CHAPTER XXIV. INTERNAL HISTORY.-THE SOCIAL WAR (90-88).
At this time there was a bitter rivalry between the Senate and the equestrian order, or commercial class. From the former were chosen the governors of the provinces, from the latter came the tax-gatherers (publicani) and the money-brokers (negotiatores). It will help us to understand better the condition of affairs, if we study the composition of the Senate and the Equites.
The Senators, three hundred in number (later their number was increased to six hundred), held their office for life. When vacancies occurred from death, or occasionally from removal, they were filled by the Censor, [Footnote: See the duties of Censor] who appointed a person that had held one of the following offices: Dictator, Consul, Praetor, Curule Aedile, or, after the time of Sulla, Quaestor. All persons who had held these offices, or that of Tribune, were allowed to join in debate in the Senate, but not to vote. No Senator could engage in business. Hence he must be wealthy.
We saw in Chapter IV. that Roman citizens were divided into six classes according to their property, and that these classes were subdivided into one hundred and ninety-three other classes called centuries. About 225, the number was increased to three hundred and seventy-three. Eighteen of the centuries of the first class were called EQUITES, and must have property worth twenty thousand dollars or more. This name was given to them because at first they served in the army as horsemen, though in later times the cavalry was composed only of allied troops. The Equites were originally from the aristocracy alone, but, as the plebeians increased in wealth, many of them became rich enough to be included in this class.
There was no hostility between the Senate and the Equites until, in 123, Gaius Gracchus passed the Lex Judicaria, which prescribed that the jurors (judices) should be chosen from the Equites, and not the Senate. From this time dates the struggle between the two classes, and the breach widened every year. On the one side were the nobles, represented by the Senate; on the other side, the equestrian order. Since the jurors were chosen from the latter, it had control of the courts, and often made an unscrupulous use of its power, especially in those courts which were established to try governors for extortion in the management of provinces (quaestiones rerum repetundarum). From the Equites, too, were taken the tax-gatherers of the provinces. They pillaged and robbed the people at will, and, if a governor had the courage to interfere with them, a threat of prosecution was held over his head. The average governor preferred to connive at their exactions; the bolder ones paid with fines or exiles for their courage. Another trouble was threatening the commonwealth. The Italian allies of Rome did not possess the franchise belonging to a Roman citizen. For nearly two centuries they had shared dangers and victories with the Romans; they now eagerly demanded all their privileges.
In 91, MARCUS LIVIUS DRUSUS, the Tribune, took up the task of reform. He was noble, wealthy, and popular, and he hoped to settle the question peacefully and equitably. But his attempt to reform the courts displeased the Equites, his agrarian and corn laws made him many enemies, and his attempt to admit the Italians to the rights of Roman citizenship aroused great opposition.
His laws were passed, but the Senate pronounced them null and void. He was denounced in that body as a traitor, and was struck down by an assassin in the same year.
The death of Drusus drove the Italians to despair. Eight nations entered into a close alliance, chose CORFINIUM, in the Pelignian Apennines, as their capital, and formed a Federal Republic, to which they gave the name ITALIA. All Italians were to be citizens of Corfinium, and here was to be the place of assembly and the Senate-House.
Rome, in the face of this danger, acted promptly and with resolution. The Consuls, Lucius Julius Caesar and Publius Rutilius Lupus, both took the field; with each were five lieutenants, among whom were Marius and Sulla.
This war (90-88), called the SOCIAL WAR, i.e. the war with the allies (Socii), was at first disastrous to Rome. The allies overran Campania, defeated the Romans several times, and entered into negotiations with the Northern Italians, whose fidelity began to waver.
It is not strange, therefore, that opinions at Rome began to be turned in the direction of a more liberal policy. It was decided to make concessions. Towards the close of the year 90, the Consul Caesar carried the JULIAN LAW, by which the Roman franchise was extended to all who had not yet revolted. The next year this law was supplemented by the PLAUTIAN PAPIRIAN LAW, which allowed every citizen of an Italian town the franchise, if he handed in his name to the Praetor at Rome within sixty days. About the same time was passed another law, the CALPURNIAN, which permitted Roman magistrates in the field to bestow the franchise on all who wished it. These laws resulted in disorganizing the rebellion. The Samnites and Lucanians held out the longest, but were finally put down by Marius.
The end of the Social War brought no peace at Rome. The newly enfranchised Italians were not fully satisfied. The Senate was torn asunder by violent personal rivalries. There was no class not affected by the wide-spread tightness in the money market. The treasury was empty, and many capitalists became insolvent. War with Mithradátes, King of Pontus, had been declared, and both Marius and Sulla were eager to have the command.
At this time (88) the TRIBUNE PUBLIUS SULPICIUS RUFUS brought forward the following bills: -