previous next


Origin of the Social War--Measures of Livius Drusus--Murder of Drusus -- Continued Seditions -- Revolt of the Italians -- The Social War--Leaders on Either Side--Various Battles--The Consul Rutilius killed

[34] While they were thus occupied the so-called Social War, in which many Italian peoples were engaged, broke out. It began unexpectedly, grew to great proportions rapidly, and extinguished the Roman seditions for a long time by a new terror. When it was ended it gave rise to new seditions under more powerful leaders, who did not work by introducing new laws, or by playing the demagogue, but by employing whole armies against each other. I have treated it in this history because it had its origin in a Roman sedition and resulted in another one much worse.
Y.R. 629
It began in this way. Fulvius Flaccus in his consulship
B.C. 125
first openly excited among the Italians the desire for Roman citizenship, so as to be partners in the hegemony instead of subjects. When he introduced this idea and strenuously persisted in it, the Senate, for that reason, sent him away to take command in a war, in the course of which his consulship expired, but he obtained the tribuneship after that and managed to have the younger Gracchus for a colleague, with whose coöperation he brought forward other measures in favor of the Italians. When they were both killed, as I have previously related, the Italians were still more excited. They could not bear to be considered subjects instead of equals, or to think that Flaccus and Gracchus should suffer such calamities while working for their political advantage.
Y.R. 663

[35] After them the tribune Livius Drusus, a man of most

B.C. 91
illustrious birth, promised the Italians, at their urgent request, that he would bring forward a new law to give them citizenship. They desired this especially because by that one step they would become rulers instead of subjects. In order to conciliate the plebeians to this measure he led out to Italy and Sicily several colonies which had been voted some time before, but not yet planted. He endeavored to bring to an agreement the Senate and the equestrian order, who were then in sharp antagonism to each other, in reference to the law courts. As he was not able to restore the courts to the Senate openly, he tried the following artifice on both of them. As the senators had been reduced by the seditions to scarcely 300 in number, he brought forward a law that an equal number should be added to their enrolment from the knights, to be chosen according to merit, and that the law courts should be made up from all of these hereafter. He provided in the law that they should make investigations about bribery, as accusations of that kind were almost unknown, since the custom of bribe-taking prevailed without restraint. This was the plan that he contrived for both of them, but it turned out contrary to his expectations, for the senators were indignant that so large a number should be added to their enrolment at one time and be transferred from knighthood to the highest rank. They thought it not unlikely that they would form a faction in the Senate by themselves and contend against the old senators more powerfully than ever. The knights, on the other hand, suspected that, by this doctoring, the courts of justice would be transferred from their order to the Senate exclusively. Having acquired a relish for the great gains and power of the judicial office, this suspicion disturbed them. Most of them fell into doubt and distrust toward each other, discussing which ones seemed more worthy than others to be enrolled among the 300; and envy against their betters filled the breasts of the remainder. Above all were they angry at the revival of the charge of bribery, which they thought had been ere this entirely suppressed, so far as they were concerned.

[36] Thus it came to pass that both the Senate and the knights, although opposed to each other, were united in hating Drusus. Only the plebeians were gratified with the colonies. The Italians, in whose interest chiefly Drusus was devising these plans, were apprehensive about the law providing for the colonies, because they thought that the Roman public domain (which was still undivided and which they were cultivating, some by force and others clandestinely) would be taken away from them, and that in many cases they might even be disturbed in their private holdings. The Etruscans and the Umbrians had the same fears as the Italians,1 and when they were summoned to the city, as it was thought, by the consuls, ostensibly for the purpose of complaining against the law of Drusus, but actually, as is believed, for the purpose of killing him, they cried down the law publicly and waited for the day of the comitia. Drusus learned of the plot against him and did not go out frequently, but transacted business from day to day in the atrium of his house, which was poorly lighted. One evening as he was sending the crowd away he exclaimed suddenly that he was wounded, and fell down while uttering the words. A shoemaker's knife was found thrust into his hip.

[37] Thus was Drusus also slain while serving as tribune. The knights, in order to make his policy a ground of accusation against their enemies, persuaded the tribune Quintus Varius to bring forward a law to prosecute those who should, either openly or secretly, aid the Italians to acquire citizenship. They hoped to bring all the leaders under malicious indictment, and themselves to sit in judgment on them, and that when their enemies were out of the way they should be more powerful than ever in the government of Rome. When the other tribunes interposed their veto the knights surrounded them with drawn daggers and enacted the measure, whereupon accusers at once brought actions against the most illustrious of the senators. Of these Bestia did not respond, but went into exile voluntarily rather than surrender himself into the hands of his enemies. After him Cotta went before the court, made a brilliant defence of his administration of public affairs, and openly reviled the knights. He, too, departed from the city before the vote of the judges was taken. Mummius, the one who had conquered Greece, was basely ensnared by the knights, who promised to acquit him, but condemned him to banishment. He passed the remainder of his life at Delos.

[38] As this wickedness prevailed more and more against the best citizens, the people were grieved because they were deprived all at once of so many men who had rendered such great services. When the Italians learned of the killing of Drusus and of the reason alleged for banishing the others, they considered it no longer bearable that those who were laboring for their political advancement should suffer such outrages, and as they saw no other means of acquiring citizenship they decided to revolt from the Romans altogether, and to make war against them with all their might. They sent envoys to each other secretly, formed a league, and exchanged hostages as a pledge of good faith. The Romans were in ignorance of these facts for a long time, being preoccupied by the judicial proceedings and the seditions in the city. When they heard what was going on they sent men around to the towns, choosing those who were best acquainted with each, to collect information quietly. One of these saw a young man who was being taken as a hostage from the town of Asculum to another town, and informed Servilius, the proconsul in those parts. (It appears that there were proconsuls at that time governing the various parts of Italy; Hadrian revived the custom a long time afterward when he held the supreme power, but it did not long survive him.) Servilius hastened to Asculum and indulged in very menacing language to the people, who were celebrating a festival, and they put him to death, supposing that the plot was discovered. They also killed Fonteius, his legate (for so they call those of the senatorial order who accompany the governors of provinces as assistants). After these were slain none of the other Romans in Asculum were spared. The inhabitants fell upon them, slaughtered them all, and plundered their goods.

Y.R. 664

[39] When the revolt broke out all the neighboring peoples showed their preparedness at the same time, the Marsi, the Peligni, the Vestini, the Marrucini; and after them the Picentines, the Frentani, the Hirpini, the Pompeiians, the Venusini, the Apulians, the Lucanians, and

B.C. 90
the Samnites, all of whom had been hostile to the Romans before; also all the rest extending from the river Liris (which is now, I think, the Liternus) to the extremity of the Adriatic gulf, both inland and sea-coast. They sent ambassadors to Rome to complain that although they had coöperated in all ways with the Romans in building up the empire, the latter had not been willing to admit their helpers to citizenship. The Senate answered sternly that if they repented of what they had done they could send ambassadors, otherwise not. The Italians, in despair of any other remedy, went on with their preparations for war. Besides the soldiers which were kept for guards at each town, they had forces in common amounting to about 100,000 foot and horse. The Romans sent an equal force against them, made up of their own citizens and of the Italian peoples who were still in alliance with them.

[40] The Romans were led by the consuls Sextus Julius Cæsar and Publius Rutilius Lupus, for in this great civil war both consuls marched forth at once, leaving the gates and walls in charge of others, as was customary in cases of danger arising at home or very near by. When the war was found to be complicated and many-sided, they sent their most renowned men as lieutenant-generals to aid the consuls: to Rutilius, Gnæus Pompeius, the father of Pompey the Great, Quintus Cæpio, Gaius Perpenna, Gaius Marius, and Valerius Messala; to Sextus Cæsar, Publius Lentulus, a brother of Cæsar himself, Titus Didius, Licinius Crassus, Cornelius Sulla, and Marcellus. All these served under the consuls and the country was divided among them. The consuls visited all parts of the field of operations, and the Romans sent them additional forces continually, knowing that it was a great conflict. The Italians had generals for their united forces besides those of the separate towns. The chief commanders were Titus Lafrenius, Gaius Pontilius, Marius Egnatius, Quintus Pompædius, Gaius Papius, Marcus Lamponius, Gaius Judacilius, Herius Asinius, and Vettius Cato. They divided their army in equal parts, took their positions against the Roman generals, performed many notable exploits, and suffered many disasters. The most memorable events of each class I shall here summarize.

[41] Vettius Cato defeated Sextus Julius, killed 2000 of his men, and marched against Æsernia, which adhered to Rome. L. Scipio and L. Acilius, who were in command here, escaped in the disguise of slaves. The enemy, after a considerable time, reduced it by famine. Marius Egnatius captured Venafrum by treachery and slew two Roman cohorts there. Publius Presenteius defeated Perpenna, who had 10,000 men under his command, killed 4000 and captured the arms of the greater part of the others, for which reason the consul Rutilius deprived Perpenna of his command and gave his division of the army to Gaius Marius. Marcus Lamponius destroyed some 800 of the forces under Licinius Crassus and drove the remainder into the town of Grumentum.

[42] Gaius Papius captured Nola by treachery and offered to the 2000 Roman soldiers in it the privilege of serving under him if they would change their allegiance. They did so, but as their officers refused the proposal the latter were taken prisoners and starved to death by Papius. In conjunction with Stabias he captured Minturnæ, and Salernum, which was a Roman colony. The prisoners and the slaves from these places were taken into the military service. Then he plundered the entire country around Nuceria. The towns in the vicinity were struck with terror and submitted to him, and when he demanded military assistance they furnished him about 10,000 foot and 1000 horse. With these Papius laid siege to Acerræ. Sextus Cæsar, with 10,000 Gallic foot and certain Numidian and Mauretanian horse and foot, advanced toward Acerræ. Papius took a son of Jugurtha, formerly king of Numidia, named Oxynta, who was under charge of a Roman guard at Venusia, led him out of that place, clothed him in royal purple, and showed him frequently to the Numidians who were in Cæsar's army. Many of them deserted, as if to their own king, so that Cæsar was obliged to send the rest back to Africa, as they were not trustworthy. Papius attacked him rashly, and had already made a breach in his fortified camp when Cæsar debouched with his horse through the other gates and slew about 6000 of his men, after which Cæsar withdrew from Acerræ. Canusia and Venusia and many other towns in Apulia sided with Judacilius. Some that did not submit he besieged, and he put to death the principal Roman citizens in them, but the common people and the slaves he enrolled in his army.

[43] The consul Rutilius and Gaius Marius built bridges over the river Liris at no great distance from each other. Vettius Cato pitched his camp opposite them, but nearer to the bridge of Marius, and placed an ambush by night in some ravines around the bridge of Rutilius. Early in the morning, after he had allowed Rutilius to cross the bridge, he started up from ambush and killed a large number of the enemy on the dry land and drove many into the river. In this fight Rutilius himself was wounded in the head by a missile and died soon afterward. Marius was on the other bridge and when he guessed, from the bodies floating down stream, what had happened, he pushed away those in his front, crossed the river, and captured the camp of Cato, which was guarded by only a small force, so that Cato was obliged to spend the night where he had won his victory, and to retreat in the morning for want of provisions. The body of Rutilius and those of many other patricians were brought to Rome for burial. The corpses of the consul and his numerous comrades made a piteous spectacle and the mourning lasted many days. The Senate decreed from this time on that those who were killed in war should be buried where they fell, lest others should be deterred by the spectacle from entering the army. When the enemy heard of this they made a similar decree for themselves.

1 Until the end of the third century B.C. the word "Italy" applied only to that part of the peninsula south of Etruria and Umbria.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (L. Mendelssohn, 1879)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Italy (Italy) (3)
Asculum (Italy) (3)
Rome (Italy) (2)
Umbria (Italy) (1)
Sicily (Italy) (1)
Greece (Greece) (1)
Delos (Greece) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
91 BC (1)
90 BC (1)
125 BC (1)
hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: