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Sulla: A Dictator Reconsidered OTTIMO LIBRO, STORICO E SCORREVOLE, OFFRE UNA IMMAGINE INEDITA DEL PROTAGONISTA iNTERESSANTE LA SUA TATTICA DI BATTAGLIA E L IDEA DELLA TRINCEA UN LIBRO DA CONSIGLIARE ANCHE A QUELLI CHE DI SOLITO SI LIMITANO A LEGGERE UNICAMENTE ROMANZI SCOPRIREBBERO QUANTO E BELLA LA STORIA SE BEN RACCONTATA All as described, arrived on time. Lucius Cornelius Sulla is one of the central figures of the late Roman Republic Indeed, he is often considered a major catalyst in the death of the republican system the ambitious general whose feud with a rival Marius led to his marching on Rome with an army at his back, leading to civil war and the terrible internecine bloodletting of the proscriptions In these things, and in his appropriation of the title of dictator with absolute power, he set a dangerous precedent to be followed by Julius Caesar a generation later Lynda Telford believes Sullas portrayal as a monstrous, brutal tyrant is unjustified While accepting that he was responsible for much bloodshed, she contends that he was no brutal than many of his contemporaries who have received a kinder press Moreover, even his harshest measures were motivated not by selfish ambition but by genuine desire to do what he believed best for Rome The author believes the bias of the surviving sources, and modern biographers, has exaggerated the ill feeling towards Sulla in his lifetime After all, he voluntarily laid aside dictatorial power and enjoyed a peaceful retirement without fear of assassination The contrast to Caesar is obvious Lynda Telford gives a long overdue reappraisal of this significant personality, considering such factors as the effect of his disfiguring illness The portrait that emerges is a subtle and nuanced one her Sulla is very much a human, not a monster A very intelligent and well balanced read that allows the reader to walk in Sulla s Caligae. This is a detailed but disappointing read It is not a balanced account of Sulla s life The author s bias is embarrassing at times A typical example of this is in chapter 8 which covers one of the defining moments in Sulla s career his march on Rome The choice of language illustrates this anyone opposing Sulla must have been deranged or so blinded by their own egos whereas Sulla was obliged to fight for his consulship but he responded to the situation that had been forced upon him valiantly Anyone opposing Sulla is automatically suspect and Sulla is always completely blameless.I note that the author is also a big fan of Richard III and sadly at times the writing makes me think of those women who write to prisoners on death row proposing marriage. Very much enjoyed reading this book, easy to read and as it is the first book I have read about Sulla found it very informative. This book simply did not work for me because it is both unconvincing and unnecessary Presenting Sulla as a kind of victim was always going to be a bit of an uphill battle, although it is perfectly correct that his reputation has been much maligned, mostly after his death when he was no longer able to defend it and to bring retribution against his detractors However, presenting Sulla as some kind of idealist and trying to argue that he was in no way motivated by his own interest seems to me both unconvincing and a step too far.Contrary to what the author tries to assert, Sulla was not a paragon of all noble virtues, and not exactly a victim Essentially, as Arthur Keaveney s biography of Sulla shows much better, he gave as good as he got , or even , as part of the usual Roman ultra competitive behaviours between the ambitious contenders for the top positions He was indeed extremely loyal to his friends, and just as vindictive to his enemies.So, by arguing too strenuously and trying to defend the position that Sulla always had the interests of the Republic at heart over his own, the author manages to be very unconvincing and the book becomes rather counter productive There are many issues with this book and the very improbable thesis defended by the author.One is the author s personal research seems rather shallow, as shown by the very list of references and some of them in particular The book quite frequently reads as a paraphrase of Arthur Keaveney s Sulla, the last republican , first published in 1982, particularly when explaining how Sulla s hand was forced into marching his army on Rome and into getting rid of his enemies through the proscriptions It is also rather strange to find Colleen McCullough s four novels however good the novels happen to be listed as references to what is supposed to be a history book.Another is the author s anachronistic tendency to draw parallels between Sulla and his times and Richard III and the War of the Roses, which is her favourite topic While there may be some superficial elements of comparisons both had their names quite systematically blackened after their death for instance this is not enough to make an apt comparison Amusingly, a apt comparison would have been between Sulla and Mark Antony, but the author sees fit to portray the latter as foolish , among other derogatory terms, without necessarily realising that she is relaying much of the character assassination to which he was also subject, but this time by Octavian the future self styled Augustus Caesar.A third point is that this book contains numerous and quite deliberate repetitions This is because the author tends to repeat the same points several times across the book, as if this could help to reinforce the rather hard to believe case she is trying to make Instead, it makes the book lengthier than it should be, not very credible and not as entertaining as it could have been.The author s main contention that Sulla was always acting in the best interests of the Republic and never his own is where the author is the hardest to believe First, this would have made him a unique exception within the Roman Senate and for at least the last two hundred last years of the Republic and a very improbable paragon of all virtue Second, the author entirely passes over the supposedly fabulous plunder that Sulla brought back from his Asian campaigns which in fact essentially took place in Greece In this, he was no different than other Roman generals So while he certainly was penniless at the beginning of his career, he clearly was not after his campaigns after Mithridates Third, whatever the noble intentions that the author lends to him, and in particular that he never materially benefited from the proscriptions and cut off Crassus and had his own steward executed when they did, the reasons for this may have just as much to do with the two men abusing his authority and giving him a bad name, as opposed to being ascribed to a highly principled attitude only.In fact, analysing to what extent Sulla s actions happened to ALSO fit his personal interests, and not only the values he was portraying himself as defending, would have allowed for a much meaningful and less biaised comparison with Caesar In both cases, the principles that they portrayed themselves as championing always happened to coincide with their own interests Interestingly also, the author seems to be quite adept at applying double standards In contrast to Sulla fighting for a noble cause and wanting to re establish the dominance of the Senate, Caesar is presented as pretending to act for the good of the people while in reality seeking to promote his own interests The bias between the treatments reserved to the first man to march his army on Rome and his later imitator is so obvious that it largely discredits the author s excessive claims.Finally, there are a couple of other points where a less biased comparison between Sulla and Caesar would have also been valuable.Lynda Telford praises Sulla for relinquishing power and claims that this is something that Caesar was both unable and unwilling to do Here again, however, she is not comparing like with like since the former was ill, would die shortly afterwards and therefore had little to lose Caesar was not ill He had unfinished business Parthia that he wanted to attend to and maybe even needed to attend to if he was to cement his rule, present himself as the saviour of Rome and allow for the memories of the latest Civil War to fade away.The other point is about the author claiming that, as part of Sulla s idealism , he wanted to restore the traditional Republican regime by strengthening the Senate and emasculating the Tribunate of the Plebs This he did, but his work was essentially reactionary and perhaps even delusional, if only because both the Senate and the Tribunes of the Plebs were increasingly dominated by a handful of men whose personal ambition was the main driver, however they chose to portray it, while the rest of the Senators were essentially driven by the preservation of their status, privileges and wealth In fact Sulla s reforms started to be dismantled even before his death, as soon as he no longer had the power to enforce them.I could have continued on, and on, and on, because there are a lot questionable statements and features in this book The ones I mentioned above, however, should I hope be than sufficient to explain why I found this book both unconvincing and unnecessary This is why it is only worth two stars for me Also, it is quite unnecessary since Arthur Keaveney s book on Sulla, first published in 1982, has already made all the main points that are taken up in this book once again, and made them in a much convincing and balanced way. For a scholar this book may seem obvious, but for a Roman History enthusiast like me, it brings a great deal of facts and details about Sulla and about the roman society at that time The social wars are described with details sometimes excessive details, as well as his first campaigns in North Africa Conversely, this richness of details is not present at the end of the book, during the Dictatorship.What can be quite annoying is the amount of text the author delivers to regenerate Sulla s image I totally agree with the author s point of view, however, there are too many pages dedicated to that Cicero wouldn t have been a better advocate. Lynda Telford is a true champion of the underdog Like a lot of people I never though of just Sulla , it was always Sulla the Dictator This account shows the real man behind the much maligned Dictator and shows an impressive and intelligent man whose aim in life was to make the Republic a better place for all classes of society A highly recommended book. Excellent A balanced approach to the monster often depiction of Felix