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Tiberius Gracchus; Would Be Saviour Or Destroyer Of The Republic

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"Would Be Savior or Destroyer of the Republic?"

The traditional dates for the Roman Republic are 509 to 27 B.C. The latter part of this period from 133 to 27 B.C. is known as the late Republic. It is also known as the Roman Revolution. The result of this revolution was the emergence of the Roman Empire and the catalyst has traditionally been linked to a single Roman citizen called Tiberius Gracchus. The wake of his brief political career left Rome much different than it had been. Like a crack in the wall of a dam, Tiberius revealed a weakness in the Roman system of government that would soon spider out of control until it could no longer hold back the deluge of the building political tension. What was this weakness?

This paper will focus on that weakness. It will argue against the supposition that Tiberius Gracchus was the destroyer of the Roman Republic. It will focus on the fallacies of the ironic traditional statement that Tiberius ultimately caused the destruction of the Republic that he was so desperately trying to preserve. Indeed, he may have in fact been the savior of the Republic had his inspired reforms been allowed to take root. After all, the strength and glorious achievements of the Republic up to that point had been built upon the militaristic rural-class small farmer. These peasants dutifully defended their home country of Rome; a country that they shared stock in. As these small farmers transformed into the urban poor, the Republic transformed also. Tiberius was simply the first to expose this transformation for the potential crisis that it turned out to be. He was the first to act on a proposed solution.

The two ancient sources used in this paper were Plutarch and Appian. Both were Greeks which presents one of the dilemmas inherent in using them. This problem is stated in John M. Riddle's book Tiberius Gracchus; Destroyer or Reformer of the Republic? He writes that "unfortunately both Plutarch and Appian . . . . were Greeks, writing around the second century A.D., whose understanding of the Roman constitution in the second century B.C. was limited. Furthermore, they both wrote in Greek, which inevitably makes it more difficult to determine exactly the original Latin words which they are translating." Since detailed parts from the works of Livy and other respected Roman authors that addressed this period have long since become part of the history they wrote about, Plutarch and Appian have become invaluable.

The Oxford Classical Dictionary's entry on Appian states that "since some of his valuable sources, especially on the civil wars, are otherwise lost, his work gains historical importance for us, even though it does not simply reproduce these sources. H. H. Sullard comments on Appian's use of sources in his book From the Gracchi to Nero; A History of Rome From 133 B.C. to A.D. 68. by writing that although he "understood the empire of his own day, Appian had little accurate personal knowledge of the Republic constitution and therefore on occasion may have misunderstood his source." Contrarily, Alvin H. Bernstein does not attribute Appian's "frequent inaccuracies and bias" as mere misunderstandings of the sources he was using. In his book Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus; Tradition and Apostasy, he writes that "if some of the speeches found on his pages are fabrications, they are almost certainly the creations not of Appian but of the source he was using." He is putting forth the idea that Appian tends to be very faithful to his sources and is very non-critical in his assessment of their work. Hypothetically, if he used Cicero as a source, then Cicero's biased opinion would be reflected in Appian's history. The biased opinions about the Gracchi can be attributed to the fact that the ancient contemporary sources and sources writing shortly after that in the late Republic, like Cicero, were from the upper-class --- the optimate class --- and were overwhelmingly opposed to his reforms. Therefore, their literary treatment of Tiberius tended to reflect their obvious dislike of him. It follows that Cicero, being a part of the Roman Senate and an advocate of the return of the Republic, did not care for Tiberius Gracchus very much and accused him of not only wanting the kingship, but he "even says he had it for a brief span" This was one of the biggest insults that could be mustered in the roman world due to the fact that the Latin word Ð''rey,' meaning king, had been made a detestable word at the onset of the Republic due to a corrupt king during the Monarchy.

Plutarch's aims, unlike Appian's, were "not to write continuous political history, but to exemplify individual virtue (or vice) in the careers of great men. Hence he gives attention especially to his heroes' education, to significant anecdotes, and to what he sees as the development or revelation of character." Again, as with Appian, "Much depends Ð'... on the sources available to him."

Plutarch and Appian contradict each other very seldomly in their accounts of Tiberius Gracchus. "Plutarch speaks of two bills and Appian of only one [and] each gives a different name for the tribune who succeeded Octavius." However, "with the exception of the two authors' renditions of the final assemblies that led to Tiberius' assassination, the accounts of Appian and Plutarch are now generally agreed to be compatible." This is comforting because a convergence of evidence is almost always positive for an historian. Also, to note is that only these two ancient sources provide intact, in depth accounts of Tiberius Gracchus and that is the reason they were selected for this paper.

Now with the sources and their discrepancies established, they will be used to pursue the statement of whether Tiberius Gracchus was a potential savior or an actual destroyer of the Roman Republic.

As alluded to in the introduction, the decline of the small farmer led to a void in the Roman Republic that could not be filled by anything other than the replacement of the small farmer without changing the entire design of the original Republic. What remained when the small farmer was replaced was something different; a weakened version of the Republic that had at one time been supportive of all of its citizens.

One reason for this weakening was the hit that national pride took from these small farmers following the loss of their land. This land connected these people to Rome. It provided a bond much stronger than just citizenship alone. It gave a majority of the population something to fight for; something to defend; something to inherit and to leave to their children. The replacement of this peasantry class by the latifundia's of the wealthy



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