Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus
When he travelled through Etruria on his way to a war in Hispania, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus saw all of the small farms were bought up by rich patricians with huge farming companies, latifundiae. The ground they bought was part of the ager publicus, land the state had leased out to people for them to maintain it and grow crops on it. There were no fixed rules regarding transition of ownership or use of the land.
When Tiberius became a tribune in 133 BC he changed this. He made the plots of the ager publicus inalienable from the persons they were appointed to. Everyone who had a piece of land in his possession would get his fair share. Each man was to get 500 jugera (125 hectares), plus an additional 250 jugera for each of his two oldest sons. That made a maximum of 1000 jugera per person.
Of course this came as a shock to those who had a lot of ager publicus under their control. They said it wasn't fair that they had to give away their land, land they had maintained and in some cases built upon. There were also some persons who complained they gave pieces of land as a dowry, so their daughters would be without income in case of a divorce. To appease all of these critics Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus put in the law that there would be a compensation for those who had to give away a lot of land. After all of the people who had formerly had land in their possession had gotten their 500, 750 or 1000 jugera, a special commission was to decide who got the rest of the land. The first ones to become members of the commission were Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, his brother Gaius Sempronius Gracchus and his father in law Appius Claudius Pulcher.
The senate was not amused, to say the least, and made it clear that they would prosecute Tiberius as son as his terms of tribune ended, which meant he would lose his immunity for the law. Tiberius encouraged everyone against him to come and break into his house at night, and did this clearly, so the next night, half of all the roman plebeians were sleeping in front of his house. The same thing happened in the assembly were he was protected from attacks by the plebeians. When senator Fulvius Flaccus approached Tiberius to warn him, the plebeians initially surrounded Tiberius. But he sent them away and learned from Flaccus that the senate had sent out a band of hired gladiators and armed slaves in order to hunt him down. When the plebeians heard this, the ran out, towards the curia where the senate was meeting. Inside a small battle followed in which Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was beaten to death with remains of a destructed chair.
The Motives for Their Actions
What the motives where for Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus actions is uncertain. Cicero says he wanted to make the senate angry, because they hadn't given him total liberty in the peace negotiations in Hispania. This is not very likely because he initially had the support of some of the most powerful senators. Ploutarchos and Sallustius on the other hand say that he did all of it because he loved the people. They say he was influenced by his Greek teacher Diophanes and the Campanian philosopher Blossius. This again is not very likely, Tiberius himself was from a very rich family and if he loved the people this much, he probably would have done something to help them all at once. The most reasonable explanation is that given by Appianus. Appianus says Tiberius wanted to give Rome more soldiers. Rome indeed was short on people who could afford their own equipment, as a result of a century of wars versus Carthago and in the east, and the process of urbanisation. By giving people who lived packed together in the insulae of Rome some land, they could afford for their own military equipment, so they could join the army.
Gaius Sempronius Gracchus
Gaius Sempronius Gracchus had been in his brothers shadow until his death in the fight in the curia. Although 15 years younger, he surpassed him politically and in the field of rethorics. He first came into the picture when members were needed for the commission for redistribution of land. Gaius wanted to break the power of the senate because they had killed his brother. In order to do this he wrote a law that stated that there was to be a new class of plutocratic citizens, the equites or knights. Only people who could maintain a horse could become members of this ordo equester, which meant they had to have an annual income of 400,000 sestertii regardless of family or social class. The equites would be judges in the courts where the senators had been judging before. There were also a lot of equites that became publicani, tax collectors that paid the state a set amount of money for the right to collect taxes in the provinces.
Another important law Gaius is known for is the lex frumentaria, which made certain that roman citizens would couldn't afford to buy wheat from commercial traders, would get wheat at a decent price from the state. Gaius then tried to pass a law that would make sure Carthago would be colonised by plebeians from Rome, but the senate sabotaged this plan and he had to flee. On the run he made on of his slaves kill him because he didn't want the senators to have the pleasure to have killed him.
The reforms of the Gracchi didn't have any real longterm results, but they set the stage for the battle between the populares, who wanted power for the people and the optimates who wanted the senate to be the most powerful institution.
Gaius Marius came to Rome as a young man to try to get a career in politics. But he ended up in the army. In the Numidian War of 109BC he fought against Jugurtha under Quintus Caecilius Metellus. He was far better in strategy and tactics than his commander. When he returned to Rome in 108BC he was chosen consul. The people gave him the supreme command in the Jugurthan war, the new war against Jugurtha who had violated the treaty with the Romans. Jugurtha and his father in law Bocchus were defeated at Cirta in 107BC.
When he returned to Rome, he was chosen consul for a second time, which was very illegal. But two tribes of Germans were pounding at the doors of Italy, so the Romans had no choice. Because it took the Cimbri and Teutones some time to get to Italy, and he was elected every year again, Marius had the time to reform the army. Marius reformed the army because he didn't want Italy to be invaded again. He knew what Hannibal had done in Italy and saw himself how terrified everyone was because of the threat of the Germans.
In the Jugurthan war he had already made a start with his reforms. He recruited men who couldn't afford to buy their own equipment. Their weapons and armament would be paid for by the state. In later times, this would become the standard for all of the Roman Empire. Marius also forbid the use of donkeys or slaves to carry soldiers equipment, like rich soldiers had done before. To bind his veterans to him, he made the senate accept a law in which was stated that veterans would get a piece of land. This land was mostly in the newly conquered province, so if there were any uprising, there would be Roman soldiers available and willing to fight. This was also the begin of the romanisation of the frontier provinces, as the soldiers brought Roman customs and language with them.
When the Teutons arrived in Southern Gaul they were quickly defeated by Marius at Aquae Sextiae (Aix-en-Provence). After that he raced to Vercellae (Vercelli) were proconsul Quintus Lutatius Catulus was being threatened by the Cimbres lead by the Gaul Boiorix. These Cimbres were defeated in 101BC.
He returned to Rome in 100BC and became consul for the sixth time. The populares thought Marius would be able to crush the senate like he had crushed the Germans, but that turned out to be not quite the way the imagined. The people started to hate him, because whenever they started a riot, he put an end to their actions with military strictness. The equites, the new social rank, between the senate and the people, wanted good things from both sides and even the Italic allies rebelled, they wanted Roman civil rights. The senate saw this all and was nowhere near worried.
Left to right: Marius, Sulla, Mithridates
After a short war the senate agreed to give the allies civil rights, but mainly because of a new threat in the East. Mithridates of Pontos had invaded the Roman province of Asia and killed 80,000 Romans in only one night, to show his intentions. Rome had to strike back, so the senate gave Sulla the supreme command. The popular assembly wanted Marius for the job. Sulla acted fast. He marched on Rome, threw Marius out of the city, and was already in Greece in 87BC, before anyone had expected. He defeated Mithridates twice and dictated a reasonable peace in 84BC. And quickly went back to Rome. But Marius had returned to Rome while Sulla was in Greece, and prosecuted all of Sulla's supporters but he died in 86BC
[Map of the Republic c. 86 BC]
After Sulla had restored the senate's power and died, the senate felt safe. The senate in Rome however wasn't the only senate there was. A strange man in Hispania, Quintus Sertorius, a supporter of Marius, led an alternative senate from his capitol Saguntum. In 77BC the senate sent out a young general to subdue his forces, Gnaeus Pompeius (later named Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus). He couldn't end his campaign until 72BC when Sertorius was killed. When Pompeius returned to Italy, the remains of Spartacus' slave army, which had been defeated by Marcus Licinius Crassus, and dealt with them easily.
At the same time the great rethorian Cicero was consul. The noble but poor Lucius Sergius Catilina wanted to become consul. He was defeated two times, and wanted revenge. He planned a coupe for the 27th of October, his plan was to kill Cicero and march on Rome. Cicero found out and Catilina was forced to flee to Etruria, where he was killed in 62BC.
When in 62BC Pompeius returned in Rome, a new magistrate, Gaius Julius Caesar had influenced popular opinion so Pompeius wouldn't get land for his veterans. Caesar and Pompeius both had something the other had and they wanted. Caesar had support from the people and Pompeius had been a politician since a long time and had the support of many of the senators. Caesar threw money around like it was nothing. Some sources say he had 825,000,000 gold talents (825,000,000 x about 27 kilograms = 22,275,000,000 kilograms of gold) debt by the time he reached the age of thirty. Together with the rich Crassus, who wanted to buy power, the made the first Triumvirate.
Caesar became consul in 59BC. He made the senate give Pompeius' veterans their land. The provinces he would be proconsul of were to be Gallia Cisalpina and Gallia Narbonensis. The conquest of Gallia Transalpina had been a goal set out by the populares for a long time. Coincidentally this fell in line with Caesar's personal goals. Step by step he conquered all of Gallia, up to the Rhine. He even crossed the straits of Dover twice. His 'invasions' of Britannia weren't really invasions and they had no permanent effect, but they impressed the people in Rome greatly. So did his crossings of the Rhine with bridges. To justify what he was doing and to give information about his actions he wrote his 'commentarii de bello gallico' works of great propaganda. In the war in Gallia his army became well trained and bound to him personally.
In 56BC the Triumvirate was renewed in Luca in Northern Etruria. Pompeius and Crassus were to become consuls in 55BC and after that become proconsul. Pompeius would get Hispania as a proconsul, Crassus would have Syria. In 54BC Crassus left for the east. The province was being harassed by the Parthians who were great archers and horsemen. Crassus went deeper and deeper into the desert, surrounded by horsemen, who would fire their arrows while riding backwards. At Carrhae his army was butchered and Crassus died.
This ended the Triumvirate. Pompeius was very scared, and not without a reason. If Caesar would stay in Gallia, he would be dangerous because he had an army, if he would come to Rome it would be to win the elections and no one would be safe. But Caesar wanted to stay in Gallia and be elected consul 'in absentia'. This means he wouldn't actually have to be in Rome to become consul. But because Pompeius didn't support him in this, Caesar had to disband his armies and come back to Rome to be elected consul. To get to Rome he had to cross the river Rubico. When he did this, he spoke the legendary words "Alea iacta est". The dice has been thrown. The dice had indeed been thrown and had fallen great for Caesar.
Pompeius and the senate fled to Thessalia in Greece where Pompeius amassed an army. Caesar had things to take care of first in Rome. He made sure everyone supported him and got rid of persons who didn't. Then he went to Hispania to kill of old soldiers Pompeius had left there. And then in the winter of 49 he crossed to Illyricum when no on expected it. Pompeius was defeated at Pharsalos and fled to Egypt. He was killed by the 15 year old king Ptolemaios XIII who wanted Caesar to like him. Caesar went after his enemy and when the Egyptian king showed him the head of his opponent Caesar wept because of the lack of honour Pompeius had been treated with.
Caesar was more pleased with Ptolemaios'sister Cleopatra VII. After a battle between Cleopatra and Ptolemaios that revolved mainly around the palace in Alexandria he placed Cleopatra on the throne. Quickly Caesar left Egypt to defeat Pharnakes, the son of Mithridates of Pontos, at Zela. He came back to Rome so fast that he's said to have said: "Veni, Vidi, Vici. I came, I saw, I won." After he was appointed dictator he set out for Africa where the last conservative republicans under Cato Uticensis were gathered. He defeated them in the battle of Thapsus and Cato threw himself into his sword.
On the Idus, the fifteenth day, of March, Gaius Julius Caesar was killed by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Iunius Brutus in front of the statue of Pompeius in a senatorial meeting. The senate had been restored. Or at least, that's what the conspirers thought.
Caesar's heritage was subject to dispute from the beginning. In his will he had appointed his nephew Gaius Octavius as his heir. This nephew took the new of Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. But Marcus Antonius Creticus, or Marcus Antonius also thought he had rightful claims to Caesars heritage. When Octavianus allied himself with the senate, and the senatorial forces beat Marcus Antonius, Octavianus found out he was just going to be a puppet played by the senate and allied himself with Marcus Antonius, and together with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus they formed the second Triumvirate.
Cicero and other nobles were executed because they were connected to the assassination of Caesar. In 42BC Octavianus and Marcus Antonius were strong enough to confront the murderers. Brutus and Cassius were butchered at Philippi and the empire was split up among the three men of the Triumvirate. Octavianus got the west, with Rome, Marcus Antonius got the east, with all of the other major cities, and Lepidus got only the African provinces.
In Egypt Marcus Antonius met Cleopatra. He divorced Octavia, the sister of Octavianus because of her. She played her game very well and made him follow her plan, make a new Hellenistic empire with Alexandria as capitol. When he started giving roman territories to Cleopatra, like parts of Syria and Cyprus the senate decided to 'relieve him of his duties for Rome'. Octavianus had to conquer Egypt. The decisive battle was fought soon, at Action, or in latin Actium. It's rather remarkable that Marcus Antonius decided to fight at sea, knowing that his legionnaires were far better and also knowing that he could never beat Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, Octavianus' admiral.
In 29BC Octavianus returned to Rome, victorious. In fact he only had been tribune, but he soon stepped down from any functions. He restored the republic, but in fact he was still in power. Egypt was his personal domain and he also got Syria, Hispania and Gallia as his personal provinces. He was elected chosen consul very often, and got the title of 'princeps', formerly the title of the first senator on the list of members. In 27BC He got the title of Augustus, the name we know him under.
>>Map of the Rome: 25 BC
Augustus and the Consolidation of the Empire
In 9BC Nero Claudius Drusus, a brother of the later emperor Tiberius, died after falling from his horse. He had been trying to move the northern border of the empire towards the Elbe instead of the Rhine. After his death the Germans were rebelling again. Publius Quinctilius Varus was sent out to end the uprising. After a period of bad weather Arminius also known as Herman, king of the Cheruscans lured Varus into the Teutoburger forest and only 2,000 of 30,000 Romans survived. After this the Romans stopped trying to make the Elbe border of the empire.
The borders were solidified, with the area between Rhine and Elbe evacuated, and Rome was going to get a long period of peace, the Pax Romana. The time had come for the empire to develop itself. Cities were founded at the borders, like Cologne, Xanten, Sebastopol, Augsburg and Coblenz. Augustus wasn't very lucky in his family life. He did not get a son, but his third wife, Livia, brought him stepsons. He adopted one of them, Tiberius Claudius Nero, the emperor Tiberius. Augustus himself died in 14 AD.