Reform, Revolution, and the Gracchi Brothers The rules go out the window replaced by violence in the streets

Rome wins military victories. It expands the land it controls. It becomes richer. These would appear to be great for Rome. But they do have their down sides.

Military victories result in the Romans having more and more slaves. Conquering neighbors results in Romans owning more and more land. The wealthy Romans owned more land and they owned the slaves.

The rich set the slaves to working the land, They also buy land belonging to soldiers. Soldiers are small farmers. They serve in the army. While they are away, their farms sit idle. Debts mount up. The Rich bought up the debt. Then they took the land in payment for the debts. They kick the Roman soldier off the land. These peasants move into Rome. They hope for work. There is none to be had. Rome is filling with the unemployed. -- hungry unemployed.

Two brothers begin to push reforms. The reforms are to address the large number of unemployed. They are also designed to deal with a lack of soldiers in the legions. Only land owners can serve in the legions. As ex-soldiers loos their land, they can no longer serve. Rome is having trouble filling up its legions.

Their first solution is land reform. Tiberius Gracchus wants to stop the rich patricians from gaining even more land. Too much land in the hands of too few men is creating the unemployment problem. The rich must not be allowed to buy more public land. The richest patricians will even have to give up some of the land they own.

The patricians and especially the senators are very unhappy with these reforms.

Tiberius is popular with the plebs. He is hated by the patricians. They suspect that Tiberius is using his reforms to buy favor with the poor plebs.

Tiberius takes his land reform bill forward. Instead of starting in the Senate, he goes to the Assembly of the Plebs. It is his right as a tribune of the Plebs. But it is just not done with such an important bill. Tiberius ignores the traditional way of doing things. The Senate then bribes another tribune to veto Tiberius' bill. That should be the end of land reform. Tiberius should drop the matter. It has been vetoed.

Tiberius does not drop the matter. He pleads with the tribune Octavian to withdraw his veto. Octavian will no. Tiberius demands he resign as tribune. He claims Octavian has abandon the interests of the Plebs. Octavian will no resign. Tiberius then tell the Assembly of the Plebs they must remove Octavian from office. They do. Tiberius's bill goes through.

But, Tiberius has violated tow of the most important rules of Roman government. He has not respected a fellow tribune's veto. He has also had someone who opposed him kicked out of office before his term is up.

It does not end there. The Senate refuses to fund the work needed to redistribute the land. When a king in northwestern Turkey dies, he leaves his kingdom to Rome. Tiberius goes to the Assembly of the Plebs. He get them to pass a law saying that part of the money from this new land will be used to pay for land redistribution.

Tiberius breaks two more rules of Roman government. Only the Senate can spend money, and only the Senate can deal with foreign lands. In one year, Tiberius has broken the four most important rules of Roman government, And he has gotten away with it. When Tiberius addresses a large group of Romans, he become afraid. He raises his hand to his head. It's a signal to his guards he's fearful.

A Senate spy reports on what is happening. The Senators are sure Tiberius is demanding a crown. Tiberius wants to be king. The Senate was founded on the idea of no more kings. Senators pour out of the Senate. They rush to where Tiberius is speaking. They rip the legs from the benches and beat Tiberius to death along with 300 of his followers. The Senators have broken the biggest and most important rule of Roman government -- don't solve political problems with violence.

The Senators take Tiberius' body and dump it in the Tiber River. This is a funeral reserved for a criminal.

Tiberius' brother Gaius takes up the reforms ten years later. He wants cheap grain for the unemployed. Cheap grain to make cheap bread. Gaius also pushes for new colonies that can grow that grain.. He wants to settle some Romans at the site of Carthage.

The law has been changed. Gaius can legally run for re-election as tribune. He does. He wins big. He is very popular with the Plebs. Like his brother, Gaius is hated by the senators. The Senators bribe another tribune. No veto this time. The guy they hire proposes free grain for the unemployed. He proposes colonies in Italy, close to Rome.

Gaius proposes citizenship for everyone in the Latin Confederation. The bribed tribune does not. The people living in Rome have become tight with citizenship. They do not want those not living within Rome to gain it. Gaius is booed by the Plebs. He looses re-elction as tribune. He is out of office. He can be prosecuted by the Senate. Gaius is now going about surrounded by friends armed with Roman pens. They can be quite a weapon.

Gaius still stirs up the Plebs. The Senate declares martial law. The Consuls are given the power to do whatever they need to restore order. One consul send a group of men and slaves to deal with Giaus. The result -- a massive street riot. Gaius and his followers are attacked. Gaius and 3000 of his followers are killed. Gaius is beheaded in the riot. His body is tossed into the Tiber River.

Reform comes to a stop.

Violence has now become a way settling differences in the Republic. The violence will continue for another 100 years.

Created By
Robert Brady
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