Scipio was not, any more than his father, a man of brilliant gifts--as is indicated by the very fact of his predilection for Xenophon, the sober soldier and correct author- but he was an honest and true man, who seemed pre-eminently called to stem the incipient decay by organic reforms. All the more significant is the fact that he did not attempt it. It is true that he helped, as he had opportunity and means, to redress or prevent abuses, and laboured in particular at the improvement of the administration of justice. It was chiefly by his assistance that Lucius Cassius, an able man of the old Roman austerity and uprightness, was enabled to carry against the most vehement opposition of the Optimates his law as to voting, which introduced vote by ballot for those popular tribunals which still embraced the most important part of the criminal jurisdiction.(23) In like manner, although he had not chosen to take part in boyish impeachments, he himself in his mature years put upon their trial several of the guiltiest of the aristocracy. In a like spirit, when commanding before Carthage and Numantia, he drove forth the women and priests to the gates of the camp, and subjected the rabble of soldiers once more to the iron yoke of the old military discipline; and when censor (612), he cleared away the smooth-chinned coxcombs among the world of quality and in earnest language urged the citizens to adhere more faithfully to the honest customs of their fathers. But no one, and least of all he himself, could fail to see that increased stringency in the administration of justice and isolated interference were not even first steps towards the healing of the organic evils under which the state laboured. These Scipio did not touch. Gaius Laelius (consul in 614), Scipio's elder friend and his political instructor and confidant, had conceived the plan of proposing the resumption of the Italian domain-land which had not been given away but had been temporarily occupied, and of giving relief by its distribution to the visibly decaying Italian farmers; but he desisted from the project when he saw what a storm he was going to raise, and was thenceforth named the "Judicious." Scipio was of the same opinion. He was fully persuaded of the greatness of the evil, and with a courage deserving of honour he without respect of persons remorselessly assailed it and carried his point, where he risked himself alone; but he was also persuaded that the country could only be relieved at the price of a revolution similar to that which in the fourth and fifth centuries had sprung out of the question of reform, and, rightly or wrongly, the remedy seemed to him worse than the disease. So with the small circle of his friends he held a middle position between the aristocrats, who never forgave him for his advocacy of the Cassian law, and the democrats, whom he neither satisfied nor wished to satisfy; solitary during his life, praised after his death by both parties, now as the champion of the aristocracy, now as the promoter of reform. Down to his time the censors on laying down their office had called upon the gods to grant greater power and glory to the state: the censor Scipio prayed that they might deign to preserve the state. His whole confession of faith lies in that painful exclamation.
But where the man who had twice led the Roman army from deep decline to victory despaired, a youth without achievements had the boldness to give himself forth as the saviour of Italy. He was called Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (591-621). His father who bore the same name (consul in 577, 591; censor in 585), was the true model of a Roman aristocrat. The brilliant magnificence of his aedilician games, not produced without oppressing the dependent communities, had drawn upon him the severe and deserved censure of the senate;(24) his interference in the pitiful process directed against the Scipios who were personally hostile to him(25) gave proof of his chivalrous feeling, and perhaps of his regard for his own order; and his energetic action against the freedmen in his censorship(26) evinced his conservative disposition. As governor, moreover, of the province of the Ebro,(27) by his bravery and above all by his integrity he rendered a permanent service to his country, and at the same time raised to himself in the hearts of the subject nation an enduring monument of reverence and affection.
His mother Cornelia was the daughter of the conqueror of Zama, who, simply on account of that generous intervention, had chosen his former opponent as a son-in-law; she herself was a highly cultivated and notable woman, who after the death of her much older husband had refused the hand of the king of Egypt and reared her three surviving children in memory of her husband and her father. Tiberius, the elder of the two sons, was of a good and moral disposition, of gentle aspect and quiet bearing, apparently fitted for anything rather than for an agitator of the masses. In all his relations and views he belonged to the Scipionic circle, whose refined and thorough culture, Greek and national, he and his brother and sister shared. Scipio Aemilianus was at once his cousin and his sister's husband; under him Tiberius, at the age of eighteen, had taken part in the storming of Carthage, and had by his valour acquired the commendation of the stern general and warlike distinctions. It was natural that the able young man should, with all the vivacity and all the stringent precision of youth, adopt and intensify the views as to the pervading decay of the state which were prevalent in that circle, and more especially their ideas as to the elevation of the Italian farmers. Nor was it merely to the young men that the shrinking of Laelius from the execution of his ideas of reform seemed to be not judicious, but weak. Appius Claudius, who had already been consul (611) and censor (618), one of the most respected men in the senate, censured the Scipionic circle for having so soon abandoned the scheme of distributing the domain-lands with all the passionate vehemence which was the hereditary characteristic of the Claudian house; and with the greater bitterness, apparently because he had come into personal conflict with Scipio Aemilianus in his candidature for the censorship. Similar views were expressed by Publius Crassus Mucianus,(28) the -pontifex maximus- of the day, who was held in universal honour by the senate and the citizens as a man and a jurist.