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{government, party, election}
{war, force, army}
{land, century, early}
{son, year, death}
{law, state, case}
{company, market, business}
{city, large, area}
{mi², represent, 1st}

The Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, were Roman Plebian noblemen who both served as tribunes in 2nd century BC. They attempted to pass land reform legislation that would redistribute the major patrician landholdings among the plebeians. For this legislation and their membership in the Populares party they have been considered the founding fathers of both socialism and populism.[1] After achieving some early success, both were assassinated for their efforts.


Early life

The brothers were born to a plebeian branch of the old and noble Sempronia family. From their mother's side, the boys were also related to the Scipios – their mother being the Patrician Cornelia Africana, daughter of Scipio Africanus. The boys' father died while they were still young, so responsibility for their well being fell to their mother. Cornelia ensured her sons had the best available Greek tutors, teaching them oratory and political science, from which they were taught the progressive view that in a democracy all the power rightly belongs to the people. The brothers were also well trained in martial pursuits; in horsemanship and combat they outshone all their peers. The older brother Tiberius was the most distinguished of the young officers in the third Punic war, Rome's last campaign against Carthage. He was the first to scale Carthage's walls and had previously saved an army of 20,000 men by skilled diplomacy. As the boys grew up they developed strong connections with the ruling elite.[2]

The Gracchi reforms


Central to the Gracchi reforms was an attempt to address economic distress. Recent trends had seen peasants pushed off their farms by rich landowners. The peasants were often forced into idleness in Rome where they had to subsist on hand outs due to a scarcity of paid work, with their old lands being worked by slaves.

A related issue concerned the demand for troops overseas. There were recruitment difficulties - wars were being fought in the east and in Spain, with mutinies aggravating the shortage of manpower. Traditionally one of the rewards for military service was to be granted an allotment of public land – in return the new farmers and their descendants would be subject to legionary service. The difficulty was that public lands had already been divided out to large landholders or speculators, causing protests. The Gracchi aimed to address these problems by reclaiming lands from the patricians that could then be granted to soldiers; by restoring land to displaced peasants; by providing subsidized grain for the needy and by having the Republic pay for the clothing of its poorest soldiers.[3]

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