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[98] Thus Sulla became king, or tyrant, de facto, not elected, but holding power by force and violence. As, however, he needed some pretence of being elected it was managed in this way. The kings of the Romans in the olden time were chosen for their bravery, and when one of them died the senators held the royal power in succession for five days each, until the people could decide who should be the new king. This five-day ruler was called the Interrex, which means king for the time being. The retiring consuls always presided over the election of their successors in office, and if there chanced to be no consul at such a time an Interrex was appointed for the purpose of holding the consular comitia. Sulla took advantage of this custom. There were no consuls at this time, Carbo having lost his life in Sicily and Marius in Præneste. So Sulla went out of the city for a time and ordered the Senate to choose an Interrex. They chose Valerius Flaccus, expecting that he would soon hold the consular comitia. But Sulla wrote to Flaccus to bring before the people the proposition that he (Sulla) considered it advisable, under present circumstances, that the city should be governed by a dictator according to a custom that had been abandoned 400 years. 1 He told them not to appoint the dictator for any definite time, but until the city and Italy and the whole government, so shaken by factions and wars, should be put upon a firm foundation. That this proposal referred to Sulla himself was not at all doubtful. Sulla made no concealment of it. At the conclusion of the letter he declared openly that, in his judgment, he could be serviceable to the city in that capacity.

1 This is probably a corruption of the text. The last dictator was appointed in the year 202 B.C., or 120 years before Sulla assumed that office.

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  • Cross-references to this page (4):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), PATRI´CII
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), PROSCRI´PTIO
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), REX
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SERVUS
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