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The Social War Notes

Classics Notes > Roman History; the Roman Republic from 146 BC to 46 BC Notes

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Consider the Social War of 91-88 BC. How did the earlier activities of Roman politicians contribute to it, and can we see any evolution in allied demands? What were the aims of the Latins and Italians when war broke out?
As a consequence of the social war the Italian allies of Rome were granted the citizenship, but the desire for this integration can be seen much earlier and it is reasonable to suppose that as time passed that this only grew stronger. The allies no doubt felt that they deserved such privileges as the citizenship brought due to their contribution to the empire over an extended period of time. This follows a similar pattern in many empires, for example the American colonies demanded no taxation without representation and India felt they were owed independence by the British after their extensive contributions during the Second World War. This comparison is not exact but illustrates a general feeling of what are essentially subject states for greater equality in an empire which they helped to forge. Appian says that the social war began unexpectedly and quickly became very serious; this, however, does not seem to be the case, the Italian desire for citizenship (or at least greater equality of treatment) can be traced a lot further back than 91-88 BC. Various politicians tried to pass legislation on behalf of Latin and Italian interests, often at great personal cost; the first of these was Gaius Gracchus. It has been proposed that he sought to pass the lex de sociis et nome Latino. This aimed to give full citizenship to the Latins and the other Italian allies to right to vote in a special tribe in Rome; a privilege which the Latins had enjoyed before them. Furthermore under his lex de repetundis he also granted the allies the privilege of citizenship if they brought forward a successful prosecution. This shows that at least as early as 123/122 BC there was enough outside interest in obtaining the citizenship for Gaius to include this clause in his law. However the desire by this time was clearly not strong enough to tempt everyone because of the fact that Fulvius Flaccus offered as an alternative to citizenship under this law the right to protection from the arbitrary punishment by Roman magistrates under the lex de provocation. This option illustrates that some people would want to retain their own citizenship but still enjoy the right of protection, which was only one of its many benefits, and tat there was not an overwhelming desire for absorption as Appian says. It would not be right to say that the actions of Gaius and Flaccus contributed to the Social War directly but it must have built upon the Italian's expectation and desire of greater rights. According to Appian, "Fulvius Flaccus, when consul, was the first to give strong encouragement in a very open way to the Italians to aspire to Roman citizenship, so that they could be partners in empire instead of subjects." Also around this time Rome began to allow Latins to obtain citizenship per magistratum following the revolt at Fregellae in attempt to stop such things happening again; the town's aristocracy would be Romans themselves and therefore they would be unlikely to support revolution. Events were forcing the Romans to gradually loosen their grip on the citizenship

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