|The Story of the Romans|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Rome, presenting short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study. Ages 10-14 |
THE DEATH OF TIBERIUS GRACCHUS
AS soon as Tiberius was elected tribune, he began to make
speeches in the Forum, saying boldly that it was a
shame that the Licinian Law should not be enforced,
and that the land ought to be distributed again.
 He clearly showed how bad it was for the poor plebeians
to have no land and no work; and he insisted that they
should be placed in a position to earn their living.
The poor men, who were eager to work, listened to these
speeches with delight; but the rich men, who held the
land, and did not wish to part with any of it, were
very angry at the bold tribune.
Another cause of displeasure among the patricians was
this: Attalus, King of Pergamus, in Asia Minor,
left all his wealth to Rome when he died. As soon as
Tiberius heard of it, he suggested that the money
should be distributed among the poor, instead of being
given as usual to the rich, who already had too much.
But in spite of all Tiberius' speeches, the poor
obtained no help from the wealth of Attalus. The rich
men and the senate also opposed the tribune as much as
possible in his efforts to have the Licinian Law
renewed; but the young man finally persuaded the people
to pass another law like it, and to appoint three men
to divide the surplus land among the poor.
The senators saw that they would never be able to
silence Tiberius, and they were afraid that he would
carry his reforms still further. At the end of the
year, therefore, when the people began to vote for him
as tribune for a second term, the senators made such a
disturbance that the election was postponed till the
next day. Then they armed all their slaves, and bade
them be ready to drive the tribune away if he did not
give up the contest.
Tiberius Gracchus knew how the rich men hated him; so
when he appeared on the next day, he was surrounded by
hundreds of his friends, who stood on the steps of the
 Capitol, ready to defend him at any risk. The voting
began again, but the rich men and their followers
raised such a clamor that not a single word could be
heard. Then, seeing that Tiberius stood firm, they
began to march against him with threats.
Tiberius, fearing for his life, raised his hands to his
head, a signal which it was agreed he should use to
warn his friends that his life was in danger. The
senators, however, pretended to misunderstand the sign
which Tiberius had made, and exclaimed that he was
asking for the crown, and therefore deserved to be put
Following Scipio Nasica, one of the tribune's own
relatives, they all rushed forward at once, and, helped
by their slaves, slew Tiberius and three hundred of his
friends. The body of the tribune was then dragged
through the streets like that of the vilest criminal,
and flung into the Tiber.
The poor citizens, terrified at this general massacre,
and deprived of their champion, no longer dared to make
any resistance; and the rich masters of Rome treated
them worse than ever before. Scipio Nasica, however,
was afraid that some one would kill him to avenge the
dead champion; so he left Rome and went to seek a place
of refuge in Asia.
Scipio Æmilianus, the conqueror of Carthage,
openly said that in his opinion Tiberius Gracchus
deserved death; and he was therefore hated by all the
poor. Not long after speaking so, he was found dead in
his bed, and, as nobody ever knew how he had died, it
was generally supposed
that he was murdered by one of the tribune's friends.
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