Gaius Gracchus

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The murder of his brother, Tiberius Gracchus, influenced the extent and method to which Gaius implemented his reforms. It can be seen through Gaius’s obvious continuation of Tiberius’s work (shown through his reinstation of his older brother’s agrarian law, with a few modifications that saw him gain the favour of citizens and farmers alike). Despite the fact that Gaius passed many laws that indeed benefitted the lower classes of Roman society, if it had not been for Tiberius’s main agrarian reform, the land bill, Gaius would not have had anything to base his reform agenda on. In contrast to Tiberius’s very small list of reforms, it can be seen just from this that Gaius was definitely more broad and effective in administering his reforms, as he covered a wide range of problems encompassing both socio-political and socioeconomic reforms. Examples of these include the Lex Frumentaria, the Lex Acilia, numerous judicial laws pertaining to the punishment of officials concerning his brother’s murder, and other assorted economic laws. In this essay, the extent to which Tiberius had an influence on Gaius’s political and personal life will be discussed.

Gaius’s early reforms and laws were aimed at retaining and building upon the name of his brother. One of the earliest legislative measures that Gaius implemented was aimed at diminishing “the investigations that had led to the execution of so many of his brother’s supporters” (Boatwright, Gargola, Talbert, 2004, p. 161), and did so by punishing any magistrate who had inflicted a capital sentence from an investigation (quaestio) not authorised by the concilium plebis. As a result of this law, the consul who had been responsible for the tribunal that had tried many of his brother’s supporters was exiled. Also, Gaius re-enacted Tiberius’s land bill, slightly changing it, allowing larger allotments of land in order for free labourers to be employed. This prevented the back-lash that Tiberius encountered after the enactment of the bill the first time around, and ensured that it remained in use for a short period of time after Gaius’s death in 122B.C.

Although one of Gaius’s aims was to amend some of Tiberius’s reforms that may have backfired, he also passed many laws which surpassed that of which Tiberius achieved in his lifetime. One of the most prominent and widely acknowledged reforms that Gaius introduced during the time as tribune is the Lex Frumentaria, or the Corn Law (Bradley, 1994, p.253). The reform aimed to provide the masses of plebs with corn, who were unable to afford sufficient supplies of grain to feed their family. This was done through the storing of said grain in warehouses, to be then distributed to the citizens monthly at a low price. It progressively evolved over the course of the empire, and eventually grew by the end of the empire to include food items such as olive oil, bread and pork, and later even the building of houses (Hazlitt, 1973, p.68). Evidence of the endurance of this reform can be seen in the present day; the dole. The dole is based on the same system that Gaius Gracchus introduced in 122B.C. Another such law that Gaius implemented involved the establishment of a colony at the site of the former Carthage, and another elsewhere. These colonies aimed to alleviate the strain that the unemployed and poor had on crowded cities, and echoed Tiberius’s struggle for the rehabilitation of the peasantry (Bradley, 1994, p. 253). This specific reform was not as successful as the previously mentioned Lex Frumentaria, as the senate “accused him of trying to ingratiate himself with the people” (Bradley, 1994, p. 256). Later, M. Livius Drusus’s proposal of founding twelve colonies, each containing 3000 of the poorest peasants was met with open arms from the senate, mainly because they originally proposed that Drusus present this bill to the people, in order to gain their support. Even though the senate were trying to win the hearts of the people, they were only...
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