1. Marius, Sulla, the Republic at 100 BC

Marius BeforeCaesarMAP Sulla

Lucius Cornelius Sulla adopted the cognomen Felix (fortunate); and in general he did live up to his nickname.


His enemies were less so after he became dictator in 82 BC—their properties were confiscated and their lives forfeit in the worst reign of terror Rome had witnessed. Notwithstanding his bloodthirsty actions, Sulla’s reforms led to the restoration of constitutional government, but also pointed the way of "might is right" to his ambitious lieutenants.


And in his private life his penchant for depravity foreshadowed the behavior of many later emperors.

Gaius Marius is credited with creating the first professional Roman army, the men serving as salaried soldiers in permanent legions. In so doing, he swept away the democratic citizen-army and laid the foundations for a military that was loyal to its paymasters—the aristocratic legates—rather than to the state.


Marius was a practical man, who must have thought he was doing the best for Rome, given the circumstances, but he proved to be as unprincipled as his former comrade Sulla (right) when the two clashed. Each claimed the loyalty of the legions they commanded and used Rome as a pawn in their struggle for supreme power. It set the pattern for the future empire and sowed the seeds of its ultimate destruction.

Fathers of the Republican Revolution

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Illustrations © Oliver Frey; Maps © Roger M. Kean    © 2010–2016 Reckless Books, England