5. The younger daughter of P. Scipio Africanus the elder, was married to Ti. Sempronius Gracchus, censor B. C. 169, and was by him the mother of the two tribunes Tiberius and Caius. Gracchus espoused the popular party in the commonwealth, and was consequently not on good terms with Scipio, and it was not till after the death of the latter, according to most accounts, that Gracchus married his daughter.
According to other statements, however, Cornelia was married to Gracchus in the life-time of her father, and Scipio is said to have given her to Gracchus, because the latter interfered to save his brother L. Scipio from being dragged to prison. (Plut. Ti. Gracch.
1; Liv. 38.57
.) Cornelia was left a widow with a yong fimily of twelve children, and devoted herself entirely to their education, rejecting all offers of a second marriage, and adhering to her resolution even when tempted by Ptolemy, who offered to share his crown and bed with her. Of her numerous family three only survived their childhood,--a daughter, who was married to Scipio Africanus the Younger, and her two sons Tiberius and Caius. Cornelia had inherited from her father a love of literature, and united in her person the severe virtues of the old Roman matron with the superior knowledge, refinement, and civilization which then began to prevail in the higher classes at Rome.
She was well acquainted with Greek literature, and spoke her own language with that purity and elegance which pre-eminently characterises well educated women in every country. Her letters, which were extant in the time of Cicero, were models of composition, and it was doubtless mainly owing to her judicious training that her sons became in after-life such distinguished orators and statesmen. (Comp. Cic. Brut. 58
As the daughter of the conqueror of Hannibal, the mother of the Gracchi, and the mother-in-law of the taker of Carthage and Numantia, Cornelia occupies a prouder position than any other woman in Roman history.
She was almost idolized by the people, and exercised an important influence over her two sons, whose greatness she lived to see,--and also their death.
It was related by some writers that Ti. Gracchus was urged on to propose his laws by the reproaches of his mother, who upbraided him with her being called the mother-in-law of Scipio and not the mother of the Gracchi; but though she was doubtless privy to all the plans of her son, and probably urged him to persevere in his course, his lofty soul needed not such inducements as these to undertake what he considered necessary for the salvation of the state. Such respect was paid to her by her son Caius, that he dropped a law upon her intercession which was directed against M. Octavius, who had been a colleague of Tiberius in his tribunate.
But great as she was, she did not escape the foul aspersions of calumny and slander. Some attributed to her, with the assistance of her daughter, the death of her son-in-law, Scipio Africanus the Younger (Appian, App. BC 1.20
); but this charge is probably nothing but the base invention of party malice.
She bore the death of her sons with magnanimity, and said in reference to the consecrated places where they had lost their lives, that they were sepulchres worthy of them. On the murder of Caius, she retired to Misenum, where she spent the remainder of her life. Here she exercised unbounded hospitality; she was constantly surrounded by Greeks and men of letters; and the various kings in alliance with the Romans were accustomed to send her presents, and receive the like from her in return. Thus she reached a good old age, honoured and respected by all, and the Roman people erected a statue to her, with the inscription, CORNELIA, MOTHER OF THE GRACCHI. (Plut. Ti. Gracch. 1, 8, C. Gracch.
4, 19; Oros. 5.12
; Vell. 2.7