The Significance of the Gracchi

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The Significance of the Gracchi

"When Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus sought to establish the liberty of the common people and expose the crimes of the oligarchs, the guilty nobles took fright and opposed their proceedings by every means at their disposal" - Cicero. The Gracchi brothers were clearly well intentioned men who had the interests of Rome at heart, instead of their own, which was a common attitude amongst the other senators. The reforms of the Gracchi were long over-due and their programs were genuine attempts to deal with Rome's problems. During the Gracchi's existence, Rome was facing a number of social, political and economic problems. They were frustrated with the conservatism and selfishness of the oligarchy and so adopted
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There was a military crisis, with lack of eligible recruits for the legions, aggravated by the Spanish and Sicilian wars. There was tension in the oligarchy between leading factions (Claudii / Sempronii and the Scipios) as they struggled for political superiority. And amongst all these problems was the failure of the ruling nobility within the senate to deal with these problems.

In order to determine the significance of both Gracchi, one must examine both Tiberius' and Gaius' actions and the effects they had at the time. In 133, Tiberius Gracchus attempted to solve Rome's problems, specifically the land crisis. He introduced the Lex Agraria, a bill for land reform, which proposed that a commission of three people should allocate small holdings of land owned by the state (ager publicus) to landless citizens. The bill was met with great controversy, however, it wasn't the content of the bill that provoked the reaction, rather the means with which it was proposed. As Stockton notes "It ceased to be a struggle about the rights and wrongs of a particular land bill and became a fundamental question about the true nature of Roman politics". Tiberius met great opposition to the bill itself because the ruling Nobiles were those benefiting the most from the current situation. Therefore, Tiberius used his tribunate in an unprecedented manner, and in proposing his bill, bypassed the senate going directly to…