Born to a patrician family, Sulla's first achievement was successfully negotiating the handing over of Jugurtha to the Romans. Jugurtha was given over to his general Marius, who would later become Sulla's chief rival.
In 90 BC, Rome fought the Social War. With Marius now in retirement, Sulla rose to become the leading general. The war itself, however, was indecisive, and it was only ended by the Romans granting citizenship to all Italians in 88 BC.
At the same time, Mithridates, the king of Pontus, invaded Pergamum. Sulla, although he was now Rome's leading general, was not sent to deal with the threat. Instead, Marius and his supporters through popular support won the commission for himself. Enraged, Sulla and his army seized Rome in 88 BC. Marius and his allies, who had survived the attack, were forced to flee. Sulla then removed power from the people by declaring that all laws must first be approved by the senate.
In the first war against Mithridates, Sulla was very successful. His first action was to retake Athens, which had revolted from Roman rule during the political chaos in Rome. Unable to take the city, he laid seige to Athens, forcing them to surrender or starve.
He then fought several battles against the generals of Mithridates, in which, although outnumbered, the Romans annihilated the enemy. Seeing the tide of war turned, Mithridates began negotiations with the Romans. The king agreed to return all conquered territory and pay the Romans an indemnity.
n 83 BC, the victorious general returned to Italy. There, he encountered a large army of Romans and Italians gathered against him. After a particularly bloody battle, in which he ordered those taken prisoner to be killed, Sulla emerged victorious. He marched into Rome, and there he had himself declared dictator.
Now dictator, Sulla carried out proscriptions against his enemies. Nearly 4,000 Roman citizens were on this list. While in power, he also returned virtually all power in the Republic to the senate, limiting the power of his rival populares.
In 79 BC, the he retired from office and died one year later.