A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

2. L.CorneliusCinna, L. F. L. N., son of No. 1, the famous leader of the popular party, during the absence of Sulla in the East. (B. C. 87-84.) He was praetorian legate in the Marsic war. (Cic. Font. 15.) In B. C. 87, when Sulla was about to take the command against Mithridates, he allowed Cinna to be elected consul with Cn. Octavius, on condition of his taking an oath not to alter the constitution as then existing. (Plut. Sull. 10; Dio Cass. Frag. 117.) Yet Cinna's first act as consul was to impeach Sulla (Cic. in Cat. 3.10, Brut. 47, Tusc. Disp. 5.19); and as soon as the general had left Italy, he began his endeavour to overpower the senate, by forming a strong popular party out of the new citizens, chiefly of the Italian states, who had lately been enrolled in the 35 old tribes, whereas they had before voted separately as eight tribes (Appian, App. BC 1.55, 56; Cic. Philpp. 8.2; Veil. Pat. 2.20); and by their aid it was proposed to recall Marius and his party. The other consul, Octavius, was ill fitted to oppose the energy of the popular leaders (Plut. Mar. 41, 42, Sertor. 4); yet Sulla had left the party of the senate so strong, that on the day of voting, Octavius was able to defeat his opponents in the forum, and Cinna fled the city. He was soon joined by Sertorius and others, who assisted in raising the Italians against the party now in power at Rome; for which the senate, by unconstitutionally deposing him from the consulate, had given him a very specious pretext. Cinna and his friends then marched upon Rome and invested it from the land, while Marius, having landed from Africa, blockaded it on the sea-side; and to his life more properly belong the siege and capture of the city, with the massacre of Sulla's friends. [MARIUS.]

Next year (B. C. 86) Cinna and Marius made themselves consuls; but Marius dying in January, was succeeded by L. Valerius Flaccus. Him Cinna got rid of by appointing him to the command against Mithridates, hoping therebyalso to provide Sulla with a new enemy. But Flaccus was killed by his legatus C. Flavius Fimbria. (Vell. 2.23; Appian, App. BC 1.75.) In B. C. 85, Cinna entered on his third consulate with Cn. Papirius Carbo, an able man, who had already been of great use to the party. Sulla now threatened to return and take vengeance on his enemies; and the next year (B. C. 84), Cinna and Carbo being again consuls, he fulfilled his threat. Cinna had assembled an army at Brundisium, and sent part of it across to Liburnia, intending to meet Sulla before he set foot in Italy; but when he ordered the rest to follow, a mutiny arose, and in the effort to quell it he was slain. [For the sequel see SULLA.]

Cinna was a bold and active man, but his boldness was akin to rashness, and his activity little directed by judgment. Single-handed he could do nothing; he leant for support first on Sertorius, then on Marius, then on Carbo; and fell at last from wanting the first quality of a general, ability to command the confidence of his troops. Velleius's character of him is more antithetical than true. (2.24.)