Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Gaius Marius were two important Roman generals and politicians that both ruled Rome during their lives. These two historical Roman figures would eventually fight a civil war that would be the first to decide if Rome would remain a Republic or become an empire. All of this happened during the first century BC that is where it is found on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History.
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Sulla the Leader
Sulla was elected to consult two times during his career, and he became a dictator as well. Sulla had fought campaigns in Africa and Europe and proved to be victorious in both arenas. His conquests helped him to become a greatly admired General by his men and many fighting forces all throughout Europe and Northern Africa. After his conquest, he started his political career. He was made dictator by members of the Senate in 82 B.C. and this move was used to intentionally give him power as the sole ruler of Rome. He set the stage for Julius Caesar‘s dictatorship and the end of the Republic under the leadership of Emperor Augustus in 27 B.C.
Marius the Leader
Marius was also a consul, and he was elected to this office seven times while in service to his country. Marius started his consulship around 107 B.C. and continued serving as a consul periodically until 86 B.C. He reorganized the Roman army and started a draft that recruited landless citizens to the Roman military forces. Marius fought in Europe and Africa the same as Sulla. Both of these generals served their consulships at different times. Marius served his consulship up until 86 B.C. when he died, and Sulla started his role as a dictator and consul in 82 B.C.
The Roman Republic was quickly becoming an empire. The problem with this new type of government was that the people of Rome were used to being ruled by a government body and not just one individual. This was starting to change because some Roman leaders realized that Rome was dominating too many people and needed a sole leader to head such a vast state. Other members of the ruling class disagreed with this line of thought and wanted to keep the Republic intact.
Optimates and Populares
The optimates desired to maintain the Republic, but the populares wanted to control the government according to their own terms including having a sole emperor in power. Marius and Sulla were rivaled generals and really didn’t care for each other. After Marius had retired from his duties Sulla came to power. Marius didn’t like what was happening. A situation arose with a group of people known as the Mithridates, and the optimates chose Sulla to resolve this problem. The populares didn’t agree, and they backed Marius. Both generals used the senators that supported them to fight against each other in the political arena but eventually Marius won. Sulla then ran to his army that was camped outside of Rome. He then led his army inside of Rome and retook his position as a leader, and the populares agreed to let him be the ruler in charge.
The optimates used this situation to their advantage and declared that Marius and his followers were enemies of Rome and condemned them to death. Marius and his group of populares fled Rome, and the optimates were now in charge. Marius remained in exile for about a year before returning to Rome with a huge army of his own. Once he arrived he allowed his army to kill the senators who had him declared an enemy of the state. Sulla was away fighting the Mithridates when this event had occurred.
Sulla returned to Rome with his army where Marius had gathered another force to stop him. Once Sulla arrived both sides fought a furious battle but Sulla forces won out. He slaughtered all of the populares that he could, and he eventually retired because the bloodshed was too great. The outcome of the Civil War between Marius and Sulla forever changed the nature of the Roman government, and it gave the optimates a strong footing to change the Republic into an empire.