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Old August 17th, 2013, 12:33 AM   #1
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I want to better understand the actions of Tiberius Gracchus

Reading through this page I had my (amateurish) understanding of the period of Tiberius Gracchus flipped on its head and thoroughly devastated. My understanding of the period had been that, over the centuries, as the Roman state won its wars and acquired territory, this territory was then divided amongst the Senatorial elite into what we might today think of as private property. However, the introduction to this page makes me very suspect of my old understanding.

Was it so that the land that many of the latifundia running elite 'owned' was actually the property of the Roman state, and the land-'owning' elite were mere 'rentiers' of this state?

If this is accurate....was the thing Tiberius Gracchus did that was 'un-constitutional' only his forceful treatment of the Tribune Octavius? That is to say, Tiberius' agrarian law was entirely 'constitutional' and entirely within the laws of the Roman state as understood within his time? It had never made sense to me that something like the Roman Republic would easily imagine the legal appropriation of private lands (I have spent quite a while getting familiar with the idea of allodiality) and the idea that Tiberius Gracchus wanted to merely 're-appropriate' already publicly owned (but privately possessed) lands would completely alter my perception of the period.

If this is really true, then it seems like Tiberius Gracchus was really the first casualty of the civil wars that ultimately led to the fall of the republic and the ascendency of Augustus Caesar. Tying the ferment of the Gracchi into the broader narrative of the decline and fall of the Roman Republic would be revolutionary to my grasp of ancient history, so any light anyone can cast on this would be greatly appreciated.

Last edited by MAlexMatt; August 17th, 2013 at 12:35 AM.
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Old August 17th, 2013, 01:27 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by MAlexMatt View Post
If this is accurate....was the thing Tiberius Gracchus did that was 'un-constitutional' only his forceful treatment of the Tribune Octavius? That is to say, Tiberius' agrarian law was entirely 'constitutional' and entirely within the laws of the Roman state as understood within his time?
Goal of Tiberius Gracchus was constitutional. His agrarian reform basically wanted to correct "unconstitutional" ...or better say "unlawful" state of land distribution and use.

However he tried to achieve that goal through unconstitutional means as he was blocked when trying to reach it constitutional way.

What was unconstitutional in his action was that he tried to circumvent Senate ...since it was dominated by rich aristocratic and plutocratic elite which benefited from current state of affairs as long as distribution of land was concerned.

Roman Republican constitution was collection of both written and unwritten laws and customs to which Romans themselves referred as "mos maiorum" -ways (or customs) of the ancestors.

Under this constitution Senate had monopoly on proposing new laws. No other institution could do it. However such laws then had to be ratified by assembly of plebs -Concilium Plebis. Assembly could not propose new laws, it could not even change or modify laws proposed by Senate. It could only accept it or reject it. Common members of assembly could not even discus law in assembly, it was power which only Plebian Tribunes had -they could moderate discussion, made speeches themselves or invite speakers they choose.

But all this was part of unwritten law. There was no legal written code which said that only Senate can propose law. It was based on tradition. What Tiberius Gracchus did was that he violated this unwritten law in order to circumvent Senate which was opposing his agrarian reform. He became Plebian Tribune and he used his position to propose new law (his reform) directly to Concilium Plebis.

While he might have had good "lawful" intentions in mind, what he did was to break Roman constitution apart -constitution which for most part tried to prevent concentration of power in single hands. Others then followed his example -people who wanted to gain power like Julius Caesar (he was but last in line of those men). And they destroyed Republic as a result.
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Old August 17th, 2013, 09:44 AM   #3
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The Lex Licinia was enacted in the 135th year of the Roman Republic and it limited individual land holdings to 500 iugera,-somewhat less than 500 acres. The Lex Sempronia, proposed by Tiberius Gracchus was merely an attempt to enforce this ancient law. Tiberius Gracchus believed that the ager publica, public lands in Italy, acquired by conquest, which had been appropriated for use by the wealthy classes, should be alloted to landless people to farm. During the second century B.C. more and more land was consolidated into huge estates farmed by slaves and more and more of the peasantry pushed off their land to become landless members of the Roman headcount. By the laws of the time, landless men could not even serve in the military because service in the military required property ownership.
Tiberius Gracchus' rationale for proposing the removal of Octavius was as follows:"The person of a tribune, I acknowledge, is sacred and inviolable, because he is consecrated to the people and takes their interests under his protection. But when he deserts those interest, and becomes an oppressor of the people;when he retrenches their privileges, and take away their liberty of voting;by those acts he deprives himself, for he no longer keeps to the intention of his employment. Otherwise, if a tribune should demolish the Capitol, and burn the docks and naval stores, his person could not be touched. A man who should do such things as those, might still be called a tribune, though a vile one; but he who diminishes the privileges of the people, ceases to be a tribune of the people." Octavius, in barring the vote for the land reform law was acting against the interest of the plebeians whose interests he had sworn to protect, and in favor of the interests of the patricians, so in Tiberius Gracchus' view, he had ceased to be a tribune of the plebes.
For more details about Tiberius Gracchus and his family, read my book "Sempronia, the Sister of the Gracchi," available on Amazon.
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Old August 17th, 2013, 10:03 AM   #4

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This is a period of Rome I don't know much about. I have in my collection which I have not read yet about this period

[ame="http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/030429540X/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1376758782&sr=8-1&pi=AA75"]Daggers in the Forum:Amazon:Books[/ame]

Looking forward to finding more out about these brothers. I have ordered your book now Robinlevan off of amazon.co.uk so look forward to that. As my knowledge is limited, which brother had the greater impact and was more successful?
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