ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Roman Dictator: Lucius Cornelius Sulla

Updated on November 30, 2009

138 - 78 B.C.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla was a Roman general and statesman. Dictator of Rome from 82 B.C. to 79 B.C. Sulla distinguished himself with military victories in Asia Minor and in the Social War between Rome and other Italian cities.

He was quaestor in 107 under Marius in the Jugurthine War, and it was to him that Jugurtha surrendered, an event which marked the beginning of his rivalry with Marius. He continued, however, to serve under Marius against the Cimbri and Teutones from 104 until 102, when Marius's undisguised jealousy drove him to take a command under Q. Lutatius Catulus, with whom he fought at Campi Raudii in the following year.

In 93 he was praetor, and in 92 was sent as propraetor to Cilicia with orders from the Sentate to restore Ariobarzanes to the throne of Cappadocia, from which he had been driven by Mithridates.

This task fulfilled, he received a Parthian embassy asking alliance with the republic, and returned in 91 to Rome.

Sulla's ability and reputation had led the Optimates to look to him as their leader, and thus political animosity was added to professional jealousy and personal hatred on the part of Marius. At this stage, however, the outbreak of the Social War hushed all private quarrels. Both men took an active part in hostilities against the common foe; nevertheless, whereas Marius was now advancing in years, Sulla gained some brilliant victories, notably his defeat of the Samnites and capture of their chief town Bovianum. The war ended with the taking of Nola.

After he was elected consul in 88 B.C., the Roman senate appointed him to lead an army against Mithridates VI, King of Pontus. Sulla remained at Rome until his year of office had expired, and then set out to oppose Mithridates at the beginning of 87. During the next four years he won a series of amazing victories, and collected a large amount of plunder. Having sacked Athens (86), and driven the enemy from Greece, he crossed the Hellespont in 84 and in the same year concluded peace with Mithridates.

Sulla now prepared to return to Italy, where the Marian party had regained the upper hand. Leaving his legate, L. Licinius Murena, as governor of Asia, and taking with him, among other booty, the library of Apellicon, he set out and landed at Brundisium in the spring of 83. By promises and bribery he won over or neutralised most of the forces which his enemies could bring against him, leaving only a few Samnites. In 82 the struggle was brought to a close, first by the defeat of the younger Marius at Sacriportus near Praeneste, and then by the great victory over the Samnites under Pontius Telesinus before the Colline Gate at Rome.

Sulla was now absolute master of Rome and Italy; he resolved to take revenge upon his enemies and to destroy all potential opposition to the Optimates. The steps he took are known as the 'Sullan proscription'. He was given the office of dictator and drew up a list (proscriptio) of men who were said to be outlaws and enemies of the state. The reign of terror spread to the whole peninsula; new lists appeared; no one was safe, for Sulla gratified his friends by including in these fatal documents their personal enemies, or those whose property was coveted by his adherents.

At the beginning of 81 he celebrated a magnificent triumph for his victories in the Mithridatic war, and devoted the following year to the carrying of his constitutional and administrative reforms. These were in effect a restoration of the Senate to its old legislative and executive supremacy. Believing he could ensure the stability of his regime by the constant threat of arms, he established military colonies throughout the length and breadth of Italy. His personal safety was in the hands of a bodyguard created for this purpose by the emancipation of slaves who had belonged to persons proscribed by him. They were known as Cornelii after their patron, and are said to have numbered as many as 10,000.

Sulla's reforms were unsuited to the times; they scarcely survived him, except for the quaestiones perpetuae (permanent tribunals), which formed the basis of all future criminal justice.

Sulla had himself appointed dictator, and before withdrawing as leader in 79 B.C., he forced the enactment of legislation that made the senate the strongest body in Rome's government.

Convinced by an old prophecy that he had not long to live, he withdrew into private life and devoted his time to literature and the preparation of his memoirs. He died the following year (78) in Campania, Italy, of a long-standing disease.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Clark Kent profile image

      Clark Kent 

      9 years ago from Europe

      Interesting hub. Accurate, concise and clear work, Darkside.

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      I have read, and enjoyed, all your Roman hubs, keep 'em coming!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)