Lucius Cornelius Sulla And The Republic

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Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, born in 138B.C. to a minor branch of the Cornelian gens, has been heralded as a fortuitous and cunning man, a formidable commander, and yet an unfit politician with perplexing motives. Sulla’s early campaigning allowed him to rise to great military distinction, and earned him the later invaluable respect of his fellow soldiers. Nevertheless, his career illustrated the demoralisation of the Republic and contributed to its ultimate degeneration. The reformative measures he took in his last years of power - which were intended to preserve the Republican institution, were homicidal and ephemeral; they were altogether ineffectual compared to the example of Sulla’s own career. Sulla chose for his own epitaph, ‘no one ever did more good to his friends, nor more harm to his enemies’ (Southern Utah University, p.6). No words speak so succinctly of his political ideology as these. Sulla’s earlier career had not been that of an orthodox Optimate. Though he belonged to an old patrician family, it had long slid into obscurity and poverty. Plutarch suggests that a legacy from his step-mother and another from a mistress helped him, somewhat late, to a public career (Plutarch, p. 327). Plutarch was a Greek historian who wrote more than a century after Sulla’s death. Some of his pieces are polemical, that is, his writings possibly arise from scurrilous tracts, written by political adversaries of his subjects. As Marius’ quaestor, he had captured Jugurtha and won the loyalty of his fellow soldiers, sparking a later brutal animosity between the pair. This talent for winning the loyalty of soldiers never deserted Sulla, and that fact would have terrible consequences for Rome (Williams, p.139). From 104 to 101B.C, Sul... ... middle of paper ... ...of men through the Cursus Honorum –the threat from which his own career had so nakedly demonstrated – were clearly inadequate against men of determined ambition (Massie, p. 176). In final analysis, Sulla’s actions as a politician and a military leader, while occasionally bringing him prestige - dignatas, were major factors leading to the subsequent weakening of the Republic. Sulla was an odd mixture of cynicism and superstition, public sobriety and private indulgence. His reforms achieved very little besides adding to the sum of human misery. He brought an unprecedented ruthlessness to Roman life; and, though it may be conceded that his political intentions were good, his contemptible methods , notably marching his own Roman army upon the capital, contributed more than those of any other man to the debasement of the Republican constitution, he avowedly restored.

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