Grachi Tiberius Gaius Rome

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THE GRACCHI

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, ‘It would seem…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 ‘lex agraria' which would make land owned by the state available for distribution in allotments to the poor of Rome. According to Scullard:

‘Everyone holding more ‘ager publicas' than the legal limit of 500 ‘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...
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