Full version Grachi Tiberius Gaius Rome

Grachi Tiberius Gaius Rome

This print version free essay Grachi Tiberius Gaius Rome.

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Autor: reviewessays 23 November 2010

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Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was bon in 163 B.C. and came from a distinguished family. His grandfather conquered Hannibal, his father brought the Celtiberian war successfully to a close, reduced Sardinia, and was elected consul for two terms and sensor for one. His mother Cornelia was a woman of wide-culture who employed Greek tutors to educate her sons, Tiberius and Gaius. Two tutors who influenced Tiberius at a young age were Diophanes, a teacher of oration and Blossius of Cumae, a philosopher.

After taking part in the campaign of 146 BC, which ended with the destruction of Carthage, Tiberius was elected quaestor in 137. Travelling through Etruria, Tiberius saw large estates worked by slaves and noticed the absence of free peasants. It is said that Tiberius realized the need for reform while visiting this province on his way to Spain. There, Tiberius served in a war against Numantia under the consul Mancinus. After suffering numerous defeats in battle, Mancinus attempted to abandon camp. However the Numantines, realizing what was happening seized the camp before they could escape. Tiberius saved the Roman army from slaughter by securing a treaty with the Spaniards. When they returned to Rome, Tiberius was seen as a saviour and blame was placed on the incompetent generals who were handed back to the Spaniards for execution. Tiberius himself escaped judgement by the skin of his teeth. According to Plutarch, В‘It would seemВ…that Scipio, who was then the greatest and most influential man at Rome helped to save them' (1988, 159)

There are a number of dominant motives for Gracchus' want for reform. His knowledge of Greek political thought and practices allowed him to understand the needs and potential of the state, the Spanish campaign, slave revolts in Sicily, the increase in Rome's unemployment rate and the impact the changing economy had on the republic. It doubtful that only one of these fuelled Gracchus' desires for change, it is more likely a combination of many or all. When Tiberius began to speak out in politics he did not do so alone. He was backed by his father-in-law Appius Claudius Pulcher, who was Princeps Senatus and two others, Pontifex Mucius Scaevola and Pontifex licinius Crassus Mucianus.

IN 133 Tiberius Gracchus was elected tribune. He proposed a В‘lex agraria' which would make land owned by the state available for distribution in allotments to the poor of Rome.

According to Scullard:

В‘Everyone holding more В‘ager publicas' than the legal limit of 500 В‘iugera' must give up the surplus , but should retain the 500 iugera and possibly also 250 iugera for each son, up to a maximum of 1000 iugera' (2003, 25)

The fertile ager Campanus was not included in this bill. The land was to be distributed to roman citizens up to a maximum of 30 iugera who had to pay a small rent. Gracchus became very popular with the normal citizen who received land, however as the majority of large land owners were senators, he alienated himself form them. Gracchus did not consult the senate regarding this measure and instead brought it before the popular assembly. His reason for doing so might have been that he believed it would get bogged down in the senate, as it was a bill directly affecting their finances or perhaps it was because he only had one year to act and realized the immediate need for reform. However Tiberius had friends in the senate and it is possible that the bill may have got through if he had followed procedure and if the senators put the needs of the republic before their own. When the bill was brought before the Concilium Plebis, it was vetoed by fellow tribune M. Octavius, a large holder of public land. After pleading with Octavius to withdraw his veto, Tiberius asked the people for the removal of Octavius as tribune. The people voted in favour of his deposition and elected another tribune who carried Tiberius' agrarian bill.

Tiberius proposed and the people established the traumata agrarian commission consisting of Tiberius, his brother Gaius and is father-in-law Appius Claudius Pulcher. The senate's dislike of Gracchus can be seen as they did not give a grant to the running of the commission. These funds which were controlled by the senate were to be used to help settlers to stock allotments and to the general running of the program. At this crossroads news arrived that Attalus, king of Pergamum died and had left the roman people his heir. Tiberius threatened to authorise the use of this wealth for the land commission and bring the bill before the people. Tiberius had now gone too far, as public finances and foreign affairs had always been controlled by the senate. He lost all sympathy in the senate and it had increased fears in his aims, however the bill was passed and the funds were allocated to the commission.

In the summer of 132, Tiberius decided to run for tribune again, most likely to safeguard the continued running of the land commission. This act was not illegal but had not been witnessed in two hundred years. Tiberius and his supporters met at the Capitol, where the assembly formed. When it was learnt that his life might be in danger, Tiberius' supporters wielded weapons and huddled around him for his safety

According to Shuckburgh:

В‘Those on the outskirts of the crowd could not tell what was happening and Gracchus raised his hand to his head as a sign that his life was in danger. This was reported to the senateВ…as a demand on his part for a crown'(1896, 555-6)

The senate rushed to the assembly В‘to save the state and destroy the tyrant' (Scullard, 28). Three hundred Gracchi were clubbed to death including Tiberius himself in the brawl. Gracchus had disregarded the prior right of the senate to discuss legislation. He had interfered in the public finances and foreign affairs. Tiberius had turned the tribunate into an agent of the people's wishes, which was more power than it was able to manage properly. The idea of his re-election could have paved the way for prolonged tribunates, resulting not in democracy but dictatorship. Gracchus may not have been aware of the implications of his actions but to the senate it could have been seen as the rise of a monarchic power.

The senate set up a court in 132 to banish or execute supporters of Gracchus. They did not however interfere with the running of the land commission which would seem to suggest that they had little objection to the bill itself but rather the methods employed by Tiberius to implement it. On the other hand the senate, due to Gracchus' public murder, may have wished to calm peoples concerns and allowed it to continue without opposition.

Gaius Gracchus, Tiberius' younger brother, was elected tribune in 123 and was eager to continue his brothers work. Gaius was not as openly objective of the senate unlike his brother, however he did take measures to undermine their power by gratifying the people of the republic. Gaius made himself head of all undertakings and according to Plutarch, doing so with impressive speed and application.. As a form of retribution for Tiberius' murder, Gaius proposed laws which directly effected those who were involved. As tribune he prohibited any magistrate or tribune to hold any further office once deposed by the people. This directly effected M. Octavius but also would make future tribunes more chary to the control of the senate. He made it illegal all courts with power of capital punishment unless it was established by the people. He extended the agrarian bill set up by his brother, to help Rome's poor. As most land had now been distributed by allotments he wished to supplement it by establishing colonies in Italy. Minervia and Neptunia were established and others were planned including one on the site of Carthage. The speed at which these plans were fulfilled shows the determination of Gaius to reform the state.

To receive support from the military, he relieved soldiers from the expense of clothing and arms and put it at the expense of the state. Aware of the tension among Rome's allies, Gaius gave the Italians equal rights to that of the Roman citizen. Due to the shortage of corn in Sicily and Africa, he carried the lex frumantaria which involved the bulk buying of corn by the state and the building of granaries. This kept a constant supply of grain and entitled roman citizen's a ration of corn each month below the market price. Gaius ordered the construction of secondary roads in Italy, which would improve communication, trade and create employment during their construction. To win favour with the Equites he gave them control of taxation in Asia and over the jury courts at Rome. This new measures insured that only rich Equites could accept it. The transfer of the court from the senate to the Equites lost the sympathy towards the tribune. This law although good once it was not abused had a negative effect on the relations between the senate and the Equites. Gaius also introduced a bill which prevented the senate from rewarding a consul for his actions by deciding where he should be sent before his term in office began. Gaius' support was so strong that he succeeded in helping his friend Flaccus win consul, a position the people thought he himself would run for.

Gaius' decision to run for a second consecutive year as tribune was not met with as much opposition as to that of his brother Tiberius. The senate, fearing his increasing popularity with the people adopted a plan to undermine him, not by force but through a fellow tribune, M. Livius Drusus. When Gaius proposed two new colonies comprised of the most respected citizens, Drusus proposed twelve, each comprising of three thousand ordinary citizens. The senate plan was to В‘surpass Gaius in pleasing and gratifying the people' (1988, 217). In his public speeches, Drusus claimed that he did this with the backing of the senate, who wished to help the common people. During Gaius' visit to Junonia to oversee the construction effort, rumours were spread in Rome by his opponents of the delay and failure of his new colony. Through these rumours, Gaius lost favour with the people. This can be seen due to his failure to get re-elected for a third tribunate in 121.

As tribune Minucius Rufus proposed to repeal one of Gaius' bills, he gathered support. In a minor disturbance, a servant of consul Opimius was killed. The senate was forced to pass a resolution that consuls should see to it that the Republic came to no harm. Opimius summoned to arms senators and equites against Gaius and Flaccus who had occupied the Aventine hill. After failed negotiations they and their supporters were defeated and killed. It is said that the weight of their heads in gold was to be awarded to the man who brought Opimius the heads of Gaius and Flaccus. Once again political differences in Rome resulted in bloodshed and brought an end to the remaining Gracchi.


H.H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero 2003 Routledge, London

Plutarch, Roman Lives 1988 Penguin

E.S. Shuckburgh, History of Rome 1896 Macmillan & Co. Ltd, London