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The Social War – Italian War (91-88 BC)

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The Social war was the uprising of the Italian tribes against Rome and the military actions that followed in the territory of Italy in the period 91-88 BC. The reason for the conflict was the refusal of the Roman Senate to grant the Roman citizenship to the Italian allies. Italics, who formed with Rome an amorphous federation of policies with different rights and duties of each participant, were also unhappy that a significant number of soldiers for the numerous wars of Rome were recruited precisely in their lands. In addition, Italics were not allowed to participate in the processing of public land divide among the Roman citizens.

The course of the war

The Italians decided to act imperceptibly and began to secretly prepare for war. In accordance with the original plan, Italians wanted to sacrifice on the Alban mountain during one of the Latin holidays both consuls of the Roman Republic, 91 years – Lucius Marcius Philippe and Sextus Julius Caesar, but this idea failed, after which the Italians began to prepare to an open revolt.

Romans learned about the major preparations of Italians and sent their men to many cities to find out the circumstances of this revolt. In Ausculem, the Romans were able to obtain valuable information about the preparations, but the inhabitants of Ausculum organized a mass slaughter of all Romans in the city. After this, the Italians attempted to reach an agreement with the Romans for civil rights for the last time, but when this failed, they began to openly prepare for war.

The Italians proclaimed the creation of their alliance, called “Italy,” with centers in the cities of Corfini and Bovian. At the head of the union was the Council of Five Hundred. The rebels minted a silver coin with a symbolic image of a bull trampling a Roman wolf. Each tribe exhibited its own army, the total number of which in the year 90 BC reached 200 thousand men, exceeding the strength of the Roman army.

The lower layers of the Roman colonists, provincials, joined the rebels. However, a significant number of Latin colonies remained faithful to Rome, which seriously complicated the position of Italians, as the Latin colonies were scattered all over Italy. The predominantly central and southern regions of Italy, inhabited by Italians, rose, while most of the Etruscans and Umbrians did not support the insurgents.

The first stage of military operations

The Romans reacted immediately and began to prepare their own troops. Most of the Roman army concentrated near Rome, as it was still unknown, from which sides they will be attacked by Italics.

Italics defeated a 10 thousand detachment of one of the legates of the second consul Publius Rutilia Lupa. The remnants of the detachment went to Gaius Maria. Senate made a decision according to which the burying of those killed in the war was supposed to be at the place of death so that the funeral in Rome would not reduce the morale of its inhabitants.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla broke a large detachment of the Mars tribe, who, despite their scarcity, were considered the most skillful warriors among Italics. At about the same time, Gnaeus Pompey Strabo with large forces approached one of the strongholds of Italics.

The concessions of the Romans

Under the circumstances, the Romans made the first concession: the law of Lucius Julius Caesar, 90 BC (lex Iulia), the Romans granted the rights of Roman citizenship to the tribes who did not take part in this war (that is, the Etruscans and Umbras); this caused fluctuations in the ranks of the rebels, but the Mars, Samnites, and Picens continued to fiercely fight. The Romans were forced to make a new concession – to grant citizenship rights to Italians if they lay down their arms within 60 days (lex Plautia Papiria), and also grant the rights of the Latin citizenship of Cisalpine Gaul. This undermined and split the forces of the insurgents.

The final stage of hostilities

After the Romans succeeded in splitting the Italians, Rome’s victory became inevitable. Already at the beginning of the year 89 the second of the Roman consuls was killed by the Mars tribe, Lucius Portia Cato. The first consul was able to prevent the army of Italians from penetrating into the faithful lands of Rome.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla was defeated by Cluentia in Campania, but a few days later, in the retaliatory battle and then during the pursuit of the retreating army near Nola, almost all the troops of Cluentia were destroyed. Also during the fighting in the Campaign, Sulla took Pompeii. Then he entered Samniy, and a few more cities, including the new capital of Italians. Gnaeus Pompeii Strabo, having successfully carried out campaigns in the lands of Mars, Marcuts and Vedins, led them to peace. In the summer of 88 BC, the resistance of the Italians was finally broken.

Results of the war

The Romans granted citizenship rights to all Italians, but attributed them only to 8 new tribes, and not to all 35, which did not give them virtually any socio-political influence. Subsequently, this circumstance was used by Publius Sulpicius Rufus to create a mass support of personal power for Guy Maria. In addition, Italics took an active part in the Civil War of 83-82 BC on the side of the Marians against Sulla. In addition, all the Italian communities have practically turned into Roman municipalities. Thus, Rome lost its exceptional position in Italy and became primus inter pares – the first among equals.

In general, the Allied war undermined the Roman political organization, included Italics in the administration of the Roman state, accelerated the processes of romanization in Italy and the formation of the Italian people. Taking advantage of the weakening of Rome during the war, the Pontus king Mithridates VI Evpator launched an offensive against the kingdoms dependent on Rome, which was the reason for the outbreak of the First Mithridates war.

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