Roman Generals Marius and Sulla

Sulla was a roman magistrate; politician and he also opposed the leader of the senate. He served twice as a consul after having usurped power, once in 87 BC and again from 86 – 84 BC. Subsequent to the violation of the conditions on which Cinna had been made consul by him, Sulla deposed him and utilized Marius’s help to take over Rome in 87 BC (Cinna, Lucius Cornelius (died 84 BC). The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia including Atlas 2005). Sulla also called himself Felix and he had served in Africa under Marius, while fighting Mithradates VI of Pontus.

Both Sulla and Marius were eager to assume command against Mithradates-Marius and Sulla obtained this position in 88 BC. Sulla succeeded in repulsing Mithradates’ army by the year 85 BC and in 84 BC he defeated Mithradates. After that he returned to Italy in 83 BC and the result was a year long civil war. Sulla emerged victorious in this war and in 82 BC became a dictator. He proved to be a butcher of his enemies and the numbers done to death was without precedent in the Roman Empire. After such executions the victims’ property was distributed among Sulla’s friends.

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He modified the government in such a manner that the senate was not subjected to any popular restraint. Moreover, several colonies were founded by him in order to benefit his veterans. He retired in 80 BC and soon his reforms were discarded. His rule was cruel and bereft of legality (Sulla, Lucius Cornelius (138 BC – 78 BC). The Columbia Encyclopediae 2004). Lucius Cornelius Cinna was a Roman patrician and principal supporter of the Roman general Gaius Marius. Subsequent to exiling Marius from the city, Lucius Sulla, the mortal foe of Marius, permitted Cinna to don the mantle of consul provided he did not tamper with the constitution.

However, Cinna impeached Sulla with the consequence that Cinna and Marius declared themselves to be consuls. Cinna was assassinated by his troops whilst mounting an attack against Sulla. Treachery ran in this family as was evidenced by the fact that Cinna’s daughter Cornelia, who was Julius Caesar’s wife, bore him a son who was one of Caesar’s assassins (Lucius Cornelius Cinna 2006). Gaius Marius transformed the legionary army into a formidable fighting machine. He was a politician and soldier.

His modifications of the Roman army, which commenced in 104 BC, were justified when he defeated the erstwhile victorious armies of the Teutones at Aquae Sextiae in 102 BC and the Cimbri at Vercellae in 101 BC. His conflict over the command of an expedition with Sulla in 88 BC resulted in his exile; however, he returned in 87 BC and was elected consul. He died soon after becoming a consul (Marius, Gaius (c. 157 – 86 BC). Andromeda Encyclopedic Dictionary of World History 2001). Sulla came to prominence in 107 BC by capturing Jugurtha, an African king.

He gained further recognition by his exemplary command of the Roman army in the Social War at Campania in 90 B and by defeating the Samnites on several occasions. He conquered Athens and later emerged victorious against Mithridates at Chaeronea and Orchomenus. His opponents captured control of Rome in his absence; however he returned in 83 BC and commenced to defeat his enemy armies one by one. By the year 82 BC he regained control of Rome. He was considered to be a lucky general like Caesar and Pompey (Sulla, Lucius Cornelius (138 BC – 78 BC). The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia including Atlas 2005).

The Numidian king Jugurtha, proved to be a redoubtable opponent and Gaius Marius inflicted defeat on him, however, in reality it was Sulla, his lieutenant who actually managed to defeat him comprehensively. Sulla came from an old and well-established aristocratic family; whereas Marius was making attempts to become a member of high society. Marius was a master tactician and made far reaching changes to the Roman army by enlisting a large number of volunteers. He promised these soldiers a share in what was looted during war and plots of land at the time of their retirement from service.

A large number of poverty stricken people joined the army and they cast their lot with Marius out of gratitude. This made Marius very powerful. Sulla proved to be very successful in the wars that Rome conducted with the Italians. He was a patrician unlike Marius and defeated the latter in a civil war. The Senate, appointed Sulla as the dictator as it feared a reprisal from the public. This post of dictator was inherent in the Roman constitution and the power handed over solely to the dictator was used by Sulla to restore Senate’s power and to uproot the assembly’s authority (Keaveney 2005).

Though Marius was of humble extraction, he reached the pinnacle of Roman society and held seven consulships and married into the aristocracy. He made several far reaching reforms to the Roman army. His later life was devoted mainly to his opposition with Sulla. His name was sullied forever, due to the extreme violence that he utilized in recapturing Rome from Cinna in 87 BC (Marius, Gaius (c. -157 – -186 BC). The Crystal Reference Encyclopedia 2005).