The Gracchi Brothers - Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus

Cornelia Mother of the Gracchi
Cornelia Mother of the Gracchi.

Who Were the Gracchi?

The Gracchi, Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus, were Roman brothers who tried to reform Rome's social and political structure to help the lower classes, in the 2nd century B.C.

Events surrounding the politics of the Gracchi led to the decline and eventual fall of the Roman Republic. From the Gracchi to the end of the Roman Republic, personalities dominated Roman politics; major battles were not with foreign powers, but civil.

The period of the decline of the Roman Republic begins with the Gracchi meeting their bloody ends and ends with the assassination of Caesar. This was followed by the rise of the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar.

Gracchi is the plural of Gracchus.

Family of the Gracchi

The mother of Tiberius (168-133 B.C.) and Gaius (159-121 B.C.) was Cornelia (c. 190-100 B.C.), who was held up as a paragon of Roman womanly virtue. Their father, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, had been consul twice and had even been censor in 169 B.C.

The Death and Suicide of the Gracchi

To Tiberius Gracchus, the biggest problem was that there were not enough small farmers. He wanted to give land to some of the many free, poor unemployed. These men would be happy to farm, but there wasn't enough land, so he proposed that the state should take over land held illegally by large landholders and distribute it to the poor. Unfortunately for the plan of Tiberius, the people illegally holding the land were the powerful nobles whose families had held the land for generations.

They didn't want to give it up.

In 133 Tiberius Gracchus was killed during rioting. Gaius Gracchus took up the reform issues of his brother when he became tribune in 123 B.C., 10-years after the death of brother Tiberius. He created a coalition of poor free men and equestrians who were willing to go along with his proposals.

His political successes enraged the nobles. Gaius Gracchus lost control of his coalition and, faced with armed opposition, fell on a slave's sword.

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