Lucius Cornelius Sulla belonged to a patrician, or noble, family, and one of his ancestors, Rufinus, is said to have been consul, although he was not so conspicuous for this honour as for the dishonour which he incurred. For he was found to be possessed of more than ten pounds of silver plate, contrary to the law, and was for this reason expelled from the senate. His posterity became at once obscure, and continued so, nor did Sulla himself enjoy a wealthy parentage.
When he was a youth, he lived in lodgings, at a low price, and this was afterwards cast in his teeth when men thought him unduly prosperous. For instance, we are told that when he was putting on boastful airs after his campaign in Libya, a certain nobleman said to him: [ldquo ]How canst thou be an honest man, when thy father left thee nothing, and yet thou art so rich?[rdquo ]
For although the Romans of that time no longer retained their ancient purity and uprightness of life, but had degenerated, and yielded to the appetite for luxury and extravagance, they nevertheless held in equal opprobrium those who lost an inherited wealth and those who forsook an ancestral poverty.
And afterwards, when he had at last become absolute in power, and was putting many to death, a freedman, who was thought to be concealing one of the proscribed, and was therefore to be thrown down the Tarpeian rock, cast it in his teeth that they had long lived together in one lodging house, himself renting the upper rooms at two thousand sesterces, and Sulla the lower rooms at three thousand. The difference in their fortunes, therefore, was only a thousand sesterces,1
which are equivalent to two hundred and fifty Attic drachmas. Such, then, is the account we find of Sulla's earlier fortune.