Gaius and Tiberius, were both Roman citizens and they were also brothers. Tiberius was the eldest being about nine years older. However their actual birth dates are not known but it is believed that was born around 154 BC and Tiberius around 168 BC. The two brothers were sons of Tiberius Gracchus and Cornelia Africana. The brothers grew up to become influential politicians in ancient Rome, proposing various changes in the constitution leading to reforms. Their proposed reforms were revolutionary and were not very popular with the Rome senate and the ruling class citizens. Since they hailed from a political family, their father was an influential and accomplished politician in Rome, having huge following especially in Spain. Their mother although not a politician herself was born in a political family and at one time even courted the famous king of Egypt, Ptolemy VIII. However these two brothers are famous for their daring and controversial land policies that eventually led to their deaths.
Entry into Politics
Gaius and Tiberius share more than just the fact that they were brothers. Tiberius political career greatly influenced his younger brother who seemed to carry on with Tiberius’ political ambitions after the death of Tiberius. Tiberius’ political career started when he joined the army when he was given the responsibility of protecting the interests of the military under the command of his brother in law, Scipio Aemilianus. Later on he worked in the province of Hispania serving under Consul Gaius Hostilius as a quaestor. During this time Rome had embarked on a campaign in Hispania which consequently led to the Numantine war. It was during this war that his controversial ways became apparent. The Numantine war was a loss to the Romans and at some point it was feared that the army could lose many solders. However as a questor Tiberius managed to broker peace with the enemy saving many lives in the process. It was this move that began a long lasting enmity between Tiberius and the senate because it was seen as cowardly. It is therefore that Tiberius started his political career using his brother in law as his launching pad. Similarly, Gaius started his political career under the influence of his older brother. Gaius was greatly disturbed with the details surrounding his brother’s death and perhaps this gave him courage to carry on with his brother’s legacy. It is always observed that the reforms he advocated for were directed towards the senate that was responsible for his brother’s death. He began his political career by serving in the land commission established by Tiberius in 133 BC. Just like his brother, he also served as a quaestor, a position he gained in 126 BC. Unlike his brother who served in the province of Hispania Gaius served in the province of Sardinia.
It is reported that Gaius was more vigorous with his political reforms than his brother. Like mentioned earlier though, his reforms targeted those he felt were responsible for his brother’s death. The entry of the two brothers to politics and their objectives were roughly similar. Although their motives were somewhat different, they intended to protect the interests of common people. Perhaps it became their major reason for working as quaestor’s in different provinces. Quaestors were people who were mandated to protect the interests of common people. However, during their times the two brother established themselves as outspoken quaestors, going to the extent of challenging rich people and even the senate using their reform proposals. During this time the senate had a lot of powers and even the mere consideration of proposing reforms that were not popular with the senate was considered fatal. However the two brothers established themselves as courageous politicians who risked their lives for the good of the common people.
Tiberius reforms were triggered by the current land situation existing in Rome that compelled him to seek reforms. Rome was continually looking for colonies and as such there were constant campaigns that required solders. The soldiers were also forced to stay long period of time away from home and this fact became the genesis of the land problem. As the solders went for campaigns, they let their wives and children behind to take care of the land. Consequently due to lack of proper management of the lands, the lands sooner became bankrupt and it forced the remaining wives and children to sell the lands to opportunistic rich upper class citizens. In some places like Italy the state also took over some pieces of land during war. The result was that vast tracks of land came under the ownership of the state and a few rich upper class citizens.
In some instances the lands taken over by the state was also consequently sold to the rich upper class citizens. Consequently the owners of the huge pieces of lands were compelled to employ slaves who were not citizens, a situation which led to an influx of non-Roman citizen slaves. It is this situation that compelled Tiberius to fight for reforms. It is recorded that it was during one of his journeys when Tiberius was going to the province of Hispania, when he passed by Etrutia that he realized that huge portions of land were owned by a few rich people and that the population had also reduced. The population had reduced because after selling their small pieces of lands to the upper class, the poor were forced to go to the cities and look for jobs. Since the upper class could not take care of the lands themselves, they employed slaves, a fact also observed by Tiberius. The migration of many people to cities also led to increase in crime as out of desperation people formed gangs that terrorized and robbed people.
It was in 133 BC after being successfully elected to the tribune that Tiberius decided to start his long campaign to advocate for the landless solders. He made his intentions known in one instance when he was addressing a crowd at Rostra. He outlined the fact that solders that who had sacrificed their lives for the sake of Rome were left landless due to policies that only favored the few upper class citizens. He argued that even wild animals in Italy had homes. His land reform came to be famously known as Lex Sempronia Agraria. The law stated sought to regulate ownership of public land. The reform also sought to enforce the clause found in the previous law that stated no person 500 Iguera which is approximately 125 hectares. Aparently, the law had been ignored because there were people who owned far much large pieces of land. As a result of landlessness, few people were willing to join the army and consequently the military power of Rome was significantly reduced. Apparently, the reforms proposed by Tiberius consequently became unpopular with the senate. In one instance Tiberius directly showed insult to the senate by going directly to the popular assembly to ensure that his reforms were passed. During one instance when people were voting for reforms, the senate wrongly accused Tiberius of wanting to make himself King. Consequently Tiberius and some of his supporters were beaten to death.
Gaius’ political reforms were almost similar to those of his brother Tiberius. However his were stronger as they were mixed with passion and the need to punish those who had led to his brother’s death. This is evident because his first reform sought to prevent the forming of courts by Consul Popilius to charge the supporters of his brother with capital punishment. Consequently courts not established by the people and that charged suspects with capital punishments were banned and Popilius was also exiled. The reforms pursued by Gaius developed on the reforms that had already been made by his brother. For instance Gaius proposed that land owners should employ free laborers instead of slaves. Gaius also brought reforms that required the states to buy grains from Africa and Sicily and store them. These grains would then be distributed to Roman citizens at cheaper prices. Gaius reforms also led to the constructions of roads that made communication easy and even made the censor process much easier. However the reform that Gaius is famously known for is the franchise bill which sought to extend Roman citizenship to Latin and Latin citizenship to Italy. However this bill was shot down by the senate and due to the fact that it would increase the number of people the state had to sell to grains at cheaper prizes. Gaius downfall came after his political arch enemy Lucius Opimius came to power. Opimius major objective was to ensure that the reforms made by Gaius were repealed. It was during one instance when a conflict brawl broke between supporters of Opimius and sopporters of Opimius which led to the death of a servant to Opimius. The following day Gaius committed suicide apparently to avoid confrontation with Opimius’ and his supporters.
Gaius and Tiberius were men of the people because the reforms they advocated for were aimed at protecting the rights of common people. Consequently they lost favor with the senate and their deaths were associated with this fact.