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Playing Offense: A Deeper Look into the Motivations and Significance of Sulla's March on Rome


In 88 BCE, Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla marched on his own city for the first time in the Roman Republic’s history to procure for himself political control that had been awarded to Gaius Marius. This paper examines not only the impact of this decision, but also some of the most important motivations behind it that help to shape the march’s significance. Specifically, narratives of Appian, Plutarch, and Velleius Paterculus, that describe this event, in conjunction with commentary from modern historian Allen M. Ward, are presented to illustrate that Sulla’s march on Rome was politically significant in that it set a precedent of violence against the state as a means to attain military command. However, it was not necessarily novel on its own: in fact, it was shaped by the Marian military reforms, Sulla's personal struggle for power in a rivalry with Marius, and the ongoing popular revolt against Roman authority during the Italian War.

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