Tribune and popular reformer
Revolution and Assassination. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, and his younger brother Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, were plebeians on their father’s side but were related through their mother, Cornelia, to one of the most prestigious patrician families, the Scipios. He fought against Carthage during his military service and later was made a quaestor in Spain. Tiberius was elected tribune of the plebs in 133 B.C.E. and pushed hard to change laws about land ownership, particularly as they related to military service and slave ownership. His proposals had popular support but faced opposition from wealthy landowners who stood to lose some of their land. His proposals were defeated by the Senate, but he continued to resubmit them. Despite his popular efforts, when Tiberius ran for reelection, he and many of his supporters were killed by a mob. Tiberius’s younger brother later attempted to continue and expand the reform program. He was elected Tribune in 122 B.C.E. and pushed through a more extensive revolutionary program than his brother had ever considered. He failed to win a third term, and his enemies managed to have him assassinated in 121 B.C.E. The Gracchi became famous as martyrs for the cause of popular reform. Their actions (and bloody failures) also set the course for the civil wars that were to consume the Republic in the next hundred years.
Alvin H. Bernstein, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus: Tradition and Apostasy (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1978).
Keith Richardson, Daggers in the Forum: The Revolutionary Lives and Violent Deaths of the Gracchus Brothers (London: Cassell, 1976).