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Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus

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Gracchus, Tiberius Sempronius (163-133 BC) and Gaius Sempronius (153— 121 BC) – Roman statesmen; brothers

Tiberius Gracchus and his brother Gaius were two extremely able political leaders who sought to reform the serious abuses which afflicted the central government of Rome and its provincial government machinery. Tiberius was elected tribune of the people in 133 and in his year of office he introduced a revolutionary proposal to restore land to small farmers bought up by rich city tycoons, who had grown fat on the plunder in the provinces. The proposals included a limit to the amount of land that could be held by any one person, which was an ancient law, and they also allowed for large areas to be broken into small allotments for the poor and for army veterans.

As soon as his term of office was over, his enemies in the big landlord class – and there were many – engineered a riot in which he was killed.

Ten years later his brother Gaius got himself elected tribune of the people. His programme was even more revolutionary. Not only would he fully restore his brother’s laws and make them work (they had not entirely failed); he would also introduce free corn hand-outs to the poor from state granaries. He would try to extend Roman citizenship to the Latin tribes living around the city, as a reward for their loyal service in Roman armies. Gaius, in fact, wanted to alter the whole structure of government by taking power out of the hands of the aristocracy.

At the end of his term he, too, had to reckon with his enemies and was driven to commit suicide in 121.

The Gracchi brothers were grandsons of Scipio Africanus (p. 28).

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus