Sulla’s March on Rome

Sulla’s March on Rome

Introduction

In 88 BC, Roman general Sulla marched on Rome with his army to seize control of the Roman Republic. The march, which was both successful and brutal, was one of the most important events of the late Roman Republic and laid the groundwork for the rise of Julius Caesar and the fall of the Republic. This article will explore the events leading up to the march, the march itself, its consequences, and its legacy.

The Background

Before the march, Rome was in the midst of a power struggle between the populares and the optimates. The populares, led by Marius, sought to expand the power of the people and the Senate, while the optimates, led by Sulla, sought to maintain the power of the Senate and the elite. In 87 BC, Marius was elected Consul and declared himself dictator, giving him absolute power over the state.

The Outbreak of Civil War

Marius quickly began to use his power to dismantle the authority of the Senate and the optimates, leading to a state of civil war. Sulla, who had been exiled by Marius, refused to accept the situation and raised an army to march on Rome. He declared that he intended to restore the Senate and the power of the optimates.

The March on Rome

In 88 BC, Sulla and his army of 30,000 men began their march on Rome. The march was swift and brutal, and Sulla’s forces quickly overwhelmed the forces of Marius. Sulla entered Rome triumphantly and declared himself dictator.

Sulla’s Reign of Terror

Once in power, Sulla began a reign of terror. He executed thousands of his political opponents, confiscated their lands, and installed his own supporters in positions of power. He also sought to restore the power of the Senate and the optimates by reforming the laws and restoring the power of the Senate over the people.

The Revolt of Mithridates

While Sulla was in power, the kingdom of Pontus, led by Mithridates, rose up in revolt against Rome. Sulla was forced to lead his army to the east in order to quell the revolt. By 84 BC, Sulla had defeated Mithridates and returned to Rome.

Sulla’s Resignation

Upon his return, Sulla announced his intention to resign as dictator and restore the Republic. He reluctantly agreed to reform the laws and restore the power of the Senate, but refused to restore the power of the people. He then resigned in 79 BC and retired from public life.

The Legacy of Sulla’s March

The march and the following reign of terror had a lasting impact on the Roman Republic. It marked the beginning of the decline of the Republic, as it showed that it was possible to seize control of the state through violence. It also laid the groundwork for the rise of Julius Caesar and the fall of the Republic.

The Impact on Roman Politics

Sulla’s march also had a lasting impact on Roman politics. His reforms of the laws and his restoration of the power of the Senate over the people set the stage for the rise of the imperial system of government. It also led to a shift in the power dynamics between the Senate and the people, as the Senate now had the power to make laws without the consent of the people.

The Impact on Later Generals

The march also had an impact on later generals. It showed that it was possible to seize control of the state through force and that it was possible to do so with relatively few casualties. This was a lesson that later generals, such as Julius Caesar, would take to heart.

Conclusion

Sulla’s march on Rome in 88 BC was one of the most important events of the late Roman Republic. It marked the beginning of the decline of the Republic and laid the groundwork for the rise of Julius Caesar and the fall of the Republic. It also had a lasting impact on Roman politics, as it shifted the power dynamics between the Senate and the people and set the stage for the rise of the imperial system of government. Finally, it showed later generals that it was possible to seize control of the state through force and that it could be done with relatively few casualties. In 88 BC, Roman politician Lucius Cornelius Sulla marched his army on the city of Rome and seized power, beginning a period of political instability and civil war known as Sulla’s March on Rome. Sulla had been the elected consul in the past, however he had been trumped by his rival, Gnaeus Pompeius, who had granted himself a variety of honors unlawfully. Sulla then responded in turn by marching on Rome at the head of his legions, entering the city and quickly taking control.

Sulla’s march on Rome marks a period of constitutional crisis and civil conflict as Sulla’s heavy-handed methods and authoritarian rule set him on a collision course with many influential patrician families. He used military force to ensure the Senate granted him powers of proscription and dictatorship, implementing even more draconian laws and edicts. He then undertook a purge of his political enemies, targeting the politically influential through death sentence and exile and disbanding populist assemblies and re-directing their power to the Senate.

Almost immediately upon his seizure of power, Sulla was responsible for a sixty-day terror campaign in Rome that further highlighted his authoritative style. Following a brief armistice, he declared war against Mithridates of Pontus, an enemy of the Roman state, allowing him to divert attention away from his domestic rule.

The effects of Sulla’s seizure of power had long-term repercussions on Roman politics, most notably the concentrations of power in the Senate and political stratification of the Roman State between lower, middle, and upper classes. Even in Sulla’s absence, the Senate had maintained its political power, and his presence only served to augment the Senate’s power.

Sulla’s march on Rome was a period of instability, conflict, and flux in Roman politics. It ushered in a new era of Senate-centered government, disrupted the formation of alliances outside the Senate’s membership, and resulted in the rise of two political factions – the optimates and the populares. It is without a doubt, one of the most defining periods in the history of the Roman State.

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