Gracchus ,.I. Tiberius Sempronius, a Roman statesman, born about 168 B. C, died in 133. His father, Tiberius Gracchus, had been censor and consul, and had twice obtained a triumph. His mother, Cornelia, daughter of Scipio Afri-canus, had remained a widow, devoting herself to the education of her children, in which she was assisted by eminent Greek teachers. Tiberius, the oldest, made his first campaign in Africa under his uncle Scipio, and next filled the office of quaestor under the consul Mancinus in his unlucky campaign against the Numan-tines. The high regard in which the latter held both his father and his uncle induced them to grant to Tiberius, with whom alone they would treat, the favorable terms which saved the Roman army. But the senate refused to ratify the treaty, and had resolved to send back Mancinus and all his officers, when Tiberius interfered and saved the officers, the consul alone being given up. At the close of 134 he was elected tribune, and commenced his career as a political agitator. The multitude of slaves brought into Italy by the long and frequent wars had taken the place in agricultural occupations of the original farmers, while the small proprietors, during the protracted terms of military service, had been bought out by the rich.
Thus all Italy was owned by a few large proprietors, who employed slave labor almost exclusively in the cultivation of the soil. The city at the same time was crowded with veteran soldiers, many of whom had thus lost their estates and all of whom were needy. Prompted by his own ambition and abetted by his mother and friends, Tiberius from the commencement of his tribuneship talked openly of reviving the Licinian law, by which no man could hold more than 500 jugcra (about 330 acres) of land, and thus the surplus would become the property of the poor citizens. He framed a modification of the Licinian law (see Agrarian" Laws), which he proposed to the tribes, and which was firmly resisted by the patricians and the wealthy. Three commissioners were to be appointed to superintend the working of the new law; and crowds hastened to Rome to take sides with Tiberius or the senate. Meanwhile the latter had obtained the veto of M. Octavius Caecina, the other tribune, and thus each time the law was proposed the proceedings were quashed. Tiberius, incensed at this mode of opposition, exercised his veto on other questions, stopping the public supplies, and the government came to a standstill. It was evident that one or both of the tribunes must retire from office.
Gracchus at length put the question to the tribes, and it was voted to eject Octavius, who was dragged from the tribune's chair. The agrarian law was passed immediately, and Tiberius, his brother Caius, and his father-in-law Appius Claudius, were appointed commissioners. Thereupon the senate refused to vote Tiberius more than a denarius and a half (about 20 cents) a day for his expenses as a public officer. At this juncture Attalus, king of Pergamus, died, bequeathing his kingdom and treasures to the Roman people. Gracchus forthwith proposed to divide the treasure among the recipients of land under the new law, and to give the popular assembly, instead of the senate, the management of the kingdom. He was formally accused of aspiring to be king, and made a lame defence before the people. Seeing his popularity waning, he sought to be elected tribune for a second term; and this being demurred to as illegal, a whole day's discussion ensued. Next morning, learning that the senate would oppose his election by force, he armed his followers, and was proceeding to clear the capi-tol when Scipio Nasica at the head of the senators attacked his partisans, and slew 300 of them, as well as Tiberius himself.
II. Cains Sempronius, brother of the preceding, born about 159 B. C, died in 121. At the death of Tiberius he was left with Appius Claudius as commissioner for carrying out the agrarian law, but abstained from taking any part in politics for several years. In 124 he returned to Rome from Sardinia, where he had been consul's qusestor under L. Aurelius Orestes, was immediately summoned before the censors to give an account of his administration, defended himself successfully, and became a candidate for the tribuneship. He was elected, and commenced by having a law passed aimed at Popilius, who had persecuted his brother's friends. Popilius fled from Rome, and was banished from Italy. Next came a poor-law, by which a monthly distribution of grain was to be made to the people at an almost nominal price. After this he transferred the judicial power in a very great measure to the knights. These measures gained him great popularity. During his second tribuneship (122) he proposed the extension of the Roman franchise to all Italy. But this ultimately led to his ruin. M. Livius Drusus, his colleague, was persuaded by the senate to veto this law, which he did with the applause of the tribes.
Furthermore, Drusus outbid him again in the popular favor by offering to establish at once twelve colonies of 3,000 persons each, who were to have their allotments free. Gracchus having seconded a parallel proposition, made by the tribune Ru-brius, to colonize a spot near Carthage, the senate sent him thither as commissioner. "When he returned his popularity was gone. In the next election for tribunes his name was omitted. The law founding the colony near Carthage had been unpopular, and soon after his return it was proposed to repeal it. This he resisted, uniting with Fulvius, a commissioner of the agrarian law, and inciting the populace to acts of violence. In the tumult one of the opposite party was slain by a follower of Gracchus, and the senate named the consul Opimius dictator. He summoned Gracchus and Fulvius to answer the charge of murder. Gracchus submitted, but his partisans were in arms, and a conflict ensued. He had crossed the Tiber and taken refuge in a grove of the Furies, where, hard pressed by his enemies, he commanded his servant to slay him.
He is represented as a man of surpassing eloquence.