Sulla, Or Sylla, Lucins Cornelius (Felix), a Roman dictator, born in 138 B. C, died in 78.
The family was originally called Rufinus and belonged to the great Cornelia gens. He acquainted himself with Greek and Roman literature, and was said to have all the accomplishments and all the vices of the day. Inheriting the property of his stepmother and of a courtesan, he aspired to the honors of state. In 107 B. C. he was elected quaestor, and was sent with cavalry to Africa to aid Marius in the Jugurthine war. Marius regarded him as a profligate patrician ignorant of war, but Sulla's conduct soon won his esteem and the affection of his soldiers. He took a leading part in the battle of Cirta and in the transactions which ended in the betrayal of Jugurtha. In 104 he was legate under Marius during the threatening invasion of the Cimbri and Teutons; in 103 he was military tribune; in 102 he left Marius, who had become jealous of him, to serve under Q. Catulus, who made him chief manager of affairs; and in 101 he was engaged in the great battle which completely destroyed the' Cimbri. In 93, by a liberal distribution of money among the people, he gained the prsetorship. In 92 ho was sent as propraetor to Cilicia to restore Ariobarzanes to his kingdom of Cappadocia, from which Mithridates had expelled him.
His success attracted the attention of Arsaces, king of Par-thia, who sent an embassy to Sulla to solicit an alliance with the Romans. On his return to Rome both ho and Marius, representatives of the aristocratic and popular parties respectively, desired the command of the army in the impending war against Mithridates; but the breaking out of the social war checked their private feuds and united the two generals against the common foe. In this war Sulla's successes far outshone those of Marius; but his most brilliant exploits were in SO, when as legato of the consul L. Cato he destroyed Stabia), subjugated the Hirpini, defeated the Samnites, and captured their chief town, Bovianum. In 88 he became consul, and was appointed to the command against Mithridates. Marius conspired with the tribune P. Sulpicius Rufus and with the lately enfranchised Italians to wrest this command from Sulla, and succeeded in driving him out of the city, He hastened to the army then besieging Nola, persuaded six legions to march under him against Rome, entered the city, and drove out Marius. Early in 87 he joined his troops at Capua, embarked for Greece, and began the war against Mithridates. In 80, after a long siege, he took and plundered Athens, and from this time till his return to Rome in the spring of 83 he enjoyed almost uninterrupted success.
In the mean time Marius and L. Cinna returned to Rome and were elected consuls. Sulla was declared a public enemy, and against both him and Mithridates was sent an army, which in 85, under Fimbria, gained several victories over the armies of Mithridates in Asia, while Sulla in the same year defeated Ids army in Greece. In 84 Sulla made peace with Mithridates, and turning his attention to Fimbria, then at Thyatira, he defeated him. Fimbria, deserted by his soldiers, committed suicide. Sulla exacted enormous sums from Asiatic cities, and then set sail with his army for Athens, from which he carried to Rome the celebrated library of Apellicon. Although both Marius and Cinna were dead, the Marian party were still strong against Sulla; but by victories, by intrigues, and by seducing their soldiers to join his own army, Sulla succeeded in shutting up the younger Marius in Praeneste, and leaving a force to besiege the place, he hastened with the bulk of his army to Rome, which was threatened by the Sam-nites and Lucanians. Both armies arrived almost simultaneously, and before the Collino gate was fought, Nov. 1, 82, the great battle in which 50,000 men on each side are said to have fallen. The victorious Sulla massacred all his Samnite prisoners.
Pneneste soon surrendered; the Pnenestines and Samnites were slaughtered, and the younger Marius killed himself. This ended the Marian war. The next step of Sulla, now master of Rome, was to extirpate the popular party. At the close of 82 the dictatorship, which had been in abeyance for about 130 years, was revived, and Sulla as dictator had absolute power over the lives and property of all citizens. A reign of terror followed. Sulla posted in the forum a list called a proscriptio of persons to be considered as outlaws, who might be killed by any one, and their confiscated property was to be sold at auction. Fresh lists constantly appeared, till Sulla was rid of his enemies, while their property helped to enrich his friends. But he did not intend to abolish the republic, and in 80 he was elected consul, still holding the dictatorship. In 80-79 he introduced his reforms in the constitution and established military colonies throughout Italy. All his reforms were by leges, including the laws relating to the constitution, to the religious corporations, to the administration of justice, and to the improvement of public morals.
Having effected these reforms, he voluntarily resigned the dictatorship in 79, and retired to his estate at Puteoli, where he devoted himself to literary and sensual enjoyments. His excesses shortened his life; the immediate cause of his death was the rupture of a blood vessel. He had just completed the 22d book of his memoirs, which have not come down to us, but were largely used by Plutarch. The senate gave him a public funeral, which was a gorgeous pageant. His monument in the Campus Martius bore an inscription, said to have been composed by himself, to the effect that none of his friends ever did him a kindness, and none of his enemies a wrong, without being fully repaid. His constitutional reforms endured but a few years, and only paved the way for the advent of the Caesars.