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Gracchi

The Gracchi were a famous patrician family of ancient Rome.

Some of them had public charges.

Tiberius Gracchus

After a successful military career, Tiberius Gracchus went into politics trying to bring massive reforms to the military to its strength and morale.

In the last hundred years, there had been several wars. Since the standard time served in the Roman army was twenty years, often times soldiers would leave their farms in the hands of wives and children. As farms in this situation went steadily into bankruptcy and were bought up by the wealthy upper class, latifundi or large estates, were formed.

When the soldiers returned they had no where to go, so they went to Rome to join the mob of thousands of unemployed who roamed the city. Faced with this, the option of joining the army was unattractive, and number of soldiers and thus the power of Rome was shrinking.

In 133 BC Tiberius proposed a law called Lex Agraria saying that the government would buy the land owned by the Patricians in excess of 500 acres. This land would then be distributed to soldiers upon completion of their service. This would solve two problems, attracting new recruits and also taking care of homeless war veterans.

There was no question that the Patricians would get reimbursed because the Senate approved finances and they were also the ones who held most of the land. However, the bill was still unfeasible because there was not enough money currently to reimburse the Patricians without disrupting other activities. Then by chance that same year, king Attalus[?] of Pergamon died and left his entire fortune to Rome. Tiberius proposed that Attalus’ fortune be used to fund the new law.

Tiberius was one tribune and then there was one other. Each tribune had the power to veto the law, thus both had to agree. As Tiberius proposed the bill to the Senate, the other tribune threatened to veto, so Tiberius had him removed from the Senate so that he would be unable to deliver the veto, and the bill became law. However Tiberius offeneded many in the Senate with his personality, and as a result a group of Senators and their supporters killed Tiberius with a group of followers in the streets of Rome.

This represents the first instance where the man with the most thugs was the one to gain power. This set a dangerous precedent, one that would signal the long decline of the republic of Rome.



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