Facts and Events
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (c. 138 BC – 78 BC), known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and . He had the distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as reviving the dictatorship. Sulla was awarded a grass crown, the most prestigious and rarest Roman military honor, during the Social War. His life was habitually included in the ancient biographical collections of leading generals and politicians, originating in the biographical compendium of famous Romans, published by Marcus Terentius Varro. In Plutarch's Parallel Lives Sulla is paired with the Spartan general and strategist Lysander.
Sulla's dictatorship came during a high point in the struggle between optimates and populares. The former sought a conservative approach to maintain the traditional oligarchic structure of power in the Republic, while the latter challenged the existing order with the avowed aim of increasing the influence of the plebs. Sulla was a gifted and skilful general and won many victories against barbarians as well as fellow Romans and Italians. One of his rivals, Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, described Sulla as having the cunning of a fox and the courage of a lion.
In a series of constitutional crises, Sulla used his armies to march on Rome twice, and after the second time he revived the office of dictator, which had not been used since the Second Punic War over a century before. He used his powers to enact a series of reforms to the Roman constitution, meant to restore the balance of power between the Senate and the tribunes. Already in poor health, he stunned the world (and posterity) by resigning his near-absolute powers, restoring constitutional government in late 81 BC. After seeking election to and holding a second consulship, he retired to private life and died shortly after.