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The purpose of this paper is to inform the reader about the life of Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, often called Sulla. Sulla showed a taste for luxury early in his life and aspired to have a career in politics. “If his portrait be authentic, be belonged to the same Roman type as Julius Caesar- the old Roman aristocratic type, which was as distinctive as the Norman.” He grew up poor before becoming a soldier, a politician, and a dictator.
Sulla’s family was never rich. Actually, only one of his family members reached the highest honors of consul, which is the highest elected political office of the Roman empire, his grandfather. His grandfather, Publius Cornelius Rufinus, was convicted by the censors, who were magistrates responsible for maintaining the people, of possessing more than ten pounds of silver plate above the legal limit, causing him to be expelled from the Senate. Sulla’s family was burdened with this scandal and continued in shame. Although his family was ashamed of his grandfather’s actions, Sulla seemed to live it down. Sulla began his career by paying court to a woman who was pleased to have a young poor boy that listened to her and complimented her appropriately. Sulla soon realized how he could become wealthy as he became close to the lady, who left him her whole fortune when she passed away. He then had a foundation to build a career on.
Sulla began his military career under Gaius Marius, a roman general and statesman. Sulla started as a quaestor, someone who was in charge of revenue. He would soon be put to the test in the war against King Jugurtha of Numidia. Jugurtha tried to seize power in Numidia by attacking his cousins who would succeed their father for the throne. Word got to Rome and they sent military to Numidia. Jugurtha knew about the incoming Romans so he pretended to be no threat. After not finding any problems, the Romans left Numidia. Not long after Roman soldiers left, Jugurtha tried to attack another cousin, therefore Marius and his troops would be sent to solve the problem of Jugurtha. Sulla would soon distinguish himself when he helped capture king Jugurtha during the Numidian War. This made Marius very jealous of Sulla and would cause problems in their relationship. Although they were enemies, Marius and Sulla went north where they would defeat rebellious tribes. “After a series of well-placed bribes, Sulla would soon continue his climb on the political ladder by securing the position of praetor urbanus in 97 BCE and later proconsul to Cilicia where he would remain until 92 BCE,” Sulla was awarded his consul in 88 BCE, having his future son in law Pompeius Rufus as his co-consul. In addition to obtaining consulship, he was brought to the front rank of his party.
Sulla soon had many enemies and turned into a ruthless military leader. He realized he had the Senate against him, so he decided to withdraw to the east. Sulla refused to return to face trial. As a result, the Roman Senate declared him an enemy and condemned him to death. Sulla continued to move east and defeated a rebellion in Greece, he also showed how ruthless he was in Athens by giving his men permission to kill as they please.
When Sulla returned to Rome, he was joined by three commanders. Together they attacked the city and defeated any resistance. Upon victory, Sulla granted some opposing soldiers freedom, while others weren’t so lucky. Most of the opposing soldiers were murdered for fighting against him. Sulla used the power of his army to further his own position by returning victorious from the east to install himself in unrestricted power in the years 83-82. Sulla took control over Rome and had a lot of rebuilding to do after the attack that practically destroyed the city. He wanted to restore Rome and bring it back to its former glory. “To do his work in the way he wanted, a legal office was necessary for Sulla. The power he possessed was, if it were anything, that of a proconsul in Asia.” Sulla wanted something with much more power than a consul. Something big enough to accomplish his end goal. Sulla wanted to be a dictator. “For a hundred and twenty years there had been no dictator; it was an office almost as obsolete as that of the Lord High Admiral in modern England.” The Senate had no choice but to make Sulla a dictator indefinitely with practically unlimited power, even the capability to make new laws.
Once Sulla got his newly declared power, he started his plan to rebuild the once great city of Rome. He sent his men to recover provinces and resettle them. Before Sulla’s time as leader, there were only two methods of uniting the subject cities with Rome. Sulla took over and all of Italy was now in the Roman franchise, Sulla made a scheme of local government involving a constitution for each city, based on that of Rome.
Sulla then created a few different things to better the government of Rome. He changed who handled the court system and taxes, and he created a new court system. His new court system was made up of eight different judicial courts for the trial of various types of case. He separated civil from criminal justice for the first time in the history of law and originated the system by which civil cases were tried by a single judge, and criminal cases by a bench of judges, or jury, as we should call it.
In addition, Sulla changed a few rules in the Senate. To start, he gave the Senate control over the courts. Sulla then avenged his grandfather and the ten pounds of silver plate by getting rid of a few powers. The Senate had been using their jurisdiction to pass their friends into the Senate, and to get rid of as many men of the enlightenment as possible. He also made senators irremovable. Not only did he change the rules of the Senate, but also, he added more members.
“Sulla’s retirement into private life in 79 ?? has provoked numerous explanations, including illness, apathy towards Rome’s future and the intended act as a result of the completion of his work.” He made up his mind and hoped that others would carry on his work once he moved on. Only one year after he resigned he passed away from liver failure. Sulla defended Rome for most of his life. It was what he lived for. He would be remembered as one of the greatest Roman leaders if he would have made his changes a different way. Although some changes were made for the better, he implemented them through a brutal force. He violently and unconstitutionally seized control of the government and had power over Rome for as long as he wanted. Sulla’s real success was that he dragged Rome through one of the worst times the city would face. Some of his changes he made while a dictator will stay, while others would fade. Sulla may not have built Rome into the greatest city of that time period, but he left Rome in a better condition than he found it and he kept the city out of ruins.
Sulla had big dreams as he grew up relatively poor. He found a widow that would eventually leave him her fortune. He was able to help defeat many enemies and rose through the ranks from quaestor to consul. He was seen as a ruthless leader at times, was forced to leave Rome, and then coming back to become dictator. Upon becoming leader of Rome, he actually did do some good. He tried to restore Rome back to one of the greatest cities of that time period, and he did just that. He changed many rules and created many new laws that would transform Rome into a better city.

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