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Social Struggle In The Gracchi

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The essay will discuss different historical approaches to the study of the social struggle at the time of the Gracchi’s land reforms in the Roman Republic. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus were Roman statesmen who attempted to enforce a property redistribution of agricultural land in the late 2nd century BCE, igniting opposition from the upper class and leading to civil unrest. After a brief account of the events, the essay will present the Classical view, which shaped the narrative of this time period in traditional history, putting the blame on the Gracchi for having resorted to forcible means, despite their best intentions, eventually endangering the Roman institutions. This episode will then been approached through Marxist historiography,…show more content…
Classical authors were indeed mainly explaining the events through the deeds of the Gracchi and their consequences, and their view has strongly influenced traditional historians, who approached the period in a similar vein, focusing on the Gracchi while downplaying socio-economic factors and cultural background. Machiavelli states that Tiberius’ ambitions ‘to share honours and belongings with the nobility (…) gave birth to contention over the Agrarian law, which in the end was the cause of the destruction of the Republic’ . For Scottish historian Adam Ferguson, the distinctions of rich and poor are necessary and he deems Tiberius’ policies to have been ‘impracticable and even dangerous’, making him responsible for undermining the authority of the Senate . James Harrington concedes that the agrarian laws were an attempt to restore the republican ‘balance of justice’, but blames the Gracchi to have resorted to forcible means unto the recovery of this balance, producing even worse effects . This ‘conservative’ view did not go unchallenged, as other commentators were inclined to praise the Gracchi’s attempt to reform Roman society. For Jacobite Nathaniel Hooke, Tiberius Gracchus was ‘the most accomplished patriot that ever Rome produced’, aimed to produce measures to secure ‘that equality so necessary in a free state’ . The Gracchi even became a source of inspiration to later leftist thinkers: a famous French egalitarian revolutionary took the name of Gracchus Babeuf in reference to the Gracchi. However, whether the Gracchi were praised or vilified, the historical narrative was still focused on their ‘great
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