Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus born.
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was a Roman reformist politician, the son of Tiberius Gracchus Maior and Cornelia Scipionis Africana. Both families were of senatorial rank. His uncle was killed during the Second Punic War. Tiberius’ mother was the second daughter of Scipio Africanus, the victor over Hannibal at Zama. Tiberius Gracchus Maior died early in his marriage and Cornelia remained a widow for the rest of her life. She was well educated and highly intelligent. She managed the education and moral development of both her sons.
Tiberius served in the 3rd Punic War as a military tribune. He served with distinction. Several years later he was appointed quaestor and served in Spain; specifically in the Numantian War.
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was the son of Tiberius Gracchus Maior (the elder) and Cornelia Scipionis Africana. Both of his parents had illustrious antecedents. On his father’s side, he came from a famous plebeian family of Senatorial rank. His father was the younger brother of the general and twice elected consul Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus who was killed in 212 BC during the Second Punic War. His paternal grandfather was also a consul in 238 BC. Tiberius Gracchus maior was tribune of plebs in 187 BC when he exercised his veto in order to prevent Scipio Africanus Maior (hero of Zama) from criminal prosecution. This may provide a motive for Cornelia Africana being betrothed to Gracchus. The sources aren’t clear about this.
Cornelia Scipionis Africana (191 BC-100 BC) was the second daughter of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus and Aemilia Paula. Cornelia exemplifies aristocratic Roman womanhood. Her husband being much older than her, died early in their marriage and Cornelia preferred to remain a widow. She followed in the intellectual footsteps of her famous father, studying Latin and Greek language and literature and collecting philosophers and other intellectuals around her in the Roman equivalent of an Italian 16th century salon. She directly managed the education and the moral development of her children.
Tiberius was smart, honorable, brave and disciplined. He also had “a mildness in his look and a composure in his whole behavior…” His manner of living was plain and frugal and his use of language was chaste and elaborate. During his service as military tribune during the 3rd Punic War (149 BC) under Scipio Aemilianus, he along with a certain Fannius, who wrote about it, led the scaling of the defensive wall of one of the Carthaginian towns. In 137 BC Tiberius entered the cursus honorum with an appointment to the office of quaestor under consul Gaius Hostilius Mancinus and served his term in Numantia (Spain). His tenure occurred during the Numantine war which lasted a total of 20 years. Mancinus, like many of the Roman generals before him, was unsuccessful in his endeavors with the Numantines. In fact, Mancinus, his army defeated, surrounded and threatened with destruction, begged a truce with the Numantines. They were willing, but only with Tiberius. They did this for two reasons; 1) the respect he commanded within the Roman army, and 2) the respect they had for Tiberius’ father who had made war upon them and had made peace with them. When presented with this agreement back in Rome, the Senate refused to accept it. Traditionally in such circumstances, the Senate would send the Roman representatives who had signed a disgraceful treaty naked to the enemy signatory, thus demonstrating that the Romans who signed an ignoble treaty did not represent the will of the Roman people. Because of his popularity, Tiberius and his subalterns were not selected for delivery to the Numantines. Instead, it was decided that Mancinus be delivered up. This decision was made in part because of Scipio’s support of Tiberius. However, Tiberius’ supporters were dissatisfied with Scipio’s efforts because he had not saved Mancinus from humiliation nor was he successful in getting the treaty with Numantia ratified. Here, Plutarch interrupts his narrative, stating that Tiberius, had he had Scipio’s counsel and support when passing his land reforms, might have achieved a different result.
When the Romans in their wars made any acquisitions of lands from their neighbors, they used formerly to sell part, to add part to the [ager publicus] public lands and to distribute the rest among needy citizens; only reserving a small rent to be paid into the treasury. But when the rich began to carry it with a high hand over the poor, and to exclude them entirely…a law was made that no man should be possessed of more than five hundred acres of land. This statute for a while restrained the avarice of the rich, and helped the poor, who, by virtue of it, remained upon their lands at the old rents. But afterwards their wealthy neighbors took their farms from them, and held them in other names though, in time, they scrupled not to claim them in their own. The poor thus expelled, neither gave in their names readily to the levies, nor attended to the education of their children. The consequence was, a want of freemen all over Italy; for it was filled with slaves and barbarians, who, after the poor Roman citizens were dispossessed, cultivated the ground for the rich. Caius Laelius, the friend of Scipio, attempted to correct this disorder; but finding a formidable opposition from persons in power, and fearing the matter could not be decided without the sword, he gave it up. This gained him the name of Laelius the wise.
Because legionnaires were required to serve in a complete campaign, no matter how long, soldiers often left their farms in the hands of wives and children. Small subsistence farms, with their male head of household absent for a long time, often went bankrupt and were bought up by the wealthy and consolidated into huge estates called latifundia. These latifundia were worked by slave labor imported for the purpose. What in effect happened over time was the displacement of the Roman & Italian yeoman class, the backbone of the Roman legion, with slave labor. It also resulted in the depopulation of the Italian countryside and transformed a sector of Roman society from productive farmers to an unproductive and socially destabilizing urban proletariat.
The Marian military reforms addressed this situation to some extent by abolishing the property requirement for army service. The urban proletariat was now eligible for military service which to some extent alleviated the manpower shortage. It didn’t, however, solve employment for the retiring veterans. Finishing their military service, unemployed soldiers with few civilian skills, once again sank back into the fetid waters of the unproductive city rabble, with one major difference. These veterans knew how to fight and kill and they had nothing but time on their hands, hunger in their bellies and resentment in their hearts.
Something had to be done and [continue]
Rome’s internal political situation was not peaceful. In the last hundred years, there had been several wars. Since legionaries were required to serve in a complete campaign, no matter how long it was, soldiers often left their farms in the hands of wives and children. Small farms in this situation often went bankrupt and were bought up by the wealthy upper class, forming huge private estates. Furthermore, some lands ended up being taken by the state in war, both in Italy and elsewhere. After the war was over, much of this conquered land would then be sold to or rented to various members of the populace. Much of this land was given to only a few farmers who then had large amounts of land that were more profitable than the smaller farms. The farmers with large farms had their land worked by slaves and did not do the work themselves, unlike landowners with smaller farms.
According to Plutarch, “when Tiberius on his way to Numantia passed through Etruria and found the country almost depopulated and its husbandmen and shepherds imported barbarian slaves, he first conceived the policy which was to be the source of countless ills to himself and to his brother.” When the soldiers returned from the legions, they had nowhere to go, so they went to Rome to join the mob of thousands of unemployed who roamed the city. As only men who owned property were allowed to enroll in the army, the number of men eligible for army duty was therefore shrinking; and hence the military power of Rome. Plutarch noted, “Then the poor, who had been ejected from their land, no longer showed themselves eager for military service, and neglected the bringing up of children, so that soon all Italy was conscious of a dearth of freemen, and was filled with gangs of foreign slaves, by whose aid the rich cultivated their estates, from which they had driven away the free citizens.” In 133 BC Tiberius was elected tribune of the people. Soon he started to legislate on the matter of the homeless legionaries. Speaking before a crowd at the Rostra, Tiberius said, “The wild beasts that roam over Italy have their dens, each has a place of repose and refuge. But the men who fight and die for Italy enjoy nothing but the air and light; without house or home they wander about with the