The Gracchus Brothers

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1 The Gracchus Brothers (Tiberius and Gaius) The rise, and eventual assassination of the Gracchus brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, is often considered the first step towards the fall of the Roman Republic. The activities of the Gracchi brothers completely changed the style of Roman politics as their careers were marked by riots, murder, and manipulation of the population to achieve their goals. This political behavior would become more and more accepted in the 100 years after their time, even including Caesar and eventually Octavian. The growth of the Empire led to a division in the Roman political system. On one side of the divide, the patricians were wealthy, old, and powerful families of Rome. Their goal was to preserve Rome as it was. On the other side, some of these powerful families began to take up the causes of the less fortunate common masses. From 137 to 121 BC, Tiberius, and then Gaius Gracchus, stood at the center of this chaos. Recent conquests brought newfound wealth to the Roman Republic, but the fast pace of such expansion led to more corruption. The lack of new military recruits from among the patricians was also weakening Rome. Meanwhile, thousands of landless and jobless Romans were idle in the city, with little hope for relief, and laws of the time prevented them from joining the military. Tiberius and Gaius saw a chance not only to gain political power, but to stabilize Rome through reform and new laws benefiting the common people. While this sounds reasonable on the surface, they were really interested in lessening the power of the Senate. While some saw their reforms an attempt to fix an outdated military system, others saw it as a blatant power grab. Some of the reforms Tiberius passed limited the amount of land a person could own. This forced big landowners to sell some of their land back to poor plebeians. His brother Gaius improved on this by providing more help that moved former farmers back to the countryside where they could farm again. Source:

2 Gaius MARIUS Despite being the son of a small plebeian farmer, the extended Marius family had powerful political connections. He directly benefited from the reforms of the Gracchus brothers and was one of the first plebeians to join the military as a way to improve their fortunes. Ancient fortune-tellers said that Marius was pre-destined to be Consul of Rome 7 times. Not only would this prove true, but he would eventually be hailed as the third founder of Rome, and its savior. Military glory and personal ambition drove Marius straight to the top of the Roman system, but even more importantly, he would have a great impact on the life of his nephew, Julius Caesar. Early in his career, Marius used his family connections to help get himself elected Tribune of the Plebes in 119 BC. In this position so soon after the political turmoil and murder of the Gracchi brothers (Gaius murdered 123 BC), Marius would become a rival of many in the Senate by passing popular laws forbidding the inspection of ballot boxes. By doing this, he upset the powerful elite, who used ballot inspection as a way to intimidate voters in elections. After continuing to create enemies for himself as he served in a series of higher positions, Marius had to put off eventually running for consul. Perhaps his delay in running for consul, when he built up a huge fortune helped him rebuild relationships with his political rivals. In 110 BC, Marius would make an arrangement that would send shock waves through his own life and Rome itself. The Caesar branch of the Julii family, who were well known patricians, had completely fallen from political prominence and at this point, didn't have the personal wealth to recover. Needing financial help, the Julii family arranged for him to marry their own Julia Caesar which helped them recover and helped Marius become accepted by the wealthy patricians of Rome. Now that he was one of the post powerful politicians in Rome, Marius would begin to seek changes that he had dreamed of throughout his career. While the Gracchus brothers opened service in the legions to both plebeians and patricians, Marius thought he could build military loyalty to himself by building a professional army of career soldiers. These soldiers would become more loyal to him over time rather than rotate out of service when their terms ended as citizen-soldiers. He would also open other government jobs up to plebeians to try to win their loyalty and build political support for himself. Source:

3 Lucius Cornelius SULLA Lucius Cornelius Sulla ( B.C.) was a Roman general and dictator. He was the first self-declared dictator of the Roman Republic. (Earlier, temporary dictators had been appointed in time of crisis). His use of army troops for his own political purposes created a pattern that eventually led to the downfall of the Republic. In 88 B.C., Sulla was elected consul and given an army command. To let more of his political supporters have power, he expanded the Senate from 300 to 600 members. When political opponents transferred the command to Marius, Sulla marched his loyal troops to Rome and drove Marius into exile. Sulla then left Italy to conduct military of the Republic in Asia. Meanwhile, Marius had died, but his followers succeeded in gaining control of the Roman government. Sulla returned in 83 B.C., crushed all opposition, and made himself dictator in 82 B.C. While dictator, he wrote laws that prevented generals from serving for more than one year at a time in order to prevent other generals from using the same methods he used to become dictator. After giving power back to the Senate he voluntarily retired in 79 B.C. Source:

4 Julius Caesar The Caesar family was an impoverished line of the noble original clans. While highly respected, the family held little political power. His father, Gaius Julius, had served in the Senate, but had little importance aside from his son's legacy. His mother, Aurelia, of the Aurelii Cotta line, seems to have had a more major impact on the life of her son. Caesar was raised in the common quarters of Rome. His home was an insula, which would now be known as apartment building in the modern world. Even for a patrician family in poor financial shape, this was a definite handicap for future political ambition. However, the young Caesar learned a great deal as a child, as he early on realized the power in championing the common man. It wouldn't take a genius to understand that several politicians in this era made a name for themselves using this method, and Caesar certainly caught on to this easily. He had, though, the added advantage because he was a patrician and arguably a political genius that would push him to the very limit of Roman power. Two major events impacted the life of the young Caesar. The later and seemingly less momentous event of the two was the death of his father at the age of 15. So few of the details of Gaius Julius Caesar the elder's life are known, that it's difficult to determine the impact this may have had. While he certainly played a role in the life of his young son, he was often away on military and Senate work. Before dying, his greatest contribution to his son may have been reaching the office of Praetor (the office just below Consul), which helped set the stage for his son to eventually gain a high government position. The more significant event in the life of Caesar was a marriage arrangement that would have enormous impact on Roman culture as a whole. The marriage of his aunt Julia to Gaius Marius affected the entire ancient world. Through this marriage in 110 BC and 10 years prior to the birth of his famous nephew, Marius gained the political and familial connection necessary to advance his own career up the ladder. Marius was one of the richest men in Rome at the time and gained political power from the marriage, while the Caesar family gained the wealth required to pay for election campaigns for Caesar's father and uncles.

5 Octavius/Octavian/Augustus (Just pick a name already!) Gaius Julius Caesar Augusts was born on September 23, 63 BCE. Even though he was a sickly child, in 48 BCE, Octavius was appointed as a pontiff (priest) at the tender age of 15. It's possible the Caesar planned to take his nephew with him to Africa to face off against the Republicans there, but either sickness, or an over protective mother shot down this idea. In 46 BCE, Octavian took part in Caesar's triumphal parades in Rome, earning himself some military awards despite not serving in the military. Clearly this shows that Caesar at least had some ideas about his great nephew's future. The following year Octavian followed Caesar to Spain, where the dictator conducted the last battle of his career. Though Octavian himself took little part in the actual military aspect of this campaign, his journey to join Caesar seems a significant development in the relationship. While Caesar had planned to give Octavius a minor government position in 43 or 42 BCE at the age of 20 or 21, Caesar s murder in 44 BCE quickly changed these plans. Shortly afterward, Octavian joined forces with Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus in a military dictatorship known as the Second Triumvirate. After a civil war that resulted in the death of Mark Antony (and suicide of Cleopatra VII) and the exile of Lepidus, Octavius ruled Rome alone. As the sole ruler of Rome, Augustus used the military to expand the Empire s border so that it reached its natural borders of mountains and oceans that could help protect it from attack. With Rome more secure, Augustus worked with Rome s neighbors to write treaties to guarantee that peace would last for a long time as Rome entered a period known as the Pax Romana. During this time, Augustus would also pass laws about the moral and sexual behavior of Romans which had become somewhat shady for many years. These laws, along with others that improved the way that government helped its people, would be the main parts of his plan to restore traditional virtues to Rome.

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