Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was the son of Tiberius Gracchus, who was twice consul, honored with two triumphs, and also a censor (Plutarch).  He was known as being an eloquent and calculating public speaker, and caught the attention of the head of the Senate, Appius Claudius, who arranged the marriage between Tiberius and his own daughter (Plutarch).

Before beginning his political career, he served in the military in Africa and was well known for his courage and being the first over the walls of the enemy fortifications (Plutarch).  After his military action, Tiberius was elected Tribune of the Plebs, and drafted a law that would grant land to veterans of the army who before were left with nothing but the spoils that they managed to attain through the generosity of their general (Plutarch).

However, he was blocked by a fellow tribune and a close friend, Marcus Octavius, and was forced to take more severe measures to get the law to a vote.  He locked the Temple of Saturn and the consuls begged of him to stop this madness, but even the Senate could not bring things to order.  Tiberius decided to pursue an illegal path of action and planned to remove Octavius from his Tribuneship so that he could pass his law (Plutarch).  Tiberius Gracchus publicly spoke that either one of them had to be disposed of their office or the only other way to settle their differences would be civil war.  He turned it to a popular vote as to whom should be removed from office, and the people voted out Octavius, and thus the land bill was ratified and made law (Plutarch).

With Octavius out of office, Tiberius appointed a client of his to the position, which increased his own power, and the Senate was outwardly distrustful, and some senators feared and hated his popularity.  When the will of a king, Attalus, came to Rome, bequeathing his money to the Roman people, Tiberius suggested that the money should be divided up among the poor citizens, and this greatly offended the senators and they began to take direct action against him (Plutarch).  They accused him of violating the inviolable nature of political office in removing Octavius, and he gave a speech in apology but also challenged the sanctity of political office (Plutarch).

At this point, Tiberius sensed that a conspiracy for his murder was underway and addressed the people, out of whom many pitched tents around his home to protect him.  However, Flavius Flaccus, who was a senator, told Tiberius that he was to be assassinated, and when Tiberius prepared to defend himself,  Flavius rushed into the Senate house and declared that Tiberius was trying to become king, a most heinous crime.  Therefore, Nasica asked the senators to defend the Republic and grabbed stools and other clubs, and chased Tiberius through the city.  Publius Satureius is credited with the first killing blow.  He was a fellow Tribune of Tiberius and not a member of the Senate, but many of the noble Senators caused fatal wounds on the elder Gracchi brother (Plutarch).  Thusly, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus died in 133 B.C.E and opened the door for further political quarreling and bloodshed in Rome for the next 100 years.

Gracchi

Image showing the senators beating Tiberius to death with clubs.
(Image source:  http://lowres-picturecabinet.com.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/173/main/119/739538.jpg)

 

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