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Ti. et C. Sempronius Gracchus
Tiberius and Caius Sempronius Gracchus

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (163—133 BCE), son of Tiberius Senior, was the elder of the two great reformers known to Eternity as the Brothers Gracchi.

He and his brother were brought up by their mother Cornelia, assisted by the rhetorician Diophanes of Mytilene and the Stoic Blossius of Cumae.

In 147 BCE he served under his brother-in-law, the younger Scipio in Africa during the last Punic war, and was the first to mount the walls in the attack on Carthage.

When quaestor in 137, he accompanied the consul C. Hostilius Mancinus to Spain. Te Roman army was saved from extermination During the Numantine war only by the efforts of Tiberius, who was the sole Roman the Numantines agreed to negotiate with out of respect for the memory of his father.

The Senate refused to ratify the agreement; Mancinus was handed over to the enemy as a sign that it was annulled, and only personal popularity saved Tiberius himself from punishment.

In 133 BCE he was elected tribune, and championed the impoverished farmer class and the lower orders.

His proposals met with violent opposition, and were not carried until he had, illegally and unconstitutionally, secured the deposition of his fellow-tribune, Marcus Octavius, who had been persuaded by the optimates to veto them.

The Senate put every obstacle in the way of the three commissioners appointed to carry out the provisions of the law, and Tiberius, in view of the bitter enmity he had aroused, saw that it was necessary to strengthen his hold on the popular favor.

The legacy to the Roman people of the kingdom and treasures of Attalus III. of Pergamum gave him an opportunity. He proposed that the money realized by the sale of the treasures should be divided, for the purchase of implements and stock, amongst those to whom assignments of land had been made under the new law.

He is also said to have brought forward measures for shortening the period of military service, for extending the right of appeal from the judices to the people, for abolishing the exclusive privilege of the senators to act as jurymen, and even for admitting the Italian allies to citizenship.

To further strengthen his position, Tiberius stood for re-election as tribune for the following year. The senate declared that it was illegal to hold this office for two consecutive years; but Tiberius treated this objection with contempt. To win the people's sympathy, he appeared in mourning, and appealed for protection for his wife and children. Whenever he left his house he was accompanied by a bodyguard of 3,000 men, chiefly consisting of the city rabble.

The meeting of the tribes for the election of tribunes broke up in disorder on two successive days, without any result being attained, although on both occasions the first divisions voted in favour of Tiberius.

A rumor reached the senate that he was aiming at supreme power, that he had touched his head with his hand, a sign that he was asking for a crown. An appeal to the consul P. Mucius Scaevola to order him to be put to death at once having failed, P. Scipio Nasica exclaimed that Scaevola was acting treacherously towards the state, and called upon those who agreed with him to take up arms and follow him.

During the riot that followed, Tiberius attempted to escape, but stumbled on the slope of the Capitol and was beaten to death with the end of a bench.

At night his body, with those of 300 others, was thrown into the Tiber. The aristocracy boldly assumed the responsibility for what had occurred, and set up a commission to inquire into the case of the partisans of Tiberius, many of whom were banished and others put to death.

Even the moderate Scaevola subsequently maintained that Nasica was justified in his action; and it was reported that Scipio, when he heard at Numantia of his brother-in-law's death, repeated the line of Homer—" So perish all who do the like again."