Social War

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Social War


Marsic War

[Lat. socii=allies], 91B.C.–88 B.C., struggle brought on by demands of the Italian allies for the privileges of Roman citizenship. The allies had fought on the side of Rome and had helped establish Roman hegemony, but they did not have the rights of the Romans. Most Romans were greatly averse to sharing the citizenship, but Marcus Livius Drusus in 91 B.C. proposed laws granting it to the allies. He was murdered, and a coalition of the allies, chief among them the Marsi, arose in desperation, waged war against Rome, and planned an Italian federation. Led by Quintus Pompaedius Silo and Caius Papius Mutilus, they gained some success but could not overcome the power of Rome. The revolt died down only after Lucius Julius Caesar secured passage of a law (90 B.C.) granting citizenship to allies who had not joined the revolt and to those who laid down their arms immediately. The allies were divided, and the revolt ceased. Citizenship was soon given to all of them.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Social War


(also War of the Allies; sometimes called the Marsic or Marsian War because of the participation of the Marsi tribe), an anti-Roman uprising of Italian tribes from 90 B.C. (or 91 B.C.) to 88 B.C.

The Social War began when the Roman Senate refused to grant citizenship to socii in Italy. The alliance of socii, called Italia by its members, was centered in the cities of Corfinium and Bovianum Vetus and headed by a council of 500. The rebels minted a silver coin with a symbolic representation of a bull trampling the Roman she-wolf. Each tribe supplied an army; the total strength of the forces reached 200,000 men in 90 B.C., exceeding the numbers of the Roman army. The rebels were joined by the lowest strata of Roman colonists, the provincials.

Under these conditions, the Romans made the first concession: in accordance with Lucius Caesar’s Lex Julia of 90 B.C., Roman citizenship was granted to the tribes who had not taken part in the Social War—in effect, the Etruscans and Umbrians. This caused vacillation in the ranks of the insurgents; however, the Marsi, Samnites, and Picenes continued to fight bitterly. The Romans were forced to make a further concession: the granting of Latin citizenship to Cisalpine Gaul, and the granting of citizenship to the Italians if they would lay down their arms within 60 days. This undermined and divided the rebel forces, which led to their defeat at Campania, Samnium, and Apulia. In the summer of 88 B.C., Italian resistance was overcome. The Romans granted citizenship to all Italians but restricted the new citizens to eight (or ten) of the 35 tribes, thus eliminating the sociopolitical influence of the Italians. All the Italian communities became Roman municipia.

The Social War undermined the Roman polis organization and hastened the latinization of Italy and the formation of the Italian nationality.


Nechai, F. M. Rim i italiki. Minsk, 1963.
Gohler, J. Rom und Italien. Breslau, 1939.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.