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Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (Latin: L•CORNELIVS•L•F•P•N•SVLLA•FELIX) (c. 138 BC – 78 BC), or simply Sulla, was a Roman general and politician, holding the office of consul twice as well as the dictatorship.

Sulla's dictatorship came during a high point in the struggle between optimates and populares, the former seeking to maintain the power of the oligarchy in the form of the Senate while the latter resorted in many cases to naked populism, culminating in Caesar's dictatorship. Sulla was a gifted and effective general. His rival, Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, described Sulla as having the cunning of a fox and the courage of a lion - but that it was the former attribute that was by far the most dangerous. This mixture was later referred to by Machiavelli in his description of the ideal characteristics of a ruler.

Sulla used his armies to march on Rome twice, and after the second he revived the office of dictator, which had not been used since the Second Punic War over a century before. He used his powers to enact a series of reforms to the Roman constitution, meant to restore the balance of power between the Senate and the Tribunes.

Early years

Sulla was born into a branch of the patrician gens Cornelia, but his family had fallen to an impoverished condition at the time of his birth. Lacking ready money, Sulla spent his youth amongst Rome’s comics, actors, lute-players, and dancers. Sulla retained an attachment to the debauched nature of his youth until the end of his life, Plutarch mentioning that during his last marriage – to Valeria – he still kept company with "actresses, musicians, and dancers, drinking with them on couches night and day".

It seems certain that Sulla received a good education. Sallust declares him well-read and intelligent, and he was fluent in Greek, which was a sign of education in Rome. The means by which Sulla attained the fortune which later would enable him to ascend the ladder of Roman politics, the Cursus honorum, are not clear, although Plutarch refers to two inheritances; one from his stepmother and the other from a low-born, but rich, unmarried lady.

In older sources, his name may be found as Sylla. This is a Hellenism, like sylva for classical Latin silva, reinforced by the fact that our two major sources, Plutarch and Appian, wrote in Greek, and call him Σύλλα.

Capture of Jugurtha

In 107 BC, Sulla was nominated quaestor to Gaius Marius, who had been elected consul for that year. Marius was taking control of the Roman army in the war against King Jugurtha of Numidia in northern Africa

The Jugurthine War had started in 112 BC, but Roman legions under Quintus Caecilius Metellus had been unsuccessful. Gaius Marius, a lieutenant of Metellus, saw an opportunity to usurp his commander and fed rumors of incompetence and delay to the publicani (tax gatherers) in the region. These machinations caused calls for Metellus's removal; despite delaying tactics by Metellus, Marius returned to Rome to stand for the consulship and took over the campaign.

Sulla Capturing Jugurtha
Under Marius, the Roman forces followed a very similar plan as under Metellus and ultimately defeated the Numidians in 106 BC, thanks in large part to Sulla's initiative in capturing the Numidian king. He had persuaded King Bocchus of Mauretania, a nearby kingdom, to betray Jugurtha, who had fled to Mauretania for refuge. It was a dangerous operation from the first, with King Bocchus weighing up the advantages of handing Jugurtha over to Sulla or Sulla over to Jugurtha. The publicity attracted by this feat boosted Sulla's political career. Much to the annoyance of Marius, a gilded equestrian statue of Sulla donated by King Bocchus was erected in the Forum to commemorate his accomplishment.

Cimbri and the Teutones

The migrations of Cimbri and Teutones.
In 104 BC the migrating Germanic-Celtic alliance headed by the Cimbri and the Teutones seemed headed for Italy. As Marius was the best general Rome had, the Senate allowed him to mount a campaign against them. Sulla served on Marius' staff as tribunus militum during the first half of this campaign. Finally, with those of his colleague, proconsul Quintus Lutatius Catulus, Marius' forces faced the enemy tribes at the Battle of Vercellae in 101 BC. Sulla had by this time transferred to the army of Catulus to serve as his legatus, and is credited as being the prime mover in the defeat of the tribes (Catulus being a hopeless general and quite incapable of cooperating with Marius). Victorious at Vercellae, Marius and Catulus were both granted triumphs as the co-commanding generals.

Cilician governorship

Returning to Rome, Sulla was elected Praetor urbanus in 97 BC. The next year he was appointed pro consule to the province of Cilicia (in Anatoliamarker). While in the East, Sulla was the first Roman magistrate to meet a Parthian ambassador, Orobazus, and by taking the seat between the Parthian ambassador and the ambassador from Pontus (the center seat being the place of honour), he sealed, perhaps unintentionally, the Parthian ambassador's fate. Orobazus was executed upon his return to Parthia for allowing Sulla to outmanoeuver him. It was at this meeting he was told by a Chaldean seer that he would die at the height of his fame and fortune. This prophecy was to have a powerful hold on Sulla throughout his lifetime. Later around 93 BC Sulla left the East and returned to Rome, where he aligned himself with the Optimates in opposition to Gaius Marius. In 92 BC Sulla repulsed Tigranes the Great of Armeniamarker from Cappadociamarker.

Social War

The Social War resulted from Rome's intransigence regarding the civil liberties of the Socii, Rome's Italian allies. However it must be noted that the Socii are a separate entity to the 'Latins' who all remained loyal to Rome except for Venusia. The Socii were old enemies of Rome that submitted, (such as the Samnites) whereas the Latins were confederates of longer standing with Rome; therefore the Latins were treated with more respect and received better treatment. Subjects of the Roman Republic, these Italian provincials might be called to arms in its defence or might be subjected to extraordinary taxes, but they had no say in the expenditure of these taxes or in the uses of the armies that might be raised in their territories. The Social War was, in part, caused by the continued rebuttal of those that sought to extend Roman citizenship to the Socii and to address various injustices inherent in the Roman system. The Gracchi, Tiberius and Gaius, were successively killed by Optimate reactionaries who sought to maintain the status quo. Finally the assassination of Marcus Livius Drusus the Younger was the last straw. His reforms were intended to grant Roman Citizenship to their allies, which would have given these "provincials" (a provincial Roman) a say in the external and internal policies of the Roman Republic. When Drusus was assassinated, most of his reforms addressing these grievances were declared invalid. This greatly angered the Roman provincials, and in consequence, most allied against Rome.

At the beginning of the Social War, the Roman aristocracy and Senate were beginning to fear Gaius Marius's ambition, which had already given him 5 consulships in a row, from 104 BC to 100 BC. They were determined that he should not have overall command of the war in Italy. In this last rebellion of the Italian allies, Sulla served with brilliance as a general. He outshone both Marius and the consul Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo (the father of Pompey Magnus). For example, in 89 BC Sulla captured Aeclanummarker, the chief town of Hirpini, by setting the wooden breastwork on fire. As a result of his success in bringing the Social War to a successful conclusion, he was elected consul for the first time in 88 BC, with Quintus Pompeius Rufus (soon his daughter's father-in-law) as his colleague.

Sulla served not only with brilliance as a general during the Social War, but also with immense personal bravery. At Nolamarker he was awarded a Corona Obsidionalis (Obsidional or Blockade Crown), also known as a Corona Graminea (Grass Crown), the highest Roman military honour, awarded for personal bravery to a commanding general that saves a Roman legion or army in the field. Unlike all other Roman military honors, it was awarded by acclamation of the soldiers of the rescued army, and consequently very few were ever awarded. The crown, by tradition, was woven from grasses and other plants taken from the actual battlefield.

First march on Rome

As consul, Sulla prepared to depart once more for the East, to fight the first Mithridatic War, by the appointment of the Senate. But he would leave trouble behind him. Marius was now an old man, but he still had the ambition to lead the Roman armies against King Mithridates VI of Pontus. Marius convinced the tribune Publius Sulpicius Rufus to call an assembly and revert the Senate's decision on Sulla's command. Sulpicius also used the assemblies to eject Senators from the Roman Senate until there were not enough senators to form a quorum. Violence in the Forum ensued, and the efforts of the nobles to effect a public lynching similar to that which had happened to the brothers Gracchi and Saturninus were smashed by the gladitatorial bodyguard of Sulpicius. Sulla was forced to take refuge in Marius's house, and possibly made a personal plea to stop the violence, which was ignored. Sulla's own son-in-law was killed in those riots.

Sulla fled Rome and went to the camp of his victorious Social War veterans, waiting to cross to Greece from the south of Italy. He announced the measures that had been taken against him, and his soldiers stoned the envoys of the assemblies who came to announce that the command of the Mithridatic War had been transferred to Marius. Sulla then took six of his most loyal legion and marched on Rome. This was an unprecedented event. No general before him had ever crossed the city limits, the pomoerium, with his army. It was so unethical that most of his commanders (with the exception of one, Lucullus) refused to accompany him. Sulla justified his actions on the grounds that the Senate had been neutered and the mos maiorum ("the way of the elders"/"the traditional way", which amounted to a Roman constitution though none of it was codified as such) had been offended by the Senate's negation of the rights of the year's consuls to fight the year's wars. Armed gladiators were unable to resist organized Roman soldiers; and although Marius offered freedom to any slave that would fight with him against Sulla (an offer which Plutarch says only three slaves accepted) he and his followers were forced to flee the city.

Sulla consolidated his position, declared Marius and his allies hostes (enemies of the state), and addressed the Senate in harsh tones, portraying himself as a victim, presumably to justify his violent entrance into the city. After restructuring the city's politics and strengthening the Senate's power, Sulla returned to his camp and proceeded with the original plan of fighting Mithridates in Pontus.

Sulpicius was betrayed and killed by one of his slaves, whom Sulla subsequently freed and then executed. Marius, however, fled to safety in Africa. With Sulla out of Rome, Marius plotted his return. During his period of exile Marius became determined that he would hold a seventh consulship, as foretold by the Sibyl decades earlier. By the end of 87 BC Marius returned to Rome with the support of Lucius Cornelius Cinna and, in Sulla's absence, took control of the city. Marius declared Sulla's reforms and laws invalid and officially exiled Sulla. Marius and Cinna were elected consuls for the year 86 BC. Marius died a fortnight after, and Cinna was left in sole control of Rome.

First Mithridatic War

Asia Minor just before the First Mithridatic War
In the spring of 87 BC Sulla landed at Dyrrachium, Greece. Asia was occupied by the forces of Mithridates under the command of Archelaus. Sulla’s first target was Athensmarker, ruled by a Mithridatic puppet; the tyrant Aristion. Sulla moved southeast, picking up supplies and reinforcements as he went. Sulla’s chief of staff was Lucullus, who went ahead of him to scout the way and negotiate with Bruttius Sura, the existing Roman commander in Greece. After speaking with Lucullus, Sura handed over the command of his troops to Sulla. At Chaeronea, ambassadors from all the major cities of Greece (except Athens) met with Sulla, who impressed on them Rome's determination to drive Mithridates from Greece and Asia Province. Sulla then advanced on Athens.

Siege of Athens

On arrival, Sulla threw up a siege encompassing not only Athens but also the port of Piraeusmarker. At the time Archelaus had command of the sea, so Sulla sent Lucullus to raise a fleet from the remaining Roman allies in the eastern Mediterranean. His first objective was Piraeus, as without it Athens could not be re-supplied. Huge earthworks were raised, isolating Athens and its port from the land side. Sulla needed wood, so he cut down everything, including the sacred groves of Greece, up to 100 miles from Athens. When more money was needed he “borrowed” from temples and Sibyls alike. The currency minted from this treasure was to remain in circulation for centuries and prized for its quality.

Despite the complete encirclement of Athens and its port, and several attempts by Archelaus to raise the siege, a stalemate seemed to have developed. Sulla, however, patiently bided his time. Soon Sulla's camp was to fill with refugees from Rome, fleeing the massacres of Marius and Cinna. These also included his wife and children, as well as those of the Optimate party who had not been killed.

Athens by now was starving, and grain was at famine levels in price. Inside the city, the population was reduced to eating shoe leather and grass. A delegation from Athens was sent to treat with Sulla, but instead of serious negotiations they expounded on the glory of their city. Sulla sent them away saying: “I was sent to Athens, not to take lessons, but to reduce rebels to obedience.”

His spies then informed him that Aristion was neglecting the Heptachalcum (part of the city wall). Sulla immediately sent sappers to undermine the wall. Nine hundred feet of wall was brought down between the Sacred and Piraeic gates on the southwest side of the city. A midnight sack of Athens began, and after the taunts of Aristion, Sulla was not in a mood to be magnanimous. Blood literally flowed in the streets, it was only after the entreaties of a couple of his Greek friends (Midias and Calliphon) and the pleas of the Roman Senators in his camp that Sulla decided enough was enough. He then concentrated his forces on the Port of Pireaus and Archelaus, seeing his hopeless situation, withdrew to the citadel and then abandoned the port to join up with his forces under the command of Taxiles. Sulla, as yet not having a fleet, was powerless to prevent Archelaus’ escape. Before leaving Athens, he burnt the port to the ground. Sulla then advanced into Boeotia to take on Archelaus's armies and remove them from Greece.

Battle of Chaeronea

Sulla lost no time in intercepting the Pontic army, occupying a hill called Philoboetus that branched off Mount Parnassus, overlooked the Elatean plain, and had plentiful supplies of wood and water. The army of Archelaus, presently commanded by Taxiles, had to approach from the north and proceed along the valley towards Chaeroneamarker. Over 120,000 strong, it outnumbered Sulla's forces by at least 3 to 1. Archelaus was in favor of a policy of attrition with the Roman forces, but Taxiles had orders from Mithridates to attack at once. Sulla got his men digging, and occupied the ruined city of Parapotamii, which was impregnable and commanded the fords on the road to Chaeronea. He then made a move that looked to Archelaus like a retreat. He abandoned the fords and moved in behind an entrenched palisade. Behind the palisade were the field artillery from the siege of Athens.

Archelaus advanced across the fords and tried to outflank Sulla’s men, only to have his right wing hurled back, causing even more confusion. Archelaus’s chariots then charged the Roman center, only to be destroyed on the palisades. Next came the phalanxes: they too found the palisades impassable, and received withering fire from the Roman field artillery. Then Archelaus flung his right wing at the Roman left; Sulla, seeing the danger of this maneuver, raced over from the Roman right wing to help. Sulla stabilized the situation, at which point Archelaus flung in more troops from his right flank. This destabilized the Pontic army, slewing it towards its right flank. Sulla dashed back to his own right wing and ordered the general advance. The legions, supported by cavalry, dashed forward and Archelaus’ army folded in on itself, like closing a pack of cards. The slaughter was terrible, and some reports estimate that only 10,000 men of Mithridates' original army survived. Sulla had defeated a vastly superior force in terms of numbers; it was also the first recorded time that battlefield entrenchments were used.

Battle of Orchomenus

The government of Rome (i.e., Cinna) then sent out Lucius Valerius Flaccus with an army to relieve Sulla of command in the east. Flaccus' second in command was Gaius Flavius Fimbria, who had few virtues. (He was to eventually agitate against his commanding officer and incite the troops to murder Flaccus). The two Roman armies camped next to each other; and Sulla, not for the first time, encouraged his soldiers to spread dissension among Flaccus’ army. Many deserted to Sulla before Flaccus packed up and moved on north to threaten Mithridates’ northern dominions. In the meantime, Sulla moved to intercept the new Pontic army.

He chose the site of the battle to come — Orchomenusmarker, a town in Boeotia that allowed a smaller army to meet a much larger one, due to its natural defences, and was ideal terrain for Sulla's innovative use of entrenchment. This time the Pontic army was in excess of 150,000, and it encamped itself in front of the busy Roman army, next to a large lake. It soon dawned on Archelaus what Sulla was up to. Sulla had not only been digging trenches but also dykes, and before long he had the Pontic army in deep trouble. Desperate sallies by the Pontic forces were repulsed by the Romans and the dykes moved onward.

On the second day, Archelaus made a determined effort to escape Sulla’s web of dykes—the entire Pontic army was hurled at the Romans—but the Roman legionaries were pressed together so tightly that their short swords were like an impenetrable barrier, through which the enemy could not escape. The battle turned into a rout, with slaughter an immense scale. Plutarch notes that two hundred years later, armor and weapons from the battle were still being found. The battle of Orchomenus was another of the world's decisive battles. It determined that the fate of Asia Minor lay with Rome and her successors for the next millennium.

Second March on Rome

Determined to regain control of Rome, Sulla returned to Italy. With the support of Metellus Pius and others, Sulla's armies marched up Italy from the port of Brundisium. He chased the remnants of the Marians, led by Gaius Marius the Younger, into Praeneste and bottled them up. Shortly afterwards, following a mad-dash march to Rome, Sulla's army defeated the Samnite forces of Pontius Telesinus in November, 82 BC, at the Battle of Colline Gate. The strength of the right wing, commanded by Marcus Licinius Crassus, proved crucial in securing victory. Sulla also had the aid of the young Pompey, who defeated Gnaeus Papirius Carbo's supporters in Sicily and Africa.

Dictatorship and Constitutional Reforms

Lucius Cornelius Sulla - a denarius portrait issued by his grandson.
At the end of 82 BC or the beginning of 81 BC, the Senate appointed Sulla dictator legibus faciendis et reipublicae constituendae causa ("dictator for the making of laws and for the settling of the constitution"). The decision was subsequently ratified by the "Assembly of the People", with no limit set on his time in office. Sulla had total control of the city and republic of Rome, except for Hispania (which Marius's general Quintus Sertorius had established as an independent state). This unusual honour (used hitherto only in times of extreme danger to the city, such as the Second Punic War, and then only for 6-month periods) represented an exception to Rome's policy of not giving total power to a single individual. Sulla can be seen as setting the precedent for Julius Caesar's dictatorship, and the eventual end of the Republic under Augustus.

In total control of the city and its affairs, Sulla instituted a programme of executing those whom he perceived to be enemies of the state. This was akin to (and in response to) those killings which Marius and Cinna had implemented while they were in control of the Republic during Sulla's absence. Proscribing or outlawing every one of those whom he perceived to have acted against the best interests of the Republic while he was in the east, Sulla ordered some 1,500 nobles (i.e., senators and equites) executed, although it is estimated that as many as 9,000 people were killed. The purge went on for several months. Helping or sheltering a person who was proscribed was also punishable by death. The State confiscated the wealth of the outlawed and then auctioned it off, making Sulla and his supporters vastly rich. The sons and grandsons of the proscribed were banned from future political office, a restriction not removed for over 30 years.

The young Caesar, as Cinna's son-in-law, was one of Sulla's targets and fled the city. He was saved through the efforts of his relatives, many of whom were Sulla's supporters, but Sulla noted in his memoirs that he regretted sparing Caesar's life, because of the young man's notorious ambition. The historian Suetonius records that when agreeing to spare Caesar, Sulla warned those who were pleading his case that he would become a danger to them in the future, saying "In this Caesar there are many a Marius."

Sulla, who had observed the violent results of radical populare reforms (in particular those under Marius and Cinna), was naturally conservative, and so his conservatism was more reactionary than it was visionary. As such, he sought to strengthen the aristocracy, and thus the senate. Sulla retained his earlier reforms, which required senate approval before any bill could be submitted to the Plebeian Council (the principal popular assembly), and which had also restored the older, more aristocratic ("Servian") organization to the Century Assembly (assembly of soldiers). Sulla, himself a Patrician and thus ineligible for election to the office of Plebeian Tribune, thoroughly disliked the office. As Sulla viewed the office, the Tribunate was especially dangerous, which was in part due to its radical past, and so his intention was to not only deprive the Tribunate of power, but also of prestige. The reforms of the Gracchi Tribunes were one such example of its radical past, but by no means were they the only such examples. Over the previous three hundred years, the Tribunes had been the officers most responsible for the loss of power by the aristocracy. Since the Tribunate was the principal means through which the democracy of Rome had always asserted itself against the aristocracy, it was of paramount importance to Sulla that he cripple the office. Through his reforms to the Plebeian Council, Tribunes lost the power to initiate legislation. Sulla then prohibited ex-Tribunes from ever holding any other office, so ambitious individuals would no longer seek election to the Tribunate, since such an election would end their political career. Finally, Sulla revoked the power of the Tribunes to veto acts of the senate.

Sulla then increased the number of magistrates who were elected in any given year, and required that all newly-elected Quaestors be given automatic membership in the senate. These two reforms were enacted primarily so as to allow Sulla to increase the size of the senate from 300 to 600 senators. This removed the need for the Censor to draw up a list of senators, since there were always more than enough former magistrates to fill the senate. To further solidify the prestige and authority of the senate, Sulla transferred the control of the courts from the knights, who had held control since the Gracchi reforms, to the senators. This, along with the increase in the number of courts, further added to the power that was already held by the senators. He also codified, and thus established definitively, the cursus honorum, which required an individual to reach a certain age and level of experience before running for any particular office. Sulla also wanted to reduce the risk that a future general might attempt to seize power, as he himself had done. To reduce this risk, he reaffirmed the requirement that any individual wait for ten years before being reelected to any office. Sulla then established a system where all Consuls and Praetors served in Rome during their year in office, and then commanded a provincial army as a governor for the year after they left office.

Finally, in a demonstration of his absolute power, he expanded the "Pomerium", the sacred boundary of Rome, untouched since the time of the kings. Many of Sulla's reforms looked to the past (often re-passing former laws), but he also regulated for the future, particularly in his redefinition of maiestas (treason) laws.

Near the end of 81 BC, Sulla, true to his traditionalist sentiments, resigned his dictatorship, disbanded his legions and re-established normal consular government. He also stood for (with Metellus Pius) and was elected Consul for the following year, 80 BC. He dismissed his lictors and walked unguarded in the Forum, offering to give account of his actions to any citizen. In a manner that the historian Suetonius thought arrogant, Julius Caesar would later mock Sulla for resigning the Dictatorship.

Retirement and death

After his second consulship, he withdrew to his country villa near Puteolimarker to be with family. From this distance, he remained out of the day-to-day political activities in Rome, intervening only a few times when his policies were involved (e.g., The Granius episode).

Sulla's goal now was to write his memoirs, which he finished in 78 BC, just before his death. Unfortunately it is now largely lost, although fragments from it exist as quotations in later writers. Ancient accounts of Sulla's death indicate that he died from liver failure or a ruptured gastric ulcer (symptomised by a sudden haemorrhage from his mouth followed by a fever from which he never recovered) caused by chronic alcohol abuse. His funeral in Rome (at Roman Forum, in the presence of the whole city) was on a scale unmatched until that of Augustus in AD 14.

Sulla's legacy

Even though Sulla's laws concerning qualification for admittance to the Senate, reform of the legal system and regulations of governorships, among others, remained on Rome's statutes long into the Principate, some of his legislation was repealed less than a decade after his death. The veto power of the tribunes and their legislating authority were soon reinstated, ironically during the consulships of Pompey and Crassus. However, Sulla failed to frame a settlement whereby the army remained loyal to the Senate rather than to generals such as himself. That he tried shows he was well aware of the danger. He did pass laws to limit the actions of generals in their provinces (laws that remained in effect well into the imperial period), however, they did not prevent determined generals such as Pompey and Julius Caesar from using their armies for personal ambition or against the Senate. This highlighted the weakness of the Senate in the late republican period and its inability to control its most ambitious members.

Sulla is generally seen to have provided the example that led Caesar to cross the Rubicon, and also provided the inspiration for Caesar's eventual Dictatorship. Cicero comments that Pompey once said "If Sulla could, why can't I?". Sulla's example proved that it could be done, and therefore inspired others to attempt it; he has been seen as another step in the Republic's fall.

Sulla's descendants continued to be prominent in Roman politics into the imperial period. His son, Faustus Cornelius Sulla, issued denarii bearing the name of the dictator, as did a grandson, Quintus Pompeius Rufus. His descendants among the Cornelii Sullae would hold four consulships during the imperial period: Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 5 BC, Faustus Cornelius Sulla in AD 31, Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix in AD 33, and Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix (the son of the consul of 31) in AD 52. The latter was the husband of Claudia Antonia, daughter of the emperor Claudius. His execution in AD 62 on the orders of emperor Nero would make him the last of the Cornelii Sullae.

The dictator is the subject of two Italian operas, both of which take considerable liberties with history and change his name to "Lucio Silla": Lucio Silla by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the little-known Silla by Georg Friederich Handel. In each he is portrayed as a bloody, womanizing, ruthless tyrant who eventually repents his ways and steps down from the throne of Rome.

Marriages and children


  • C138 BC – Born in Rome
  • 107-05 BC – Quaestor and pro quaestore to Gaius Marius in the war with Jugurtha in Numidia
  • 106 BC – End of Jugurthine War
  • 104 BC – legatus to Marius cos.II in Gallia Transalpina
  • 103 BC – tribunus militum in army of Marius cos.III in Gallia Transalpina
  • 102-1 BC – legatus to Quintus Lutatius Catulus consul and pro consule in Gallia Cisalpina
  • 101 BC – took part in the defeat of the Cimbri at the battle of Vercellae
  • 95 BC – Praetor urbanus
  • 94 BC – Commander of Cilicia province pro consule
  • 90-89 BC – senior officer in the Social War as legatus pro praetore
  • 88 BC –
    • Holds the consulship (for the first time) with Quintus Pompeius Rufus as colleague
    • Invades Rome and outlaws Caius Marius the elder
  • 87 BC – Command of Roman armies to fight King Mithridates of Pontus
  • 86 BC – Sack of Athens, Battle of Chaeronea, Battle of Orchomenus
  • 85 BC – Liberation of Macedonia, Asia and Cilicia provinces from Pontic occupation
  • 84 BC – Reorganization of Asia province
  • 83 BC – Returns to Italy and undertakes civil war against the factional Marian government
  • 83-82 BC – War with the followers of Caius Marius the younger and Cinna
  • 82/1 BC – Appointed "dictator legibus faciendis et rei publicae constituendae causa"
  • 81 BC – Resigns the dictatorship before the end of the year
  • 80 BC – Holds the consulship (for the second time) with Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius as colleague
  • 79 BC – Retires from political life, refusing the post consulatum provincial command of Gallia Cisalpina he was allotted as consul, but retaining the curatio for the reconstruction of the temples on the Capitoline Hill
  • 78 BC – Dies of an intestinal ulcer. Funeral held in Rome


  1. Official name of Sulla. The meaning in English is "Lucius Cornelius Sulla, son of Lucius, grandson of Publius, the lucky." His agnomen Felix — the fortunate — was attained later in life, as the Latin equivalent of the Greek nickname he had acquired during his campaigns - επαφροδιτος , epaphroditus, beloved-of-Aphrodite or (to Romans who read Sulla's Greek title) Venus, due to his skill and luck as a general.
  2. cf. The Prince, chapter XVIII
  3. Plutarch: Sulla.
  4. Plutarch: Sulla, Sect 2.
  5. Buck, Comparative grammar of Greek and Latin; Latin spelling in the late Republic is variable. He is generally known as Silla in Italian.
  6. Plutarch: Sulla, Sect 3
  7. Plutarch: "Sulla"
  8. [1].
  9. Plutarch,[Life of] Sulla, c.35
  10. Cicero, Anthony Everitt, p.41
  11. Abbott, 104
  12. Abbott, 104
  13. Abbott, 103
  14. Abbott, 105
  15. Abbott, 104
  16. Abbott, 104
  17. Abbott, 105
  18. Abbott, 105
  19. Abbott, 105
  20. Suetonius, Julius 77. "...No less arrogant were his public utterances, which Titus Ampius records: that the state was nothing, a mere name without body or form; that Sulla did not know his A. B. C. when he laid down his dictatorship; that men ought now to be more circumspect in addressing him, and to regard his word as law. So far did he go in his presumption, that when a soothsayer once reported direful inwards without a heart, he said: "They will be more favourable when I wish it; it should not be regarded as a portent, if a beast has no heart..."
  21. Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings IX.3.8; Plutarch, Sulla 36-37; Appian, Civil Wars I.12.105; A. Keaveney (2005) Sulla: the Last Republican (2nd edition) p.175.
  22. His epitaph, written by Sulla himself, was popularized by Lieutenant General James Mattis as the motto of the 1st Marine Division of the United States Marine Corps: No greater friend, no worse enemy.
  23. Keaveney (2005) "Sulla: The Last Republican" 2nd edition, page 8

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