Legal Causes of the Social War in Rome

Williams, Abigail, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Meyer, Elizabeth, Department of History, University of Virginia

The Social War was one of the most influential conflicts in Roman history. Fought between Rome and her Italian allies (socii), the end of the conflict brought about the unification of much of the Italian peninsula. Scholars both ancient and modern have proposed a variety of explanations for the start of the conflict. The socii, I argue, took up arms against their Roman neighbors for the right of conubium, borne out of a preoccupation with inheritance rights. This desire for conubium came primarily from the Italian elite, who were responsible for waging war and commanding the Italian military. First, I consider ius migrationis (the right of moving to Rome and gaining citizenship), then suffragium (the right to vote), then provocatio (freedom from arbitrary punishment), then commercium (the right to contract), and finally conubium (the right to enter a valid Roman marriage). The bulk of this paper focuses on commercium and conubium. I demonstrate how grants of commercium likely would not be as useful to socii than conubium, suggesting concerns over inheritance rights were at the forefront of the minds of elite socii on the eve of the Social War.

MA (Master of Arts)
Rome, Legal History
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