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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
VIII. THE GREAT AGE OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC, 264-31 B.C.
» Contents of this ChapterPage 17
DEFECTS OF THE AGRARIAN LAW
This agrarian law, though well intentioned, did not go to the root of the real difficulty—foreign competition. No legislation could have helped the farming class, except import duties to keep out the cheap grain from abroad. But the idle mob at Rome, controlling the assemblies, would never have voted in favor of taxing their food, thus making it more expensive. At the same time the proposal to take away part of the public domains from its possessors roused a hornet's nest about the reformer's ears. Rich people had occupied the public land for so long that they had come to look upon it as really their own. They would be very sure to oppose such a measure. Poor people, of course, welcomed a scheme which promised to give them farms for nothing. Tiberius even wished to use the public funds to stock the farms of his new peasantry. This would have been a mischievous act of state philanthropy.
FAILURE AND DEATH OF TIBERIUS, 133 B.C.
In spite of these defects in his measure, Tiberius urged its passage with fiery eloquence. But the great landowners in the Senate got another tribune, devoted to their interests, to place his veto on the proposed legislation. The impatient Tiberius at once took a revolutionary step. Though a magistrate could not legally be removed from office, Tiberius had the offending tribune deposed and dragged from his seat. The law was then passed without further opposition. This action of Tiberius placed him clearly in the wrong. The aristocrats threatened to punish him as soon as his term of office was over. To avoid impeachment Tiberius sought reelection to the tribunate for the following year. This, again, was contrary to custom, since no one might hold office for two successive terms. On the day appointed for the election, while voting was in progress, a crowd of angry senators burst into the Forum and killed Tiberius, together with three hundred of his followers. Both sides had now begun to display an utter disregard for law. Force and bloodshed, henceforth, were to help decide political disputes.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy