The senate now made an attempt to open up to Gracchus a tolerable retreat; two consulars challenged him to discuss the matter further in the senate house, and the tribune entered into the scheme with zeal. He sought to construe this proposal as implying that the senate had conceded the principle of distributing the domain-land; but neither was this implied in it, nor was the senate at all disposed to yield in the matter; the discussions ended without any result. Constitutional means were exhausted. In earlier times under such circumstances men were not indisposed to let the proposal go to sleep for the current year, and to take it up again in each succeeding one, till the earnestness of the demand and the pressure of public opinion overbore resistance. Now things were carried with a higher hand. Gracchus seemed to himself to have reached the point when he must either wholly renounce his reform or begin a revolution. He chose the latter course; for he came before the burgesses with the declaration that either he or Octavius must retire from the college, and suggested to Octavius that a vote of the burgesses should be taken as to which of them they wished to dismiss. Octavius naturally refused to consent to this strange challenge; the -intercessio- existed for the very purpose of giving scope to such differences of opinion among colleagues. Then Gracchus broke off the discussion with his colleague, and turned to the assembled multitude with the question whether a tribune of the people, who acted in opposition to the people, had not forfeited his office; and the assembly, long accustomed to assent to all proposals presented to it, and for the most part composed of the agricultural proletariate which had flocked in from the country and was personally interested in the carrying of the law, gave almost unanimously an affirmative answer. Marcus Octavius was at the bidding of Gracchus removed by the lictors from the tribunes' bench; and then, amidst universal rejoicing, the agrarian law was carried and the first allotment-commissioners were nominated. The votes fell on the author of the law along with his brother Gaius, who was only twenty years of age, and his father-in-law Appius Claudius. Such a family- selection augmented the exasperation of the aristocracy. When the new magistrates applied as usual to the senate to obtain the moneys for their equipment and for their daily allowance, the former was refused, and a daily allowance was assigned to them of 24 -asses- (1 shilling). The feud spread daily more and more, and became more envenomed and more personal. The difficult and intricate task of defining, resuming, and distributing the domains carried strife into every burgess-community, and even into the allied Italian towns.

Further Plans Of Gracchus

The aristocracy made no secret that, while they would acquiesce perhaps in the law because they could not do otherwise, the officious legislator should never escape their vengeance; and the announcement of Quintus Pompeius, that he would impeach Gracchus on the very day of his resigning his tribunate, was far from being the worst of the threats thrown out against the tribune. Gracchus believed, probably with reason, that his personal safety was imperilled, and no longer appeared in the Forum without a retinue of 3000 or 4000 men--a step which drew down on him bitter expressions in the senate, even from Metellus who was not averse to reform in itself. Altogether, if he had expected to reach the goal by the carrying of his agrarian law, he had now to learn that he was only at the starting-point. The "people" owed him gratitude; but he was a lost man, if he had no farther protection than this gratitude of the people, if he did not continue indispensable to them and did not constantly attach to himself fresh interests and hopes by means of other and more comprehensive proposals. Just at that time the kingdom and wealth of the Attalids had fallen to the Romans by the testament of the last king of Pergamus;(32) Gracchus proposed to the people that the Pergamene treasure should be distributed among the new landholders for the procuring of the requisite implements and stock, and vindicated generally, in opposition to the existing practice, the right of the burgesses to decide definitively as to the new province. He is said to have prepared farther popular measures, for shortening the period of service, for extending the right of appeal, for abolishing the prerogative of the senators exclusively to do duty as civil jurymen, and even for the admission of the Italian allies to Roman citizenship. How far his projects in reality reached, cannot be ascertained; this alone is certain, that Gracchus saw that his only safety lay in inducing the burgesses to confer on him for a second year the office which protected him, and that, with a view to obtain this unconstitutional prolongation, he held forth a prospect of further reforms. If at first he had risked himself in order to save the commonwealth, he was now obliged to put the commonwealth at stake in order to his own safety.

He Solicits Re-election To The Tribunate

The tribes met to elect the tribunes for the ensuing year, and the first divisions gave their votes for Gracchus; but the opposite party in the end prevailed with their veto, so far at least that the assembly broke up without having accomplished its object, and the decision was postponed to the following day. For this day Gracchus put in motion all means legitimate and illegitimate; he appeared to the people dressed in mourning, and commended to them his youthful son; anticipating that the election would once more be disturbed by the veto, he made provision for expelling the adherents of the aristocracy by force from the place of assembly in front of the Capitoline temple. So the second day of election came on; the votes fell as on the preceding day, and again the veto was exercised; the tumult began. The burgesses dispersed; the elective assembly was practically dissolved; the Capitoline temple was closed; it was rumoured in the city, now that Tiberius had deposed all the tribunes, now that he had resolved to continue his magistracy without reelection.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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