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Lecture 10

Lecture 10: Populist Politics and the Gracchi

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Glenn Wilkinson

Populist Politics and the Gracchi Populist Politics in the 2 nd century BCE  Introduction o Populist politics was the use of public opinion as a political tool o Although the senate held most of the power, the power of popularity over citizens could override even regular Roman republican constitution  Scipio Africanus o The two Scipio brothers were popular from their campaign in Spain during the Punic War o When they died, one of their sons Scipio (later Africanus) also shared this popularity o Citizens voted for Scipio to have imperium even though he had held no office no did he meet the age, thereby bypassing regular rules through popular opinion  Scipio Aemilianus o Son of a senator who helped win the third Macedonian war o Was adopted into the Scipio family and was popular o He was elected consul through his popularity in 147 during the Third Punic War o This was unconstitutional, he did not meet the requirements and was opposed by the senate but popular opinion allowed it o In 142, Scipio won the office of censor through popular support, this again was opposed by the senate o In 137, another unconstitutional election happened when Scipio was elected consul for the second time, again with opposition from the senate yet they had no power to stop it  Concluding Remarks o The senate realized that popularity was extremely powerful in the political arena o In 139, a secret ballot vote law was made, meaning that the people could vote fearlessly without fear of intimidation from aristocrats o This law was opposed by the senate (being aristocrats themselves) but nonetheless it still passed The Gracchi  The Gracchi were a prominent grandsons of Scipio Africanus and were powerful persuaders  Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus o Elected tribune in 133, during this time Tiberius introduced land legislation that broke up large rural estates and gave that land to landless poor Romans, this ended up being extremely controversial o This legislation could be seen as a response to the First Slave Revolt, as it increased citizens and decreased slaves who worked such estates o A majority of senators disliked this legislation as they were the peo
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