, the name of a patrician family of the Cornelia gens.
This family was originally called Rufinus [RUFINUS], and the first member of it who obtained the name of Sulla was P. Cornelius Sulla, who was flamen dialis and praetor in the second Punic war. [See below, No. 1.] This was stated by the dictator Sulla, in the second book of his Commentaries (Gel. 1.12
), and is corroborated by Livy and other authorities. Plutarch therefore has made a mistake in saying that the dictator Sulla had this name given to him from a personal peculiarity. (Plut. Sull. 2.
) The origin of the name is uncertain. Drumann, and most modern writers, suppose that it is a word of the same signification as Rufus or Rufinus, and refers simply to the red colour of the hair or the complexion ; and Plutarch appears to have understood the word to have this meaning, since he relates (l.c.
) that the dictator received the name of Sulla in consequence of his face being spotted with rough red blotches interspersed with the white. Macrobius (Macr. 1.17
) gives quite a different explanation, and derives the word from Sibylla, which he says was given to P. Cornelius Rufinus, because he was the first to introduce the celebration of the Ludi Apollinares in accordance with the commands of the Sibylline books, and that this surname Sibylla was afterwards shortened into Sylla.
This explanation of the word is repeated by Charisius (Inst. Gram.
1.20); but, independent of other objections, it must be rejected on the authority of Quintilian (1.4.25), who classes Sulla with other cognomens, which owed their origin to certain bodily peculiarities. Some modern writers, such as Cortius (ad Sall. Catil. 5
), regard Sulla as a diminutive of Sura, which was a cognomen in several Roman gentes [SURA], and we are disposed to accept this as the most probable explanation of the word.
It would be formed from Sura on the same analogy as puella
(comp. Schneider, Elementarlehre der lateinischen Sprache,
vol. i. p. 47, &c.).
There is no authority for writing the word Sylla, as is done by many modern writers. On coins and inscriptions we always find Sula or Sulla, never Sylla.