In analyzing the writings of Aristotle and Plato, we are given a sense of understanding with how the ancients of Greece interpreted political violence and how their ideas of political organization could justify such acts. With the killings of the Gracchi brothers, (Gaius and Tiberius) as well as the murder of Julius Caesar, the Romans’ politically motivated deaths can be explained in the words of the Greeks philosophers as them being tyrants. From our previous essay, we have acquired that “[A]ny political system able to dispense… political violence deserves our respectful attention.”1 That being said, we can note that the deaths of Gaius and Tiberius Gracchus and Julius Caesar we’re done in attempt to rid Rome of tyranny, keeping the full control of the Roman Empire out of the hands on one man and maintaining the importance of the Senate. But did the three men actually qualify themselves as tyrants in the view of Aristotle and Plato?
With Tiberius Gracchus, it was insisting that he be elected for a second term as tribunal. This did not sit well with his opposition in the Senate and eventually led to a gathering by Tiberius and his supporter in the Capitol, which ended in a small brawl and a group of senators eventually gathering against Gracchus and striking him and many of his supporters down, throwing their bodies in the Tiber River.2 Though the violence by the Senate was unjustified, it was not necessarily unprovoked by Tiberius. He had interfered and disregarded the rules of the Senate when it came to finance, foreign affairs and discussion of legislation. In seeking a re-election, the fear became that “prolonged tribunates would open the way to demagogy” and that the result would be of “mob-rule or dictatorship” though Tiberius may not have been away of the implications.3
Gaius Gracchus on the other hand, seemed to be more aggressive than his brother because of his will to go to greater lengths to achieve his wishes for a better Rome.4 He also may have been fueled by revenge for his brother’s murder.5 Only when he achieved the second term as tribunate did the Senate finally move to attack, exploiting his time away to spread rumors meant to discredit him. With popularity fast receding, Gaius failed to win a third term as a tribunate. Rallying supporters and surrounding himself with body guards made of friends, in action to rise against the Senate, there was a ‘minor’ disturbance6 which ended in Gaius fleeing, only to perish after he crossed the Tiber.7
Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus were not just ‘thoughtless’ rabble-rousers,8 and they were by no means ‘hopeless visionary’ either. They were very good politicians, and were known very well for it.9 Most people who were active opponents to the brothers were people who just honestly disagreed with the many or all of the brother’s plans, but were more worried about the dangers that could arise if their plans were put into motion.10 The Gracchi brother’s political ambitions were more for the enraging of the other politicians with their ideals of creating a better Roman empire for everyone, including the lower classes. However, Ford believes that the Gracchi could not have been fairly labeled tyrants in the view of Aristotle (and Plato), since they did not gain their control through illegitimate means and were not ‘unprincipled demagogues’.11 So if they did not qualify as tyrants, why were they assassinated under the reasoning of saving Rome and ending the tyranny?
Despite his good deeds, Julius Caesar was known for his ambition as one fact historians could agree on when it came to his personality (other variants of it are still arguable among many). Eventually becoming dictator for life (one month before he was killed), he still displayed signs of clemency and giving pardons to his enemies.12 Porter states that the many that were throwing themselves at his feet and coming up with new ways to honor Caesar could have been a way of gaining favor or,...
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