THE GRACCHI AND THEIR FALL
 IN the assault by the Roman forces on Megara, the
suburb of Carthage, the first to mount the wall was a
young man named Tiberius Gracchus, brother-in-law of
Scipio, the commander, and grandson of the famous
Scipio Africanus. This young man and his brother were
to play prominent parts in Rome.
One day when the great Scipio was feasting in the
Capitol, with other senators of Rome, he was asked by
some friends to give his daughter Cornelia in marriage
to Tiberius Gracchus, a young plebeian. Proud patrician
as he was, he consented, for Gracchus was highly
esteemed for probity, and had done him a personal
On his return home he told his wife that he had
promised his daughter to a plebeian. The good woman,
who had higher aims, blamed him severely for his folly,
as she deemed it. But when she was told the name of her
proposed son-in-law she changed her mind, saying that
Gracchus was the only man worthy of the gift.
Of Cornelia's children three became notable, a
daughter, who became the wife of the younger Scipio,
and two sons, Tiberius and Caius Gracchus, who are
known in history as "The Gracchi." Their
 father became famous in war and peace, taking important
steps in the needed movement of reform. He died, and
after his death many sought the hand of the noble
Cornelia in marriage, among them King Ptolemy of Egypt.
But she refused them all, devoting her life to the
education of her children, for which she was admirably
fitted by her lofty spirit, and high attainments.
Concerning this lady, one of the greatest and noblest
which Rome produced, there is an anecdote, often
repeated, yet well worth repeating again. A Campanian
lady who called upon her, and boastfully spoke of her
wealth in gold and precious stones, asked Cornelia for
the pleasure of seeing her jewels. Leading her visitor
to another room, the noble matron pointed to her
sleeping children, and said, "There are my jewels; the
only ones of which I am proud."
These children were born to troublous times. Rome had
grown in corruption and ostentation as she had grown in
wealth and dominion. When the first Punic War broke out
Rome ruled only over Central and Southern Italy. When
the third Punic War ended Rome was lord of all Italy,
Spain, and Greece, and had wide possessions in Asia
Minor and Northern Africa. Wealth had flowed abundantly
into the imperial city, and with it pride, corruption,
and oppression. The great grew greater, the poor
poorer, and the old simplicity and frugality of Rome
were replaced by overweening luxury and greed of
The younger Tiberius Gracchus, who was nine
 years older than his brother, after taking part in the
siege of Carthage, went to Spain, where also was work
for a soldier. On his way thither he passed through
Etruria, and saw that in the fields the old freeman
farmers had disappeared, and been replaced by foreign
slaves, who worked with chains upon their limbs. No
Cincinnatus now ploughed his own small fields, but the
land was divided up into great estates, cultivated by
the captives taken in war; while the poor Romans, by
whose courage these lands had been won, had not a foot
of soil to call their own.
This spectacle was a sore one to Tiberius, in whose
mind the wise teachings of his mother had sunk deep.
Here were great spaces of fertile land lying untilled,
broad parks for the ostentation of their proud
possessors, while thousands of Romans languished in
poverty, and Rome had begun to depend for food largely
upon distant realms.
There was a law, more than two hundred years old, which
forbade any man from holding such large tracts of land.
Tiberius thought that this law should be enforced. On
his return to Rome his indignant eloquence soon roused
trouble in that city of rich and poor.
"The wild beasts of the waste have their caves and
dens," he said; "but you, the people of Rome, who have
fought and bled for its growth and glory, have nothing
left you but the air and the sunlight. There are far
too many Romans," he continued, "who have no family
altar nor ancestral tomb. They have fought well for
Rome, and are falsely called the masters of the world;
but the results of
 their fighting can only be seen in the luxury of the
great, while not one of them has a clod of dirt to call
Cornelia urged her son to do some work to ennoble his
name and benefit Rome.
"I am called the 'daughter of Scipio,' " she said. "I
wish to be known as the mother of the Gracchi:"
It was not personal glory, but the good of Rome, that
the young reformer sought. He presented himself for the
office of tribune, and was elected by the people, who
looked upon him as their friend and advocate. And at
his appeal they crowded from all quarters into the city
to vote for the re-establishment of the Licinian laws,
those forbidding the rich to hold great estates.
These laws were re-enacted, and those lands which the
aristocrats had occupied by fraud or force were taken
from them by a commission and returned to the state.
All this stirred the proud land-holders to fury. They
hated Gracchus with a bitter hatred, and began to plot
secretly for his overthrow. About this time Attalus,
king of Pergamus, moved by some erratic whim, left his
estates by will to the city of Rome. Those who had been
deprived of their lands claimed these estates, to repay
them for their outlays in improvement. Gracchus opposed
this, and proposed to divide this property among the
plebeians, that they might buy cattle and tools for
their new estates.
His opponents were still more infuriated by this
action. He had offered himself for re-election to the
office of tribune, promising the people new and
im-  portant reforms. His patrician foes took advantage of
the opportunity. As he stood in the Forum, surrounded
by his partisans, an uproar arose, in the midst of
which Gracchus happened to raise his hand to his head.
His enemies at once cried out that he wanted to make
himself king, and that this was a sign that he sought a
A fierce fight ensued. The opposing senators attacked
the crowd so furiously that those around Gracchus fled,
leaving him unsupported. He hastened for refuge towards
the Temple of Jupiter, but the priests had closed the
doors, and in his haste he stumbled over a bench.
Before he could rise one of his enemies struck him over
the head with a stool. A second repeated the blow.
Before the statues of the old kings, which graced the
portals of the temple, the tribune fell dead.
Many of his supporters were slain before the tumult
ceased. Many were forced over the wall at the edge of
the Tarpeian Rock, and were killed by their fall. Three
hundred in all were slain in the fray.
Thus was shed the first blood that flowed in civil
strife at Rome. It was a crimson prelude to the streams
of blood that were to follow, in the long series of
butcheries which were afterwards to disgrace the Roman
Tiberius Gracchus may well be called the Great, for the
effect of his life upon the history of Rome was
stupendous. He held office for not more than seven
months, yet in that short time the power of the senate
was so shaken by him that it never fully
 recovered its strength. Had he been less gentle, or
more resolute, in disposition his work might have been
much greater still. Fiery indignation led him on, but
soldierly energy failed him at the end.
Caius Gracchus was in Spain at the time of his
brother's murder. On his return to Rome he lived in
quiet retirement for some years. The senate thought he
disapproved of his brother's laws. They did not know
him. At length he offered himself as a candidate for
the tribuneship, and so convincing was his eloquence
that the people supported him in numbers, and he was
elected to the office.
He at once made himself an ardent advocate of his
brother's reforms, and with such impassioned oratory
that he gained adherents on every side. He made himself
active in all measures of public progress, advocating
the building of roads and bridges, the erection of
mile-stones, the giving the right to vote to Italians
in general, and the selling of grain at low rates to
the deserving poor. The laws passed for these purposes
are known as the Sempronian laws, from the name of the
family to which the Gracchi belonged.
By this time the rich senators had grown highly
alarmed. Here was a new Gracchus in the field, as
eloquent and as eager for reform as his brother, and
who was daily growing more and more in favor with the
people. Something must be done at once, or this new
demagogue—as they called him—would do them more harm
than that for which they had slain his brother.
They adopted the policy of fraud in place of that
 of violence. The people were gullible; they might be
made to believe that the senators of Rome were their
best friends. A rich and eloquent politician, Drusus by
name, proposed measures more democratic even than those
which Gracchus had advocated. This effort had the
effect that was intended. The influence of Gracchus
over the popular mind was lessened. The people had
proved fully as gullible as the shrewd senators had
Among other measures proposed by Gracchus was one for
planting a colony and building a new city on the site
of Carthage. The senate appeared to approve this, and
appointed him one of the commissioners for laying out
the settlement. He was forced to leave Rome, and during
his absence his enemies worked more diligently than
ever. Gracchus was defeated in the election for tribune
And now the plans of his enemies matured. It was said
that the new colony at Carthage had been planted on the
ground cursed by Scipio. Wolves had torn down the
boundary-posts, which signified the wrath of the gods.
The tribes were called to meet at the Capitol, and
repeal the law for colonizing Carthage.
A tumult arose. A man who insulted Gracchus was slain
by an unknown hand. The senate proclaimed Gracchus and
his friends public enemies, and roused many of the
people against him by parading the body of the slain
man. Gracchus and his friends took up a position on the
Aventine Hill. Here they were assailed by a strong
There was no resistance. Gracchus sought refuge
 at first in the Temple of Diana, and afterwards made
his way to the Grove of the Furies, several of his
friends dying in defence of his flight. A single slave
accompanied him. When the grove was reached by his
pursuers both were found dead. The faithful slave had
pierced his master's heart, and then slain himself by
the same sword.
Slaughter ruled in Rome. The Tiber flowed thick with
the corpses of the friends of Gracchus, who were slain
by the fierce patricians. The houses of the murdered
reformers were plundered by the mob, for whose good
they had lost their lives. For the time none dared
speak the name of Gracchus except in reprobation. Yet
he and his brother had done yeoman service for the
ungrateful people of Rome.
Cornelia retired to Misenum, where she lived for many
years. But she lived not in grief for her sons, but in
pride and triumph. They had died the deaths of heroes
and patriots, and she gloried in their fame, declaring
that they had found worthy graves in the temples of the
So came the people to think, in after-years, and they
set up in the Forum a bronze statue to the great Roman
matron, on which were inscribed only these words:
TO CORNELIA, THE MOTHER OF THE GRACCHI.