Constitutional reforms of Sulla

The constitutional reforms of Sulla were a series of laws enacted by the Roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla between 82 and 80 BC, reforming the constitution of the Roman Republic in a revolutionary way.

In the decades before Sulla had become dictator, Roman politics became increasingly violent.[1] Shortly before Sulla's first consulship, the Romans fought the bloody Social War against their Italian allies, victorious mostly due to their immediate concession on the Italians' war goal of gaining Roman citizenship.[2] Sulla's dictatorship followed more domestic unrest after the war and was a culmination in this trend for violence, with his leading an army on Rome for the second time in a decade and purging his opponents from the body politic in bloody proscriptions.[3]

In the aftermath of Sulla's civil war and a decade of internecine conflict following the Social War, the republic had collapsed.[4] Sulla attempted to resolve this crisis by embarking on a large reform programme inaugurating what he saw as a "new republic" empowering magistrates while holding them accountable to law enforced by permanent courts (with a larger senate to provide juries for those courts).[5][6]

His constitution would be mostly rescinded by two of his former lieutenants, Pompey and Crassus, less than ten years after his death. The mechanisms for accountability inherent to his reforms proved unworkable. Sulla's marches on Rome also had proved that accountability was impossible to impose on a general with a sufficiently large army. Romans were, moreover, unable to accept as legitimate a set of reforms given by a self-appointed lawgiver under the threat of violence.

  1. ^ Flower 2010, pp. 80–81.
  2. ^ Beard 2015, p. 237.
  3. ^ Flower 2010, p. 94.
  4. ^ Flower 2010, p. 120.
  5. ^ Flower 2010, p. 129.
  6. ^ Steel 2014a, p. 667.