Now that we have duly finished the first part of our story, we have to contemplate fates no less tragic than those of Agis and Cleomenes in the lives of the Roman couple, Tiberius and Caius, which we set in parallel. They were sons of Tiberius Gracchus, who, although he had been censor at Rome, twice consul, and had celebrated two triumphs, derived his more illustrious dignity from his virtue.
Therefore, after the death1
of the Scipio who conquered Hannibal, although Tiberius had not been his friend, but actually at variance with him, he was judged worthy to take Scipio's daughter Cornelia in marriage. We are told, moreover, that he once caught a pair of serpents on his bed, and that the soothsayers, after considering the prodigy, forbade him to kill both serpents or to let both go, but to decide the fate of one or the other of them, declaring also that the male serpent, if killed, would bring death to Tiberius, and the female, to Cornelia.
Tiberius, accordingly, who loved his wife, and thought that since she was still young and he was older it was more fitting that he should die, killed the male serpent, but let the female go. A short time afterwards, as the story goes, he died,2
leaving Cornelia with twelve children by him.
Cornelia took charge of the children and of the estate, and showed herself so discreet, so good a mother, and so magnanimous, that Tiberius was thought to have made no bad decision when he elected to die instead of such a woman. For when Ptolemy3
the king offered to share his crown with her and sought her hand in marriage, she refused him, and remained a widow.
In this state she lost most if her children, but three survived; one daughter, who married Scipio the Younger, and two sons, Tiberius and Caius, whose lives I now write. These sons Cornelia reared with such scrupulous care that although confessedly no other Romans were so well endowed by nature, they were thought to owe their virtues more to education than to nature.