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Lucius Cornelius Sulla

Lucius Cornelius Sulla

Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; c. 138 BC – 78 BC), known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and statesman. He had the distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as reviving the dictatorship. Sulla was a skillful general, achieving numerous successes in wars against different opponents, both foreign and Roman. Sulla rose to prominence during the war against the Numidian king Jugurtha, whom he captured by treachery, although his superior Gaius Marius took credit for ending the war. He then fought successfully against Germanic tribes during the Cimbrian War, and Italic tribes during the Social War. He was even awarded the Grass Crown for his command in the latter war.

Sulla played an important role in the long political struggle between the Optimates and Populares factions at Rome. He was a leader of the former, which sought to maintain the Senatorial supremacy against the social reforms advocated by the latter, headed by Marius. In a dispute over the command of the war against Mithridates, initially awarded to Sulla by the Senate but withdrawn as a result of Marius's intrigues, Sulla marched on Rome in an unprecedented act and defeated Marius in battle. The Populares nonetheless seized power once he left with his army to Asia. He returned victorious from the East in 82 BC, marched a second time on Rome, and crushed the Populares and their Italian allies at the Battle of the Colline Gate. He then revived the office of dictator, which had been inactive since the Second Punic War over a century before. He used his powers to purge his opponents, and reform Roman constitutional laws, in order to restore the primacy of the Senate and limit the power of the tribunes of the plebs. After a second consulship in 80 BC, he retired to private life and died shortly after.

Sulla's military coup—ironically enabled by Marius' military reforms that bound the army's loyalty with the general rather than to the Republic—permanently destabilized the Roman power structure. Later leaders like Julius Caesar would follow his precedent in attaining political power through force.



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