The Brothers Gracchus

The brief emergence and demise of each of the brothers Gracchus (Tiberius in 133 BC, Gaius in 120 BC) onto the scene of Roman politics should send shock waves through the entire structure of the Roman state of such magnitude that their effects would be felt for generations.

One believes that around the time of the Gracchus brothers Rome began to think in terms of political right and left, dividing the two factions into optimates and populares.

However questionable their political tactics at times were, the brothers showed up a fundamental flaw in the way Roman society was conducting itself. Running an army with less and less conscripts to oversee an expanding empire was not sustainable. And the creation of ever greater numbers of urban poor was a threat to the stability of Rome itself.

But however reasonable some of their arguments might have been, the two brothers with their contempt for the senate, their flagrant populism and their political brinkmanship heralded a change in the nature of Roman politics. The stakes were getting ever higher, things were becoming more brutal. Rome's well being seemed more and more to be a secondary factor in the great contest of egos and boundless ambition.

Also the passions whipped up during the brief time in office is largely seen as having led to the following period of social strife and civil war.


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