The earliest records of Africans in the British Isles are Roman soldiers from the African provinces serving in Britannia in the 100s and 200s CE. Some soldiers and their descendents probably stayed after the Roman withdrawal. The next evidence of Africans on the islands are from the 800s when Viking fleets raided North Africa and Spain, captured what we would today consider blacks, and took them to Britain and Ireland as slaves or servants.
The ‘new man’ Gaius Marius, leader of the populares, held the consulship six times between 107 and 100 B.C. During that period he managed to keep the domestic peace, but his principal contributions were military. He launched successful campaigns in Africa against King Jugurtha of Numidia and with the Germanic tribes threatening invasion in Europe. In the course of these operations, Marius changed the character of the military. By allowing all citizens to enlist and furnishing them with weapons, the Army became an organization of professionals and eventually gave more allegiance to their generals than the Republic.
Unfortunately Marius could not control all of his supporters and the 90’s saw his political fortunes slip. A bloody Social War in 91 B.C., saw Marius return to action only to be hampered by his 2nd stroke. During this time antagonisms between Marius’ own populares and the optimates flared up, fanned partly by the rivalry between Marius and a former legate of his Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
Elected consul in 88 B.C., Sulla had barely taken office when Marius transferred an Army command from Sulla to himself. At the time, Sulla was preparing to leave for the East and his war with the King of Pontus, but the furious Sulla instead turned his army on Rome -the first time any commander had done so. Marius fled to Africa and Sulla took the city almost without resistance. After restoring order Sulla departed for the East and his brutal war with Mithridates.
During Sulla’s absence from Rome, Marius had returned from Africa, seized Rome, and was named consul for a 7th time. Murdering many of Sulla’s friends and causing terror throughout Rome, the once great Marius -the 3rd founder of Rome- was now completely insane. However, Marius died shortly after his return to Rome, and when Sulla returned he took revenge on Marius’ followers.
In 83 B.C., Sulla declared all of his opponents enemies of the state and had them executed. In one instance he ordered 6,000 of them killed at once and their property to be seized. According to Plutarch, the killing was carried out within the Senate’s hearing. For the remainder of Sulla’s political career he was absolute dictator before retiring in 79 B.C. to spend his last years as a voluptuary.