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Tiberius Gracchus and his reform

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5.3 Tiberius Gracchus and his reform

  1. His proposal becomes a law, but he is assassinated before provisions necessary to implement that law could be approved

  2. Small farmers were the backbone of the Roman economy during the first centuries of its history

  3. Later on, with the expansion of the Roman republic, large portions of the regions conquered by the Romans were appropriated by the Roman government and leased to Roman citizens, especially to the patricians

5.3 Patrician landowners vs. small farmers

  1. The patrician landowners, thanks to this leased public land and to the land they acquired reinvesting their profits, created huge estates mostly worked by the slaves (which also were made available in large numbers and at cheap prices by wars)

  2. Little by little it became difficult for the small farmers to compete with those large estates, and many of them lost or sold their land, and moved into Rome or other large cities

  3. The expansion of Rome also made it easier to import cheaper wheat from Sicily, North Africa or Egypt, increasing the competition

5.3 Small farmers during the Roman era

  1. In spite of those difficulties, a considerable number of small farmers always got by: for example, retired soldiers would get as a severance package a small parcel of land, often close to the borders of the Roman state, so that they could act as a military reserve in times of crisis, and they would spend the last years of their lives working that land

  2. Towards the end of the Empire, burdened by heavy taxes and with profits eroded by ever growing inflation, the small farmers had to borrow money from the large landowners and when they could not repay those debts, they would offer their services instead

  3. Through this process, the independent small farmers of Italy and Western Europe changed into the serfs of the Middle Ages, while some of the wealthy landowners were able to turn their economic power and their social prestige into political power and they became noblemen.

5.3 Another Gracchus -- 3 more wars

  1. 121: Gaius Gracchus, Tiberius's brother, tries to finish the agrarian reform, but he too is killed, together with hundreds of supporters

  2. 104-100: the Second Sicilian slave war

  3. 91-89: the Social War (Rome vs. its Italian allies, "Social" from the Latin socii, "partners")

  4. At the end of this war all Latins, Etruscans, and Umbrians are given access to Roman citizenship

  5. 82: the first Roman Civil War is fought in Italy by two well-known generals of the Roman army, Sulla and Marius

  6. They both use the troops under their command to support their political agendas, using exchanges of favors and exploiting the soldiers' personal loyalty to them

5.3 Other wars fought too close to Rome

  1. At the end of this civil war Sulla is victorious

  2. Proscriptions are used for the first time in Rome (they are lists containing names of 'public enemies of the State,' whose properties can be seized and whose lives can be terminated without due process or the normal legal consequences)

  3. Sulla becomes dictator, but he soon resignes and inexplicably retires to private life; dies in 78 BCE

  4. 73-71: the Third Slave War (the one the movie Spartacus was based on)

  5. Roger Ebert reviews the movie Spartacus

  6. A selection of primary sources, in translation, on slavery in Roman society and on the three slave revolts


  8. 67: Pompey, skillful general and one of the leaders of Rome's conservative party, sweeps off the pirates operating in the central area of the Mediterranean sea

5.3 The Civil War between Caesar and Pompey

  1. 49-45: large-scale Civil War between the armies of Pompey and of Julius Caesar

  2. 49-48: Caesar marches on Rome, occupies it

  3. Caesar defeats Pompeians in Spain, Greece

  4. Pompey flees to Egypt where he is murdered by the local king, who thought Caesar would appreciate it

  5. Caesar goes to Egypt, and makes Cleopatra Queen of Egypt as a symbolic gesture to dissociate himself from indiscriminate violence and political murder

  6. The theme of clemency dominates Caesar's works (esp. De bello civili)

5.3 Caesar and the Pompeians -- Cato

  1. 46-45: Caesar crushes the remaining Pompeian forces in Africa and Spain

  2. Cato, a famous member of the Pompeian party, commits suicide in Africa, showing that one should value freedom and democracy even more than life itself

  3. For centuries Cato will be referred to as a cultural and political icon, as the defender of republican values (the values of democracy and freedom), and the best example of moral integrity

  4. Medieval poet Dante will even promote him (a pagan and a mortal sinner), to the position of guardian of Purgatory, under the direct jurisdiction of God!

  5. Matilde Asensi, The Last Cato (2006)

5.3 The Roman Empire

  1. 44: before he can become Emperor (if that was indeed his plan), Caesar is murdered by Brutus, Cassius and other high-level conspirators

  2. The fate of Brutus and Cassius, Judas, in Dante's hell

  3. 27: Octavian Augustus becomes the first Emperor

  4. His official title was not Emperor, but rather the less threatening title of Princeps Senatus = First in the Senate

  5. For more than 200 years the Republican institutions (the Senate, the Consuls) are kept alive under the Empire

  6. Emperors feared that too drastic a change could renew fights and internal divisions

  7. Other titles used by the Roman emperors:

  8. Augustus = superior/venerable (from it the month of August)

  9. Caesar (from it the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar)

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