Text #9524

"Gaius Sempronius Gracchus", in Wikipedia.

Gaius Sempronius Gracchus (154–121 BC) was a Roman Popularis politician in the 2nd century BC and brother of the reformer Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus. His election to the office of tribune in the years 123 BC and 122 BC and reformative policies while in office prompted a constitutional crisis and his death at the hands of the Roman Senate in 121 BC.

Gaius Gracchus was born into a family who had a strong tradition in the politics of ancient Rome. His father, Tiberius Gracchus the Elder, was a powerful man in Roman politics throughout the 2nd century BC and had built up a large and powerful clientele largely based in Spain. His mother was Cornelia Africana, daughter of Scipio Africanus, a noble woman who was a major influence on the Gracchi; as a widow, she refused the marriage proposal of Ptolemy VIII, the King of Egypt, preferring to devote her life to the upbringing of her sons.

The family was attached to the Claudii faction in Roman politics despite his mother’s background. It can be supposed, however, that both the Gracchi brothers would have come into contact with powerful members of both the Claudii and Cornelii Scipiones factions.

Gaius Gracchus was the younger brother of Tiberius Gracchus, by about nine years. He was heavily influenced both by the reformative policy of his older brother, and by his death at the hands of a senatorial mob. Plutarch suggests that it was “the grief he had suffered [that] encouraged him to speak out fearlessly, whenever he lamented the fate of his brother.” Certainly aspects of his reforms, and especially his judicial reforms, seem to have been directed at the people responsible for his brother’s death.

The political career of Gaius Gracchus prior to 123 BC started with a seat on his brother Tiberius’s land-commission upon its formation in 133 BC. He served, in 126 BC, as a quaestor in the Roman province of Sardinia. In Sardinia he advanced quickly in notoriety based on his successful merits. During his quaestorship in Sardinia, Gaius began to hone his legendary oratory skills.

One particularly harsh winter caused legate to requisition supplies from the local towns for the Roman garrison. When they appealed and won the Senate’s approval to have their supplies, Gaius personally made a tour of the towns to appeal for their aid. Fearing Gaius was making a ploy to gain popular approval, the Senate refused envoys sent by Micipsa, king of Numidia, who had sent grain to Gaius out of his personal favor for Gaius. The Senate further decreed that the garrison would be immediately replaced but that Gaius would remain with the general to ensure he stayed out of Rome.

Enraged, Gaius returned to Rome to appeal. Initially he was treated with suspicion for abandoning his post, but quickly won popular support when he argued that he had served twelve years, two beyond the requirement, and had served as quaestor for two years though legally only required to serve one. Further, he argued, he used the Roman money to aid Sardinia and never heavily extolled the province to line his own pockets.

He was then accused of aiding in an Italian revolt at Fregellae, but little evidence indicted him in the matter. His support for the reforms of Gaius Papirius Carbo and Marcus Fulvius Flaccus, his evident skills at oration and his association with the reforms of his brother led the senatorial nobles to try him on charges plainly false or heavily exaggerated. He cleared himself with ease and in 122 was elected to serve as a tribune for the following year.

Gaius used his famed oratory, considered to be the best in Rome, to attack his opponents at every chance and frequently lamented the fate of his brother Tiberius. He compared how the Senate failed to emulate their ancestors’ respect for the tribune, citing the Senate’s decision to wage war on the Falerii for insulting the tribune Genucius, or how Gaius Veturius had been condemned to death for failing to make way for the tribune. He chastised the People for standing by while Tiberius and his supporters were beaten and cited the unlawful exiles that followed because the accused were not permitted to stand trial.

Reforms in 122 BC

Gaius’ social reforms were far wider reaching than those of his brother Tiberius. Perhaps motivated by the fate of his brother, some of his earliest reforms dealt with the judiciary system. He set up two initial measures, the first of which prohibited a magistrate who had been deposed by the People from holding office a second time. Gaius’s second bill established the right of the People to prosecute any magistrate who had exiled citizens without a trial.[6] These moves were a direct response to the Senate’s actions in the aftermath of his brother Tiberius’s murder.

Courts with capital punishment, not set up by the people, were now declared illegal by a retrospective measure which saw the former consul Popilius Laenas driven into exile. Further reforms to the judicial system were passed to check the practice of senatorial juries in the acquitting members of their own class of extortion. Control of the court dedicated to the trials of extortion, the Lex Acilia, was given to the equites and the procedure was rewritten to favor the prosecutors. Gaius passed legislation that required juries for criminal cases to be drawn from the 300 members of the Senate as well as 300 members of the equites.

Economically, Tiberius’ land reforms were continued and broadened, providing for larger allotments so free labourers could be employed. Large overseas colonies were planned to provide for thousands of settlers which may have included some Italians as well as Roman citizens. The state was also required by the law, Lex Frumentaria, to buy grain supplies imported from North Africa and Sicily and to store them in bulk to allow the distribution of a monthly ration to all Roman citizens at a low price. The construction of a widespread secondary road system was enacted to facilitate communication and trade across Italy and the contract to collect taxes in Asia was auctioned off in Rome by the censors.

Gaius also made a few reforms to the military through the passing of the Lex Militaris. This law required the government to clothe and equip Roman soldiers without deductions from their pay, shortened the term of military service, and forbade the draft of boys under the age of seventeen. The intent of these reforms was to improve army morale and to win the political support of soldiers, allies, and voters with small incomes.

Politically Gaius’ most farsighted proposal was the ‘franchise bill’, a measure which would have seen the distribution of Roman citizenship to all Latin citizens and the extension of Latin citizenship to all Italian allies. This proposal was rejected because the Roman plebeians had no wish to share the benefits of citizenship, including cheap grain and entertainment. The rejection of this measure led, in part, to the disastrous Social War of 90 BC.

In a further slight to the power of the Senate, Gaius changed physically how speeches were delivered. Formerly, when a speaker delivered a speech in the Forum, he turned his face to the right in the direction of the curia, the Senate house, and the Comitium. Instead, Gaius would turn his face to the left, toward the direction of the Forum proper, effectively turning his back on the Senate.

Gaius amassed a monumental amount of political power. In each of his reforms, he personally oversaw each new institution, selected the 300 equestrian men to serve on the juries and acted as director for each new project with such skill that even his opponents were stunned at his efficiency.[9] Gaius did not campaign for political office the following year, but instead threw his support behind Gaius Fannius for the consulship. Gaius’ favor for Fannius won Fannius the consulship and Gaius was elected to be tribune in 122 BC despite having neither been a candidate nor having campaigned for the office, winning it on the sheer will of the People.

Senatorial Response

Seeing how wildly popular Gaius was with the People, the Senate decided to fight fire with fire and endeavored to win the People’s favor and thereby pull Gracchan supporters to the side of the Senate. A fellow tribune of Gaius, Livius Drusus, was backed by the Senate as an alternate voice to Gaius’. He was under strict orders to not incite violence but rather to use his position to propose legislation pleasing to the People under the auspices of the Senate. Drusus proceeded to draft legislation that was neither credible nor beneficial to the People but was intended merely to undermine Gaius.

When Gaius proposed two colonies to be founded with reliable citizens, the Senate accused him of trying to win favor with the People before Drusus proposed twelve with three thousand citizens. When Gaius granted the most needy small plots of redistributed land on the condition they pay a small rent to the public coffers, the Senate accused him of trying to win favor with the people before Drusus proposed to do the same rent-free.

When Gaius proposed that all Latins should have equal voting rights, the Senate protested, but approved of Drusus’ measure that no Latin would ever be beaten with rods. Drusus went to great pains to ensure he was never seen as the benefactor, politically or economically, of his legislation but rather that he proposed his measures, backed by the Senate, to further benefit the People. Drusus’ constant referencing to the Senate worked and at least some of the People began to feel less hostility toward the Senate, marking the Senatorial plan a resounding success. When a measure was passed to found a colony at Carthage, which had been destroyed in 146 BC by Scipio Africanus the Younger, Gaius was appointed to oversee the construction and left for Africa. Drusus immediately took advantage of Gaius’ absence by attacking Gaius’ ally, Fulvius Flaccus, who was a known agitator to the Senate and was suspected by some for stirring up the Italian allies to revolt.

A new candidate emerged for the consulship, one Lucius Opimius, who had opposed Fannius for the consulship in 122 BC and been stymied by Gaius’ machinations. Opimius, a staunch conservative and oligarchical man who wanted to restore power to the Senate, had garnered a significant following and stood poised to challenge Gaius directly. Opimius had made it his sole mission to unseat Gaius.

Death of Scipio Africanus the Younger

When Scipio the Younger agreed to represent the Italian allies, who were protesting the injustices done to them which Tiberius Gracchus’ land reform was supposed to remedy, he won the hostility of the People, who accused him of standing against Tiberius Gracchus and wishing to abolish the law and incite bloodshed.

When Scipio died suddenly and mysteriously one day, Gaius was one of many political enemies implicated in his death. Carbo had just that day delivered a fiery speech against Scipio and he—like other Gracchan political allies such as Fulvius Flaccus—was widely known to be an outspoken enemy of Scipio’s during this time as his Gracchan-backed proposal to formally allow tribunes multiple terms in office was ultimately defeated in large part due to Scipio’s influence. In fact, between the years of his return from Spain in 132 and his death in 129, Scipio “inexorably began to unite the ruling oligarchy against” Gaius. Other members of the Gracchi family were also accused; Scipio had been in a loveless marriage to Sempronia, sister of the Gracchi brothers and daughter of their mother Cornelia - Scipio referred to his wife as ‘deformed’ and ‘barren’. Both women were suspected of murdering Scipio because of his perceived attempt to undo the reforms of Tiberius.

Return to Rome and outbreak of violence

The combined political positions of Lucius Opimius, Livius Drusus and Marcus Minucius Rufus, another political enemy of Gaius, to tribune meant the repeal of as many of Gaius’ measures as possible.[4] Gaius now stood on increasingly shaky ground with the Senate, though his popularity with the People remained undeniable. Gaius’ return to Rome from Carthage set in motion a series of events that would eventually cause him to endure the same fate as his brother. Gaius’ first action was to move from his home on the Palatine, where the wealthiest of Romans and the political elite lived, to a neighborhood near the Forum, believing that in so doing he was keeping to his democratic principles and reaffirming his loyalty to the People rather than to the privileged elite.

Gaius then called together all of his supporters from Italy to put into motion his legislation. The Senate convinced Fannius, whose friendship with Gaius had run its course, to expel all those who were not Roman citizens by birth from the city. Gaius condemned the proposal, promising support for the Italians, but his image took a hit when he failed to cash in on the promises and did not stop Fannius’ lictors from dragging away a friend. Whether he did this because he was afraid to test his power or because he refused to do anything which would have given the Senate pretext to initiate violence remains unknown.

Gaius further distanced himself from his fellow tribunes when he insisted that the seats for a gladiatorial show be removed to allow the poor to watch. When they refused, he removed them secretly at night. Plutarch claims this cost him the office of the tribune for the third time, because although he won the popular vote, the tribunes were so upset that they falsified the ballots. Opimius and his supporters began to overturn Gaius’ legislation with the hope of provoking him into violence, but Gaius remained resolute. Rumors suggested that his mother Cornelia hired foreign men disguised as harvesters to protect him. Death of Quintus Antyllius

On the day that Opimius planned to repeal Gaius’ laws, an attendant of Opimius, Quintus Antyllius, carrying the entrails of a sacrifice, forced his way through a crowd. A resulting scuffle between the supporters of the two opposing groups on the Capitoline Hill led to his death. Plutarch maintains that Antyllius had rudely pushed his way through the crowd and gave an indecent gesture and was immediately beset upon by Gracchan supporters much to the disapproval of Gaius.

Appian states that Gaius had arrived with an escort of body guards in a distressed state. When Antyllius saw Gaius, he laid a hand on him, begging him not to destroy the state. When Gaius cast his scorn on Antyllius, his supporters took it as a sign to act on his behalf and struck Antyllius down. Gaius and Fulvius failed to exonerate themselves of the deed and returned home under the protection of their supporters to await the day’s outcomes.

The death of Antyllius allowed a triumphant Opimius a pretext for action. On the following morning, with much showboating, the body of Antyllius was presented to the Senate as indicative of the measures Gaius would take. The senate passed a senatus consultum ultimum, granting Opimius the right to defend the state and rid it of tyrants. The Senate armed itself and commanded all the equestrians to arm themselves and two of their servants and assemble the next morning.

Fulvius gathered his supporters and they passed the evening in a drunken and raucous manner. Gaius, much more somber, paused in front of the statue of his father on his way out of the Forum, and weeping went homeward. His plight and obvious distress caused such sympathy among the People, who blamed themselves for betraying their champion, that a large party gathered outside his home to ensure his protection. Unlike Fulvius, Gaius’ men were quiet and reflective of future events. Death of Gaius Gracchus and Fulvius Flaccus

The following morning, Fulvius’ men armed themselves with spoils from Fulvius’ Gallic campaign and marched loudly to the Aventine. Gaius refused to gird himself with anything save a small dagger and his toga. As he left his home, his wife Licinia, daughter of Crassus, begged him not to go meet the same men who had murdered and dishonored Tiberius Gracchus, knowing well enough that Gaius was to die that day. Gaius, without saying a word, gently pried himself from her arms and left her there, weeping, until her servants eventually came to pick her up and carried her to her brother Crassus.

At Gaius’ suggestion, Fulvius sent his youngest son Quintus to the Forum to speak to the Senate as a herald carrying a staff, which was only used when heralds approached enemies in times of war. Tearful, he pled for terms which many they were willing to hear, but Opimius insisted on speaking directly to Fulvius and Gaius, demanding they surrender themselves for trial. These terms were not negotiable. When Quintus returned to Gaius and Fulvius, Gaius was willing to acquiesce but Fulvius was not and sent the boy back.

When the boy came back to the Senate and relayed what his father Fulvius stated, Opimius placed him under arrest and under guard and advanced on Fulvius’ position with a contingent of archers from Crete. When they fired on Fulvius’ men, wounding many, the crowd was thrown into chaos and fled. Fulvius hid in an abandoned bath or workshop with his eldest son and when discovered both were executed. Appian adds that when they initially hid, citizens were hesitant to give them away, but when the whole row was threatened to be burned down they were handed over to the mob.

Gaius, taking no part in the fighting and despairing at the bloodshed, fled to the Temple of Diana on the Aventine where he intended to commit suicide but was stopped by his friends Pomponius and Licinius. Gaius knelt and prayed to the goddess, asking that the People of Rome be forever enslaved by their masters since many had openly and quickly switched sides when an amnesty was declared by the Senate.

Gaius fled the temple and tried to cross the Tiber on a wooden bridge while Pomponius and Licinius would stay back and cover his retreat, killing as many as they could until they were themselves felled. Accompanied by only his slave Philocrates, Gaius fled, urged by onlookers though no man offered assistance despite Gaius’ repeated requests for aid. Arriving at a grove sacred to Furrina, Philocrates first assisted Gaius in his suicide before taking his own life, though some rumors held that Philocrates was only killed after he refused to let go of his master’s body.

Gaius’ head was cut off, as Opimius had announced that whoever brought back the head would be paid its weight in gold. When the head measured an astonishing seventeen and two-thirds pounds, it was discovered that Septimuleius, who brought the head, committed fraud by removing the brain and pouring in molten lead and therefore received no reward at all. The bodies of Gaius, Fulvius and the three thousand supporters who also died were thrown into the Tiber, their property confiscated and sold to the public treasury. Appian adds that their homes were looted by their opponents.

Their wives were forbidden to mourn the death of their husbands and Licinia, wife of Gaius, was stripped of her dowry. Fulvius’ youngest son, who took no part in the fighting and merely acted as herald, was executed, though Appian holds that Opimius allowed him to choose his own manner of death. Most outrageous to the People was when Opimius celebrated his victory by building a temple to Concord in the Forum with the Senate’s approval. The People felt that a victory bought with the massacre of so many citizens was exceptionally distasteful. According to Plutarch, one night an inscription was carved that read “This temple of Concord is the work of mad Discord.”

Plutarch maintains that Opimius was the first Roman to appoint himself dictator, kill 3,000 Roman citizens without trial, including the proconsul Fulvius Flaccus who celebrated a triumph and the tribune Gaius Gracchus, a man renowned for his reputation and virtue. Ironically, this same Opimius then later committed fraud and accepted bribes from the Numidian king Jugurtha and, after being convicted, spent his days in disgrace. The People, realizing that their democratic cause was now dead, understood how deeply they missed the Gracchus brothers.

Statues were erected in Rome, where they fell was consecrated as holy ground and the season’s first fruits were offered as sacrifice. Many worshiped them daily as if the Gracchi had been elevated to divine status. Cornelia honored the memory of her sons’ murders by constructing elaborate tombs at the spot of their deaths.[24] Appian adds that within 15 years, all of the progress done under the Gracchi had been overturned and the poor were in a much worse position than ever before, many reduced to unemployment.


“Caius Gracchus”, by Plutarch, translated by John Dryden

“The Comparison of Tiberius and Caius Gracchus with Agis and Cleomenes”, by Plutarch, translated by John Dryden

Stockton, David The Gracchi. (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979).

Text #9667

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Gaius Gracchus (152-121 BC), eight years younger than his brother, appeared to accept his death and to be unaware of the identities of his assassins. He was appointed quaestor of Sardinia and, against the wishes of the Senate, he did not disappear from view. He lived the life of his soldiers and looked after their interests. He liked long marches and took long, lonely swims in the sea, and he remained chaste.

 > He gave great pains to the study of eloquence, as wings upon which he might aspire to public business; and it was very apparent that he did not intend to pass his days in obscurity. When Vettius, a friend of his, was on his trial, he defended his cause, and the people were in an ecstasy, and transported with joy, finding him master of such eloquence that the other orators seemed like children in comparison, and jealousies and fears on the other hand began to be felt by the powerful citizens; and it was generally spoken of amongst them that they must hinder Caius from being made tribune.  >  >    …yet it is certain that he was borne rather by a sort of necessity than by any purpose of his own into public business. And Cicero, the orator, relates, that when he declined all such concerns, and would have lived privately, his brother appeared to him in a dream, and calling him by his name, said, "Why do you tarry, Caius? There is no escape; one life and one death is appointed for us both, to spend the one and to meet the other in the service of the people." … >     he now at once came forward to ask for the tribuneship; in which, though he was universally opposed by all persons of distinction, yet there came such infinite numbers of people from all parts of Italy to vote for Caius, that lodgings for them could not be supplied in the city; and the Field being not large enough to contain the assembly, there were numbers who climbed upon the roofs and the tilings of the houses to use their voices in his favour. However, the nobility so far forced the people to their pleasure and disappointed Caius's hope, that he was not returned the first, as was expected, but the fourth tribune. But when he came to the execution of his office, it was seen presently who was really first tribune, as he was a better orator than any of his contemporaries, and the passion with which he still lamented his brother's death made him the bolder in speaking. He used on all occasions to remind the people of what had happened in that tumult, and laid before them the examples of their ancestors, how they declared war against the Faliscans, only for giving scurrilous language to one Genucius, a tribune of the people; and sentenced Caius Veturius to death, for refusing to give way in the forum to a tribune; "Whereas," said he, "these men did, in the presence of you all, murder Tiberius with clubs, and dragged the slaughtered body through the middle of the city, to be cast into the river. Even his friends, as many as could be taken, were put to death immediately, without any trial, notwithstanding that just and ancient custom, which has always been observed in our city, that whenever any one is accused of a capital crime, and does not make his personal appearance in court, a trumpeter is sent in the morning to his lodging, to summon him by sound of trumpet to appear; and before this ceremony is performed, the judges do not proceed to the vote; so cautious and reserved were our ancestors about business of life and death."  >  >     Of the laws which he now proposed, with the object of gratifying the people and abridging the power of the senate, the first was concerning the public lands, which were to be divided amongst the poor citizens; another was concerning the common soldiers, that they should be clothed at the public charge, without any diminution of their pay, and that none should be obliged to serve in the army who was not full seventeen years old; another gave the same right to all the Italians in general, of voting at elections, as was enjoyed by the citizens of Rome; a fourth related to the price of corn, which was to be sold at a lower rate than formerly to the poor; and a fifth regulated the courts of justice, greatly reducing the power of the senators. For hitherto, in all causes, senators only sat as judges, and were therefore much dreaded by the Roman knights and the people. But Caius joined three hundred ordinary citizens of equestrian rank with the senators, who were three hundred likewise in number, and ordained that the judicial authority should be equally invested in the six hundred. While he was arguing for the ratification of this law, his behaviour was observed to show in many respects unusual earnestness, and whereas other popular leaders had always hitherto, when speaking, turned their faces towards the senate-house, and the place called the comitium, he, on the contrary, was the first man that in his harangue to the people turned himself the other way, towards them, and continued after that time to do so. An insignificant movement and change of posture, yet it marked no small revolution in state affairs, the conversion, in a manner, of the whole government from an aristocracy to a democracy, his action intimating that public speakers should address themselves to the people, not the senate.  >  > When the commonalty ratified this law, and gave him power to select those of the knights whom he approved of, to be judges, he was invested with a sort of a kingly power, and the senate itself submitted to receive his advice in matters of difficulty; nor did he advise anything that might derogate from the honour of that body. As, for example, his resolution about the corn which Fabius the propraetor sent from Spain, was very just and honourable; for he persuaded the senate to sell the corn, and return the money to the same provinces which had furnished them with it; and also that Fabius should be censured for rendering the Roman government odious and insupportable. This got him extraordinary respect and favour among the provinces. Besides all this, he proposed measures for the colonization of several cities, for making roads, and for building public granaries; of all which works he himself undertook the management and superintendence, and was never wanting to give necessary orders for the despatch of all these different and great undertakings; and that with such wonderful expedition and diligence, as if he had been but engaged upon one of them; insomuch that all persons, even those who hated or feared him, stood amazed to see what a capacity he had for effecting and completing all he undertook. (Plutarch, Life of Gaius Gracchus, trans. John Dryden, excerpts.) >   Rome would be the capital of a vast Italic nation. No longer would the Empire be founded on a municipal oligarchy allied with the corrupt merchants, but on rival classes working in partnership. The former centers of civilization and commerce, now destroyed or declined, would be restored, and the wealth and the multitudes that poured into Rome, threatening to choke the nerve-center of the Empire, would be distributed evenly throughout the different lands.

It was the historic task of Rome that Gaius had in mind, but he thought he could accomplish alone what it was to take generations to achieve. His grandiose ideas were too premature. His plan to accord the rights of a Roman citizen to all Italians pleased neither the nobility nor the little people.

The Senate decided that things had gone far enough. They brought out their biggest weapon: The SCU – Senatus consultum ultimum more properly senatus consultum de re publica defendenda (“Decree of the Senate on defending the Republic”). The form was usually consules darent operam ne quid detrimenti res publica caperet or videant consules ne res publica detrimenti capiat (“let the consuls see to it that the state suffer no harm”). It was first passed against Gaius Gracchus in 121 BC. The SCU effectively replaced the disused dictatorship, by removing limitations on the magistrates’ powers to preserve the State. This act was loaded with implicit controversy since, due to its brevity, it did make its parameters clear: just how far-reaching were the powers given to the consul? Did those powers override normal protections and liberties of citizenship. These are the issues that came to a head during the Catilinarian Conspiracy later.

The senators, after some time, withdrew, and presently ordered that Opimius, the consul, should be invested with extraordinary power to protect the commonwealth and suppress all tyrants. This being decreed, he presently commanded the senators to arm themselves, and the Roman knights to be in readiness very early the next morning, and every one of them to be attended with two servants well armed Fulvius, on the other side, made his preparations and collected the populace. Caius at that time returning from the market-place, made a stop just before his father’s statue, and fixing his eyes for some time upon it, remained in a deep contemplation; at length he sighed, shed tears, and departed. This made no small impression upon those who saw it, and they began to upbraid themselves that they should desert and betray so worthy a man as Caius. They therefore went directly to his house, remaining there as a guard about it all night…

Caius could not be persuaded to arm himself, but put on his gown, as if he had been going to the assembly of the people, only with this difference, that under it he had then a short dagger by his side. As he was going out, his wife came running to him at the gate, holding him with one hand, and with the other a young child of his. She bespoke him: “Alas, Caius, I do not now part with you to let you address the people either as a tribune or a lawgiver, nor as if you were going to some honourable war, when, though you might perhaps have encountered that fate which all must some time or other submit to, yet you had left me this mitigation of my sorrow, that my mourning was respected and honoured. You go now to expose your person to the murderers of Tiberius, unarmed indeed, and rightly so, choosing rather to suffer the worst of injuries than do the least yourself. But even your very death at this time will not be serviceable to the public good. Faction prevails; power and arms are now the only measures of justice. Had your brother fallen before Numantia, the enemy would have given back what then had remained of Tiberius; but such is my hard fate, that I probably must be an humble suppliant to the floods or the waves, that they would somewhere restore to me your relics; for since Tiberius was not spared, what trust can we place either on the laws, or in the Gods?” Licinia, thus bewailing, Caius, by degrees getting loose from her embraces, silently withdrew himself, being accompanied by his friends; she, endeavouring to catch him by the gown, fell prostrate upon the earth, lying there for some time speechless. Her servants took her up for dead, and conveyed her to her brother Crassus.

Fulvius, when the people were gathered together in a full body, by the advice of Caius sent his youngest son into the market-place, with a herald’s rod in his hand. He, being a very handsome youth, and modestly addressing himself, with tears in his eyes and a becoming bashfulness, offered proposals of agreement to the consul and the whole senate.

The greatest part of the assembly were inclinable to accept of the proposals; but Opimius said, that it did not become them to send messengers and capitulate with the senate, but to surrender at discretion to the laws, like loyal citizens, and endeavour to merit their pardon by submission. He commanded the youth not to return, unless they would comply with these conditions.

Caius, as it is reported, was very forward to go and clear himself before the senate; but none of his friends consenting to it, Fulvius sent his son a second time to intercede for them, as before. But Opimius, who was resolved that a battle should ensue, caused the youth to be apprehended and committed into custody; and then with a company of his foot-soldiers and some Cretan archers set upon the party under Fulvius. These archers did such execution, and inflicted so many wounds, that a rout and flight quickly ensued. Fulvius fled into an obscure bathing-house; but shortly after being discovered, he and his eldest son were slain together.

Caius was not observed to use any violence against any one; but extremely disliking all these outrages, retired to Diana’s temple. There he attempted to kill himself, but was hindered by his faithful friends, Pomponius and Licinius; they took his sword away from him, and were very urgent that he would endeavour to make his escape. It is reported that, falling upon his knee and lifting up his hands, he prayed the goddess that the Roman people, as a punishment for their ingratitude and treachery, might always remain in slavery. For as soon as a proclamation was made of a pardon, the greater part openly deserted him.

Caius, therefore, endeavoured now to make his escape, but was pursued so close by his enemies, as far as the wooden bridge, that from thence he narrowly escaped. There his two trusty friends begged of him to preserve his own person by flight, whilst they in the meantime would keep their post, and maintain the passage; neither could their enemies, until they were both slain, pass the bridge. Caius had no other companion in his flight but one Philocrates, a servant of his. As he ran along, everybody encouraged him, and wished him success, as standers-by may do to those who are engaged in a race, but nobody either lent him any assistance, or would furnish him with a horse, though he asked for one; for his enemies had gained ground, and got very near him. However, he had still time enough to hide himself in a little grove, consecrated to the Furies. In that place, his servant Philocrates having first slain him, presently afterwards killed himself also, and fell dead upon his master. Though some affirm it for a truth, that they were both taken alive by their enemies, and that Philocrates embraced his master so close, that they could not wound Caius until his servant was slain.

They say that when Caius’s head was cut off, and carried away by one of his murderers, Septimuleius, Opimius’s friend, met him, and forced it from him; because, before the battle began, they had made proclamation, that whoever should bring the head either of Caius or Fulvius, should, as a reward, receive its weight in gold. Septimuleius, therefore, having fixed Caius’s head upon the top of his spear, came and presented it to Opimius. They presently brought the scales, and it was found to weigh above seventeen pounds. But in this affair, Septimuleius gave as great signs of his knavery as he had done before of his cruelty; for having taken out the brains, he had filled the skull with lead. There were others who brought the head of Fulvius, too, but, being mean, inconsiderable persons, were turned away without the promised reward. The bodies of these two persons, as well as of the rest who were slain, to the number of three thousand men, were all thrown into the river; their goods were confiscated, and their widows forbidden to put themselves into mourning. They dealt even more severely with Licinia, Caius’s wife, and deprived her even of her jointure; and as in addition still to all their inhumanity, they barbarously murdered Fulvius’s youngest son; his only crime being, not that he took up arms against them, or that he was present in the battle, but merely that he had come with articles of agreement; for this he was first imprisoned, then slain.

But that which angered the common people most was, that at this time, in memory of his success, Opimius built the Temple of Concord, as if he gloried and triumphed in the slaughter of so many citizens. Somebody in the night time, under the inscription of the temple added this verse:- “Folly and Discord Concord’s temple built.”

Yet this Opimius, the first who, being consul, presumed to usurp the power of a dictator, condemning, without any trial, with three thousand other citizens, Caius Gracchus and Fulvius Flaccus, one of whom had triumphed and been consul, the other far excelled all his contemporaries in virtue and honour … the people; who, though humble, and affrighted at the time, did not fail before long to let everybody see what respect and veneration they had for the memory of the Gracchi. They ordered their statues to be made and set up in public view; they consecrated the places where they were slain, and thither brought the first-fruits of everything, according to the season of the year, to make their offerings. Many came likewise thither to their devotions, and daily worshipped there, as at the temple of the gods. (Plutarch, Gaius Gracchus, excerpts, Trans. John Dryden)

Sixteen centuries later, Machiavelli wrote that “men forget the death of their father more easily than the loss of their patrimony, and they hesitate less to harm a man who is loved than another who is feared.”

The Gracchus brothers were not forgotten by the Roman people. Statues were erected in their memory, and a cult was founded in their honor.

All of the Gracchian agrarian reforms had been premised on the traditional Roman levy, which excluded from service those whose property qualification fell below the minimum property qualification for the fifth census class. The Gracchi had tried to restore the smallholders who would constitute the majority of those qualified to serve.

The end of the Gracchian land legislation did nothing to change the military crisis that gave rise to that legislation. It seems that the minimum qualification for the fifth census class was lowered from 11,000 to 3000 sesterces of property, and by109 BC the consuls sought suspension of Gaius Gracchus’ restrictions on the levy.

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