1st Century B.C. Rome Timeline > Marius > Sulla and the Social War
At the start of this period, the Italians were allied by various treaties with Rome and serving in the Roman army, but they lacked the rights of Roman citizens.
Between the Appenine mountain range, which runs down the Italic Peninsula like a backbone, and the Adriatic Sea, on the peninsula's east side, lies a region of Italy that was known as Picenum. Pompeius Strabo, who become consul in 89 and afterwards, proconsul in northern Italy, came from Picenum, as did his more famous son, Pompey the Great.
Asculum, in Picenum is where the Italian allies (socii, in Latin; whence Social War [aka Marsic War or Italian War]) started their revolt against the Romans by killing a praetor and other Romans. As Scullard says, in From the Gracchi to Nero, the Italian allies had wanted equality with the Romans, but if they couldn't have that, they wanted independence.
The allies established their own center of government in the town of Corfinum and had ample veterans to man their armies. During the winter between 91 and 90 B.C. Rome and the allies each prepped for war. The Italians made attempts to settle peacefully, but failed, so in the spring, (Roman) consular armies set out north and south, with Marius a northern legate and Sulla a southern one.
The northern army fared better than the southern one. The Italians added the cities of Apulia and Lucania to their side and then invaded Campania. That winter Etruria and Umbria joined the revolt.
By the end of 90, Rome did what it should have done in the first place and which if it had done, would have averted war. It granted full citizenship rights to all the communities that hadn't revolted or ones that had but would become loyal again. This gesture won them back Etruria and Umbria, but not Central Italy.
In 89, Sulla, no longer simply legate, was given command of the southern army. He won several victories, but concessions were still made to the Italian allies. A law was passed giving citizenship to all Italians who applied for it within 60 days.
The Samnites were hold outs.
Sulla was rewarded with a consulship in 88, and with it command of forces to fight Mithridates of Pontus. His co-consul was Pompeius Rufus.
In 88, the leading tribune was P. Sulpicius Rufus, who supported the Italians and recalled the men who had been exiled for suspected treason in the wake of his murdered friend Drusus. Sulpicius Rufus supported registering all the Italians in all the existing tribes, rather than creating new ones or limiting the newcomers to specific tribes. Tribes had been related to residential area, so this was more than a technical change. When discussions grew more than heated, the consuls seized the opportunity to try to put a stop to the registration of allies.
But the consuls didn't help the situation. Riots came in the wake of their proclamation of a suspension of all business. Sulla had to seek shelter with his rival Marius before leaving Rome to join his troops at Nola. Sulpicius cancelled the proclamation of the suspension of business, passed the troublesome bills as well as another one granting the now-civilian Marius command of the eastern army.
Sulla and his army marched on Rome. They took control, cancelled the laws of Sulpicius and declared Marius and Sulpicius, among others, public enemies. L. Cornelius Cinna and Octavius were elected consuls. They would have to deal with hold-outs in the Social War and registration of the allies in the tribes. Cinna, like Sulpicius before him, thought the allies should be spread among all the tribes, but Octavius, like many others of the senatorial class, thought they should be in a restricted number of tribes. Their argument turned violent. Aftern Cinna left the city, the Senate deposed and named Cinna a public enemy. Cinna appealed to the Italians. Campanian soldiers and many new Roman citizens joined him. So did Marius. Cinna and Marius then led another army into Rome.
The Senate called on Picene-native Pompeius Strabo and his army for help, but he didn't. When Pompeius Strabo died, his men joined Cinna. Nor did general Metellus, recalled from Samnium, help the senators. The thwarted Senate had to recognize Cinna as consul. The decree against Marius was rescinded and Marius entered the city with his troops to take revenge, inaugurating a reign of terror.
Marius was then elected consul for his seventh and final time, with Cinna as co-consul in 86 B.C. Marius died during his consulship, He was replaced by L. Valerius Flaccus as suffect consul.
The Italian and Latin allies were registered in all the Roman tribes -- the voting units. The allies had what they wanted.
- From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome 133 BC to AD 68, by H. H. Scullard