previous next


Litigation under the Law of Gracchus--Scipio Æmilianus employed in it -- His Mysterious Death -- Gaius Gracchus elected Tribune -- He gives the Judicial Power to Knights--Demands Roman Citizenship for Italian Allies--Sails to Africa with Fulvius Flaccus--Rioting in Rome after his Return--Death of Gracchus and Flaccus

Y.R. 622
[18] After Gracchus was slain Appius Claudius died, and Fulvius Flaccus and Papirius Carbo were appointed, in conjunction with the younger Gracchus, to divide the land. As the persons in possession neglected to hand in lists of their holdings, a proclamation was issued that informers should furnish testimony against them. Immediately a great number of embarrassing lawsuits sprang up. Wherever a new field had been bought adjoining an old one, or wherever a division of land had been made with allies, the whole district had to be carefully inquired into on account of the measurement of this one field, to discover how it had been sold and how divided. Not all owners had preserved their contracts, or their allotment titles, and even those that were found were often ambiguous. When the land was resurveyed some owners were obliged to give up their fruit-trees and farm-buildings in exchange for naked ground. Others were transferred from cultivated to uncultivated lands, or to swamps, or pools. In fact, the measuring had not been carefully done when the land was first taken from the enemy. As the original proclamation authorized anybody to work the undistributed land who wished to do so, many had been prompted to cultivate the parts immediately adjoining their own, till the line of demarkation
B.C. 132
between them had faded from view. The progress of time also made many changes. Thus the injustice done by the rich, although great, was not easy of ascertainment. So there was nothing but a general turn-about, all parties being moved out of their own places and settled down in other people's.
Y.R. 625

[19] The Italian allies who complained of these disturbances,

B.C. 129
and especially of the lawsuits hastily brought against them, chose Cornelius Scipio, the destroyer of Carthage, to defend them against these grievances. As he had availed himself of their very valiant services in war he was reluctant to disregard their request. So he came into the Senate, and although, out of regard for the plebeians, he did not openly find fault with the law of Gracchus, he expatiated on its difficulties and held that these causes ought not to be decided by the triumvirs, because they did not possess the confidence of the litigants, but should be turned over to others. As his view seemed reasonable, they yielded to his persuasion, and the consul Tuditanus was appointed to give judgment in these cases. But when he took hold of the work he saw the difficulties of it, and marched against the Illyrians as a pretext for not acting as judge, and since nobody brought cases for trial before the triumvirs they relapsed into idleness. From this cause hatred and indignation arose among the people against Scipio because they saw him, in whose favor they had often opposed the aristocracy and incurred their enmity, electing him consul twice contrary to law, now taking the side of the Italian allies against them. When Scipio's enemies observed this, they cried out that he was determined to abolish the law of Gracchus utterly and was about to inaugurate armed strife and bloodshed for that purpose.

[20] When the people heard these charges they were in a state of alarm until Scipio, after placing near his couch at home one evening a tablet on which he intended to write during the night the speech he intended to deliver before the people, was found dead in his bed without a wound. Whether this was done by Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi (aided by her daughter, Sempronia, who was married to Scipio, and was unloved and unloving because she was deformed and childless), lest the law of Gracchus should be abolished, or whether, as some think, he committed suicide because he saw plainly that he could not accomplish what he had promised, is not known. Some say that slaves, who were subjected to torture, testified that unknown persons were introduced through the rear of the house by night who suffocated him, and that those who knew about it hesitated to tell because the people were angry with him still and rejoiced at his death. So died Scipio, and although he had been of immense service to the Roman power he was not honored with a public funeral; so much does the anger of the present moment outweigh gratitude for the past. And this event, sufficiently important in itself, took place as an incident of the sedition of Gracchus.1

[21] Those who were in possession of the lands even after these events postponed the division on various pretexts for a very long time. Some thought that the Italian allies, who made the greatest resistance to it, ought to be admitted to Roman citizenship so that, out of gratitude for the greater favor, they should no longer quarrel about the

Y.R. 629
land. The Italians were glad to accept this, because they
B.C. 125
preferred Roman citizenship to possession of the fields. Fulvius Flaccus, who was then both consul and triumvir, exerted himself to the utmost to bring it about, but the Senate was angry at the proposal to make their subjects
Y.R. 630
equal citizens with themselves. For this reason the attempt
B.C. 124
was abandoned, and the people, who had been so long in the hope of acquiring land, became disheartened. While they were in this mood Gaius Gracchus, who had made himself agreeable to them as a triumvir, offered himself for the tribuneship. He was the younger brother of Tiberius Gracchus, the promoter of the law, and had been silent for some time on the subject of the fate of his brother, but since many of the senators treated him scornfully he announced
Y.R. 631
himself as a candidate for the office of tribune.
B.C. 123
As soon as he was elected to this distinguished position he began to lay plots against the Senate, and proposed that a monthly distribution of corn should be made to each citizen at the public expense, which had not been customary before. Thus he got the leadership of the people quickly by one measure of policy, in which he had the coöperation of Fulvius Flaccus. Directly after that he was chosen tribune for the following year, for in cases where there was not a sufficient number of candidates the law authorized the people to choose from the whole number then in office.
Y.R. 632

[22] Thus Gaius Gracchus became tribune a second time. Having bought the plebeians, as it were, he began, by another like political manœuvre, to court the equestrian order, who hold the middle place between the Senate and the plebeians. He transferred the courts of justice, which had become discredited by reason of bribery, from the senators to the knights, reproaching the former especially with the recent examples of Aurelius Cotta, Salinator, and, third in the list, Manius Aquilius (the one who subdued Asia), all notorious bribe-takers, who had been acquitted by the judges, although ambassadors sent to complain against them were still present, going around uttering hateful accusations against them. The Senate was extremely ashamed of these things and yielded to the law, and the people ratified it. In this way were the courts of justice transferred from the Senate to the knights. It is said that soon after the passage of this law Gracchus remarked that he had broken the power of the Senate once for all. This saying of Gracchus has been even more confirmed by experience in the course of events. This power of sitting in judgment on all Romans and Italians, including the senators themselves, in all matters as to property, civil rights, and banishment, exalted the knights like rulers over them and put senators on the same level with subjects. Moreover, as the knights voted in the election to sustain the power of the tribunes, and obtained from them whatever they wanted in return, they became more and more formidable to the senators. So it shortly came about that the political mastery was turned upside down, the power being in the hands of the knights, and the honor only remaining

B.C. 122
with the Senate. The knights went so far that they not only held power over the senators, but they openly flouted them beyond their right. They also became addicted to bribe-taking, and having once tasted these enormous gains, they indulged in them even more basely and immoderately than the senators had done.2 They suborned accusers against the rich and did away with prosecutions for bribe-taking altogether, partly by concert of action and partly by force and violence, so that the practice of this kind of investigation became entirely obsolete. Thus the judiciary law gave rise to another struggle of factions, which lasted a long time and was not less baneful than the former ones.

[23] Gracchus made long roads throughout Italy and thus put a multitude of contractors and artisans under obligations to him and made them ready to do whatever he wished. He proposed the founding of numerous colonies.3 He also called on the Latin allies to demand the full rights of Roman citizenship, since the Senate could not with decency refuse this privilege to their blood relations. To the other allies, who were not allowed to vote in Roman elections, he sought to give the right of suffrage, in order to have their help in the enactment of laws which he had in contemplation. The Senate was very much alarmed at this, and it ordered the consuls to give the following public notice, "Nobody who does not possess the right of suffrage shall stay in the city or approach within forty stades of it while voting is going on concerning these laws." The Senate also persuaded Livius Drusus, another tribune, to interpose his veto against the laws proposed by Gracchus, but not to tell the people his reasons for doing so; for a tribune was not required to give reasons for his veto. In order to conciliate the people they gave Drusus the privilege of founding twelve colonies, and the plebeians were so much pleased with this that they began to scoff at the laws proposed by Gracchus.

[24] Having lost the favor of the rabble, Gracchus sailed for Africa in company with Fulvius Flaccus, who, after his consulship, had been chosen tribune for the same reasons as Gracchus himself. A colony had been voted to Africa on account of its reputed fertility, and these men had been expressly chosen the founders of it in order to get them out of the way for a while, so that the Senate might have a respite from demagogism. They marked out a town for the colony on the place where Carthage had formerly stood, disregarding the fact that Scipio, when he destroyed it, had devoted it with curses to sheep-pasturage forever. They assigned 6000 colonists to this place, instead of the smaller number fixed by law, in order further to curry favor with the people thereby. When they returned to Rome they invited the 6000 from the whole of Italy. The functionaries who were still in Africa laying out the city wrote home that wolves had pulled up and scattered the boundary marks made by Gracchus and Fulvius, and the soothsayers considered this an ill omen for the colony. So the Senate

Y.R. 633
summoned the comitia, in which it was proposed to repeal
B.C. 121
the law concerning this colony. When Gracchus and Fulvius saw their failure in this matter they were furious, and declared that the Senate had lied about the wolves. The boldest of the plebeians joined them, carrying daggers, and proceeded to the Capitol, where the assembly was to be held in reference to the colony.

[25] Now the people were assembled, and Fulvius had begun speaking about the business in hand, when Gracchus arrived at the Capitol attended by a body-guard of his partisans. Disturbed by what he knew about the extraordinary plans on foot he turned aside from the meeting-place of the assembly, passed into the portico, and walked about waiting to see what would happen. Just then a plebeian named Antyllus, who was sacrificing in the portico, saw him in this disturbed state, seized him by the hand, either because he had heard something or suspected something, or was moved to speak to him for some other reason, and asked him to spare his country. Gracchus, still more disturbed, and startled like one detected in a crime, gave the man a piercing look. Then one of his party, although no signal had been displayed or order given, inferred merely from the very sharp glance that Gracchus cast upon Antyllus that the time for action had come, and thought that he should do a favor to Gracchus by striking the first blow. So he drew his dagger and slew Antyllus. A cry was raised, the dead body was seen in the midst of the crowd, and all who were outside fled from the temple in fear of a like fate. Gracchus went into the assembly desiring to exculpate himself of the deed. Nobody would so much as listen to him. All turned away from him as from one stained with blood. Gracchus and Flaccus were nonplussed and, having lost the chance of accomplishing what they wished, they hastened home, and their partisans with them. The rest of the crowd occupied the forum throughout the night as though some calamity were impending. Opimius, one of the consuls, who was staying in the city, ordered an armed force to be stationed at the Capitol at daybreak, and sent heralds to convoke the Senate. He took his own station in the temple of Castor and Pollux in the centre of the city and there awaited events.

[26] When these arrangements had been made the Senate summoned Gracchus and Flaccus from their homes to the senate-house to defend themselves. But they ran out armed toward the Aventine hill, hoping that if they could seize it first the Senate would agree to some terms with them. They ran through the city offering freedom to the slaves, but none listened to them. With such forces as they had, however, they occupied and fortified the temple of Diana, and sent Quintus, the son of Flaccus, to the Senate seeking to come to an arrangement and to live in peace. The Senate replied that they should lay down their arms, come to the senate-house, tell what they wanted, or else send no more messengers. When they sent Quintus a second time the consul Opimius arrested him, as being no longer an ambassador after he had been warned, and at the same time sent an armed force against the Gracchans. Gracchus fled across the river by the Sublician bridge,4 with one slave, to a grove where he presented his throat to the slave, as he was on the point of being arrested. Flaccus took refuge in the workshop of an acquaintance. As his pursuers did not know which house he was in they threatened to burn the whole row. The man who had given shelter to the suppliant hesitated to point him out, but directed another man to do so. Flaccus was seized and put to death. The heads of Gracchus and Flaccus were carried to Opimius, and he gave their weight in gold to those who brought them. The people plundered their houses. Opimius arrested their fellow-conspirators, cast them into prison, and ordered that they should be strangled. He allowed Quintus, the son of Flaccus, to choose his own mode of death. After this a lustration was performed in behalf of the city for the bloodshed, and the Senate ordered the building of a temple to Concord in the forum.

1 It is uncertain whether Scipio was murdered or not. Cicero alludes to the event in one of his letters (Ad Fam. ix. 21), in which, speaking of one Gaius Carbo, he says that he was thought to have laid violent hands upon Africanus. Velleius says that marks of strangulation were found on his neck, yet adds in the same paragraph that most people thought he died a natural death.

2 Cicero in his first oration against Verres (xiii.) says that there was no bribery of judges while the knights held that office, but inasmuch as he was trying to shame the senators against taking Verres' money, it would not be safe to accept the statement as literally true.

3 The founding of colonies, which was originally a method of guarding the frontier, now became a method of providing for the poorer citizens.

4 This well-known construction is called the "wooden bridge" in Appian's history. The Romans called it "Sublicius pons" because it rested on wooden piles.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (L. Mendelssohn, 1879)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Africa (4)
Rome (Italy) (2)
Italy (Italy) (2)
Carthage (Tunisia) (2)
Aventine (Italy) (1)
Asia (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
132 BC (1)
129 BC (1)
125 BC (1)
124 BC (1)
123 BC (1)
122 BC (1)
121 BC (1)
hide References (3 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: