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Sulla, Cornelius

The name of a patrician family; in many very old-fashioned texts incorrectly written Sylla. This family was originally called Rufinus (see Rufinus), and the first member of it who obtained the name of Sulla was P. Cornelius Sulla, mentioned below (No. 1). The origin of the name is uncertain.


Publius, great-grandfather of the dictator Sulla , and grandson of P. Cornelius Rufinus, who was twice consul in the Samnite Wars. His father is not mentioned. He was Flamen Dialis, and likewise Praetor Urbanus and Praetor Peregrinus in B.C. 212, when he presided over the first celebration of the Ludi Apollinares.


Lucius, surnamed Felix, the dictator, was born in B.C. 138. Although his father left him only a small property, his means were sufficient to secure for him a good education. He studied Greek and Roman literature with diligence and success, and appears early to have imbibed that love for literature and art by which he was distinguished throughout life. At the same time he prosecuted pleasure with equal ardour, and his youth as well as his manhood was disgraced by the most sensual vices. Still his love of pleasure did not absorb all his time, nor did it emasculate his mind; for no Roman during the latter days of the Republic, with the exception of Iulius Caesar, had a clearer judgment, a keener discrimination of character, or a firmer will. The slender property of Sulla was increased by the liberality of his step-mother and of a courtesan named Nicopolis, both of whom left him all their fortune. His means, though still scanty for a Roman noble, now enabled him to aspire to the honours of the State. He was quaestor in 107, when he served under Marius in Africa. Hitherto he had only been known for his profligacy; but he displayed both zeal and ability in the discharge of his duties, and soon gained the approbation of his commander and the affections of the soldiers. It was to Sulla that Iugurtha was delivered by Bocchus; and the quaestor thus shared with the consul the glory of bringing this war to a conclusion. Sulla himself was so proud of his share in the success that he had a seal ring engraved, representing the surrender of Iugurtha, which he continued to wear till the day of his death. Sulla continued to serve under Marius with great distinction in the campaigns against the Cimbri and Teutones; but Marius becoming jealous of the rising fame of his officer, Sulla left Marius in 102, and took a command under the colleague of Marius, Q. Catulus, who intrusted the chief management of the war to Sulla. Sulla now returned to Rome, where he appears to have lived quietly for some years. He was praetor in 93, and in the following year (B.C. 92) was sent as propraetor into Cilicia, with special orders from the Senate to restore Ariobarzanes to his kingdom of Cappadocia, from which he had been expelled by Mithridates. Sulla met with complete success. He defeated Gordius, the general of Mithridates, in Cappadocia, and placed Ariobarzanes on the throne.

The enmity between Marius and Sulla now assumed a more deadly form. Sulla 's ability and increasing reputation had already led the aristocratic party to look up to him as one of their leaders; and thus political animosity was added to private hatred. In addition to this, Marius and Sulla were both anxious to obtain the command of the impending war against Mithridates; and the success which attended Sulla 's recent operations in the East had increased his popularity, and pointed him out as the most suitable person for this important command. About this time Bocchus erected in the Capitol gilded figures, representing the surrender of Iugurtha to Sulla , at which Marius was so enraged that he could scarcely be prevented from removing them by force. The exasperation of both parties became so violent that they nearly had recourse to arms against each other; but the breaking out of the Social War hushed all private quarrels for the time. Marius and Sulla both took an active part in the war against the common foe. But Marius was now advanced in years; and he had the deep mortification of finding that his achievements were thrown into the shade by the superior energy of his rival. Sulla gained some brilliant victories over the enemy, and took Bovianum, the chief town of the Samnites. He was elected consul for 88, and received from the Senate the command of the Mithridatic War. The events which followed--his expulsion from Rome by Marius, his return to the city at the head of his legions, and the proscription of Marius and his leading adherents--are related in the article Marius.

Sulla remained at Rome till the end of the year, and set out for Greece at the beginning of 87, in order to carry on the war against Mithridates. He landed at Dyrrhachium, and forthwith marched against Athens, which had become the headquarters of the Mithridatic cause in Greece. After a long and obstinate siege, Athens was taken by storm on the first of March in 86, and was given up to rapine and plunder. Sulla then marched against Archelaüs, the general of Mithridates, whom he defeated in the neighbourhood of Chaeronea in Boeotia; and in the following year he again gained a decisive victory over the same general near Orchomenus. But while Sulla was carrying on the war with such success in Greece, his enemies had obtained the upper hand in Italy. The consul Cinna , who had been driven out of Rome by his colleague Octavius soon after Sulla 's departure from Italy, had entered it again with Marius at the close of the year. Both Cinna and Marius were appointed consuls 86, and all the regulations of Sulla were swept away. Sulla , however, would not return to Italy till he had brought the war against Mithridates to a conclusion. After driving the generals of Mithridates out of Greece, Sulla crossed the Hellespont, and early in 84 concluded a peace with the king of Pontus. He now turned his arms against Fimbria, who had been appointed by the Marian party as his successor in the command. But the troops of Fimbria deserted their general, who put an end to his own life.

Sulla now prepared to return to Italy. After leaving his legate, L. Licinius Murena, in com

Sulla. (Bust in the Capitoline Museum.)

mand of the province of Asia, with two legions, he set sail with his own army to Athens. While preparing for his deadly struggle in Italy, he did not lose his interest in literature. He carried with him from Athens to Rome the valuablelibrary of Apellicon of Teos, which contained most of the works of Aristotle and Theophrastus. (See Apellicon.) He landed at Brundisium in the spring of 83. The Marian party far outnumbered him in troops, and had every prospect of victory. By bribery and promises, however, Sulla gained over a large number of the Marian soldiers, and he persuaded many of the Italian towns to espouse his cause. In the field his efforts were crowned with equal success; and he was ably supported by several of the Roman nobles, who espoused his cause in different parts of Italy. Of these one of the most distinguished was the young Cn. Pompey, who was at the time only twenty-three years of age. (See Pompeius, No. 10.) In the following year (B.C. 82) the struggle was brought to a close by the decisive battle gained by Sulla over the Samnites and Lucanians under Pontius Telesinus before the Colline Gate of Rome. This victory was followed by the surrender of Praenesté and the death of the younger Marius, who had taken refuge in this town.

Sulla was now master of Rome and Italy; and he resolved to take the most ample vengeance upon his enemies, and to extirpate the popular party. One of his first acts was to draw up a list of his enemies who were to be put to death, called a proscriptio. It was the first instance of the kind in Roman history. All persons in this list were outlaws who might be killed by any one with impunity, even by slaves; their property was confiscated to the State, and was to be sold by public auction; their children and grandchildren lost their votes in the Comitia, and were excluded from all public offices. Further, all who killed a proscribed person received two talents as a reward, and whoever sheltered such a person was punished with death. Terror now reigned not only at Rome, but throughout Italy. Fresh lists of the proscribed constantly appeared. No one was safe; for Sulla gratified his friends by placing in the fatal lists their personal enemies, or persons whose property was coveted by his adherents. The confiscated property, it is true, belonged to the State, and had to be sold by public auction; but the friends and dependants of Sulla purchased it at a nominal price, as no one dared to bid against them. The number of persons who perished by the proscriptions is stated differently, but it appears to have amounted to many thousands. At the commencement of these horrors Sulla had been appointed dictator for as long a time as he judged it to be necessary. This was towards the close of 81. Sulla 's chief object in being invested with the dictatorship was to carry into execution, in a legal manner, the great changes which he meditated in the constitution and the administration of justice. He had no intention of abolishing the Republic; and, consequently, he caused consuls to be elected for the following year, and was elected to the office himself in 80, while he continued to hold the dictatorship. The general object of Sulla 's reforms was to restore, as far as possible, the ancient Roman constitution, and to give back to the Senate and the aristocracy the power which they had lost. Thus he deprived the tribunes of the plebs of all real power, and abolished altogether the legislative and judicial functions of the Comitia Tributa. At the beginning of 81 he celebrated a splendid triumph on account of his victory over Mithridates. In a speech which he delivered to the people at the close of the ceremony, he claimed for himself the surname of Felix, as he attributed his success in life to the favour of the gods. In order to strengthen his power, Sulla established military colonies throughout Italy. The inhabitants of the Italian towns which had fought against Sulla were deprived of the full Roman franchise, and were only allowed to retain the commercium: their land was confiscated and given to the soldiers who had fought under him. Twenty-three legions, or, according to another statement, forty-seven legions, received grants of land in various parts of Italy. A great number of these colonies was settled in Etruria, the population of which was thus almost entirely changed. These colonies had the strongest interest in upholding the institutions of Sulla , since any attempt to invalidate the latter would have endangered their newly acquired possessions. Sulla likewise created at Rome a kind of body-guard for his protection by giving the citizenship to a great number of slaves who had belonged to persons proscribed by him. The slaves thus rewarded are said to have been as many as ten thousand, and were called Cornelii after him as their patron.

After holding the dictatorship till the beginning of 79, Sulla resigned this office, to the surprise of all classes. He retired to his estate at Puteoli, and there, surrounded by the beauties of nature and art, he passed the remainder of his life in those literary and sensual enjoyments in which he had always taken so much pleasure. His dissolute mode of life hastened his death, but the immediate cause was the rupture of a blood-vessel; though some time before he had been suffering from the disgusting disease which is known in modern times by the name of morbus pediculosus, or phthiriasis. He died in 78, in the sixtieth year of his age. He was honoured with a public funeral, and a monument was erected to him in the Campus Martius, the inscription on which had been composed by himself. It stated that none of his friends ever did him a kindness, and none of his enemies a wrong, without being fully repaid. Sulla was married five times: (a) To Ilia or Iulia, who bore him a daughter, married to Q. Pompeius Rufus, the son of Sulla 's colleague in the consulship in 88; (b) to Aelia; (c) to Caelia; (d) to Caecilia Metella, who bore him a son, who died before Sulla , and likewise twins, a son and a daughter; (e) to Valeria, who bore him a daughter after his death.

Sulla wrote a history of his own life and times, called Memorabilia (Ὑπομνήματα). It was dedicated to L. Lucullus, and extended to twentytwo books, the last of which was finished by Sulla a few days before his death. He also wrote Fabulae Atellanae, and the Greek Anthology contains a short epigram which is ascribed to him. See Gerlach, Marius und Sulla (1856); and Beesly, The Gracchi, Marius, and Sulla (New York, 1878).


Faustus, son of the dictator by his fourth wife, Caecilia Metella, and a twin brother of Fausta, was born not long before B.C. 88, the year in which his father obtained the first consulship. He and his sister received the names of Faustus and Fausta respectively on account of the good fortune of their father. At the death of his father in 78 Faustus and his sister were left under the guardianship of L. Lucullus. Faustus accompanied Pompey into Asia, and was the first who mounted the walls of the Temple of Jerusalem in 63. In 60 he exhibited the gladiatorial games which his father, in his last will, had enjoined upon him. In 54 he was quaestor. In 52 he received from the Senate the commission to rebuild the Curia Hostilia, which had been burned down in the tumults following the murder of Clodius, and which was henceforward called the Curia Cornelia, in honour of Faustus and his father. He married Pompey's daughter, and sided with his father-in-law in the Civil War. He was present at the battle of Pharsalia, and subsequently joined the leaders of his party in Africa. After the battle of Thapsus in 46 he attempted to escape into Mauretania, but was taken prisoner by P. Sittius, and carried to Caesar. Upon his arrival in Caesar's camp he was murdered by the soldiers in a tumult. Faustus seems to have resembled his father only in his extravagance, for we know from Cicero that he was overwhelmed with debt at the breaking out of the Civil War.


Publius, nephew of the dictator, elected consul along with P. Autronius Paetus for the year B.C. 65; but neither he nor his colleague entered upon the office, as they were accused of bribery by L. Torquatus the younger, and were condemned. It was currently believed that Sulla was privy to both of Catiline's conspiracies, and he was accordingly charged with this crime by his former accuser, L. Torquatus, and by C. Cornelius. He was defended by Hortensius and Cicero, and the speech of the latter on his behalf is still extant. He was acquitted; but, independent of the testimony of Sallust ( Cat. 17), his guilt may almost be inferred from the embarrassment of his advocate. In the Civil War, Sulla espoused Caesar's cause. He served under him as legate in Greece, and commanded with Caesar himself the right wing at the battle of Pharsalia (B.C. 48). He died in 45.


Servius, brother of the preceding, took part in both of Catiline's conspiracies. His guilt was so evident that no one was willing to defend him; but we do not read that he was put to death along with the other conspirators (Sall. Cat. 17, 47).

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    • Sallust, Catilinae Coniuratio, 17
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