By 91 BC, the Roman republic was full of internal strife. The lower
classes rebelled against the wealthy and powerful, and individual
politicians were garnering power through military force. Northern
tribes moved with feeble resistance from the distracted Romans.
Mithridates VI the king of Pontus, a land east of Pergamum, took
advantage of Rome's weakened situation and invaded it's Asian
provinces in 89 BC. Pergamum and all the land around it was lost to
Pontus, and the majority of Greece quickly defected from it's
despised Roman rulers. In 86 BC Athens, the key to Greece, was
recaptured by the Romans. The war turned in Rome's favor, and the
great general Sulla gained Mithridates' surrender in 85 BC.
Sulla, not satisfied with merely his victory in the east, marched
back on Rome itself. There he defeated a government army, and seized
control of the city in 82 BC. He was appointed dictator, and ordered
the supporters of his old political enemies killed. He held his
position as the single true leader of Rome until 79 BC, whereupon the
power was given back to the senate with Sulla's constitutional
changes in effect. He died the next year.