Turmoil in the Roman Homeland
Rome grew quickly from a small city-state to an international empire. The government of Rome had been created to rule a small city-state, not an empire that stretched across a thousand miles and included dozens of cultures and languages. Rome struggled to rule and protect this vast territory.
In order to keep the peace, Roman armies were sent to the farthest corners of the kingdom. These armies, along with corrupt government officials took advantage of the people they ruled. They extracted treasure, land, and other forms of wealth from them, creating resentment.
Those farmers who were not enslaved were often put out of business by the wealthy Roman citizens. These Romans who took over the land of conquered people would run their farms using slave labor. Because these slaves did not have to be paid, these farms produced grains that could be sold less expensively than other farmers could.
As small farms went out of business, people began to immigrate into the city of Rome, crowding it with poor, out of work masses. These masses could attend free entertainment shows, and buy inexpensive bread. They voted for leaders who promised them cheaper food, and more free entertainment.
The turmoil caused by increasing poverty and corruption led to a period of uncertainty. Several Roman leaders attempted to reform Rome by ending corruption and providing land to the poor farmers. However, these reformers were murdered by members of the Senate.
In 107 B.C., a general by the name of Gaius Marius was elected as consul. Marius attempted to aid the poor by giving them jobs in the Roman army. He paid them a salary, and promised them land when their terms were completed. Allegiance was for the first time pledged to military leaders instead of to the republic.