Marcus Octavius

“Again did Gracchus, in the sight of the people, urgently importune Octavius in his present extreme danger not to prevent a work which was most righteous and useful to all Italy, and not to frustrate the wishes so earnestly entertained by the people, whose desires he ought rather to share in his character of tribune, and not to risk the loss of his office by public condemnation.” (Appian, 27)

Marcus Octavius was a Roman tribune at the same time as Tiberius Gracchus and eventually became a bitter opponent of him.

For reasons unknown by historians today, Tiberius Gracchus bypassed the senate entirely when proposing his land bill. The bill was proposed directly to the Plebeian Tribal Assembly. This was the beginning of the idea to move against Roman tradition (Plutarch).

The Senate gets Marcus Octavius to veto the bill. According to Roman tradition, that should have been the end of his land bill. But Tiberius went against tradition and stood his ground with his bill because he believed in its importance.

In order to bypass the veto, he proposed the assembly to vote on removing Octavius from office. The Plebeian Tribal Assembly complied and Marcus Octavius’s veto was null and void because he was no longer in office. As a result the Lex Sempronia Agraria had passed.

Tiberius had ignored concordia. The executive veto was undermined and as a result of his actions many of his supporters were alienated. There was a clear rejection of Tiberius’s justification that tribunes who resisted the will of the people, simply ceased to be tribunes.

It is important to note that the senate didn’t directly reject this Land Bill. All together it was a well put together Bill and seemed to be a solution to the lack of manpower for the Empire. The reason they wanted Marcus Octavius to veto is because Tiberius was doing everything against the books. Tradition was threatened and they did not appreciate being bypassed.

As a result, the Senate did not provide sufficient funds for the land to be surveyed. Around this point in time an opportunity presented itself. King Attalus III of Pergamum bequeathed his kingdom to Rome, which created the province of Asia. Tiberious takes advantage of this and proposes a bill diverting new Asian taxes to fund the land commission for his Land Bill. The Bill passed, and now the land can be surveyed appropriately (Boren).

This marks an important period in Roman history. The “mob” had bene inserted into traditional senatorial actions, on more then one occasion, dealing with foreign affairs and finance.

Analyzing Tiberius’s actions it is clear that he is a revolutionary that is working for the good of the people and for the advancement of Rome. He is in no way a tyrant. Although¬†traditional¬†restraints had been broken, he had done nothing illegal. His land bill was something he felt strongly about, and felt that it could solve the lack of numbers in the legion for the good of Rome. Also, he used the people to vote on bills. The people who were not threatened to vote a certain way voted fairly and believed in Grachus’s ideas.¬†





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