gattacats: Roman History: The Gracchi brothers   Tiberius and…


Roman History: The Gracchi brothers  

Tiberius and Gaius attempts to pass a land reform legislation that would redistribute aristocratic landholdings established a series of precedents that changed Roman politics forever. 

The Roman army was formed by levy recruits, mainly farmers. Land was not private property, it was given by the republic in usufruct. As Roman expansion grew farmers spent more time away from home, which allowed the concentration of farmland in a few aristocratic hands 

Tiberius was elected tribune of the plebs in 133 BC and using the exceptional power of his magistracy he tried to pass the Lex Sempronia Agraria, a land reform that would reduce the economical power of the senatorial class. He and his supporters were murdered by advocates of the Optimate faction. 

His brother Gaius held the same office ten years later and his reforms were more radical, changing the judicial and military system and even attempting to alter the notion of Roman citizenship. The benefits of his reforms to the equestrian class and Italian allies caused a response from the senate, that took on a mission to discredit Gaius and to win the favour of the plebs. The mission succeeded and he died on 121 BC. 

The creation of new political forces constantly using Roman institutions for their own personal benefit, and the shifting of the centre of policy making from the senate to the plebs betrayed the core of the Roman republic and reinforced the arise of individual leaders in the 1st century BC. The violence that ended the Gracchan period provided a brutal precedent that was followed by Roman rulers for centuries.