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Lucius Cornelius Cinna

A political wheeler-dealer in power struggle between Marius and Sulla. He was supported by Sulla for the consulship in 87 BCE, but immediately turned around and threw his weight behind Marius, eventually presiding over a brief reign of terror in Rome.

While he had served as a soldier during the Social War, little is known about Cinna before he was elected consul in 87 BCE alongside Gnaeus Octavius. Cinna seemed to have been elected as a compromise so that an ally of Marius was not elected consul. Sulla, although he seemed to have supported Cinna, made Cinna swear an oath of loyalty. He cast a stone down and vowed “praying that, if he failed to preserve his goodwill for Sulla, he might be thrown out of Rome as the stone was thrown out of his hand.”

Despite this promise, Cinna decided that decisions for the good of Rome trumped his oath. He moved to remove Sulla from the city; however, Sulla left the city of Rome to fight Mithridates VI. Motivated by the demands of Marius and his fellow exiles and the demands of the Italians, Cinna allied himself with Marius. After one of the largest street brawls in Roman history took place in the Roman Forum, Octavius exiled Cinna. Cinna immediately began to raise an army, and he soon joined forces with Marius.

After Octavius and Cinna’s forces clashes, Cinna was eventually allowed back into the city in 87 BCE. Marius hesitated to reenter the city until his exile was repealed. Impatient, Marius entered the city and slaughtered the supporters of Sulla. Cinna seems to have abstained from these actions, except that he ordered the deaths of Octavius and other direct political threats. It was Cinna who eventually put an end to the violence. At the end of the year, Marius and Cinna were reelected for consulship of 86 BCE.

After Marius passed away in the first days of 86BCE, so began the Dominatio Cinnae, “Domination of Cinna” (as he was the sole surviving consul). Due to counterfeiting, Cinna and the government had to establish testing stations to discover false coins. He also continued to champion the rights of Italians as he attempted to revive Sulpicius’ bill to solidify the citizenship of Italians. When Sulla moved to return to Italy after the end of the Mithridatic War, Cinna began to prepare for war. However, in 84 BCE, he was murdered by his own soldiers, who were hesitant to fight against the fellow Romans.

Attalus Entry: Lucius Cornelius Cinna2
Smith Entry
Wikipedia Entry


Monmouth College