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Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls by  W.H. Weston

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CAIUS GRACCHUS

WHETHER it was that Caius Gracchus felt some fear of the enemies of his house, or whether he wanted to make them more hateful to the people, certain it is that at first, after the murder of his brother, he absented himself from the Forum, and kept himself close within his own dwelling. But he was, indeed, a very young man at the time, for Tiberius, who was nine years she [218] elder, was not quite thirty years of age at the time of his death. However, it soon appeared that Caius was preparing to take part in public affairs.

He showed such powers of eloquence in the defence of one of his friends, that all the other orators seemed but children in comparison, and the people were transported with enthusiasm. The nobles, however, regarded the powers thus revealed with fear and apprehension, and at once began to take measures to prevent his advancement to the office of tribune.

His enemies were pleased to get rid of him when it fell to his lot to attend the consul as quaestor in an expedition to Sardinia. Caius, however, felt no uneasiness as to the result, for he had as good a talent for military matters as for oratory. Indeed, he thought himself fortunate in being sent abroad, for he had some natural apprehension, after his brother's fate, of taking any share in the politics of Rome.

It is a common opinion that Caius, of his own accord, became a violent political leader. This, however, is not true, and it seems to have been rather necessity than choice that brought him into politics. Cicero, the orator, tells us that Caius avoided all office, and had resolved to live in a private station, but that the shade of his brother Tiberius appeared to him. 'Why dost thou delay, Caius?' said the spirit. 'For us the Fates have decreed the same path and the same death for the people. There is no other way.'

Caius distinguished himself in Sardinia above all the other young Romans, not only in combat with the enemy, but also in justice to those who submitted, and in respect and assistance to his general. He excelled even the veterans in temperance, in simplicity of food, and in devotion to labour.

[219] A severe and unhealthy winter came on While the army was in Sardinia, and the general demanded clothing for his men from the cities of the island. The towns, however, appealed to Rome against this burden, and the general was ordered to find some other means of supplying the needs of the army. Caius thereupon applied to the towns in person, and such was his influence that they voluntarily supplied the clothing.

The senate was alarmed at this instance of the popularity that attended Caius, and determined to keep him away from Rome. They therefore made a decree, that when the ordinary soldiers on service in Sardinia were relieved by others, the consul should remain, in order that Caius as quwstor should also be detained with him.

When this order came to Caius, his anger overcame him. In defiance of it he embarked and arrived in Rome when nobody was expecting him. Not only did his enemies now blame him, but the general body of the people thought it strange that the qusestor should return without his general. A charge was laid against him, but he defended himself so well that opinion was entirely charged, and it was seen that he had indeed been ill-used. 'I have served twelve campaigns, whereas I was obliged to serve but ten. I have attended my general as quaestor three years instead of the legal term of one year.' lie added, moreover, 'I alone went out with a full purse and return with it empty, While others, having drunk the wine they carried out, return with the vessels filled with gold and silver.'

After this other charges were brought against him, but he cleared himself of all suspicion. Then, his innocence being fully established, he offered himself as a candidate for the office of tribune. The patricians [220] exerted every effort in opposition to him, but such a great number came into the city from all parts to support him, that the meeting-place would not hold the multitude, and some of the people gave their voices from the housetops.

However, the patricians were so far successful that they prevented Caius from obtaining the first place in the election, and he was returned fourth on the list. But when he had entered upon the duties of the office, he soon obtained a leading place among the tribunes. This he owed partly to his gifts of eloquence, in which he greatly excelled the others, and partly to the memory of his brother's services and unhappy fate. Caius indeed constantly returned to this subject, and reproached the people for allowing the murder. 'Your ancestors,' he said, 'made war to avenge an insult offered to one of their tribunes. Indeed, they thought death itself not too heavy a punishment for a man who refused to make way for the tribune when he was crossing the Forum. But you suffered Tiberius to be bludgeoned to death before your eyes, and his body to be dragged shamefully through the city, and cast into the river.'

Such speeches were heard by great numbers, for his voice was so powerful that he could be heard by a multitude. Having thus prepared the way, he pro posed two laws. The purport of the first was that any magistrate who had been deposed by the people should thenceforth be incapable of holding any office. This law was aimed at Octavius, the man who had been deprived of his tribuneship by the agency of Tiberius. The second proposed that any magistrate who banished a citizen without trial should answer to the people for his conduct. In this Caius struck at Popilius, who had banished the friends of Tiberius. Popilius, being [221] afraid to stand the issue of a trial, fled from Italy. The other proposal Caius dropped because his mother Cornelia interceded for Octavius.

The people were quite content to have it so, for they honoured Cornelia greatly, not only on account of her sons, but also on account of her father. They afterwards erected a statue in her honour which bore this inscription


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