CHAPTER VIII. THE SOCIAL WAR

In a previous chapter the relations now existing between Rome and her dependents have been described. For two centuries the Italians had remained faithful to Rome through repeated temptations, and even through the fiery trial of Hannibal's victorious occupation. But the loyalty, which no external or sudden shock could snap, had been slowly eaten away by corrosives, which the arrogance or negligence of the government supplied. [Interests of Italian capitalists and Italian farmers opposed.] It is clear from the episode of Drusus that there was as wide a breach between Italian capitalists and cultivators, as there had been between Roman occupiers and the first clamourers for agrarian laws. So, at the outbreak of the war, Umbria and Etruria, whence Philippus had summoned his supporters, because the farmer class had been annihilated and large land-owners held the soil, remained faithful to Rome. But where the farmer class still flourished, as among the Marsi, Marrucini, and the adjacent districts, discontent had been gathering volume for many years. No doubt the demoralisation of the metropolis contributed to this result; and, as intercourse with Rome became more and more common, familiarity with the vices of their masters would breed indignation in the minds of the hardier dependents. Who, they would ask themselves, were these Scauri, these Philippi, men fit only to murder patriots and sell their country and themselves for gold, that they should lord it over Italians? Why should a Roman soldier have the right of appeal to a civil tribunal, and an Italian soldier be at the mercy of martial law? Why should two Italians for every one Roman be forced to fight Rome's battles? Why should insolent young Romans and the fine ladies of the metropolis insult Italian magistrates and murder Italians of humbler rank? This was the reward of their long fidelity. If here and there a statesman was willing to yield them the franchise, the flower of the aristocracy, the Scaevolae and the Crassi, expelled them by an Alien Act from Rome. They had tried all parties, and by all been disappointed, for Roman factions were united on one point, and one only - in obstinate refusal to give Italians justice. The two glorious brothers had been slain because they pitied their wrongs. So had Scipio. So had the fearless Saturninus. And now their last friend, this second Scipio, Drusus, had been struck down by the same cowardly hands. Surely it was time to act for themselves and avenge their benefactors. They were more numerous, they were hardier than their tyrants; and if not so well organized, still by their union with Drusus they were in some sort welded together, and now or never was the time to strike. For the friends of Drusus were marked men. Let them remain passive, and either individual Italians would perish by the dagger which had slain Drusus, or individual communities by the sentence of the Senate which had exterminated Fregellae.

[Outbreak of the Social War.] The revolt broke out at Asculum. Various towns were exchanging hostages to secure mutual fidelity. Caius Servilius, the Roman praetor, hearing that this was going on at Asculum, went there and sharply censured the people in the theatre. He and his escort were torn to pieces, the gates were shut, every Roman in the town was slain, and the Marsi, Peligni, Marrucini, Frentani, Vestini, Picentini, Hirpini, the people of Pompeii and Venusia, the Iapyges, the Lucani, and the Samnites, and all the people from the Liris to the Adriatic, flew to arms; [The allies who remained faithful to Rome.] and though here and there a town like Pinna of the Vestini, or a partisan like Minutius Magius of Aeclanum, remained loyal to Rome, all the centre and south of Italy was soon in insurrection. Perhaps at Pinna the large land-owners or capitalists were supreme, as in Umbria and Etruria, which sided with Rome, as also did most of the Latin towns, the Greek towns Neapolis and Rhegium, and most of Campania, where Capua became an important Roman post during the war. [The rebels demand the franchise.] The insurgents, emboldened by the swift spread of the rebellion, sent to demand the franchise as the price of submission. But the old dogged spirit which extremity of danger had ever aroused at Rome was not dead. [Sidenote: Rage of the equites. The law of Varius.] The offer was sternly rejected, and the equites turned furiously on the optimates, or the Italianising section of the optimates, to whose folly they felt that the war was due. With war the hope of their gains was gone; and, enraged at this, they took advantage of the outbreak to repay the Senate for its complicity in the attempt of Drusus to deprive them of the judicia. Under a law of Varius, who is said by Cicero to have been the assassin of Drusus and Metellus, Italian sympathisers were brought to trial, and either convicted and banished, or overawed into silence. Among the accused was Scaurus. But now, as ever, that shifty man emerged triumphant from his intrigues. He aped the defence of Scipio, and retired not only safe, but with a dignity so well studied that but for his antecedents it might have seemed sincere. A Spaniard accused him, he said, and Scaurus, chief of the Senate, denied the accusation. Whether of the twain should the Romans believe?