Tiberius Sempronius GRACCHUS was born in 168 B.C and lived only until 133 B.C. The Gracchii were important in Roman politics, but Tiberius became a Tribune only in the last year of his life. He presented a bill to re-possess illegal holdings of what he called ‘public lands’, later to re-distribute this land among the poor and needy. He was a very early example of socialism.
Using his powers he disregarded, in fact by-passed completely the Senate, deposing an erstwhile colleague who had attempted to veto the bill. But his total disregard of the Senate aroused the ire of the senators, naturally, and a violent reaction was provoked. When Tiberius tried to be re-elected his enemies, extremists in the Senate, claiming to uphold law and order, charged Gracchus and his supporters (also senators) with swords and knives. Many were killed in the resulting mélee, including Tiberius. He was thirty-five. Mafia-like traditions in Italy started very early in Rome’s history.
Gaius Sempronius GRACCHUS was born in 158 B.C, taking his place as a Tribune in 123/122 BC. He was a brother of Tiberius S. Gracchus. Equally as public-minded as his brother, he introduced exetensive reforms to lessen poverty, and correct senatorial corruption and abuse of power. As can be imagined, this did not make him popular with corrupt and abusive senators.
Among Gaius’ innovations were a corn subsidy, and, perhaps more importantly (for Rome), an overseas colony in Carthage. When his fellow senators got together to discuss how they could rid themselves of this very early liberal, they were told that all he really wanted was to extend the voting franchise to fellow Romans. This was a lie of course, but it would do just as well as anything else.
In 121 BC Gaius’ enemies in the Senate arranged for the presiding Consul to to take violent action against Gracchus and his followers. In a putsch similar to Hitler’s Cristalnacht he and the rest of his admirers were chased through the streets and slaughtered. Gaius was thirty-seven.
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