Marius and Sulla were rivals not only in war but also in
politics. Sulla naturally espoused the aristocratic cause and stood as the
champion of the Senate. Marius just as naturally became the head of the
democratic party. The rivalry between the two leaders finally led to civil war.
During Sulla's absence in the East the democrats got the upper hand at Rome and
revenged themselves by murdering their political foes among the aristocrats.
The reign of terror ended only with the sudden death of Marius, just after he
had been elected to his seventh consulship. A few years later Sulla returned to
Italy with his army and defeated the democrats in a great battle outside the
Colline Gate of Rome. Sulla signalized his victory by ordering the
assassination of every prominent man in the democratic party.
SULLA AS "PERPETUAL DICTATOR"
Sulla regarded this legalized butchery as a necessary step
in his self- appointed task of putting the Roman government once more to
rights. He now received the title of "Perpetual Dictator," with
complete authority to govern the state until the new order of things should be
established. Rome thus came under the rule of one man for the first time since
the expulsion of the kings.
SULLA'S DEATH, 78 B.C.
The various measures by which Sulla intrenched the Senate
in power did not long survive his death and hence had no lasting influence on
Roman politics. After a rule of three years Sulla voluntarily gave up the
dictatorship and retired to his villa on the bay of Naples. He died a few
months later. The Senate honored him with a public funeral, the most splendid
that Rome had ever seen. His monument bore an inscription which the dictator
himself is said to have composed: "No friend ever did him a kindness and
no enemy, a wrong, without being fully repaid."  That was one epitaph
which told the truth.