The Italian Wars, 91–83 b.c.

  • M. Cary
  • H. H. Scullard


The stormy opening of the first century b.c. was followed by an interval of calm, or rather of stagnation, in which the senatorial aristocracy let its new lease of power run itself out without any serious attempt to set its house in order. The only notable reform of this period was a resolution passed by the Senate in 97 against human sacrifices, by which it strengthened its hands against a recurrence of popular outcries such as that of 114 (p. 213). While the government was taking its siesta a crisis which had been gathering in the last thirty years came upon it unawares. The demand of the Italian allies for the Roman franchise, which the Senate had eluded but by no means silenced in the days of Fulvius Flaccus and Gaius Gracchus, was raised again in a more menacing tone. In the Jugurthan and Cimbric Wars the allies had contributed their full share to the Roman victories, and the career of Marius, who came from an obscure country town — albeit from one which happened to have been raised to full Roman status — showed once for all that Italians were no less fit to exercise high command than Romans in the narrow sense. In 100 their expectations had been raised by Saturninus’s colonial act (p. 220), and large numbers of Italian stalwarts had flocked to Rome to clamour or to scuffle on behalf of this measure. But Saturninus’s law was allowed to lapse, and those of his followers who stayed on in the capital to continue the campaign of intimidation were condemned under a law brought forward in 95 by the consuls L. Licinius Crassus and Q. Mucius Scaevola, which set up a quaestio on aliens who were claiming to be citizens.


Italian Ally Patrician Family Insurgent Area Human Sacrifice High Command 
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Notes and References

  1. The ancient evidence is contradictory. Livy (Epit. lxxi) says Drusus carried a law to establish mixed courts; Appian (Bell. Civ. i. 35) that he wanted to add 300 Equites to the Senate and entrust the enlarged Senate with the courts; Velleius (ii. 13.2) that he wanted to restore them to the Senate (this is unlikely). Drusus also proposed that all jurors (i.e. including Equites) should be subject to a law against judicial corruption. For full discussion of recent views see E. J. Weinrib, Historia 1970, 414 ff.Google Scholar
  2. On Varius and his quaestio see E. Badian, Historia 1969, 447 ff.Google Scholar
  3. On the grievances and aims of the allies see A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Citizenship, (1973), 134 ff.;Google Scholar
  4. P. A. Brunt, IRS 1965, 90 ff.;Google Scholar
  5. E. T. Salmon, Samnium and the Samnites (1967), ch. 9.;Google Scholar
  6. E. Badian, Dialoghi di Archeologia, iv—v (1970/1) 373 ff.;Google Scholar
  7. D. B. Nagle, American Journal of Archaeology 1973, 367 ff. The struggle is sometimes called the Marsic War (because the Marsi were prominent in it) or the Social War, the ‘war of the allies’. The latter title is misleading because it obscures a vital fact that the rebel allies did not include the more privileged Latin allies, all of whom (with the single exception of Venusia) remained loyal to Rome.Google Scholar
  8. An account of the war by a contemporary writer, Sisenna, is lost. Surviving information from other writers is very scrappy. On the war see E. T. Salmon, Samnium and the Samnites (1967), ch. 10. Some sling-bullets from the siege of Asculum survive, inscribed with such orders as Teri Pompeium’ (‘hit Pompeius Strabo’ — or even designating the precise target, as ‘ventri’).Google Scholar
  9. The lex Plautia-Papiria (Cicero, pro Arch. iv. 7) was probably of much narrower range than is sometimes thought: see A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Citizenship 2 (1973), 137. The only clause known to us dealt with ascripti (a kind of ‘honorary freemen’) who happened to be away from their town when it received citizenship under the lex Julia.Google Scholar
  10. Ten new tribes according to Appian (Bell. Civ. i. 49), eight (new or old?) according to Velleius, ii. 20, while a fragment of Sisenna refers to two new tribes. The details are less important than the agreed result, namely that the voting power of the new citizens was less than that of the old. See L. R. Taylor, Voting Districts of the Roman Republic (1960), ch. 8;Google Scholar
  11. R. G. Lewis, Athenaeum 1968, 273 ff.Google Scholar
  12. On the Asellio incident see E. Badian, Historia 1969, 475 ff., who links with it a lex Plautia iudiciaria under which jurors were chosen in a new way: each tribe elected fifteen of its own members from any class (not only from the Equites) and from these 525 men the jurors of the year were drawn. The nobles were perhaps attempting to win popular support against the Equites.Google Scholar
  13. The adventures of Marius on his flight to Africa are graphically described in Plutarch (Marius, 35–40) and possibly over-dramatised. Cf. T. F. Carney, Greece and Rome 1961, 98 ff. At Minturnae, after lurking in the marshes, Marius was arrested, but with a single glance unnerved a slave sent to dispatch him; the local senate eventually took the risk of setting him free. See further E. Badian, IRS, 1973, 121. In Africa Marius would be nearer his veteran colonists, especially in the isle of Cercina.Google Scholar
  14. The ancient sources which rely on Sulla’s Memoirs scarcely give a true picture of Cinna’s policy. He is conventionally portrayed as supported by the Equites and the new citizens, and in conflict with the oligarchy and Sulla. For a different interpretation see E. Badian, IRS 1962, 47 ff. Hostile sources may refer to the period as dominatio Cinnae, but he seems rather at first to have sought stability, moderation and unity. But Sulla, as he went from victory to victory, would not dance to Cinna’s tune, nor later could Carbo hold together the government in Rome.Google Scholar
  15. On this period see also C. M. Bulst, Historia 1964, 307 ff. 23 In the tradition which went back to Sulla’s own Memoirs (Plutarch, Sulla, 20.1) it was asserted that the army under Flaccus was sent nominally against Mithridates, but in fact against Sulla. This ‘stab in Sulla’s back’ version no doubt was Sulla’s own and seems to be contradicted by the tradition in Memnon (Jacoby, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 434, fr. 24). Cf. Badian,, QRS 1962, 56.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The representatives of the estate of the late M. Cary and H. H. Scullard 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Cary
    • 1
  • H. H. Scullard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LondonUK

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