Victoria nobilitatis
: politics, civil war, and the Roman nobility in the age of Marius and Sulla

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Rome’s First Civil War (88–82 BCE), culminating in the dictatorship of Sulla (81 BCE), is an acknowledged turning point in the collapse of the Republic. Some scholars try to explain the conflict in 'ideological' terms as a clash between progressives (populares) and conservatives (optimates). But the earliest evidence we have on the Civil War, Cicero's speech pro Roscio Amerino, points in another direction. Cicero presents Sulla’s victory as the victory of the nobility (nobilitas) and the Civil War in social terms as a conflict between nobles (nobiles) and non-nobles. This matches how Sallust depicts Roman politics two decades earlier at the time of the Iugurthine War, and suggests that we should be viewing this period holistically with the nobilitas at the centre of our analysis. This study aims to pursue this suggestion. It argues that towards the end of the 2nd century BCE, important sections of the Roman elite became disillusioned with the nobilitas. This disillusionment reached a climax in the mid-80s, and it was in reaction to this that Sulla formulated his invasion of Italy as a restoration for the nobilitas. To a large extent, therefore, the Civil War can be understood as an intra-elite conflict between nobiles and non-nobiles, with important implications for our understanding of the Late Republic.
Date of Award1 Sept 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorHenrik Mouritsen (Supervisor) & James Corke-Webster (Supervisor)

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