Sulla, Lucius Cornelius (138–78 B.C.), a Roman general and dictator. He was the first self-proclaimed dictator of the Roman Republic. (Earlier, temporary dictators had been appointed in time of crisis.) His use of army troops for his own political purposes created a precedent that eventually led to the downfall of the Republic.
In 88 B.C., Sulla, an aristocrat who had won fame in the Social War (91–89 B.C.), was elected consul and given an army command. When political opponents transferred the command to Gaius Marius, a leader of the populares (people's party), Sulla marched his loyal troops to Rome and drove Marius into exile. Sulla then left Italy to conduct military operations against Mithridates VI in Asia Minor. Meanwhile, Marius had died, but his followers succeeded in gaining control of the Roman government. Sulla returned in 83 B.C., crushed all opposition, and made himself dictator, 82 B.C. After restoring the power of the Senate and the aristocracy he voluntarily retired in 79 B.C.