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Terror and retirement of Lucius Cornelius Sulla

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Reconstruction of the image of Sulla
Reconstruction of the image of Sulla

Lucius Cornelius Sulla (138-78 BCE) became famous as the first Roman politician who gained unlimited power in practice. After winning the civil war in 82 BCE he appointed himself a dictator without a time frame. Finally, however, of his own free will, he resigned in 79 BCE from office and retired.

The brutality of his rule shocks researchers to this day. Ancient sources say that during the first persecution of political opponents, 40 senators and 1,600 equites were killed; in total, 90 senators and 2,600 equites were to die. Their estates were confiscated and put up for auction, in which only Sulla’s trusted people took part – including m. Marcus Crassus, was later a triumvir and ally of Caesar.

What’s more, Sulla, in order to gain a permanent electorate and support in Roman society, liberated about 10,000 young and strong slaves, giving them the family name “Cornelius” and equating them with the lower classes of citizens. In this way, he secured himself against any revolts against his authority in the city.

An interesting story was left to us by Appian of Alexandria, who mentions that when Sulla was walking around the city, already as a private citizen, no one dared to speak to him. The exception was a boy who once met him in the street and followed him home, throwing insults at him. When Sulla finally found himself in his household, he was to say that no one would ever take full power again, he would not relinquish it1.

  1. Appian of Alexandria, Roman history, XIII.104
  • Paweł Rochala, Powstanie Spartakusa 73-71 p.n.e., Kocewia Mała 2022

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