== Early life: distinguished soldier and politician ==
Little is known of Marcus Claudius Marcellus’ early years since the majority of biographical information pertains to his military expeditions. The fullest account of Marcellus’ life was written by [[Plutarch]], a Greek biographer in the time of the Roman Empire. Plutarch’s biography, the "Life of Marcellus," in ''Parallel Lives'' focuses on Marcellus’ military campaigns and political life, and largely skips over his earlier life before 225,<ref name=Plutarch>Plutarch "Life of Marcellus", ''The Parallel Lives'', 30 Apr. 2008, 26 Nov. 2008.</ref> although Plutarch supplies some general information about Marcellus’ youth. Marcellus’ exact birth date is unknown, yet scholars are certain he was born prior to 268 BC because he had to be over 42 when elected consul for 222 and he was elected to a fifth (and final) consulship for 208 BC, after he was 60. Marcellus was said by [[Poseidonius]] to have been the first in his family to take on the [[cognomen]] of Marcellus; yet there are genealogical records of his family line tracing the cognomen all the way back to 331 BC.<ref name=Smith>Smith, William, Sir, ed. "M. Claudius M. f. M. n. Marcellus", ''A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology'' (Boston: Little, 1867) 927; Plutarch "The Life of Marcellus", ''The Parallel Lives'', 30 Apr. 2008, 26 Nov. 2008</ref> According to Plutarch, Marcellus was a skilled fighter in his youth and was raised with the purpose of entering military service.<ref name=Plutarch/> Marcellus’ general education may have been lacking. In his youth, Marcellus quickly distinguished himself as an ambitious warrior, known for his skill in hand-to-hand combat. He is noted
As a young man in the Roman army, Marcellus was praised by his superiors for his skill and valor. As a result of his fine service, in 226 BC, he was elected to the position of [[curule aedile]] in the Roman Republic. The position of curule aedile was quite prestigious for a man like Marcellus. An aedile was an overseer of public buildings and festivals and an enforcer of public order. This is generally the first position one might take in seeking a high political career. Around the same time that he became an aedile, Marcellus was also awarded the position of [[augur]], which Plutarch describes as being an interpreter of omens.<ref name=Plutarch/> By about the age of 40, Marcellus had already become an acclaimed soldier and public official. Marcellus’ early career came to a close in 222 BC, at which time he achieved greater historical importance upon his election as consul of the Roman Republic—the highest political office and military position in ancient Rome.