The impact of Sulla on Italy and the Mediterranean world

The impact of Sulla on Italy and the Mediterranean world

By Federico Santangelo

PhD Dissertation, University College London, 2006

Jugurtha's capture depicted in the 18th century

Jugurtha’s capture depicted in the 18th century

Abstract: This Ph.D. thesis is a study of the role of the general and statesman Lucius Cornelius Sulla (138-78 BC) in the making of the Roman Empire.

The first chapter describes the crisis of Roman imperial strategy that became apparent in the age of Sulla, leading to two subsequent wars, the Social War in Italy and the Mithridatic War in the Greek East, then followed by a Civil War at Rome. In both contexts large sectors of the local elites nearly succeeded in bringing Roman hegemony to an end. After defeating their attempt, Rome had to redefine her relationship with them. Sulla played a crucial and often overlooked role in this phase.

The second chapter deals with Sulla’s contribution to the administration of the Empire. He brought about a fiscal reform in the province of Asia that created enormous difficulties for the local communities, the direct consequence of which was to compel them to seek the patronage or the support of members of the senatorial elite. In Italy, Sulla severely punished the communities that opposed his rise to power. In this case too they had to seek the support of members of the Roman governing class in order to limit the impact of Sulla’s retaliation.

The third chapter deals with the ideological aspect of the history of this period. Sulla made an important contribution to the ideology of Roman imperialism, and he made innovative use of some aspects of Roman religion. In the Greek East he portrayed himself and the Romans as descendants of Aphrodite/Venus, suggesting an interesting pattern where affinity and difference between Greeks and Romans coexisted and interacted. In Italy he developed this connection with Venus by representing himself as a new founder of Rome, a theme that is echoed in several piece of evidence.

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