“They fell into such debt that, if they ever hoped to be safe, they would need to raise the ghost of Sulla from hell.”
…in tantum aes alienum inciderunt ut, si salvi esse velint, Sulla sit eis ab inferis excitandus.
The men whom Cicero refers to were not “old money;” rather, they were Sulla’s veterans, who had been set up with money and estates in Faesulae. It seems that they were not effective estate managers, and consequently squandered much of the wealth which Sulla had lavished upon them.
This settlement of veterans was a trend which quickly became popular among Roman generals in the 1st Century B.C., following the example of Sulla’s rival, Marius. By confiscating land from citizens and redistributing it to veterans, a general was able to foster a sense of loyalty to his own person, rather than to the Republic or any vague ideal. Indeed, it was this sort of personal loyalty which made possible Sulla’s march on Rome itself – an unprecedented and, to the contemporary Roman, horrifying extremity.