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Lecture 10

Lecture 10 Populist Politics and the Gracchi

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Glenn Wilkinson

Lecture 10 (October 2) Populist Politics and he Gracchi 1. Populist Politics in the 2 ndcentury B.C. a. Introduction b. Scipio Africanus c. Scipio Aemilianus (unfortunately also called “Africanus”) d. Concluding Remarks 2. The Gracchi a. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (tribune 133 B.C.) b. Gaius Sempronius Gracchus (tribune 123-122 B.C.) 3. A new style of politics? Optimates an Populares Political Tools - heightened competition of political campaigning for high office - prosecutions for corruption as a new way to remove rivals - populist politics become a new way - say in public affairs in theory but in practice the populace had little control - sheer weight of public opinion (if focused) could be quite powerful however - during Second Punic Wars the Scipios became quite popular – that when they both died there was an outpouring of public support for Scipio Africanus to take over in Spain - no imperium however – but people voted to grant it to a young private citizen – Scipio was too young and not yet a magistrate - Scipio Aemilianus • example of Scipio Aemilianus – adopted grandson of Scipio Africanus • like other Scipios – extremely popular with the masses – in Third Punic War was elected consul in 147 B.C. despite not being eligible for office • unconstitutional election – opposed by everyone in the senate but they had to yield to public opinion • people also made sure that he was sent to Africa and ended the Third Punic War, and named the second “Africanus” – sacked city of Carthage • a few years later – 142 B.C. won the office of censor by popular support – also against the wishes of the senate but forced through by the people • once again became consul in 134 B.C. – senate again forced to yield to public opinion - elite began to realize that popular support was a new way to gain office - traditional Roman oligarchy did not work as well any more – senate no longer had a vice-like grip over the people - law passed that assembly voting had to be done by secret ballot – 139 B.C. – proposed by a tribune of the plebs and pushed through - senate on the whole was losing its grip on the political process The Gracchi - rise of populace politics creates the background for the Gracchi - two brothers – prominent in senatorial circles - on mother’s side – grandsons of Scipio Africanus - well educated –rhetoric – great powers of persuasion - older brother – Tiberius Gracchus was tribune in 133 B.C. - tribune power – could veto any legislation, right to propose legislation of their own, and could potentially draw on popular support - while in office as tribune – introduced land legislation – to break up large rural estates and distribute small parcels of land to poor landless citizens - problems was recruitment for the military – poor farmers forced off the land – could not serve in the military - reduce the income and influence of the rich elite who owned the vast amounts of land - potential release of social tensions in Rome – poor in the city of Rome - perhaps reduce the slave unrest – giant popul
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