Marius' recruitment of volunteers improved the loyalty and sense of belonging
of his legionaries. The troops had chosen the military as their career, and had
not been forced unwillingly to participate. This also resulted in the troops
starting campaigns with high morale, and their full attention on the task at
hand. Furthermore, the settlement of troops onto the land served to create an
incentive for service in the army. The poor would no longer return to a ruined
estate, since they were given new land in compensation. The use of volunteers
and the payment of land to the troops helped to ease the slump in the number of
personnel in the army.
With the length of service set at 16-20 years, the troops felt themselves
less associated with the populus Romani,, and more to the
Imperator (commander). The bond between troops created a certain loyalty
to their leader. This, combined with the fact that the general was responsible
for the payment of his troops, served to redirect the loyalty of the troops from
the Roman state and towards the commander.
With the ironly true loyalty to the immediate commander, the legions, and the
men that commanded them, became powerful players on the Roman political stage
for the rest of its history, -- first by providing the means for the final
destruction of the ailing republic and then assuring that the imperial
succession would always be subject to a military veto, as even a cursory glance
at the history of the Empire shows..