The Crisis of Rome – Gareth C. Sampson

The Jugurthine and Northern Wars and the Rise of Marius

Another great book on Roman History from Pen and Sword books.  Like many of the others, instead of rehashing the well known periods, this book addresses a lesser known time between the Punic Wars against Carthage and the last years of the Republic – 140 BC to 100 BC.

Instead of strictly following the tone of the few sources we have for the period and calling this time a period where Rome was unchallenged aside from “internal decay”.  Instead, if you look at the entire picture you have wars in Spain, Macedonia, and then the Near East and south Gaul straining the resources of the country.

Then two new powers added to the strain – Jugurtha the leader of Numidia, once a Roman ally but now a threatening power, and the appearance of the migrating Germanic tribes of the Cimbri and the Teutones.  The initial dealings were disasters for Rome on both fronts – humiliation in Africa as the army was forced under the yoke and in the north having armies crushed at Noreia in 113 outside Italy, and then after the Cimbri marched north of the Alps into Gaul being defeated twice more, most notably at Arausio where two armies were destroyed entirely.

This view of a strained nation being faced with severe pressure forms a better picture why Gaius Marius, who finally defeated and captured Jugurtha, would be called on to be named consul an unprecedented five times in a row in absentia to deal with the Cimbri threat in Gaul and North Italy, and would be acclaimed a ‘founder of Rome’ for defeating that threat.

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