Tiberius Gracchus

Plutarch's Lives: Tiberius Gracchus

Having completed the first two narratives, we now may proceed
to take a view of misfortunes, not less remarkable, in the
Roman couple, and with the lives of Agis and Cleomenes,
compare these of Tiberius and Caius. They were the sons of
Tiberius Gracchus, who, though he had been once censor, twice
consul, and twice had triumphed, yet was more renowned and
esteemed for his virtue than his honors. Upon this account,
after the death of Scipio who overthrew Hannibal, he was
thought worthy to match with his daughter Cornelia, though
there had been no friendship or familiarity between Scipio
and him, but rather the contrary. There is a story told,
that he once found in his bedchamber a couple of snakes, and
that the soothsayers, being consulted concerning the prodigy,
advised, that he should neither kill them both nor let them
both escape; adding, that if the male serpent was killed,
Tiberius should die, and if the female, Cornelia. And that,
therefore, Tiberius, who extremely loved his wife, and
thought, besides, that it was much more his part, who was an
old man, to die, than it was hers, who as yet was but a young
woman, killed the male serpent, and let the female escape;
and soon after himself died, leaving behind him twelve
children borne to him by Cornelia.

Cornelia, taking upon herself all the care of the household
and the education of her children, approved herself so
discreet a matron, so affectionate a mother, and so constant
and noble-spirited a widow, that Tiberius seemed to all men
to have done nothing unreasonable, in choosing to die for
such a woman; who, when king Ptolemy himself proffered her
his crown, and would have married her, refused it, and chose
rather to live a widow. In this state she continued, and
lost all her children, except one daughter, who was married
to Scipio the younger, and two sons, Tiberius and Caius,
whose lives we are now writing.

These she brought up with such care, that though they were
without dispute in natural endowments and dispositions the
first among the Romans of their time, yet they seemed to owe
their virtues even more to their education than to their
birth. And as, in the statues and pictures made of Castor
and Pollux, though the brothers resemble one another, yet
there is a difference to be perceived in their countenances,
between the one, who delighted in the cestus, and the other,
that was famous in the course, so between these two noble
youths, though there was a strong general likeness in their
common love of fortitude and temperance, in their liberality,
their eloquence, and their greatness of mind, yet in their
actions and administrations of public affairs, a considerable
variation showed itself. It will not be amiss, before we
proceed, to mark the difference between them.

Tiberius, in the form and expression of his countenance, and
in his gesture and motion, was gentle and composed; but
Caius, earnest and vehement. And so, in their public
speeches to the people, the one spoke in a quiet orderly
manner, standing throughout on the same spot; the other would
walk about on the hustings, and in the heat of his orations,
pull his gown off his shoulders, and was the first of all the
Romans that used such gestures; as Cleon is said to have been
the first orator among the Athenians that pulled off his
cloak and smote his thigh, when addressing the people.
Caius's oratory was impetuous and passionate, making
everything tell to the utmost, whereas Tiberius was gentle,
rather, and persuasive, awakening emotions of pity. His
diction was pure, and carefully correct, while that of Caius
was vehement and rich. So likewise in their way of living,
and at their tables, Tiberius was frugal and plain, Caius,
compared with other men temperate and even austere, but
contrasting with his brother in a fondness for new fashions
and rarities, as appears in Drusus's charge against him, that
he had bought some silver dolphins, to the value of twelve
hundred and fifty drachmas for every pound weight.

The same difference that appeared in their diction, was
observable also in their tempers. The one was mild and
reasonable, the other rough and passionate, and to that
degree, that often, in the midst of speaking, he was so
hurried away by his passion, against his judgment, that his
voice lost its tone, and he began to pass into mere abusive
talking, spoiling his whole speech. As a remedy to this
excess, he made use of an ingenious servant of his, one
Licinius, who stood constantly behind him with a sort of
pitch-pipe, or instrument to regulate the voice by, and
whenever he perceived his master's tone alter, and break with
anger, he struck a soft note with his pipe, on hearing which,
Caius immediately checked the vehemence of his passion and
his voice, grew quieter, and allowed himself to be recalled
to temper. Such are the differences between the two
brothers; but their valor in war against their country's
enemies, their justice in the government of its subjects,
their care and industry in office, and their self-command in
all that regarded their pleasures were equally remarkable in

Tiberius was the elder by nine years; owing to which their
actions as public men were divided by the difference of the
times in which those of the one and those of the other were
performed. And one of the principal causes of the failure of
their enterprises was this interval between their careers,
and the want of combination of their efforts. The power they
would have exercised, had they flourished both together,
could scarcely have failed to overcome all resistance. We
must therefore give an account of each of them singly, and
first of the eldest.

Tiberius, immediately on his attaining manhood, had such a
reputation, that he was admitted into the college of the
augurs, and that in consideration more of his early virtue
than of his noble birth. This appeared by what Appius
Claudius did, who, though he had been consul and censor, and
was now the head of the Roman senate, and had the highest
sense of his own place and merit, at a public feast of the
augurs, addressed himself openly to Tiberius, and with great
expressions of kindness, offered him his daughter in
marriage. And when Tiberius gladly accepted, and the
agreement had thus been completed, Appius, returning home, no
sooner had reached his door, but he called to his wife and
cried out in a loud voice, "O Antistia, I have contracted our
daughter Claudia to a husband." She, being amazed, answered,
"But why so suddenly, or what means this haste? Unless you
have provided Tiberius Gracchus for her husband." I am not
ignorant that some apply this story to Tiberius, the father
of the Gracchi, and Scipio Africanus; but most relate it as
we have done. And Polybius writes, that after the death of
Scipio Africanus, the nearest relations of Cornelia,
preferring Tiberius to all other competitors, gave her to him
in marriage, not having been engaged or promised to anyone
by her father.

This young Tiberius, accordingly, serving in Africa under the
younger Scipio, who had married his sister, and living there
under the same tent with him, soon learned to estimate the
noble spirit of his commander, which was so fit to inspire
strong feelings of emulation in virtue and desire to prove
merit in action, and in a short time he excelled all the
young men of the army in obedience and courage; and he was
the first that mounted the enemy's wall, as Fannius says, who
writes, that he himself climbed up with him, and was partaker
in the achievement. He was regarded, while he continued with
the army, with great affection; and left behind him on his
departure a strong desire for his return.

After that expedition, being chosen paymaster, it was his
fortune to serve in the war against the Numantines, under the
command of Caius Mancinus, the consul, a person of no bad
character, but the most unfortunate of all the Roman
generals. Notwithstanding, amidst the greatest misfortunes,
and in the most unsuccessful enterprises, not only the
discretion and valor of Tiberius, but also, which was still
more to be admired, the great respect and honor which he
showed for his general, were most eminently remarkable;
though the general himself, when reduced to straits, forgot
his own dignity and office. For being beaten in various
great battles, he endeavored to dislodge by night, and leave
his camp; which the Numantines perceiving, immediately
possessed themselves of his camp, and pursuing that part of
the forces which was in flight, slew those that were in the
rear, hedged the whole army in on every side, and forced them
into difficult ground, whence there could be no possibility
of an escape. Mancinus, despairing to make his way through
by force, sent a messenger to desire a truce, and conditions
of peace. But they refused to give their confidence to any
one except Tiberius, and required that he should be sent to
treat with them. This was not only in regard to the young
man's own character, for he had a great reputation amongst
the soldiers, but also in remembrance of his father Tiberius,
who, in his command against the Spaniards, had reduced great
numbers of them to subjection, but granted a peace to the
Numantines, and prevailed upon the Romans to keep it
punctually and inviolably.

Tiberius was accordingly dispatched to the enemy, whom he
persuaded to accept of several conditions, and he himself
complied with others; and by this means it is beyond a
question, that he saved twenty thousand of the Roman
citizens, besides attendants and camp followers. However,
the Numantines retained possession of all the property they
had found and plundered in the encampment; and amongst other
things were Tiberius's books of accounts, containing the
whole transactions of his quaestorship, which he was
extremely anxious to recover. And therefore, when the army
were already upon their march, he returned to Numantia,
accompanied with only three or four of his friends; and
making his application to the officers of the Numantines, he
entreated that they would return him his books, lest his
enemies should have it in their power to reproach him with
not being able to give an account of the monies entrusted to
him. The Numantines joyfully embraced this opportunity of
obliging him, and invited him into the city; as he stood
hesitating, they came up and took him by the hands, and
begged that he would no longer look upon them as enemies, but
believe them to be his friends, and treat them as such.
Tiberius thought it well to consent, desirous as he was to
have his books returned, and was afraid lest he should
disoblige them by showing any distrust. As soon as he
entered into the city, they first offered him food, and made
every kind of entreaty that he would sit down and eat
something in their company. Afterwards they returned his
books, and gave him the liberty to take whatever he wished
for in the remaining spoils. He, on the other hand, would
accept of nothing but some frankincense, which he used in his
public sacrifices, and, bidding them farewell with every
expression of kindness, departed.

When he returned to Rome, he found the whole transaction
censured and reproached, as a proceeding that was base, and
scandalous to the Romans. But the relations and friends of
the soldiers, forming a large body among the people, came
flocking to Tiberius, whom they acknowledged as the preserver
of so many citizens, imputing to the general all the
miscarriages which had happened. Those who cried out against
what had been done, urged for imitation the example of their
ancestors, who stripped and handed over to the Samnites not
only the generals who had consented to the terms of release,
but also all the quaestors, for example, and tribunes, who
had in any way implicated themselves in the agreement, laying
the guilt of perjury and breach of conditions on their heads.
But, in this affair, the populace, showing an extraordinary
kindness and affection for Tiberius, indeed voted that the
consul should be stripped and put in irons, and so delivered
to the Numantines; but for the sake of Tiberius, spared all
the other officers. It may be probable, also, that Scipio,
who at that time was the greatest and most powerful man among
the Romans, contributed to save him, though indeed he was
also censured for not protecting Mancinus too, and that he
did not exert himself to maintain the observance of the
articles of peace which had been agreed upon by his kinsman
and friend Tiberius. But it may be presumed that the
difference between them was for the most part due to
ambitious feelings, and to the friends and reasoners who
urged on Tiberius, and, as it was, it never amounted to any
thing that might not have been remedied, or that was really
bad. Nor can I think that Tiberius would ever have met with
his misfortunes, if Scipio had been concerned in dealing with
his measures; but he was away fighting at Numantia, when
Tiberius, upon the following occasion, first came forward as
a legislator.

Of the land which the Romans gained by conquest from their
neighbors, part they sold publicly, and turned the remainder
into common; this common land they assigned to such of the
citizens as were poor and indigent, for which they were to
pay only a small acknowledgment into the public treasury.
But when the wealthy men began to offer larger rents, and
drive the poorer people out, it was enacted by law, that no
person whatever should enjoy more than five hundred acres of
ground. This act for some time checked the avarice of the
richer, and was of great assistance to the poorer people, who
retained under it their respective proportions of ground, as
they had been formerly rented by them. Afterwards the rich
men of the neighborhood contrived to get these lands again
into their possession, under other people's names, and at
last would not stick to claim most of them publicly in their
own. The poor, who were thus deprived of their farms, were
no longer either ready, as they had formerly been, to serve
in war, or careful in the education of their children;
insomuch that in a short time there were comparatively few
freemen remaining in all Italy, which swarmed with workhouses
full of foreign-born slaves. These the rich men employed in
cultivating their ground, of which they dispossessed the
citizens. Caius Laelius, the intimate friend of Scipio,
undertook to reform this abuse; but meeting with opposition
from men of authority, and fearing a disturbance, he soon
desisted, and received the name of the Wise or the Prudent,
both which meanings belong to the Latin word Sapiens.

But Tiberius, being elected tribune of the people, entered
upon that design without delay, at the instigation, as is
most commonly stated, of Diophanes, the rhetorician, and
Blossius, the philosopher. Diophanes was a refugee from
Mitylene, the other was an Italian, of the city of Cuma, and
was educated there under Antipater of Tarsus, who afterwards
did him the honor to dedicate some of his philosophical
lectures to him. Some have also charged Cornelia, the mother
of Tiberius, with contributing towards it, because she
frequently upbraided her sons, that the Romans as yet rather
called her the daughter of Scipio, than the mother of the
Gracchi. Others again say Spurius Postumius was the chief
occasion. He was a man of the same age with Tiberius, and
his rival for reputation as a public speaker; and when
Tiberius, at his return from the campaign, found him to have
got far beyond him in fame and influence, and to be much
looked up to, he thought to outdo him, by attempting a
popular enterprise of this difficulty, and of such great
consequence. But his brother Caius has left it us in
writing, that when Tiberius went through Tuscany to Numantia,
and found the country almost depopulated, there being hardly
any free husbandmen or shepherds, but for the most part only
barbarian, imported slaves, he then first conceived the
course of policy which in the sequel proved so fatal to his
family. Though it is also most certain that the people
themselves chiefly excited his zeal and determination in the
prosecution of it, by setting up writings upon the porches,
walls, and monuments, calling upon him to reinstate the poor
citizens in their former possessions.

However, he did not draw up his law without the advice and
assistance of those citizens that were then most eminent for
their virtue and authority; amongst whom were Crassus, the
high-priest, Mucius Scaevola, the lawyer, who at that time
was consul, and Claudius Appius, his father-in-law. Never
did any law appear more moderate and gentle, especially being
enacted against such great oppression and avarice. For they
who ought to have been severely punished for transgressing
the former laws, and should at least have lost all their
titles to such lands which they had unjustly usurped, were
notwithstanding to receive a price for quitting their
unlawful claims, and giving up their lands to those fit
owners who stood in need of help. But though this
reformation was managed with so much tenderness, that, all
the former transactions being passed over, the people were
only thankful to prevent abuses of the like nature for the
future, yet, on the other hand, the moneyed men, and those of
great estates were exasperated, through their covetous
feelings against the law itself, and against the law giver,
through anger and party spirit. They therefore endeavored to
seduce the people, declaring that Tiberius was designing a
general redivision of lands, to overthrow the government, and
put all things into confusion.

But they had no success. For Tiberius, maintaining an
honorable and just cause, and possessed of eloquence
sufficient to have made a less creditable action appear
plausible, was no safe or easy antagonist, when, with the
people crowding around the hustings, he took his place, and
spoke in behalf of the poor. "The savage beasts," said he,
"in Italy, have their particular dens, they have their places
of repose and refuge; but the men who bear arms, and expose
their lives for the safety of their country, enjoy in the
meantime nothing more in it but the air and light; and
having no houses or settlements of their own, are constrained
to wander from place to place with their wives and children."
He told them that the commanders were guilty of a ridiculous
error, when, at the head of their armies, they exhorted the
common soldiers to fight for their sepulchres and altars;
when not any amongst so many Romans is possessed of either
altar or monument, neither have they any houses of their own,
or hearths of their ancestors to defend. They fought indeed,
and were slain, but it was to maintain the luxury and the
wealth of other men. They were styled the masters of the
world, but in the meantime had not one foot of ground which
they could call their own. A harangue of this nature,
spoken to an enthusiastic and sympathizing audience, by a
person of commanding spirit and genuine feeling, no
adversaries at that time were competent to oppose.
Forbearing, therefore, all discussion and debate, they
addressed themselves to Marcus Octavius, his fellow-tribune,
who, being a young man of a steady, orderly character, and an
intimate friend of Tiberius, upon this account declined at
first the task of opposing him; but at length, over-persuaded
with the repeated importunities of numerous considerable
persons, he was prevailed upon to do so, and hindered the
passing of the law; it being the rule that any tribune has a
power to hinder an act, and that all the rest can effect
nothing, if only one of them dissents. Tiberius, irritated
at these proceedings, presently laid aside this milder bill,
but at the same time preferred another; which, as it was more
grateful to the common people, so it was much more severe
against the wrongdoers, commanding them to make an immediate
surrender of all lands which, contrary to former laws, had
come into their possession. Hence there arose daily
contentions between him and Octavius in their orations.
However, though they expressed themselves with the utmost
heat and determination, they yet were never known to descend
to any personal reproaches, or in their passion to let slip
any indecent expressions, so as to derogate from one another.

For not alone

In revelings and Bacchic play,

but also in contentions and political animosities, a noble
nature and a temperate education stay and compose the mind.
Observing, however, that Octavius himself was an offender
against this law, and detained a great quantity of ground
from the commonalty, Tiberius desired him to forbear opposing
him any further, and proffered, for the public good, though
he himself had but an indifferent estate, to pay a price for
Octavius's share at his own cost and charges. But upon the
refusal of this proffer by Octavius, he then interposed an
edict, prohibiting all magistrates to exercise their
respective functions, till such time as the law was either
ratified or rejected by public votes. He further sealed up
the gates of Saturn's temple, so that the treasurers could
neither take any money out from thence, or put any in. He
threatened to impose a severe fine upon those of the praetors
who presumed to disobey his commands, insomuch that all the
officers, for fear of this penalty, intermitted the exercise
of their several jurisdictions. Upon this, the rich
proprietors put themselves into mourning, went up and down
melancholy and dejected; they entered also into a conspiracy
against Tiberius, and procured men to murder him; so that he
also, with all men's knowledge, whenever he went abroad, took
with him a sword-staff, such as robbers use, called in Latin
a dolo.

When the day appointed was come, and the people summoned to
give their votes, the rich men seized upon the voting urns,
and carried them away by force; thus all things were in
confusion. But when Tiberius's party appeared strong enough
to oppose the contrary faction, and drew together in a body,
with the resolution to do so, Manlius and Fulvius, two of the
consular quality, threw themselves before Tiberius, took him
by the hand, and with tears in their eyes, begged of him to
desist. Tiberius, considering the mischiefs that were all
but now occurring, and having a great respect for two such
eminent persons, demanded of them what they would advise him
to do. They acknowledged themselves unfit to advise in a
matter of so great importance, but earnestly entreated him to
leave it to the determination of the senate. But when the
senate assembled, and could not bring the business to any
result, through the prevalence of the rich faction, he then
was driven to a course neither legal nor fair, and proposed
to deprive Octavius of his tribuneship, it being impossible
for him in any other way to get the law brought to the vote.
At first he addressed him publicly, with entreaties couched
in the kindest terms, and taking him by his hands, besought
him, that now, in the presence of all the people, he would
take this opportunity to oblige them, in granting only that
request which was in itself so just and reasonable, being but
a small recompense in regard of those many dangers and
hardships which they had undergone for the public safety.
Octavius, however, would by no means be persuaded to
compliance; upon which Tiberius declared openly, that seeing
they two were united in the same office, and of equal
authority, it would be a difficult matter to compose their
difference on so weighty a matter without a civil war; and
that the only remedy which he knew, must be the deposing one
of them from their office. He desired, therefore, that
Octavius would summon the people to pass their verdict upon
him first, averring that he would willingly relinquish his
authority if the citizens desired it. Octavius refused; and
Tiberius then said he would himself put to the people the
question of Octavius's deposition, if upon mature
deliberation he did not alter his mind; and after this
declaration, he adjourned the assembly till the next day.

When the people were met together again, Tiberius placed
himself in the rostra, and endeavored a second time to
persuade Octavius. But all being to no purpose, he referred
the whole matter to the people, calling on them to vote at
once, whether Octavius should be deposed or not; and when
seventeen of the thirty-five tribes had already voted against
him, and there wanted only the votes of one tribe more for
his final deprivation, Tiberius put a short stop to the
proceedings, and once more renewed his importunities; he
embraced and kissed him before all the assembly, begging,
with all the earnestness imaginable, that he would neither
suffer himself to incur the dishonor, nor him to be reputed
the author and promoter of so odious a measure. Octavius, we
are told, did seem a little softened and moved with these
entreaties; his eyes filled with tears, and he continued
silent for a considerable time. But presently looking
towards the rich men and proprietors of estates, who stood
gathered in a body together, partly for shame, and partly for
fear of disgracing himself with them, he boldly bade Tiberius
use any severity he pleased. The law for his deprivation
being thus voted, Tiberius ordered one of his servants, whom
he had made a freeman, to remove Octavius from the rostra,
employing his own domestic freed servants in the stead of the
public officers. And it made the action seem all the sadder,
that Octavius was dragged out in such an ignominious manner.
The people immediately assaulted him, whilst the rich men ran
in to his assistance. Octavius, with some difficulty, was
snatched away, and safely conveyed out of the crowd; though a
trusty servant of his, who had placed himself in front of his
master that he might assist his escape, in keeping off the
multitude, had his eyes struck out, much to the displeasure
of Tiberius, who ran with all haste, when he perceived the
disturbance, to appease the rioters.

This being done, the law concerning the lands was ratified
and confirmed, and three commissioners were appointed, to
make a survey of the grounds and see the same equally
divided. These were Tiberius himself, Claudius Appius, his
father-in-law, and his brother, Caius Gracchus, who at this
time was not at Rome, but in the army under the command of
Scipio Africanus before Numantia. These things were
transacted by Tiberius without any disturbance, none daring
to offer any resistance to him, besides which, he gave the
appointment as tribune in Octavius's place, not to any person
of distinction, but to a certain Mucius, one of his own
clients. The great men of the city were therefore utterly
offended, and, fearing lest he should grow yet more popular,
they took all opportunities of affronting him publicly in the
senate house. For when he requested, as was usual, to have a
tent provided at the public charge for his use, while
dividing the lands, though it was a favor commonly granted to
persons employed in business of much less importance, it was
peremptorily refused to him; and the allowance made him for
his daily expenses was fixed to nine obols only. The chief
promoter of these affronts was Publius Nasica, who openly
abandoned himself to his feelings of hatred against Tiberius,
being a large holder of the public lands, and not a little
resenting now to be turned out of them by force. The people,
on the other hand, were still more and more excited, insomuch
that a little after this, it happening that one of Tiberius's
friends died suddenly, and his body being marked with
malignant-looking spots, they ran, in tumultuous manner, to
his funeral, crying aloud that the man was poisoned. They
took the bier upon their shoulders, and stood over it, while
it was placed on the pile, and really seemed to have fair
grounds for their suspicion of foul play. For the body burst
open, and such a quantity of corrupt humors issued out, that
the funeral fire was extinguished, and when it was again
kindled, the wood still would not burn; insomuch that they
were constrained to carry the corpse to another place, where
with much difficulty it took fire. Besides this, Tiberius,
that he might incense the people yet more, put himself into
mourning, brought his children amongst the crowd, and
entreated the people to provide for them and their mother, as
if he now despaired of his own security.

About this time, king Attalus, surnamed Philometor, died, and
Eudemus, a Pergamenian, brought his last will to Rome, by
which he had made the Roman people his heirs. Tiberius, to
please the people, immediately proposed making a law, that
all the money which Attalus left, should be distributed
amongst such poor citizens as were to be sharers of the
public lands, for the better enabling them to proceed in
stocking and cultivating their ground; and as for the cities
that were in the territories of Attalus, he declared that the
disposal of them did not at all belong to the senate, but to
the people, and that he himself would ask their pleasure
herein. By this he offended the senate more than ever he had
done before, and Pompeius stood up, and acquainted them that
he was the next neighbor to Tiberius, and so had the
opportunity of knowing that Eudemus, the Pergamenian, had
presented Tiberius with a royal diadem and a purple robe, as
before long he was to be king of Rome. Quintus Metellus also
upbraided him, saying, that when his father was censor, the
Romans, whenever he happened to be going home from a supper,
used to put out all their lights, lest they should be seen to
have indulged themselves in feastings and drinking at
unseasonable hours, whereas, now, the most indigent and
audacious of the people were found with their torches at
night, following Tiberius home. Titus Annius, a man of no
great repute for either justice or temperance, but famous for
his skill in putting and answering questions, challenged
Tiberius to the proof by wager, declaring him to have deposed
a magistrate who by law was sacred and inviolable. Loud
clamor ensued, and Tiberius, quitting the senate hastily,
called together the people, and summoning Annius to appear,
was proceeding to accuse him. But Annius, being no great
speaker, nor of any repute compared to him, sheltered himself
in his own particular art, and desired that he might propose
one or two questions to Tiberius, before he entered upon the
chief argument. This liberty being granted, and silence
proclaimed, Annius proposed his question. "If you," said he,
"had a design to disgrace and defame me, and I should apply
myself to one of your colleagues for redress, and he should
come forward to my assistance, would you for that reason fall
into a passion, and depose him?" Tiberius, they say, was so
much disconcerted at this question, that, though at other
times his assurance as well as his readiness of speech was
always remarkable, yet now he was silent and made no reply.

For the present he dismissed the assembly. But beginning to
understand that the course he had taken with Octavius had
created offense even among the populace as well as the
nobility, because the dignity of the tribunes seemed to be
violated, which had always continued till that day sacred and
honorable, he made a speech to the people in justification of
himself; out of which it may not be improper to collect some
particulars, to give an impression of his force and
persuasiveness in speaking. "A tribune," he said, "of the
people, is sacred indeed, and ought to be inviolable, because
in a manner consecrated to be the guardian and protector of
them; but if he degenerate so far as to oppress the people,
abridge their powers, and take away their liberty of voting,
he stands deprived by his own act of his honors and
immunities, by the neglect of the duty, for which the honor
was bestowed upon him. Otherwise we should be under the
obligation to let a tribune do his pleasure, though he should
proceed to destroy the capitol or set fire to the arsenal.
He who should make these attempts, would be a bad tribune.
He who assails the power of the people, is no longer a
tribune at all. Is it not inconceivable, that a tribune
should have power to imprison a consul, and the people have
no authority to degrade him when he uses that honor which he
received from them, to their detriment? For the tribunes, as
well as the consuls, hold office by the people's votes. The
kingly government, which comprehends all sorts of authority
in itself alone, is morever elevated by the greatest and most
religious solemnity imaginable into a condition of sanctity.
But the citizens, notwithstanding this, deposed Tarquin, when
he acted wrongfully; and for the crime of one single man, the
ancient government under which Rome was built, was abolished
forever. What is there in all Rome so sacred and venerable
as the vestal virgins, to whose care alone the preservation
of the eternal fire is committed? yet if one of these
transgress, she is buried alive; the sanctity which for the
gods' sakes is allowed them, is forfeited when they offend
against the gods. So likewise a tribune retains not his
inviolability, which for the people's sake was accorded to
him, when he offends against the people, and attacks the
foundations of that authority from whence he derived his own.
We esteem him to be legally chosen tribune who is elected
only by the majority of votes; and is not therefore the same
person much more lawfully degraded, when by a general consent
of them all, they agree to depose him? Nothing is so sacred
as religious offerings; yet the people were never prohibited
to make use of them, but suffered to remove and carry them
wherever they pleased; so likewise, as it were some sacred
present, they have lawful power to transfer the tribuneship
from one man's hands to another's. Nor can that authority be
thought inviolable and irremovable which many of those who
have held it, have of their own act surrendered, and desired
to be discharged from."

These were the principal heads of Tiberius's apology. But
his friends, apprehending the dangers which seemed to
threaten him, and the conspiracy that was gathering head
against him, were of opinion, that the safest way would be
for him to petition that he might be continued tribune for
the year ensuing. Upon this consideration, he again
endeavored to secure the people's good-will with fresh laws,
making the years of serving in the war fewer than formerly,
granting liberty of appeal from the judges to the people, and
joining to the senators, who were judges at that time, an
equal number of citizens of the horsemen's degree,
endeavoring as much as in him lay to lessen the power of the
senate, rather from passion and partisanship than from any
rational regard to equity and the public good. And when it
came to the question, whether these laws should be passed,
and they perceived that the opposite party were strongest,
the people as yet being not got together in a full body, they
began first of all to gain time by speeches in accusation of
some of their fellow-magistrates, and at length adjourned the
assembly till the day following.

Tiberius then went down into the marketplace amongst the
people, and made his addresses to them humbly and with tears
in his eyes; and told them, he had just reason to suspect,
that his adversaries would attempt in the night time to break
open his house, and murder him. This worked so strongly with
the multitude, that several of them pitched tents round about
his house, and kept guard all night for the security of his
person. By break of day came one of the soothsayers, who
prognosticate good or bad success by the pecking of fowls,
and threw them something to eat. The soothsayer used his
utmost endeavors to fright the fowls out of their coop; but
none of them except one would venture out, which fluttered
with its left wing, and stretched out its leg, and ran back
again into the coop, without eating anything. This put
Tiberius in mind of another ill omen which had formerly
happened to him. He had a very costly headpiece, which he
made use of when he engaged in any battle, and into this
piece of armor two serpents crawled, laid eggs, and brought
forth young ones. The remembrance of which made Tiberius
more concerned now, than otherwise he would have been.
However, he went towards the capitol, as soon as he
understood that the people were assembled there; but before
he got out of the house, he stumbled upon the threshold with
such violence, that he broke the nail of his great toe,
insomuch that blood gushed out of his shoe. He was not gone
very far before he saw two ravens fighting on the top of a
house which stood on his left hand as he passed along; and
though he was surrounded with a number of people, a stone,
struck from its place by one of the ravens, fell just at his
foot. This even the boldest men about him felt as a check.
But Blossius of Cuma, who was present, told him, that it
would be a shame, and an ignominious thing, for Tiberius, who
was the son of Gracchus, the grandson of Scipio Africanus,
and the protector of the Roman people, to refuse, for fear of
a silly bird, to answer, when his countrymen called to him;
and that his adversaries would represent it not as a mere
matter for their ridicule, but would declaim about it to the
people as the mark of a tyrannical temper, which felt a pride
in taking liberties with the people. At the same time
several messengers came also from his friends, to desire his
presence at the capitol, saying that all things went there
according to expectation. And indeed Tiberius's first
entrance there was in every way successful; as soon as ever
he appeared, the people welcomed him with loud acclamations,
and as he went up to his place, they repeated their
expressions of joy, and gathered in a body around him, so
that no one who was not well known to be his friend, might
approach. Mucius then began to put the business again to the
vote; but nothing could be performed in the usual course and
order, because of the disturbance caused by those who were on
the outside of the crowd, where there was a struggle going on
with those of the opposite party, who were pushing on and
trying to force their way in and establish themselves among

Whilst things were in this confusion, Flavius Flaccus, a
senator, standing in a place where he could be seen, but at
such a distance from Tiberius that he could not make him
hear, signified to him by motions of his hand, that he wished
to impart something of consequence to him in private.
Tiberius ordered the multitude to make way for him, by which
means, though not without some difficulty, Flavius got to
him, and informed him, that the rich men, in a sitting of the
senate, seeing they could not prevail upon the consul to
espouse their quarrel, had come to a final determination
amongst themselves, that he should be assassinated, and to
that purpose had a great number of their friends and servants
ready armed to accomplish it. Tiberius no sooner
communicated this confederacy to those about him, but they
immediately tucked up their gowns, broke the halberts which
the officers used to keep the crowd off into pieces, and
distributed them among themselves, resolving to resist the
attack with these. Those who stood at a distance wondered,
and asked what was the occasion; Tiberius, knowing that they
could not hear him at that distance, lifted his hand to his
head, wishing to intimate the great danger which he
apprehended himself to be in. His adversaries, taking notice
of that action, ran off at once to the senate house, and
declared, that Tiberius desired the people to bestow a crown
upon him, as if this were the meaning of his touching his
head. This news created general confusion in the senators,
and Nasica at once called upon the consul to punish this
tyrant, and defend the government. The consul mildly
replied, that he would not be the first to do any violence;
and as he would not suffer any freeman to be put to death,
before sentence had lawfully passed upon him, so neither
would he allow any measure to be carried into effect, if by
persuasion or compulsion on the part of Tiberius the people
had been induced to pass any unlawful vote. But Nasica,
rising from his seat, "Since the consul," said he, "regards
not the safety of the commonwealth, let everyone who will
defend the laws, follow me." He, then, casting the skirt of
his gown over his head, hastened to the capitol; those who
bore him company, wrapped their gowns also about their arms.
and forced their way after him. And as they were persons of
the greatest authority in the city, the common people did not
venture to obstruct their passing, but were rather so eager
to clear the way for them, that they tumbled over one another
in haste. The attendants they brought with them, had
furnished themselves with clubs and staves from their houses,
and they themselves picked up the feet and other fragments of
stools and chairs, which were broken by the hasty flight of
the common people. Thus armed, they made towards Tiberius,
knocking down those whom they found in front of him, and
those were soon wholly dispersed, and many of them slain.
Tiberius tried to save himself by flight. As he was running,
he was stopped by one who caught hold of him by the gown; but
he threw it off, and fled in his under-garments only. And
stumbling over those who before had been knocked down, as he
was endeavoring to get up again, Publius Satureius, a
tribune, one of his colleagues, was observed to give him the
first fatal stroke, by hitting him upon the head with the
foot of a stool. The second blow was claimed, as though it
had been a deed to be proud of, by Lucius Rufus. And of the
rest there fell above three hundred, killed by clubs and
staves only, none by an iron weapon.

This, we are told, was the first sedition amongst the Romans,
since the abrogation of kingly government, that ended in the
effusion of blood. All former quarrels which were neither
small nor about trivial matters, were always amicably
composed, by mutual concessions on either side, the senate
yielding for fear of the commons, and the commons out of
respect to the senate. And it is probable indeed that
Tiberius himself might then have been easily induced, by mere
persuasion, to give way, and certainly, if attacked at all,
must have yielded without any recourse to violence and
bloodshed, as he had not at that time above three thousand
men to support him. But it is evident, that this conspiracy
was fomented against him, more out of the hatred and malice
which the rich men had to his person, than for the reasons
which they commonly pretended against him. In testimony of
which, we may adduce the cruelty and unnatural insults which
they used to his dead body. For they would not suffer his
own brother, though he earnestly begged the favor, to bury
him in the night, but threw him, together with the other
corpses, into the river. Neither did their animosity stop
here; for they banished some of his friends without legal
process, and slew as many of the others us they could lay
their hands on; amongst whom Diophanes, the orator, was
slain, and one Caius Villius cruelly murdered by being shut
up in a large tun with vipers and serpents. Blossius of
Cuma, indeed, was carried before the consuls, and examined
touching what had happened, and freely confessed, that he
had done, without scruple, whatever Tiberius bade him.
"What," replied Nasica, "then if Tiberius had bidden you burn
the capitol, would you have burnt it?" His first answer was,
that Tiberius never would have ordered any such thing; but
being pressed with the same question by several others, he
declared, "If Tiberius had commanded it, it would have been
right for me to do it; for he never would have commanded it,
if it had not been for the people's good." Blossius at this
time was pardoned, and afterwards went away to Aristonicus in
Asia, and when Aristonicus was overthrown and ruined, killed

The senate, to soothe the people after these transactions,
did not oppose the division of the public lands, and
permitted them to choose another commissioner in the room of
Tiberius. So they elected Publius Crassus, who was
Gracchus's near connection, as his daughter Licinia was
married to Caius Gracchus; although Cornelius Nepos says,
that it was not Crassus's daughter whom Caius married, but
Brutus's, who triumphed for his victories over the
Lusitanians; but most writers state it as we have done. The
people, however, showed evident marks of their anger at
Tiberius's death; and were clearly waiting only for the
opportunity to be revenged, and Nasica was already threatened
with an impeachment. The senate, therefore, fearing lest
some mischief should befall him, sent him ambassador into
Asia, though there was no occasion for his going thither.
For the people did not conceal their indignation, even in the
open streets, but railed at him, whenever they met him
abroad, calling him a murderer and a tyrant, one who had
polluted the most holy and religious spot in Rome with the
blood of a sacred and inviolable magistrate. And so Nasica
left Italy, although be was bound, being the chief priest, to
officiate in all principal sacrifices. Thus wandering
wretchedly and ignominiously from one place to another, he
died in a short time after, not far from Pergamus. It is no
wonder that the people had such an aversion to Nasica, when
even Scipio Africanus, though so much and so deservedly
beloved by the Romans, was in danger of quite losing the good
opinion which the people had of him, only for repeating, when
the news of Tiberius's death was first brought to Numantia,
the verse out of Homer

Even so perish all who do the same.

And afterwards, being asked by Caius and Fulvius, in a great
assembly, what he thought of Tiberius's death, he gave an
answer adverse to Tiberius's public actions. Upon which
account, the people thenceforth used to interrupt him when he
spoke, which, until that time, they had never done, and he,
on the other hand, was induced to speak ill of the people.
But of this the particulars are given in the life of Scipio.

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