The Significance of the Gracchi

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"When Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus sought to establish the liberty of the common people and expose the crimes of the oligarchs, the guilty nobles took fright and opposed their proceedings by every means at their disposal" - Cicero. The Gracchi Brothers were revolutionary in both their goals and achievements, as they changed the politics, the economic situation and the social problems of the Roman Republic. During the Gracchi's existence, Rome was facing a number of social, political and economic problems. They were frustrated with the conservatism and selfishness of the oligarchy and so adopted methods that threatened the balance between the senate, the magistrates and the people, which had existed for a very long time - in this way they can be regarded as revolutionary.

After the Second Punic War, the Senate became the supreme power and as a result, many changes occurred throughout Rome. The ruling Oligarchy abused their power, caring more for their own material interests than the welfare of the republic. As a result major problems occurred throughout Rome. Serious economic social problems occurred, both rural and urban, causing grave distress among many Roman citizens. There was a military crisis, with lack of eligible recruits for the legions, aggravated by the Spanish and Sicilian wars. There was tension in the oligarchy between leading factions as they struggled for political superiority. And amongst all these problems was the failure of the ruling nobility within the senate to deal with these problems.

In 133BCE, Tiberius Gracchus attempted to solve Rome's problems, specifically the land crisis. He introduced the Lex Agraria, a bill for land reform, which proposed that a commission of three people should allocate smallholdings of land owned by the state to landless citizens. The bill was met with great controversy; however, it wasn't the content of the bill that provoked the reaction, rather the means with which it was proposed. As Stockton notes "It...
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