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Sulla

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I am neither "for" or "against" Sulla, but I admire him. He was a fiercely ambitious man who faced obstacle after obstacle (being penurious, starting his political career late, Gaius Marius, having his command against Mithridates taken off him, the list goes on) in his political career and became more and more ruthless with how he dealt with any impedence. Regardless of how he achieved it, he got to the top, stayed there to implement his will, and lived to retire to his estates to drink himself to death.

The proscriptions were a blot on his record, but I think this is so only if you judge him with our 21st century morals. Rome was a nation that revelled in blood ( compassion was regarded as a weakness displayed by old women and frilly matrons ) - they're idea of a good time was watching men kill each other or get torn apart by animals. I doubt the proscriptions, with the forum drenched in blood and a rostra bristling with severed heads would have been considered an atrocity to 90 percent of Romans, especially as the proscriptions only really affected the rich Senators and Knights. I always imagine the poorer of Rome's citizens lining their pockets with the one talent fee for killing anyone on the lists rather than wringing their hands in despair for their political and fiscal overlords. Proscriptions of the upper classes was an expedient method of filling an empty treasury and getting rid of his political enemies, so Sulla did it.

I don't think that he was trying to save the Republic per se. I think that he was trying to re establish the ascendancy of the Senate and patricians in particular. He took the veto of the tribunes!

I reckon that after a life so full of contention, he probably gave up the Dictatorship because he'd had enough of public life.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla - NO BETTER FRIEND, NO WORSE ENEMY.

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The proscriptions were a blot on his record, but I think this is so only if you judge him with our 21st century morals. Rome was a nation that revelled in blood ( compassion was regarded as a weakness displayed by old women and frilly matrons ) - they're idea of a good time was watching men kill each other or get torn apart by animals.

 

You must be talking about the Rome that exists on a Hollywood stage set, not the historical Rome of the republican era. In the literature that exists, Sulla's proscriptions were uniformly described as horrific and unjust, and this fact is fundamental to understanding the post-Sullan era. Nor should we believe that the "common man" was any more bloodthirsty than his more lettered fellow citizen. Recall that when Pompey staged a showing of elephants being killed, the crowd was so moved by their plight that the incident reflected badly on Pompey. Could a crowd moved to tears over elephants really be indifferent to severed heads in the forum?

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Could a crowd moved to tears over elephants really be indifferent to severed heads in the forum?

 

lol :lol: elephants, precisely :lol: severed heads :lol: how i laugh

 

I was reading thrugh the first 4 pages of this and thik my views are much like your on the matter, Cato. I'd just add that I'm probably more of a softy for marius which probably slurs my better judgment.

 

vtc

 

edit: :lol: i actually had a tear in my eye and it's not even that funny. Thank you Cato.

Edited by Vibius Tiberius Costa

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Recall that when Pompey staged a showing of elephants being killed, the crowd was so moved by their plight that the incident reflected badly on Pompey. Could a crowd moved to tears over elephants really be indifferent to severed heads in the forum?

Yes. Then and now. Tenderness and sadism are not mutually exclusive.

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Yes. Then and now. Tenderness and sadism are not mutually exclusive.

 

No - indeed, they are not. But it must be remembered that Sulla killed nobiles on a scale unequalled even by the war-time enemies of Rome. At no other point in Roman history (save perhaps the proscriptions of the Second Triumvirate; I'm not sure how the two stack up) was the city so thoroughly culled of its best and bravest.

 

As for Sulla the man, I personally am revolted by him. I find nothing worth admiring in overweening pride, a sense of entitlement, and self-absorption. Sulla's reforms were neither well-considered nor well-implemented - reactionary politicians rarely accomplish much of worth. In essence, the Republic was made to bow to one man's conception of what it should be.

 

I don't recall who said it, but someone mentioned respecting Sulla for forming the Caesarian mold, or what Meier terms the "outsider" - someone who can form their own complete reality, seperate from that of normal society. I myself can see nothing respectable about the first in a long line of blood-soaked tyrants.

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Just FYI here is Appian's account of the meeting between the triumvirs before the proscriptions (taken from the Penguin Classics translation, typos all my own!)

 

BC IV.5

 

"They marked down not only the powerful men they mistrusted, but also their own private foes. In exchage they surrendered their own relations and friends to each other, both then and later. Extra names were constantly added to the list, some from enmity, others only because they had been a nuisance, or were friends of enemies, or enemies of friends, or were notably wealthy.....The point was reached where a person was proscribed because he had a fine house in town or country. The total of those condemend to death and confiscation of property was about 300 senators and 2,000 equestrians. These included brothers and uncles of the men who proscribed them and of their subordinates, if they had done anything to offend the leaders or these subordinates"

 

on the other hand my namesake was no ****** cat either Appian's description of his proscriptions follows.

 

" With these words he immediately proscribed about forty senators and 1,600 of the equestrian class. He seems to have been the first to publish a list of those he punished with death, and to add a statement detailing a prize for killers, rewards for informers, and penalites for concealment. Soon he added other Senators names to the list...."

 

There then follows a sorry tale of woe about the punishments meted out across Italy, especially to the rich, for colusion with Sulla's enemies.

 

Now I like Sulla enormously...obviously. He was not perfect, but he had style, and he was man of principle and everything he did he did for the preservation of the Republic. That's what sets him apart for me. He was ambitious but he was not entirely self-serving like Pompey, or as arrogant as Caesar, or dishonorable like many of the Opitmates.

Edited by sullafelix

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Meh, gun to my head ... I count myself in the anti-Sulla camp. Being a fan of Julius Caesar has probably colored my perception of him though. I tend to think the fall of the Republic was a good thing, and so from the standpoint that Sulla helped to enable it's downfall, I'm grateful.

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I can't really say I like Sulla, or I don't, I just find him interesting. I have had a question burning in my mind. Why didn't the senate kill Sulla like they killed Caesar!!??! Was it because there wasn't anyone left in Rome or the Senate after the proscriptions brave enough to stab Sulla at the base of a statue of Marius? Maybe Caesar should have killed all his enemies just like Sulla did.

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Why didn't the senate kill Sulla like they killed Caesar!!??! Was it because there wasn't anyone left in Rome or the Senate after the proscriptions brave enough to stab Sulla at the base of a statue of Marius?

 

Yes indeed, the opposition was killed off or exiled (or in opposition away from Rome like Sertorius in Hispania). Those who remained were Sullans and/or people of similar conservative political ideology and benefited by Sulla and his policies. Additionally, Sulla did give up the dictatorship and took no action that would give the impression that he intended to maintain it forever or that he intended to restore the monarchy. Caesar, on the other hand, whether one agrees or disagrees, did give a real impression that he positioned himself as a real king abroad and potentially even at Rome.

 

 

Maybe Caesar should have killed all his enemies just like Sulla did.

 

For the most part he did. It just took him a bit longer to do the job, and the death of many opponents was masked by the fact that they occurred in battle. Notice that most of those involved in his death were actually considered his friends. Of all of those named, only Quintus Ligarius showed any real history of being an anti-Caesarian as an opponent in the war in Africa. (Lucius Tillius Cimber's brother had been exiled but Cicero claims that Tillius himself was a strong partisan of Caesar... at least prior to joining the conspiracy).

 

Of course, in fairness to Caesar famed clemency, Ligarius was one of those who had been pardoned and we certainly can't be certain of the partisanship of the 50 or so other conspirators who have not named in our surviving sources.

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Maybe Caesar should have killed all his enemies just like Sulla did.

For the most part he did. It just took him a bit longer to do the job, and the death of many opponents was masked by the fact that they occurred in battle.

 

Just to underline PP's point, you can look at the number of individuals killed during Sulla's proscriptions versus Caesar's civil war:

med_gallery_998_120_37540.png

 

In this chart, each dot represents one individual named in the sources as having been killed in proscriptions, civil war, riots, and so forth. It's true that we have much more source material for the period after Sulla than for the period before, but this is largely offset by the fact that the data in the chart doesn't make use of Cicero's voluminous correspondence (yet).

 

BTW, my chart is just a fancy visualization of the hard work by PP. See his excellent Political Violence in the Late Republic.

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Why didn't the senate kill Sulla like they killed Caesar!!??! Was it because there wasn't anyone left in Rome or the Senate after the proscriptions brave enough to stab Sulla at the base of a statue of Marius?

 

Yes indeed, the opposition was killed off or exiled (or in opposition away from Rome like Sertorius in Hispania). Those who remained were Sullans and/or people of similar conservative political ideology and benefited by Sulla and his policies. Additionally, Sulla did give up the dictatorship and took no action that would give the impression that he intended to maintain it forever or that he intended to restore the monarchy. Caesar, on the other hand, whether one agrees or disagrees, did give a real impression that he positioned himself as a real king abroad and potentially even at Rome.

 

No matter how long Sulla intended to be dictator, he was still dictator. He still was in charge of Rome, government and army. the people of Rome saw him as the ultimate dicator and were scared to death of him. Sulla knew that if he retired or died, all his laws would cease to exist. It has to be an igo issue for Sulla. Just because he retired does not mean he didn't want to be "king". The senate (what was left of them) could have given him a title that meant King, without having to say king. He was old, ugly and knew he didn't have much time left. He wanted history to remember him as he saw it. You know "what if" scenario. If Caesar lived longer would he be "King"? I think that when the Republic was nearing the end, the men who had the power of Rome triedn to shape it into their own ideas, no matter what the cost. Marius and Sula lost sight of what Rome really was. Caesar tried to at least keep the populas on his side.

Ok, where I was going with this, I don't remember!

 

Maybe Caesar should have killed all his enemies just like Sulla did.

 

For the most part he did. It just took him a bit longer to do the job, and the death of many opponents was masked by the fact that they occurred in battle. Notice that most of those involved in his death were actually considered his friends. Of all of those named, only Quintus Ligarius showed any real history of being an anti-Caesarian as an opponent in the war in Africa. (Lucius Tillius Cimber's brother had been exiled but Cicero claims that Tillius himself was a strong partisan of Caesar... at least prior to joining the conspiracy).

 

Of course, in fairness to Caesar famed clemency, Ligarius was one of those who had been pardoned and we certainly can't be certain of the partisanship of the 50 or so other conspirators who have not named in our surviving sources.

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Just to underline PP's point, you can look at the number of individuals killed during Sulla's proscriptions versus Caesar's civil war:

med_gallery_998_120_37540.png

 

In this chart, each dot represents one individual named in the sources as having been killed in proscriptions, civil war, riots, and so forth. It's true that we have much more source material for the period after Sulla than for the period before, but this is largely offset by the fact that the data in the chart doesn't make use of Cicero's voluminous correspondence (yet).

 

 

I would just like to point out - after a good half-hour of switching back and forth from PP's table - many of the dots on the chart represent exiles as well mortalities. For instance, out the eight dots for the year 52 BCE, only one represents an actual death - the rest were, for multiple reasons, exiled.

 

Further, although it has been suggested that the late/mid first century BCE sample bias has been offset by the absence of Cicero's letters, a sample bias is still apparent. Take, for example our sources for the early period of the civil war (Gracchus to c.Sulla's death). These are mostly synoptic histories (Appian, Dio, Livy etc.), and only really documented the lives and deaths of the most notable individuals: the men whose actions could make or break history. Less notable people are only mentioned when could be use to prove a wider philosophical argument.

 

The sources for the mid century conflict (Catiline to Caesar) are also aided by these synoptic histories. These, however, only play an auxiliary role in the reconstruction of this period as they give way to other, more comprehensive and near-primary sources: Sallust, Caesar and Hirtius. Both the comprehensive and primary(ish) nature of these sources mean that the deaths of historical footnotes were recorded alongside those of the famous republicans: Hirtius and Caesar mention the deaths centurions and primi pili; Sallust mentions the deaths of Catiline's legates.

 

So for a greater insight into who killed the most, one is better off looking at figures from synoptic histories.

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I would just like to point out - after a good half-hour of switching back and forth from PP's table - many of the dots on the chart represent exiles as well mortalities. For instance, out the eight dots for the year 52 BCE, only one represents an actual death - the rest were, for multiple reasons, exiled.

Good point. But why are you mentioning the exiles of 52 but not the exiles of 88? Since we're comparing Sulla to the triumvirate, you can't subtract only from one side!

 

Further, although it has been suggested that the late/mid first century BCE sample bias has been offset by the absence of Cicero's letters, a sample bias is still apparent.

Right--the exclusion of Cicero's letters mitigates, but doesn't eliminate, the sampling bias for the first century: just because we don't know the names of all the men killed in the Gracchan violence doesn't necessarily mean the period was less bloody.

 

So for a greater insight into who killed the most, one is better off looking at figures from synoptic histories.

That's probably a good idea. Why don't you give it shot and tell us what you find?

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I would just like to point out - after a good half-hour of switching back and forth from PP's table - many of the dots on the chart represent exiles as well mortalities. For instance, out the eight dots for the year 52 BCE, only one represents an actual death - the rest were, for multiple reasons, exiled.

Good point. But why are you mentioning the exiles of 52 but not the exiles of 88? Since we're comparing Sulla to the triumvirate, you can't subtract only from one side!

 

I was just using the year 52 as one example, but that is a fair point.

 

So for a greater insight into who killed the most, one is better off looking at figures from synoptic histories.

 

That's probably a good idea. Why don't you give it shot and tell us what you find?

 

I have to do two papers and quite a bit of Latin work, but after that I shall give it a shot.

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