Anecdotal history and the Social War *
The Social War (91–88) remains one of the least understood episodes in the military history of the Republic. The evidence we have is insufficient, not because of its quantity, but by its nature: often contradictory, anecdotal, fragmented, and obscured by the violence and uncertainty that defined the 60 years that followed its conclusion. Approaching this anecdotal evidence as carefully preserved – and often deliberately isolated – morality tales, or passing references that range from the calculated to the casual, rather than as raw material for narrative reconstruction, offers a new perspective on the war’s legacy. Three case studies are discussed: the first, a pair of stories set at the Italian town of Pinna; the second compares the literary record of two towns, Aesernia and Grumentum, which both experienced sieges; and the third highlights anecdotes concerning two of the individuals whose names we know from the war, Vettius Scato and P. Ventidius Bassus. Together, this collection of fragments, anecdotes, and side comments allows us to approach the war as later Romans remembered it: a conflict of surprising, and surpassing, magnitude.