|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
TIBERIUS AND HIS FRIEND OCTAVIUS
 THE Senate and the wealthy landowners were displeased that
Gracchus had been chosen as one of the tribunes. They
knew that he was eager for reforms, which they had no
wish to see carried out.
But Tiberius was too wise not to try to please those in
authority. So his first measure was not so sweeping as
his opponents had expected it to be. The young
reformer even said, that those who would lose great
estates, if the old Licinian laws were enforced, should
But although the landowners had not expected this
concession, they were very angry with Tiberius, and
they did all that they could to make the people
misunderstand him. If his wishes were made laws, the
lot of the poor would only become more difficult, they
told the plebeians, who did not know what to believe.
Then, lest the people should begin to think that the
landowners knew better than he what was for their good,
about their struggles and their poverty.
In the Assembly of the people his fervent words rang
"The wild beasts of Italy," he said, "have their
caves and lairs, but to the men who fought and bled for
Italy nothing remains except the open air and the light
of heaven. Bereft of home and shelter, they wander
about with their wives and families. It is a mere
mockery and a delusion
 in a general to exhort his warriors before a battle by
bidding them fight for the graves of their ancestors and
for their household altars, for not one of them owns an
altar bequeathed him by his father, nor the ground
where his fathers are laid. They fight and fall that
others may enjoy affluence and luxury; they are called
lords of the earth, and have not a single clod which is
These words, so full of pity for the treatment that
they suffered, touched the hearts of the people, and
they would no longer listen to a word against their
Among his fellow-tribunes, Tiberius scarcely looked for
support, save, perhaps, from his friend Octavius.
At first, indeed, Octavius refused to oppose the bill
Gracchus now brought forward, but in the end he yielded
to the enemies of Gracchus, and promised to do so.
This was fatal to the success of the bill, for it was
the rule that if one tribune disapproved of a measure,
the others were powerless to do any more in the matter.
It was allowed to drop out of sight. Tiberius was too
much in earnest to be willing that this should happen.
He met his friend and begged him not to persist in
opposing the bill.
Octavius himself was a landowner, and Gracchus,
careless, as it seemed, of his friend's feelings, even
offered to compensate him for what he would lose if the
law was passed.
But Octavius was neither to be persuaded nor bribed.
He refused to do as Tiberius wished, and so it was
still impossible to pass the bill.
Then Tiberius, who as tribune had exactly the same
power as his friend, resolved to use it.
He opposed every measure brought before the State, just
as Octavius had opposed his bill. He also put his seal
on the treasury, so that no money could be obtained,
and thus it was soon impossible to carry on public
The landowners knew that Tiberius would not rest until
 he had gained his end. To show their distress they put
on mourning, and walked up and down the streets with a
melancholy mien, for their estates were dear to them.
But they did more than parade their grief; they called
together their followers that they might be ready to
resist Gracchus by force, if it became necessary.
Plots, too, were laid against his life, but Tiberius
heard of these, and from that time he carried a dagger
beneath his robe.
The landowners were right in believing that Gracchus
would never be content until his bill had been voted
either for or against by the people.
Not only did the tribune intend to have the vote taken,
but he was resolved that it should be taken without
delay. For the people had crowded into the city from
all parts of the country to support him, and he feared
lest they should have to go back to their homes before
their vote had been given.
So he made another attempt to bring his bill before the
popular Assembly, but again Octavius interfered, while
some haughty nobles led their followers into the
Assembly and overturned the urns in which the votes
Again Gracchus appealed to his friend, this time in the
presence of the Senate, but once again his friend
refused to yield to his entreaty.
Tiberius felt that he had done his utmost to win
Octavius by kindness. He now determined to appeal to
the people to remove his friend from the tribuneship.
This was to go in the face of law and justice, for a
magistrate when appointed by the people was free to do
as he thought right during his year of office, without
interference from those who had given him authority.
But the influence of Gracchus was so great that
seventeen out of thirty-five tribes had already voted
that Octavius should be deposed, when Gracchus stopped
He saw that he was going to win, and he wished to give
Octavius the chance to resign of his own free will.
 But when Octavius disdained to accept this suggestion,
the voting was continued, and Octavius was soon
declared to be no longer tribune.
The unfortunate man was then dragged from his seat by
the servants of Tiberius, and it was not without
trouble that he escaped with his life from the fury of
Now that the obstinate tribune was out of the way,
Gracchus had no difficulty in passing his bill. But he
was so angry with the landowners for the opposition
with which they had treated it, that he dropped the
clause saying they should have compensation for their
Tiberius, his father-in-law Appius Claudius, and his
brother Gaius were now appointed to survey and divide
the land in accordance with the bill.
Summer passed, and soon Tiberius would no longer be
tribune, and his enemies rejoiced. For when he was
once more a private citizen they hoped to punish him
for deposing Octavius.
But Tiberius did not mean to become a private citizen
at the end of his year of office, if it was possible to
avoid doing so.
It was true that it was against the law for a tribune
to be re-elected for a second year. But the people had
before now ignored this law, and Tiberius hoped that
they would do so again for his sake. It may be that
Tiberius was anxious to retain his authority, lest the
new land law should suffer were he not able to see that
it was enforced.
But the country folk had got what they wished, and
would not flock to the city for the coming elections in
such crowds as they had done when the passing of the
law had depended on their presence.
Gracchus would have to depend, for the most part, on
the city populace to vote for him. It was influenced,
he was well aware, by the Optimates, that is, by the
party that supported the Senate, so that Gracchus knew
that the chance of re-election was small.
 On the day of the election two tribes had, however,
already voted for Gracchus, when the Optimates broke in
upon the Assembly, saying that the proceedings were
The other tribunes sided with the Optimates, or at
least they opposed the re-election of Gracchus, and,
much against his will, Tiberius saw the election put
off until the following day.
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