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Sulla

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Ironically enough, Keaveney's biography, whilst being an unashamed apology for Sulla all the way through, finally sums it all up in the epilogue, when the author says that Sulla 'was one of the great failures of Roman history'. I suppose we can reach no other conclusion as his reforms were swept away within a generation, but the legacy he left behind for others to emulate his coup d'etat, was yet another blow to the ailing Republic he was trying to save. God forgive me - I almost feel sorry for the man! Why is it that the flawed men of history are always the most interesting? ;)

 

In sulla's case his reforms weren't popular. They were foisted on rome and in any case a lot of people fell by the wayside as a result. There's always bad feeling in these cases. On the other hand, once sulla retired he was no longer in a position to affect changes or protect himself politically apart from influence with former followers. That indicates to me he felt safe. That means his opposition was silent or eradicated. Sulla therefore must have shown typical roman ruthlessness. Also he must have felt that he needed do no more - his work was complete. I don't know if sulla's actions created a precedent or inspired others to do likewise, but he certainly brushed aside roman custom. That, I think, was his mistake. In no small way I think sulla tipped the balance too far - I really do think he showed others how weak the republic really was at that time.

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I'm a bit late to this discussion, but I still like to add that I think Sulla is amongst the most interesting of the Romans. I don't hate him like many do, but I don't like him either. It is my own personal opinion that he was one of the key figures responsible for the fall of the Republic.

 

Sulla, I believe, came to realise that towards the end of his life, that his descision to march on Rome had caused the Republic to become even more unstable. He had broken one of Rome's greatest taboos, to bring armed men within the walls; and that now there was no turning back.

He probably knew afterwards, that after he had taken that descision, that others would attempt the same thing. So, he renounced his powers and returned to public life, probably because he believed that he had done everything he needed to do. Maybe he also thought that if he wanted to be seen as the saviour of the Republic he needed to renounce his powers, just as Cinncinatus had done in the past.

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Interesting, but I can't see sulla in that light. However much he may have wished to save rome he certainly made no effort to prevent personal gain from his followers. He knew the proscriptions were often theft with menaces. By the time he retired, Sulla saw no reason to change anything - he'd already done what he set out to achieve. Further, if he regretted his decision then retiring makes no sense. Surely he would have stayed in politics and attempted to control the damage as it were?

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he certainly made no effort to prevent personal gain from his followers

 

Yes, he turned a blind eye to his friends profiteering from proscriptions, but sometimes perhaps not :- The below from Plutarch, life of Crassus.

 

 

However, during the proscriptions and public confiscations which ensued, he got a bad name again, by purchasing great estates at a low price, and asking donations. 7 It is said that in Bruttium he actually proscribed a man without Sulla's orders, merely to get his property, and that for this reason Sulla, who disapproved of his conduct, never employed him again on public business.

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One thing I have not seen mentioned in this thread, and which I think is important - forgive me if I have missed something in my unavoidable absence - is that there are two ways of evaluating a man's actions:

 

a) by how successful they were in retrospect (but this is based on hindsight and a viewpoint that the originator could not have had);

 

:pokey: the man's motives and purposes at the time - and the extent to which we can understand what that person was seeking to do (and at a time when the eventual outcome/result could not be known.

 

In retrospect we know that Sulla's settlement and actions were in many ways short-lived and broadly can be said to have failed. But, without being an expert on the period, it does seem to me that there is a perceptible and arguable consistency in Sulla's actions that reflects his desire to take the Republic back to an earlier state of balance. Whether one agrees with his assessment or with his aim is, of course, up to the individual. But Sulla was a patrician and his motives and views perhaps predicable, if more extreme than others.

 

I don't know incidentally whether it is a coincidence that I write this on the day a somewhat similar individual - Augusto Pinochet - is buried. beloved and mourned by some, cursed and unregretted by others. Sic transit Sulla.

 

Sulla failed in the long-term, but I think he would have replied - had he deigned to reply at all - that at least he TRIED.

 

On a separate point, but reflecting recent posts - much of the logic of the ancient world runs counter to our own - for instance the concept that slaves' evidence could only be accepted if obtained under torture. equally, Romans were expected to make their fortunes from the jobs (even as late as C17th, Samuel Pepys did something similar). Thus themen who gained from the proscriptions may not have been seen as QUITE so reprehensible in their own time, as now.

 

While to modern liberal eyes, and against C21st moral standards, Sulla maybe deemed reprehensible, I remain unconvinced that those who hold such views and conden from that standpoint, will ever UNDERSTAND Sulla.

 

Phil

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Sulla was no more reprehensible than any other leading roman of the time. Wealth and status were the same thing in roman eyes thus we see greedy behaviour everywhere. Now the quote from plutarch interests me because sulla did no more than keep his former employee at arms length. He was not punished? Was it not a crime to steal a mans property in such a way? That guy had become an embarrasement to sulla by making himself too obvious (there is a possibility that he made a genuine mistake and paid the price for it, but it doesn't look good does it?). Whatever the reason, sulla brushed him aside and carried on regardless with his reforms. Now to me that means sulla had clear objectives - he knew what he wanted to achieve. No wishy-washy do-gooder then. Sulla also needed to maintain distance from any political scandal. This all brings me back to my former opinion. Sulla wanted to remould rome to his ideal and didn't care too much who got hurt in the process. And if he made a few sestercii on the way - so much the better. That is typically roman and fully understandable. Their society was competitive, more cutthroat than ours. In actual fact Phil I can see sulla as being just a tad two-faced.

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You mean he may have been human, caldrail - inconsistent, capable of mistakes. I never thought otherwise.

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Sulla was no more reprehensible than any other leading Roman of the time.

 

How many leading Romans of Sulla's time--or any time leading up to Sulla--engaged in the systematic, wholesale slaughter of whole political classes? The notion that Sulla was just an "ordinary person, full of flaws" strains credulity, and the reasoning vividly demonstrates who the real beneficiary of that "judge not" nonsense is--the most wicked and the most corrupt. When Sulla retired, he was a debauched, bitter, evil old man. Moral relativism would only have warmed his black, rotten heart.

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When Sulla retired, he was a debauched, bitter, evil old man. Moral relativism would only have warmed his black, rotten heart.

 

Couldn't one say much the same for your hero and namesake, MPC?

 

Wasn't cato "debauched" (he was a noted drunkard wasn't he, a toper of wine?) bitter (and how), evil (I've always perceived him as a hating, perfervid, nasty piece of work) though thankfully he never lived to be old. I'm sure moral relativism would only have warmed Cato's black, rotten heart too.

 

Phil

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Sulla was no more reprehensible than any other leading Roman of the time.

 

How many leading Romans of Sulla's time--or any time leading up to Sulla--engaged in the systematic, wholesale slaughter of whole political classes? The notion that Sulla was just an "ordinary person, full of flaws" strains credulity, and the reasoning vividly demonstrates who the real beneficiary of that "judge not" nonsense is--the most wicked and the most corrupt. When Sulla retired, he was a debauched, bitter, evil old man. Moral relativism would only have warmed his black, rotten heart.

 

Well I never regarded him as an ordinary person. I agree, such people do not do sulla-esque things. Corrupt? Of course, most romans were. Thats how their society functioned. The same behaviour is everywhere today, its just that the modern west has more laws and willingness to combat such things. You seem very anti-sulla. Ok. To me he's symptomatic of roman ambition and greed, but some of the things I've read give him a more rounded personality than Montgomery Burns. Sulla wanted to be top dog and cleaned house to suit himself. I see that sort of thing going in business around me.

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Couldn't one say much the same for your hero and namesake, MPC?

 

No, nor is this on-topic. Instead, you've employed a fallacy of distraction: whether Cato did or did not like wine is wholly irrelevant to the topic of Sulla's murders. In fact, I can't help but say that this is the worst defense of Sulla that could be raised ("Sulla may have murdered thousands, but Cato drank wine!"). You have better arguments than this. Why are you resorting to one that is formally equivalent to "yeah? Your mother wears combat boots!" (sorry don't know the British equivalent)?

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YOU started the "name calling" in this thread MPC, not me. Nor is my response to you a fallacy of distraction (what a pompous term IMHO).

 

You defamed Sulla, I simply reflected your terminology back onto a figure you admire. I note you have not refuted my points.

 

In this thread I have taken the line of making the case FOR Sulla - your views on him are irrelevant to me, but your fallacious arguments are not.

 

Phil

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How were Sulla, Marius and Cinna viewed by later generations of Romans?

 

It could be a few generations later when they had first been dead long enough to ensure no living person had actual recollection (mid Julio-Claudians) or towards the end of the Empire....A long time.

How were they celebrated/reviled?

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Phil25,

 

The Augusta asked where everyone stood on the subject pure and simple and though his tone may very well be assumed to indicate prejudicial fallacies (to borrow one of his terms) MPC did so quite clearly.

 

Furthermore, even though MPC retorted your ad hominem with the same, he was essentially correct.

 

So can we please revert to cordial, adult discorse now and drop the whole 'character of MPC' thing as it is indeed off topic.

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As I said in an private message to Augusta before this nonsense erupted, I will be taking an extended break from UNRV anyway - for other reasons.

 

So discuss as you wish - i won't be getting in anyone's way.

 

Ciao,

 

Phil

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