Gracchi - Gracchi Reforms - Efforts of Gaius Gracchus

Efforts of Gaius Gracchus

Ten years later, in 123 BC, Gaius took the same office as his brother, as a tribune for the plebeians. Gaius was more practical minded than Tiberius, and so was considered more dangerous by the patricians. He gained support from the agrarian poor by reviving the land reform programme and from the urban plebeians with various popular measures. He also sought support from the second estate, those equestrians who had not ascended to become senators.

Many equestrians were publicans, in charge of tax-collecting in Asia and of contracting for construction projects. The equestrian class would get to control a court that tried senators for misconduct in provincial administration. In effect, the equestrians replaced senators already serving at the court. Thus, Gaius became an opponent of senatorial influence. Other reforms implemented by Gaius included fixing prices on grain for the urban population and granting improvements in citizenship for Latins and others outside the city of Rome.

With this broad coalition of supporters, Gaius held his office for two years and had much of his prepared legislation passed. This included winning an unconstitutional re-election to the one year office of Tribune. However Gaius's plans to extend rights to non-Roman Italians were eventually vetoed by another Tribune. A substantial proportion of the plebeians, jealous of their privileged Roman citizenship, turned against Gaius. With Gaius's support from the people weakened, the consul Lucius Opimius was able to crush the Gracchan movement by force – Gaius lost his life and about 3000 of his supporters died in the fighting or in emergency execution shortly afterwards.

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