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p1050 Socii

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on pp1050‑1051 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

SO′CII (σύμμαχοι). In the early time, when Rome formed equal alliances with any of the surrounding nations, these nations were called Socii (Liv. II.53). After the dissolution of the Latin league, when the name Latini, or Nomen Latinum, was artificially applied to a great number of Italians, few only of which were real inhabitants of the old Latin towns, and the majority of whom had been made Latins by the will and the law of Rome, there necessarily arose a difference between these Latins and the Socii, and the expression Socii Nomen Latinum is one of the old asyndeta, instead of Socii et Nomen Latinum. The Italian allies again must be distinguished from foreign allies. Of the latter we shall speak hereafter. The Italian allies consisted, for the most part, of such nations as had either been conquered by the Romans, or had come under their dominion by other circumstances. When such nations formed an alliance with Rome, they generally retained their own laws; or if at first they were not allowed this privilege, they afterwards received them back again. The condition of the Italian allies varied, and mainly depended upon the manner in which they had come under the Roman dominion (Liv. VIII.25, IX.20); but in reality they were always dependent upon Rome. Niebuhr (Hist. of Rome, vol. III p616) considers that there were two main conditions of the Socii, analogous or equal to those of the provincials, that is, that they were either foederati or liberi (immunes, Cic. c. Verr. III.6). The former were such as had formed an alliance with Rome, which was sworn to by both parties; the latter were those people to whom the senate had restored their autonomy after they were conquered, such as the Hernican towns (Liv. IX.43). But the condition of each of these classes must again have been modified according to circumstances. The cases in which Rome had an equal alliance with nations or towns of Italy became gradually fewer in number: alliances of this kind existed indeed for a long time with Tibur, Praeneste, Naples, and others (Polyb. VI.14; Liv. XLIII.2; Cic. pro Balb. 8); but these places were, nevertheless, in reality as dependent as the other Socii. It was only a few people, such as the Camertes and Heracleans, that maintained the rights of their equal alliance with Rome down to a very late time (Liv. XXVIII.45; Plut. Mar. 28; Cic. pro Balb. 20, pro Arch. 4). With these few exceptions, most of the Italians were either Socii (in the later sense) or Latini. During the latter period of the republic they had the connubium with Rome (Diodor. Excerpt. Mai, XXXVII.6), but not the suffrage of the Latins. It sometimes happened, as in the case of the Macedonian Onesimus, that a foreign individual was honoured by the senate by being registered among the Italian Socii (in sociorum formulam referre), and in this case the senate provided him with a house and lands in some part of Italy (Liv. XLIV.16).

Although the allies had their own laws, the senate, in cases where it appeared conducive to the general welfare, might command them to submit to any ordinance it might issue, as in the case of the Senatusconsultum de Bacchanalibus (Liv. XXXIX.14). Many regulations also, which were part of the Roman law, especially such as related to usury, sureties, wills, and innumerable other things (Liv. XXXV.7; Gaius, III.121, &c.; Cic. pro Balb. 8), were introduced among the Socii, and nominally received by them voluntarily (Cic. l.c.; Gell. XVI.13, XIX.8). The Romans thus gradually united the Italians with themselves, by introducing their own laws among them; but as they did not grant to them the same civic rights the Socii ultimately demanded them arms in their hands.

Among the duties which the Italian Socii had to perform towards Rome the following are the principal ones: they had to send subsidies in troops, money, corn, ships, and other things, whenever Rome demanded them (Liv. XXVI.39, XXVIII.45, XXXV.16, &c.). The number of troops requisite for completing or increasing the Roman armies was decreed every year by the senate (Liv. passim), and the consuls fixed the amount which each allied nation had to send, in proportion to its population capable of bearing arms, of which each nation was obliged to draw up accurate lists, called formulae. (Liv. XXXIV.56; Polyb. II.23, &c.; Liv. XXII.57, XXVII.10). The consul also appointed the place and time at which the troops of the Socii, each part under its own leader, had to meet him and his legions (Polyb. VI.21, 26; Liv. XXXIV.56, XXXVI.3, XLI.5. The infantry of the allies in a consular army was usually more numerous than that of the Romans; the cavalry was generally three times the number of the Romans (Polyb. III.108, VI.26, 30): but these numerical proportions were not always observed (Polyb. II.24, III.72). The consuls appointed twelve praefects as commanders of the Socii, and their power answered to that of the twelve military tribunes in the consular legions (Polyb. VI.26, 37). These praefects, who were probably taken from the allies themselves, and not from the Romans, selected a third of the cavalry, and a fifth of the infantry of the Socii, who formed a select detachment for extraordinary cases, and who were called the extraordinarii. The remaining body of the Socii was then divided into two parts, called the right and the left wing (Polyb., l.c.; Liv. XXXI.21, XXXV.5). The infantry of the wings was, as usual, divided into cohorts, and the cavalry into turmae. In some cases also legions were formed of the Socii (Liv. XXXVII.39). Pay and clothing were given to the allied troops by the states or towns to which they belonged, and which appointed quaestors or paymasters for this purpose (Polyb. VI.21; Cic. c. Verr. V.24); but Rome furnished them with provisions at the expense of the republic: the infantry received the same as the Roman infantry, but the cavalry only received two-thirds of what was given to the Roman cavalry (Polyb. VI.39; Cic. Pro Balb. 20). In the distribution of the spoil and of conquered lands they frequently received the same share as the Romans (Liv. XL.43, XLI.7, 13, p1051 XLV.43, XLII.4). The Socii were also sometimes sent out as colonists with the Romans (Appian, de Bell. Civ. I.24). They were never allowed to take up arms of their own accord, and disputes among them were settled by the senate. Notwithstanding all this, the socii fell gradually under the arbitrary rule of the senate and the magistrates of Rome; and after the year B.C. 173, it even became customary for magistrates, when they travelled through Italy, to require the authorities of allied towns to pay homage to them, to provide them with a residence, and to furnish them with beasts of burden when they continued their journey (Liv. XLII.1). Gellius (X.3) mentions a number of other vexations, which the Roman magistrates inflicted upon the Socii, who could not venture to seek any redress against them. The only way for the allies to obtain protection against such arbitrary proceedings, was to enter into a kind of clientela with some influential and powerful Roman, as the Samnites were in the clientela of Fabricius Luscinus (Val. Max. IV.3 §6), and the senate, which was at all times regarded as the chief protector the Socii, not only recognised such a relation of clientela between Socii and a Roman citizen, but even referred to such patrons cases for decision which otherwise it might have decided itself (Dionys. II.11; Liv. IX.20; Cic. pro Sull. 21). Socii who revolted against Rome were frequently punished with the loss of their freedom, or of the honour of serving in the Roman armies (Gell. l.c.; Appian, de Bell. Hannib. 61; Strab. V p385, VI. p389; Fest. s.v. Brutiani). Such punishments, however, varied according to circumstances. After repeated and fruitless attempts to obtain the full Roman franchise by legal means, the Italian allies broke out in open war against Rome, the result of which was that she was compelled to grant what she had before obstinately refused.

After the civitas had been obtained by all the Italians by the Lex Julia de Civitate, the relation of the Italian Socii to Rome ceased. But Rome had long before this event applied the name Socii to foreign nations also which were allied with Rome, though the meaning of the word in this case differed from that of the Socii Italici. Livy (XXXIV.57; comp. XXXV.46) distinguishes two principal kinds of alliances with foreign nations: 1. foetus aequum, such as might be concluded within after a war in which neither party had gained a decisive victory, or with a nation with which Rome had never been at war; 2. a foedus iniquum, when a foreign nation conquered by the Romans was obliged to enter the alliance on any terms proposed by the conquerors. In the latter case the foreign nation was subject to Rome, and obliged to comply with anything that Rome might demand. But all foreign Socii, whether they had an equal or unequal alliance, were obliged to send subsidies in troops when Rome demanded them; these troops, however, did not, like those of the Italian Socii, serve in the line, but were employed as light-armed soldiers, and were called milites auxiliares, auxiliarii, auxilia, or sometimes auxilia externa (Polyb. II.32; Liv. XXI.46, &c., XXII.22, XXVII.37, XXXV.11, XLII.29, 35). Towards the end of the republic all the Roman allies, whether they were nations or kings, sank down to the condition of mere subjects or vassals of Rome, whose freedom and independence consisted in nothing but a name. (Walter, Gesch. d. Röm. Rechts, p192, &c.; compare Foederatae Civitates.)


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