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Populist Politics and the Gracchi.docx

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Kevin Wilkinson

Populist Politics and the Gracchi Populist Politics in the 2nd Century BCE  Introduction o Prosecutions for political corruption became a popular way to rid oneself of political enemies o Popular opinion used as a political tool o During the second Punic war, the two Scipio brothers became popular in Rome because of their successful campaign in Spain.  So popular that when they both died in 211, there was a out cry of popular support for Scipio Africanus to take their place  Scipio Africanus o Wasn't yet a magistrate, thus shouldn't have been allowed to command a roman army o Because of the popularity of his father and uncle, the people voted to grant imperium to a young citizen  Scipio Aemilianus (unfortunately also called "Africanus") o Was a prominent senator who won the third Macedonian war o Was the adoptive grandson of Scipio Africanus o Extremely popular with the masses o During the third Punic war, he was elected consul in 147, despite having the experience needed for office - unconstitutional election o His election was opposed in the senate, but had to yield to the public o Sent to Africa, and destroyed the city of Carthage o In 142, used popular support to win the office of censor  Also against the wishes of the senate o In 134, he became consul for the second time. - only allowed to hold it once  Concluding Remarks o If one could mobilize mass support, then there was no need to build alliances with other senators o The senate couldn't do anything about it if the masses demanded that a certain man be put into power o The senate no longer had a firm grip on voting, legislation and policy o Around this time, in 139 a law was passed that required voting in the assemblies be done by secret ballot  Meant that people could vote their conscience without the fear of intimidation The Gracchi  Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (tribune 133 BCE) o Was elected tribune of the plebs in 133 BCE o Introduced land legislation that was proved to be controversial  Break up large estates to give to landless and poor citizens  Land was needed for one to enlist in the roman army  Proposed during the first slave revolt o Vast majority of generals angry - it was mostly their land that was being confiscated and split o Motives:  Either a way to increase his own power and authority
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