21. Sulla’s March on Rome
Sulla used the inheritances from his older lovers to fund his political career, which he kicked off in 107 as Gaius Marius’ quaestor, or financial magistrate, in the Numidian War. He captured the Numidian king Jugurtha by treachery and claimed credit for the victorious conclusion of the war, which aroused Marius’ resentment. When the Social War (91 – 88 BC) broke out against Rome’s Italian allies, who demanded Roman citizenship and equal rights, Sulla performed brilliantly. His erstwhile commander Marius, aged and in poor health by then, did not.
Sulla was elected consul in 88 BC and given command of a war against King Mithridates of Pontus. Marius engineered the enactment of a law that stripped the command from Sulla, and gave it to Marius instead. In response, Sulla informed his legions that if Marius was commander, he would use his own legions and not Sulla’s men. That would deprive them of the opportunity for the rich rewards they had expected in the form of booty from a successful war against Pontus. With their financial interests threatened, the legions supported Sulla when he marched on Rome to seize power.