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Lucius Cornelius Cinna

Updated on November 2, 2009

Lucius Cornelius Cinna (130-84 B.C.), Roman statesman. After an uneventful career, he burst upon the pages of Roman history in 88 and 87 B.C., in the period of civil conflict between Marius and Sulla. Sulla had expelled Marius and his followers from Rome in 88 and proceeded to the East. Cinna, meanwhile, reached the consulship in 87 and took advantage of Sulla's absence to advocate full equality for Rome's new citizens. Expelled in turn by his fellow consul Gnaeus Octavius, Cinna made common cause with Marius, and by the end of the year 87 the two men controlled Rome. A massacre of their enemies followed, for which Cinna must be held at least partially responsible.

After Marius died in early 86, Cinna directed affairs, holding the consulship from 86 to 84. Dissent and political activity were stifled. Not surprisingly, Cinna's name is blackened in the ancient tradition. But Rome did enjoy three years of peace and stability under his leadership. His reforms included measures designed to appeal to debtor and creditor alike, and he effected the full enfranchisement of the Italians. Overtures to Sulla, however, proved abortive. In 84, with Sulla's return from the East imminent, Cinna mobilized for war. But his rigorous military discipline offended the troops, who rose in mutiny and killed him. His daughter Cornelia was the first wife of Julius Caesar.


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