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The Gracchi Brothers

Багерман А.Я.

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The Gracchus Brothers are a common designation for two famous Roman reformist politicians of the second century BC.:

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (Latin: Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus) - the eldest of the brothers, an ancient Roman politician, people's tribune.

Gaius Sempronius Gracchus (Latin Gaius Sempronius Gracchus) - the youngest of the brothers, an ancient Roman politician, people's tribune.

The Gracchi were descended from the famous Plebeian family Sempronii, which belonged to the nobility-the political elite of the Roman Republic. Representatives of the Patrician branch of the Sempronii are known from the 5th century BC, and the Plebeian branch of the Sempronii, to which the Gracchi belonged, is known from the 3rd century BC. The cognomen "Gracchus" itself comes either from the word “graculus " ("jackdaw"), or has an Etruscan origin. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus were the sons of Tiberius Gracchus and Cornelia. Tiberius Gracchus the elder was twice consul (177 BC and 163 BC) and censor (he introduced the census in 169 BC). He was twice tribune of the people and defended Scipio Africanus, despite his personal enmity with him. The Gracchus brothers ' mother was Cornelia, a daughter of Scipio Africanus. She took care of the good upbringing of her brothers.

Sculptor Eugene Guillaume. Sculpture "Gracchi Brothers". Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France. Circa 1850 AD.

Plutarch tells us about the life and upbringing of the brothers by their mother in his Comparative Biographies“"...Cornelia took care of the house and found so much generosity, common sense and love for children that seemed to Tiberius made a great choice by deciding to die is the wife, which had rejected the marriage proposal of Ptolemy, wanting to share her Royal crown, but was left a widow, and lost all the children, except three, the daughter was married to Scipio the Younger, and two sons, Tiberius and Gaius, whose life is described here, was raised with such ambitious zeal that they, undoubtedly, the most gifted among the Romans, — its fine qualities were required more education than nature.”

Plutarch also gives us a description of the similarities and differences between the brothers: “...the expression of the face, eyes and gestures of Tiberius were softer, more restrained, Gaius was sharper and hotter, so that when making speeches Tiberius modestly stood still, and Gaius was the first among the Romans to pace around the oratorical platform and tear off the toga from his shoulder during the speech, just as Cleon the Athenian, as far as can be judged from on the thigh. Further, Gaius spoke menacingly, passionately and incendiantly, and Tiberius ' speech was pleasing to the ear and easily evoked compassion. Finally, the syllable of Tiberius was clean and carefully finished, while that of Gaius was spectacular and lush. They also differed in the general way of life: Tiberius lived simply and modestly, Gaius seemed abstemious and severe in comparison with the others, but next to his brother-frivolous and extravagant, which Drusus reproached him for when he bought silver dolphins, paying twelve hundred drachmas for each pound of weight. The dissimilarity of speech was also matched by the dissimilarity of disposition: one was condescending and gentle, the other was prickly and hot-tempered to such an extent that he often lost control of himself during his speech and, completely giving himself up to anger, began shouting and swearing, so that in the end he lost his voice and fell silent. To get rid of this scourge, he resorted to the services of a clever slave Licinius. Licinius, picking up the instrument used by singing teachers, would stand behind Gaius whenever he spoke, and when he noticed that he had raised his voice and was about to break out, he would make a soft and gentle sound; when he responded to it, Guy immediately reduced his strength and feelings and voices, came to himself and calmed down. Such were the differences between brothers, as to courage in the face of the enemy, justice to subordinates, zeal for service, moderation in pleasure… [the original text is corrupted.]...they didn't diverge at all. Tiberius was over nine years old, so they performed separately in the field of state, which caused great damage to their cause, because at different times each of them reached his peak and they could not merge their forces together”"

My older brother started his political career earlier. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, before becoming a tribune of the people, had participated in the Third Punic War (149-146 BC).:

Why did the Roman peasants go broke? Long campaigns of conquest took able-bodied men into the army; it was expensive and difficult for the remaining members of the household to cultivate the land and graze the cattle alone; there was no market for the goods produced by the peasants, as their rich patrician neighbors saturated the market with goods produced by the labor of numerous slaves, whose numbers were growing more and more. Elected tribune of the people in 134 BC, Tiberius decided to change the situation. Excerpt from the speech of Tiberius Gracchus at the election of the Tribune of the people: "Even wild animals have holes and dens, and those who fought and died for Rome have nothing but air and light..." Tiberius Gracchus, 9 (S. P. Markish Lane). After being elected to the tribune, Tiberius Gracchus almost immediately proposed his own project of agrarian reform.

Main provisions of its agrarian law:

Not everyone liked this project. In the Senate there were both supporters of Tiberius - a minority, and opponents - a majority. Mass support for Gracchus ' proposal was provided by numerous landless and landless peasants. Tiberius violated the long-standing custom that before the People's Assembly (comitia) approves a bill, it must first be approved by the Senate. He immediately submitted the bill to the comitia, but then another tribune of the people, Marcus Octavius, tried to prevent him, who vetoed the bill of Tiberius.

Artist Joseph-Benoit Suvet. "Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi." Louvre Museum, France. 1795

A veto is a right that means blocking the adoption of a particular decision. This right came to the tribunes of the people from the time of the struggle between patricians and Plebeians to protect the interests of the Plebeians.

Tiberius tried to persuade Octavius to lift the veto, but Octavius refused. After appealing to the Senate and finding no support for his idea, Tiberius, with the help of the people's assembly, removed Octavius from the post of tribune of the people, thereby removing his veto. The Comitia soon adopted Tiberius ' agrarian bill and selected three members of the agrarian commission to implement the project's ideas. The commission included Tiberius himself, his younger brother Gaius (who at that time was not in Rome, he participated in the Numantian War of 141-133 BC in Spain) and Tiberius ' father-in-law, Appius Claudius Pulcher. Senators, not reconciled to the adopted law, began to sabotage it in every possible way and interfere with the work of the commission. Gracchus was helped by the will of the late King Attalus III of Pergamum, who left his kingdom and wealth to Rome. Tiberius, bypassing the Senate, arbitrarily disposed of Attalus ' inheritance and spent money on the work of the agrarian commission, which violated the law. Tiberius Gracchus also violated the text and terms of Attalus ' will itself, according to which the cities of the Kingdom of Pergamum were guaranteed independence, and handed them over to the people's assembly of Rome. Representatives of the Roman nobility, the nobles, began to speak out against Gracchus, offended by the activities of the commission and the way Tiberius disposed of the will of King Attalus. As a result, Tiberius Gracchus was accused of preparing for the restoration of royal power – the most terrible political crime for the Romans. Tiberius felt that he had not done enough in a year of his activity, and decided to be re-elected as tribune of the people for the next 133 BC, intending also to get an extension of judicial immunity, because otherwise his opponents could put him on trial for illegal activities. Then Tiberius ' opponents managed to postpone the elections until the summer of 133 BC. e. when most of the peasants, on whom Tiberius counted so much, would not be able to support him in the elections because they would be busy harvesting in their fields.

As a result, during the election, a fight broke out between opponents and supporters of Tiberius Gracchus. Because of the uproar, he could not reach his supporters and put his hand to his head – this gesture meant danger to the life of a tribune or citizen of Rome. Gracchus ' opponents interpreted this gesture as a demand for the royal diadem and reported it to the Senate. There was an uproar, and the senators and their clients arrived at the Capitol and started a massacre, during which Tiberius himself and many of his supporters were killed. The bodies of Tiberius Gracchus and his associates were thrown into the Tiber River. So the eldest of the Gracchus brothers died. Despite the death of Tiberius, the agrarian law and the agrarian commission continued their work until 129 BC, when the commission's activities were curtailed. Publius Licinius Crassus Mucianus, Gaius Gracchus ' father-in-law, was elected to replace the deceased Tiberius Gracchus. Many of Tiberius ' supporters were persecuted, tried, and exiled.

10 years later, Tiberius ' younger brother, Gaius Gracchus, decided to continue his work. During the tribunate of his elder brother (133 BC), Gaius supported his ideas and even became a member of the agrarian commission, although at that time he was in Spain, participating in the Numantine War. Later, after the murder of his brother, Gaius returned to Rome, where he worked in the agrarian commission until 129 BC, when its work was blocked by opponents of reforms. After that, he was Quaestor and procuestor of Sardinia (126-125 BC). Then he came back to Rome, where in 123 BC. he was elected tribune of the people and continued the work begun by his brother Tiberius. Unlike his brother, Guy prepared for his election and thought out a plan of action. He served two terms as tribune of the people (123 and 122 BC), and during this time managed to carry out a number of reforms. Guy's goal in life was to take revenge on his brother's murderers and continue his work. Researchers, due to differences in sources (Plutarch, Appian, Tacitus), did not agree on which of the two terms of his tribunate Gaius adopted this or that law.

Gaius Gracchus ' reforms (the laws of Gaius Gracchus, according to the Czech researcher Milan Bartoszek), Lex (Lat.) means law:

1. lex agraria (agrarian law-renewal of the law of Tiberius)

2. lex de abactis (prohibiting magistrates removed by the will of the people from seeking other positions)

3. lex de capite civia Romani (law guaranteeing the safety of citizens)

4. lex de coloniis Tarentum et Capuam deducendis (law on the removal of colonies in Italy and abroad, since there was no longer enough state land for everyone)

5. lex de provincia Asia (the law on renting out all taxes from the richest province of Asia to rich people not in the province, but in Rome)

6. lex frumentaria (the grain law, according to which the maximum price for grain sold from state warehouses to the poorest citizens was set-6 1/3 acca per modi (8.7 liters))

7. lex militaris (on improving the situation of soldiers - now soldiers had to be taken into the army no earlier than they reached the age of 17, and provide them with clothing at the expense of the state, and not at the expense of their salary)

8. lex iudiciaria (judicial law-transfer of courts from the hands of senators to the hands of horsemen)

9. lex de provinciis consularibus (on the allocation of provinces for consuls: before the Gracchi, the Senate decided which provinces to send consuls to after the magistrates had already been elected, which created intrigues for the administration of a particular province. Since the Gracchi, the decision on the provinces was made even before the election of the highest magistrates-consuls. At the same time, the people's tribunes did not have the right to veto such decisions)

10. lex de sociis et nominae (the law on citizenship either only for Latins, or for the entire population of Italy, for whom exactly this law was intended is not known). This law was not adopted.

These laws initially provided Gaius with a majority of votes in the National Assembly and the support of rural residents, plebs and horsemen. But gradually the enemies of Gaius were able to arrange the matter in such a way that the horsemen, who did not want further quarrels with the senate, and the rich part of the plebs, who were not happy with the grain law and the removal of colonies, began to turn away from him. Gaius was opposed by his colleague in the second tribunate (122 BC), Marcus Livius Drusus, who proposed even more radical ideas, which the people eventually accepted. Guy's popularity declined. The enemies also turned many Plebeians against Gaius ' idea of establishing a colony on the site of the destroyed and cursed Carthage in Africa. After Gaius lost the next election to the tribunes of the people and became a private citizen in January 121 BC, preparations began for his enemies to destroy him and his supporters. The reason was the destruction of the African colony of Junonia, which stood on the site of the former Carthage. Soon riots and clashes broke out in Rome between supporters of Gaius Gracchus and his opponents. Gaius took refuge on the Aventine. There, by the decision of the Senate, troops were brought in together with the forces of Gaius ' opponents. A battle ensued, during which the Gracchans were defeated, and Gaius, who had escaped from the battlefield, ordered his slave to kill himself. So the second of the two Gracchus brothers died. The body of Gaius and his followers, like that of Tiberius, was thrown into the Tiber, and the property confiscated.

Results of the Gracchi Brothers ' reforms and activities:

Related topics

Roman Republic, the senate


Bugaeva N. The conspiracy of Catilina in the" Breviary from the foundation of the city " of Eutropia. Classical Philology and Ancient history. - 2010. - p. 78-101.

Roman Forum and agrarian Reform of Tiberius Gracchus / / Iz istorii antichnogo obshchestva. - 1986. - p. 65-77.