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(grăk`ī), two Roman statesmen and social reformers, sons of the consul Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and of CorneliaCornelia
, fl. 2d cent. B.C., Roman matron, daughter of Scipio Africanus Major. She was the wife of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and mother of the Gracchi. She refused to remarry after her husband's death, devoting herself to her children, whom she educated well and inspired
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. The brothers were brought up with great care by their mother. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, d.133 B.C., the elder of the Gracchi, fought at Carthage (146 B.C.) and in Spain (137). Alarmed at the state of Italy and the provinces, where the middle class was being totally eliminated by concentration of wealth and lands in the hands of a few, Tiberius stood for the tribunate of the people in 133 B.C. as an avowed reformer. On his election he immediately proposed and succeeded in passing the Sempronian Law (Lex Sempronia Agraria), a modification of the Licinian Rogations (see agrarian lawsagrarian laws,
in ancient Rome, the laws regulating the disposition of public lands (ager publicus).

It was the practice of Rome to confiscate part of the land of conquered cities and states, and this was made public land.
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), which sought to redistribute the public lands that the rich had taken over. Tiberius' colleague Octavius vetoed the law, and Tiberius, by immediately holding an unconstitutional referendum, deposed Octavius. Later in the year Attalus III, king of Pergamum, died and bequeathed his property to Rome; Tiberius proposed to use the bequest to provide capital for the paupers who were to settle the lands allotted under the Sempronian Law. It was now election time, and Tiberius renominated himself; the senate declared this action illegal and had the election postponed. In a great riot on the following day Tiberius was killed. His brother, Caius Sempronius Gracchus, d.121 B.C., became the organizer of the reform movement begun by Tiberius. After serving (126) as quaestor in Sardinia, he returned to Rome and was elected (123) tribune of the people. Setting out to complete his brother's work, he immediately initiated a series of remarkable social reforms. The chief aim of these reforms was to unite the plebs and the equitesequites
[Lat.,=horsemen], the original cavalry of the Roman army, chosen, according to legend, by Romulus from the three ancient Roman tribes; the equites were selected from the senatorial class on the basis of wealth.
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, thus undermining the authority of the senate. The Lex Frumentaria benefited the small landholders by reappropriating the proceeds of the tax on allotted lands. The senate, which had formerly used this money for the aggrandizement of the aristocracy, was now required to use it for the good of the poor. In the Lex Judiciaria, Caius won over the equites by granting them control over the judgeships that had heretofore belonged to the senate. Caius was reelected (122) tribune, but the counterproposals of Marcus Livius Drusus began to gain popularity, and the following year Caius was defeated for reelection. Repeal of his measures was proposed, and in the ensuing riots Caius was killed. Within 10 years the reaction had annulled every Gracchan reform, and the social and political war began again, this time to culminate in the fatal and bloody struggle of MariusMarius, Caius
, c.157 B.C.–86 B.C., Roman general. A plebeian, he became tribune (119 B.C.) and praetor (115 B.C.) and was seven times consul. He served under Scipio Africanus Minor at Numantia and under Quintus Metellus against Jugurtha.
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 and SullaSulla, Lucius Cornelius
, 138 B.C.–78 B.C., Roman general. At the height of his career he assumed the name Felix. He served under Marius in Africa and became consul in 88 B.C., when Mithradates VI of Pontus was overrunning Roman territory in the east.
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See study by H. C. Boren (1969).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



The brothers Tiberius Gracchus (born 162 B.C . in Rome; died there 133 B.C .) and Gaius Gracchus (born 153 B.C . in Rome; died there 121 B.C .). Politicians of ancient Rome.

The Gracchi were of the distinguished plebeian family of the Sempronii and received a brilliant education. Tiberius, who was elected tribune of the people for 133 B.C ., proposed a law limiting the use of state land (ager publicus) to 1,000 iugera (about 300 hectares) per family. Surplus state lands were to be taken away with special compensation and given in small plots of 30 iugera (about 9 hectares) to poor citizens, without the right to sell. Tiberius was able to secure passage of his bill by the popular assembly. A commission on the introduction of agricultural reforms was created, which included the Gracchi brothers and Tiberius’ father-in-law, Ap-pius Claudius. The introduction of agricultural reforms met with opposition from the large landholders and the Senate.

During the elections to the tribune for 132 B.C ., Tiberius was falsely accused by the Senate nobility of aspiring to become emperor and was killed.

Gaius, a tribune of the people for 123 and 122 B.C ., resurrected Tiberius’ agricultural legislation, revived the activity of the agricultural commission, and introduced other democratic reforms (such as low bread prices in Rome and the establishment of colonies in Italy and the provinces in order to allot land to citizens without property). In order to attract the class of equites to his side, Gaius introduced a law by which a judicial commission of equites was given the right to try provincial viceroys; the right to collect taxes in the richest province in Asia, the former Pergamum kingdom, was also transferred to the equites. In an attempt to broaden his social base, Gaius tried to extend the agricultural legislation to the Italian allies: he proposed a law to grant them the right of Roman citizenship. However, this plan provoked opposition not only in the Senate but among the equites and the urban and rural plebeians, who were unwilling to share their privileges with new citizens. In 121, Gaius was not reelected tribune. Provoked to armed revolt, he was killed along with his supporters.

With the introduction of democratic reforms, Gaius tried primarily to halt the destruction of the Roman peasantry, the social and military base of the Roman city-state. As a result of agricultural reforms, about 80,000 citizens received plots of land. However, the reforms were only temporarily successful, since the development of slaveholding as a means of production led unavoidably to the impoverishment of small owners, that is, the rural and urban plebeians. A law of 111 B.C . permitted the sale of state lands, which became private property.


Sergeenko, M. E. “Zemel’naia reforma Tiberiia Grakkha i rasskaz Appiana.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1958, no. 2.
Protasova, S. I. “Bor’ba obshchestvennykh idealov v Rime v epokhu Grakkhov.” In the collection Iz dalekogo i blizkogo proshlogo. Petrograd-Moscow, 1923.
Fel’sberg, E. R. Brat’ia Grakkhi. Iur’ev, 1910.
Meyer, E. Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der Gracchen. Halle,1894.
Carcopino, J. Autour des Gracques, Paris, 1928.
Nicolet, C. Les Gracques, ou crise agraire et Révolution à Rome. [Paris, 1967.]


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The civil unrest associated with the Gracchi brothers is usually regarded as the beginning of Rome's long spiral into civil war and Caesarism.
The mother of the Gracchi brothers was the famous Cornelia, daughter of Scipio Africanus, who was considered the ideal Roman matron.