought to please) asked Scipio where the Roman people would find any such chieftain and leader to follow him, Scipio, gently tapping Marius on the shoulder as he reclined next him, said: "Here, perhaps." So gifted by nature were both men; the one in showing himself great while still a young man, and the other in discerning the end from the beginning”.plutarch.life of marius.
Contrary to popular belief, the Marius clan was influential locally, and maintained some limited client relationships with those in Rome. Of equestrian, but outside roots, Marius would find his early attempts to climb the Roman social and political ladder difficult at best. Using the Legion as his route to fame, fortune and power, he would become among the most influential men of his day, and the history of Rome. Ancient sources suggest that Marius was pre-destined, through the visions of a seer, to be Consul of Rome 7 times. Not only would this prove true, but he would eventually be hailed as the third founder of Rome, and its savior. Military glory and personal ambition drove Marius straight to the top of the Roman system, but perhaps even more importantly, the man and his legacy would have a profound impact on the life of his nephew, Gaius Julius Caesar. As a youth Marius may have used his modest family influence to join the legions as a junior officer, or may have risen from the ranks. It is difficult to determine exactly, but it is known that he spent his early career in Hispania under Scipio Aemilianus, grandson of Scipio Africanus. Performing his duties admirably he quickly was promoted. By 123 BC, at the age of 34, the veteran officer was elected as quaestor and his political career was off the ground. As a novus homo, or new man, Marius found the rise in the Roman cursus honorum a daunting challenge. It is certain that he used his old family client contacts and his military relations as a source of support. Among these contacts were the powerful Metelli family, and their early support was to prove to be a disaster for them. Just a few short years after his service as Quaestor, Marius was elected Tribune of the Plebes in 119 BC. In this position so soon after the political turmoil and murder of the Gracchi brothers (Gaius murdered 123 BC), Marius chose to follow the populares path make a name for himself under similar auspices. As Tribune, he would ensure the animosity of the conservative faction of the Senate, and the Metelli, by passing popular laws forbidding the inspection of ballot boxes. In do doing, he directly opposed the powerful elite, who used ballot inspection as a way to intimidate voters in the citizen assembly elections. Immediately devoid of political support from the social elite, Marius was