Plutarch describes Sulla entering a city, an act loaded with religious and legal significance, three times in the Life: twice at Rome and once at Athens. In each case, the violation of the city corresponds with a violation of the religious landscape. This portrayal of religious violation contributes to the ambiguity in Sulla’s characterization. The work of Stadter (1992) and Duff (1999) has highlighted the ambiguity that is prevalent in the Sulla and its counterpart, the Lysander, but neither comment on the religious aspect. Religion is prominent in Plutarch’s Sulla and takes many forms, through portents (7.9), Sulla’s own declarations (34.3, 35.1, and 29.5), or the general pervasiveness of Τύχη in the life. The relationship between dynast and the gods, however, is problematized when we move away from Sulla’s positive claims. When we examine his actions, we see a very different picture. This paper examines Plutarch’s ambiguous portrayal of Sulla’s religiosity with special regard to significant moments in Sulla’s life: entering the city.
Plutarch and Late Republican Rome