This is Google's cache of
Google's cache is the snapshot that we took of the page as we crawled the web.
The page may have changed since that time. Click here for the current page without highlighting.

Google is not affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its content.

Provided by The Internet Classics Archive.
See bottom for copyright. Available online at

Tiberius Gracchus
By Plutarch

(legendary, died 133 B.C.E.)

Translated by John Dryden

Having completed the first two narratives, we now may proceed to
take a view of misfortunes, not less remarkable, in the Roman couple,
and with the lives of Agis and Cleomenes, compare these of Tiberius
and Caius. They were the sons of Tiberius Gracchus, who though he
had been once censor, twice consul, and twice had triumphed, yet was
more renowned and esteemed for his virtue than his honours. Upon this
account, after the death of Scipio who overthrew Hannibal, he was
thought worthy to match with his daughter Cornelia, though there had
been no friendship or familiarity between Scipio and him, but rather
the contrary. There is a story told that he once found in his bed-chamber
a couple of snakes, and that the soothsayers, being consulted concerning
the prodigy, advised that he should neither kill them both nor let
them both escape; adding, that if the male serpent was killed, Tiberius
should die, and if the female, Cornelia. And that therefore Tiberius,
who extremely loved his wife, and thought, besides, that it was much
more his part, who was an old man, to die, than it was hers, who as
yet was but a young woman, killed the male serpent, and let the female
escape; and soon after himself died, leaving behind him twelve children
borne to him by Cornelia. 

Cornelia, taking upon herself all the care of the household and the
education of her children, approved herself so discreet a matron,
so affectionate a mother, and so constant and noble-spirited a widow,
that Tiberius seemed to all men to have done nothing unreasonable
in choosing to die for such a woman; who, when King Ptolemy himself
proffered her his crown, and would have married her, refused it, and
chose rather to live a widow. In this state she continued, and lost
all her children, except one daughter, who was married to Scipio the
younger, and two sons, Tiberius and Caius, whose lives we are now

These she brought up with such care, that though they were without
dispute in natural endowments and dispositions the first among the
Romans of their time, yet they seemed to owe their virtues even more
to their education than to their birth. And as, in the statues and
pictures made of Castor and Pollux, though the brothers resemble one
another, yet there is a difference to be perceived in their countenances,
between the one, who delighted in the cestus, and the other, that
was famous in the course, so between these two noble youths, though
there was a strong general likeness in their common love of fortitude
and temperance, in their liberality, their eloquence, and their greatness
of mind, yet in their actions and administrations of public affairs,
a considerable variation showed itself. It will not be amiss before
we proceed to mark the difference between them. 

Tiberius, in the form and expression of his countenance, and in his
gesture and motion, was gentle and composed; but Caius, earnest and
vehement. And so in their public speeches to the people, the one spoke
in a quiet, orderly manner, standing throughout on the same spot;
the other would walk about on the hustings, and in the heat of his
orations pull his gown off his shoulders, and was the first of all
the Romans that used such gestures; as Cleon is said to have been
the first orator among the Athenians that pulled off his cloak and
smote his thigh, when addressing the people. Caius's oratory was impetuous
and passionate, making everything tell to the utmost, whereas Tiberius
was gentle and persuasive, awakening emotions of pity. His diction
was pure and carefully correct, while that of Caius was vehement and
rich. So likewise in their way of living and at their tables, Tiberius
was frugal and plain, Caius, compared with other men, temperate and
even austere, but contrasting with his brother in a fondness for new
fashions and rarities, as appears in Drusus's charge against him,
that he had bought some silver dolphins, to the value of twelve hundred
and fifty drachmas for every pound weight. 

The same difference that appeared in their diction was observable
also in their tempers. The one was mild and reasonable, the other
rough and passionate, and to that degree, that often, in the midst
of speaking, he was so hurried away by his passion against his judgment,
that his voice lost its tone, and he began to pass into mere abusive
talking, spoiling his whole speech. As a remedy to this excess, he
made use of an ingenious servant of his, one Licinius, who stood constantly
behind him with a sort of pitch-pipe, or instrument to regulate the
voice by, and whenever he perceived his master's tone alter and break
with anger, he struck a soft note with his pipe, on hearing which
Caius immediately checked the vehemence of his passion, and his voice,
grew quieter, and allowed himself to be recalled to temper. Such are
the differences between the two brothers; but their valour in war
against their country's enemies, their justice in the government of
its subjects, their care and industry in office, and their self-command
in all that regarded their pleasures, were equally remarkable in both.

Tiberius was the elder by nine years; owing to which their actions
as public men were divided by the difference of the times in which
those of the one and those of the other were performed. And one of
the principal causes of the failure of their enterprises was this
interval between their careers, and the want of combination of their
efforts. The power they would have exercised, had they flourished
both together, could scarcely have failed to overcome all resistance.
We must therefore give an account of each of them singly, and first
of the eldest. 

Tiberius, immediately on his attaining manhood, had such a reputation
that he was admitted into the college of the augurs, and that in consideration
more of his early virtue than of his noble birth. This appeared by
what Appius Claudius did, who, though he had been consul and censor,
and was now the head of the Roman senate, and had the highest sense
of his own place and merit, at a public feast of the augurs, addressed
himself openly to Tiberius, and with great expressions of kindness,
offered him his daughter in marriage. And when Tiberius gladly accepted,
and the agreement had thus been completed, Appius returning home,
no sooner had reached his door, but he called to his wife and cried
out in a loud voice, "O Antistia, I have contracted our daughter Claudia
to a husband." She, being amazed, answered, "But why so suddenly,
or what means this haste? Unless you have provided Tiberius Gracchus
for her husband." I am not ignorant that some apply this story to
Tiberius, the father of the Gracchi, and Scipio Africanus; but most
relate it as we have done. And Polybius writes, that after the death
of Scipio Africanus, the nearest relations of Cornelia, preferring
Tiberius to all other competitors, gave her to him in marriage, not
having been engaged or promised to any one by her father.

This young Tiberius, accordingly, serving in Africa under the younger
Scipio, who had married his sister, and living there under the same
tent with him, soon learned to estimate the noble spirit of his commander,
which was so fit to inspire strong feelings of emulation in virtue
and desire to prove merit in action, and in a short time he excelled
all the young men of the army in obedience and courage; and he was
the first that mounted the enemy's wall, as Fannius says, who writes
that he himself climbed up with him, and was partaker in the achievement.
He was regarded, while he continued with the army, with great affection;
and left behind him on his departure a strong desire for his return.

After that expedition, being chosen paymaster, it was his fortune
to serve in the war against the Numantines, under the command of Caius
Mancinus, the consul, a person of no bad character, but the most unfortunate
of all the Roman generals. Notwithstanding, amidst the greatest misfortunes,
and in the most unsuccessful enterprises, not only the discretion
and valour of Tiberius, but also, which was still more to be admired,
the great respect and honour which he showed for his general, were
most eminently remarkable; though the general himself, when reduced
in straits, forgot his own dignity and office. For being beaten in
various great battles, he endeavoured to dislodge by night and leave
his camp; which the Numantines perceiving, immediately possessed themselves
of his camp, and pursuing that part of the forces which was in flight,
slew those that were in the rear, hedged the whole army in on every
side, and forced them into difficult ground, whence there could be
no possibility of an escape. Mancinus, despairing to make his way
through by force, sent a messenger to desire a truce and conditions
of peace. But they refused to give their confidence to any one except
Tiberius, and required that he should be sent to treat with them.
This was not only in regard to the young man's own character, for
he had a great reputation amongst the soldiers, but also in remembrance
of his father Tiberius, who, in his command against the Spaniards,
had reduced great numbers of them to subjection, but granted a peace
to the Numantines, and prevailed upon the Romans to keep it punctually
and inviolably. 

Tiberius was accordingly despatched to the enemy, whom he persuaded
to accept of several conditions, and he himself complied with others;
and by this means, it is beyond a question, that he saved twenty thousand
of the Roman citizens, besides attendants and camp followers. However,
the Numantines retained possession of all the property they had found
and plundered in the encampment; and amongst other things were Tiberius's
books of accounts, containing the whole transactions of his quaestorship,
which he was extremely anxious to recover. And therefore, when the
army were already upon their march, he returned to Numantia, accompanied
with only three or four of his friends; and making his application
to the officers of the Numantines, he entreated that they would return
him his books, lest his enemies should have it in their power to reproach
him with not being able to give an account of the moneys intrusted
to him. The Numantines joyfully embraced this opportunity of obliging
him, and invited him into the city; as he stood hesitating, they came
up and took him by the hands, and begged that he would no longer look
upon them as enemies, but believe them to be his friends, and treat
them as such. Tiberius thought it well to consent, desirous as he
was to have his books returned, and was afraid lest he should disoblige
them by showing any distrust. As soon as he entered into the city,
they first offered him food, and made every kind of entreaty that
he would sit down and eat something in their company. Afterwards they
returned his books, and gave him the liberty to take whatever he wished
for in the remaining spoils. He, on the other hand, would accept of
nothing but some frankincense, which he used in his public sacrifices,
and bidding them farewell with every expression of kindness, departed.

When he returned to Rome, he found the whole transaction censured
and reproached, as a proceeding that was base and scandalous to the
Romans. But the relations and friends of the soldiers, forming a large
body among the people, came flocking to Tiberius, whom they acknowledged
as the preserver of so many citizens, imputing to the general all
the miscarriages which had happened. Those who cried out against what
had been done, urged for imitation the example of their ancestors,
who stripped and handed over to the Samnites not only the generals
who had consented to the terms of release, but also all the quaestors,
for example, and tribunes, who had in any way implicated themselves
in the agreement, laying the guilt of perjury and breach of conditions
on their heads. But, in this all the populace, showing an extraordinary
kindness and affection for Tiberius, indeed voted that the consul
should be stripped and put in irons, and so delivered to the Numantines;
but, for the sake of Tiberius, spared all the other officers. It may
be probable, also, that Scipio, who at that time was the greatest
and most powerful man among the Romans, contributed to save him, though
indeed he was also censured for not protecting Mancinus too, and that
he did not exert himself to maintain the observance of the articles
of peace which had been agreed upon by his kinsman and friend Tiberius.
But it may be presumed that the difference between them was for the
most part due to ambitious feelings, and to the friends and reasoners
who urged on Tiberius, and, as it was, it never amounted to anything
that might not have been remedied, or that was really bad. Nor can
I think that Tiberius would ever have met with his misfortunes, if
Scipio had been concerned in dealing with his measures; but he was
away fighting at Numantia when Tiberius, upon the following occasion,
first came forward as a legislator. 

Of the land which the Romans gained by conquest from their neighbours,
part they sold publicly, and turned the remainder into common; this
common land they assigned to such of the citizens as were poor and
indigent, for which they were to pay only a small acknowledgment into
the public treasury. But when the wealthy men began to offer larger
rents, and drive the poorer people out, it was enacted by law that
no person whatever should enjoy more than five hundred acres of ground.
This act for some time checked the avarice of the richer, and was
of great assistance to the poorer people, who retained under it their
respective proportions of ground, as they had been formerly rented
by them. Afterwards the rich men of the neighbourhood contrived to
get these lands again into their possession, under other people's
names, and at last would not stick to claim most of them publicly
in their own. The poor, who were thus deprived of their farms, were
no longer either ready, as they had formerly been, to serve in war
or careful in the education of their children; insomuch that in a
short time there were comparatively few freemen remaining in all Italy,
which swarmed with workhouses full of foreign-born slaves. These the
rich men employed in cultivating their ground of which they dispossessed
the citizens. Caius Laelius, the intimate friend of Scipio, undertook
to reform this abuse; but meeting with opposition from men of authority,
and fearing a disturbance, he soon desisted, and received the name
of the Wise or the Prudent, both which meanings belong to the Latin
word Sapiens. 

But Tiberius, being elected tribune of the people, entered upon that
design without delay, at the instigation, as is most commonly stated,
of Diophanes, the rhetorician, and Blossius, the philosopher. Diophanes
was a refugee from Mitylene, the other was an Italian, of the city
of Cuma, and was educated there under Antipater of Tarsus, who afterwards
did him the honour to dedicate some of his philosophical lectures
to him. 

Some have also charged Cornelia, the mother of Tiberius, with contributing
towards it, because she frequently upbraided her sons, that the Romans
as yet rather called her the daughter of Scipio, than the mother of
the Gracchi. Others again say that Spurius Postumius was the chief
occasion. He was a man of the same age with Tiberius, and his rival
for reputation as a public speaker; and when Tiberius, at his return
from the campaign, found him to have got far beyond him in fame and
influence, and to be much looked up to, he thought to outdo him, by
attempting a popular enterprise of this difficulty and of such great
consequence. But his brother Caius has left it us in writing, that
when Tiberius went through Tuscany to Numantia, and found the country
almost depopulated, there being hardly any free husbandmen or shepherds,
but for the most part only barbarian, imported slaves, he then first
conceived the course of policy which in the sequel proved so fatal
to his family. Though it is also most certain that the people themselves
chiefly excited his zeal and determination in the prosecution of it,
by setting up writings upon the porches, walls, and monuments, calling
upon him to reinstate the poor citizens in their former possessions.

However, he did not draw up his law without the advice and assistance
of those citizens that were then most eminent for their virtue and
authority; amongst whom were Crassus, the high-priest, Mucius Scaevola,
the lawyer, who at that time was consul, and Claudius Appius, his
father-in-law. Never did any law appear more moderate and gentle,
especially being enacted against such great oppression and avarice.
For they who ought to have been severely punished for trangressing
the former laws, and should at least have lost all their titles to
such lands which they had unjustly usurped, were notwithstanding to
receive a price for quitting their unlawful claims, and giving up
their lands to those fit owners who stood in need of help. But though
this reformation was managed with so much tenderness that, all the
former transactions being passed over, the people were only thankful
to prevent abuses of the like nature for the future, yet, on the other
hand, the moneyed men, and those of great estates, were exasperated,
through their covetous feelings against the law itself, and against
the lawgiver, through anger and party-spirit. They therefore endeavoured
to seduce the people, declaring that Tiberius was designing a general
redivision of lands, to overthrow the government, and cut all things
into confusion. 

But they had no success. For Tiberius, maintaining an honourable and
just cause, and possessed of eloquence sufficient to have made a less
creditable action appear plausible, was no safe or easy antagonist,
when, with the people crowding around the hustings, he took his place,
and spoke in behalf of the poor. "The savage beasts," said he, "in
Italy, have their particular dens, they have their places of repose
and refuge; but the men who bear arms, and expose their lives for
the safety of their country, enjoy in the meantime nothing more in
it but the air and light and, having no houses or settlements of their
own, are constrained to wander from place to place with their wives
and children." He told them that the commanders were guilty of a ridiculous
error, when, at the head of their armies, they exhorted the common
soldiers to fight for their sepulchres and altars; when not any amongst
so many Romans is possessed of either altar or monument, neither have
they any houses of their own, or hearths of their ancestors to defend.
They fought indeed and were slain, but it was to maintain the luxury
and the wealth of other men. They were styled the masters of the world,
but in the meantime had not one foot of ground which they could call
their own. An harangue of this nature, spoken to an enthusiastic and
sympathizing audience, by a person of commanding spirit and genuine
feelings, no adversaries at that time were competent to oppose. Forbearing,
therefore, all discussion and debate, they addressed themselves to
Marcus Octavius, his fellow-tribune, who being a young man of a steady,
orderly character, and an intimate friend of Tiberius, upon this account
declined at first the task of opposing him; but at length, over-persuaded
with the repeated importunities of numerous considerable persons,
he was prevailed upon to do so, and hindered the passing of the law;
it being the rule that any tribune has a power to hinder an act, and
that all the rest can effect nothing, if only one of them dissents.
Tiberius, irritated at these proceedings, presently laid aside this
milder bill, but at the same time preferred another; which, as it
was more grateful to the common people, so it was much more severe
against the wrongdoers, commanding them to make an immediate surrender
of all lands which, contrary to former laws, had come into their possession.
Hence there arose daily contentions between him and Octavius in their
orations. However, though they expressed themselves with the utmost
heat and determination, they yet were never known to descend to any
personal reproaches, or in their passion to let slip any indecent
expressions, so as to derogate from one another. 

For not alone- 

"In revellings and Bacchic play," but also in contentions and political
animosities, a noble nature and a temperate education stay and compose
the mind. Observing that Octavius himself was an offender against
this law, and detained a great quantity of ground from the commonalty,
Tiberius desired him to forbear opposing him any further, and proffered,
for the public good, though he himself had but an indifferent estate,
to pay a price for Octavius's share at his own cost and charges. But
upon the refusal of this proffer by Octavius, he then interposed an
edict, prohibiting all magistrates to exercise their respective functions,
till such time as the law was either ratified or rejected by public
votes. He further sealed up the gates of Saturn's temple, so that
the treasurers could neither take any money out from thence, nor put
any in. He threatened to impose a severe fine upon those of the praetors
who presumed to disobey his commands, insomuch that all the officers,
for fear of this penalty, intermitted the exercise of their several
jurisdictions. Upon this the rich proprietors put themselves into
mourning, and went up and down melancholy and dejected; they entered
also into a conspiracy against Tiberius, and procured men to murder
him; so that he also, with all men's knowledge, whenever he went abroad,
took with him a sword-staff, such as robbers use, called in Latin
a dolo. 

When the day appointed was come, and the people summoned to give their
votes, the rich men seized upon the voting urns and carried them away
by force; thus all things were in confusion. But when Tiberius's party
appeared strong enough to oppose the contrary faction, and drew together
in a body, with the resolution to do so, Manlius and Fulvius, two
of the consular quality, threw themselves before Tiberius, took him
by the hand, and, with tears in their eyes, begged of him to desist.
Tiberius, considering the mischiefs that were all but now occurring,
and having a great respect for two such eminent persons, demanded
of them what they would advise him to do. They acknowledged themselves
unfit to advise in a matter of so great importance, but earnestly
entreated him to leave it to the determination of the senate. But
when the senate assembled, and could not bring the business to any
result, through the prevalence of the rich faction, he then was driven
to a course neither legal nor fair, and proposed to deprive Octavius
of his tribuneship, it being impossible for him in any other way to
get the law brought to the vote. At first he addressed him publicly,
with entreaties couched in the kindest terms, and taking him by his
hands, besought him, that now, in the presence of all the people,
he would take this opportunity to oblige them, in granting only that
request which was in itself so just and reasonable, being but a small
recompense in regard of those many dangers and hardships which they
had undergone for the public safety. Octavius, however, would by no
means be persuaded to compliance; upon which Tiberius declared openly,
that, seeing they two were united in the same office, and of equal
authority, it would be a difficult matter to compose their difference
on so weighty a matter without a civil war; and that the only remedy
which he knew must be the deposing one of them from their office.
He desired, therefore, that Octavius would summon the people to pass
their verdict upon him first, averring that he would willingly relinquish
his authority if the citizens desired it. Octavius refused; and Tiberius
then said he would himself put to the people the question of Octavius's
deposition, if upon mature deliberation he did not alter his mind
and after this declaration he adjourned the assembly till the next

When the people were met together again, Tiberius placed himself in
the rostra, and endeavoured a second time to persuade Octavius. But
all being to no purpose, he referred the whole matter to the people,
calling on them to vote at once, whether Octavius should be deposed
or not; and when seventeen of the thirty-five tribes had already voted
against him, and there wanted only the votes of one tribe more for
his final deprivation, Tiberius put a short stop to the proceedings,
and once more renewed his importunities; he embraced and kissed him
before all the assembly, begging with all the earnestness imaginable,
that he would neither suffer himself to incur the dishonour, nor him
to be reputed the author and promoter of so odious a measure. Octavius,
we are told, did seem a little softened and moved with these entreaties;
his eyes filled with tears, and he continued silent for a considerable
time. But presently looking towards the rich men and proprietors of
estates, who stood gathered in a body together, partly for shame,
and partly for fear of disgracing himself with them, he boldly bade
Tiberius use any severity he pleased. The law for his deprivation
being thus voted, Tiberius ordered one of his servants, whom he had
made a freeman, to remove Octavius from the rostra, employing his
own domestic freed servants in the stead of the public officers. And
it made the action seem all the sadder, that Octavius was dragged
out in such an ignominious manner. The people immediately assaulted
him, whilst the rich men ran in to his assistance. Octavius, with
some difficulty, was snatched away and safely conveyed out of the
crowd; though a trusty servant of his, who had placed himself in front
of his master that he might assist his escape, in keeping off the
multitude, had his eyes struck out, much to the displeasure of Tiberius,
who ran with all haste, when he perceived the disturbance, to appease
the rioters. 

This being done, the law concerning the lands was ratified and confirmed,
and three commissioners were appointed, to make a survey of the grounds,
and see the same equally divided. These were Tiberius himself, Claudius
Appius, his father-in-law and his brother, Caius Gracchus, who at
this time was not at Rome, but in the army under the command of Scipio
Africanus before Numantia. These things were transacted by Tiberius
without any disturbance, none daring to offer any resistance to him;
besides which, he gave the appointment as tribune in Octavius's place,
not to any person of distinction, but to a certain Mucius, one of
his own clients. The great men of the city were therefore utterly
offended, and, fearing lest he grew yet more popular, they took all
opportunities of affronting him publicly in the senate-house. For
when he requested, as was usual, to have a tent provided at the public
charge for his use, while dividing the lands, though it was a favour
commonly granted to persons employed in business of much less importance,
it was peremptorily refused to him; and the allowance made him for
his daily expenses was fixed to nine obols only. The chief promoter
of these affronts was Publius Nasica, who openly abandoned himself
to his feelings of hatred against Tiberius, being a large holder of
the public lands, and not a little resenting now to be turned out
of them by force. The people, on the other hand, were still more and
more excited, insomuch that a little after this, it happening that
one of Tiberius's friends died suddenly, and his body being marked
with malignant-looking spots, they ran, in a tumultuous manner, to
his funeral, crying aloud that the man was poisoned. They took the
bier upon their shoulders, and stood over it, while it was placed
on the pile, and really seemed to have fair grounds for their suspicion
of foul play. For the body burst open, and such a quantity of corrupt
humours issued out, that the funeral fire was extinguished, and when
it was again kindled, the wood still would not burn; insomuch that
they were constrained to carry the corpse to another place, where
with much difficulty it took fire. Besides this, Tiberius, that he
might incense the people yet more, put himself into mourning, brought
his children amongst the crowd, and entreated the people to provide
for them and their mother, as if he now despaired of his own security.

About this time king Attalus, surnamed Philometor, died, and Eudemus,
a Pergamenian, brought his last will to Rome, by which he had made
the Roman people his heirs. Tiberius, to please the people, immediately
proposed making a law, that all the money which Attalus left should
be distributed amongst such poor citizens as were to be sharers of
the public lands, for the better enabling them to proceed in stocking
and cultivating their ground; and as for the cities that were in the
territories of Attalus, he declared that the disposal of them did
not at all belong to the senate, but to the people, and that he himself
would ask their pleasure herein. By this he offended the senate more
than ever he had done before, and Pompeius stood up and acquainted
them that he was the next neighbour to Tiberius, and so had the opportunity
of knowing that Eudemus, the Pergamenian, had presented Tiberius with
a royal diadem and a purple robe, as before long he was to be king
of Rome. Quintus Metellus also upbraided him, saying, that when his
father was censor, the Romans, whenever he happened to be going home
from a supper, used to put out all their lights, lest they should
be seen to have indulged themselves in feasting and drinking at unseasonable
hours, whereas now the most indigent and audacious of the people were
found with their torches at night, following Tiberius home. Titus
Annius, a man of no great repute for either justice or temperance,
but famous for his skill in putting and answering questions, challenged
Tiberius to the proof by wager, declaring him to have deposed a magistrate
who by law was sacred and inviolable. Loud clamour ensued, and Tiberius,
quitting the senate hastily, called together the people, and summoning
Annius to appear, was proceeding to accuse him. But Annius, being
no great speaker, nor of any repute compared to him, sheltered himself
in his own particular art, and desired that he might propose one or
two questions to Tiberius before he entered upon the chief argument.
This liberty being granted, and silence proclaimed, Annius proposed
his question. "If you," said he, "had a design to disgrace and defame
me, and I should apply myself to one of your colleagues for redress,
and he should come forward to my assistance, would you for that reason
fall into a passion, and depose him?" Tiberius, they say, was so much
disconcerted at this question, that, though at other times his assurance
as his readiness of speech was always remarkable, yet now he was silent
and made no reply. 

For the present he dismissed the assembly. But beginning to understand
that the course he had taken with Octavius had created offence even
among the populace as well as the nobility, because the dignity of
the tribunes seemed to be violated, which had always continued till
that day sacred and honourable, he made a speech to the people in
justification of himself; out of which it may not be improper to collect
some particulars, to give an impression of his force and persuasiveness
in speaking. "A tribune," he said, "of the people, is sacred indeed,
and ought to be inviolable, because in a manner consecrated to be
the guardian and protector of them; but if he degenerate so far as
to oppress the people, abridge their powers, and take away their liberty
of voting, he stands deprived by his own act of honours and immunities,
by the neglect of the duty for which the honour was bestowed upon
him. Otherwise we should be under the obligation to let a tribune
do this pleasure, though he should proceed to destroy the capitol
or set fire to the arsenal. He who should make these attempts would
be a bad tribune. He who assails the power of the people is no longer
a tribune at all. Is it not inconceivable that a tribune should have
power to imprison a consul, and the people have no authority to degrade
him when he uses that honour which he received from them, to their
detriment? For the tribunes, as well as the consuls, hold office by
the people's votes. The kingly government, which comprehends all sorts
of authority in itself alone, is moreover elevated by the greatest
and most religious solemnity imaginable into a condition of sanctity.
But the citizens, notwithstanding this, deposed Tarquin, when he acted
wrongfully; and for the crime of one single man, the ancient government
under which Rome was built was abolished for ever. What is there in
all Rome so sacred and venerable as the vestal virgins, to whose care
alone the preservation of the eternal fire is committed? yet if one
of these transgress she is buried alive; the sanctity which for the
gods' sakes is allowed them, is forfeited when they offend against
the gods. So likewise a tribune retains not his inviolability, which
for the people's sake was accorded to him, when he offends against
the people, and attacks the foundations of that authority from whence
he derived his own. We esteem him to be legally chosen tribune who
is elected only by the majority of votes; and is not therefore the
same person much more lawfully degraded when, by a general consent
of them all, they agreed to depose him? Nothing is so sacred as religious
offerings; yet the people were never prohibited to make use of them,
but suffered to remove and carry them wherever they pleased; so likewise,
as it were some sacred present, they have lawful power to transfer
the tribuneship from one man's hands to another's. Nor can that authority
be thought inviolable and irremovable which many of those who have
held it, have of their own act surrendered and desired to be discharged

These were the principal heads of Tiberius's apology. But his friends,
apprehending the dangers which seemed to threaten him, and the conspiracy
that was gathering head against him, were of opinion that the safest
way would be for him to petition that he might be continued tribune
for the year ensuing. Upon this consideration he again endeavoured
to secure the people's good-will with fresh laws, making the years
of serving in the war fewer than formerly, granting liberty of appeal
from the judges to the people, and joining to the senators, who were
judges at that time, an equal number of citizens of the horsemen's
degree, endeavouring as much as in him lay to lessen the power of
the senate, rather from passion and partisanship than from any rational
regard to equity and the public good. And when it came to the question
whether these laws should be passed, and they perceived that the opposite
party were strongest, the people as yet being not got together in
a full body, they began first of all to gain time by speeches in accusation
of some of their fellow-magistrates and at length adjourned the assembly
till the day following. 

Tiberius then went down into the market-place amongst the people,
and made his addresses to them humbly and with tears in his eyes;
and told them he had just reason to suspect that his adversaries would
attempt in the night-time to break open his house and murder him.
This worked so strongly with the multitude, that several of them pitched
tents round about his house, and kept guard all night for the security
of his person. By break of day came one of the soothsayers, who prognosticate
good or bad success by the pecking of fowls, and threw them something
to eat. The soothsayer used his utmost endeavours to fright the fowls
out of their coop; but none of them except one would venture out,
which fluttered with his left wing, and stretched out its leg, and
ran back again into the coop, without eating anything. This put Tiberius
in mind of another ill-omen which had formerly happened to him. He
had a very costly headpiece, which he made use of when he engaged
in any battle, and into this piece of armour two serpents crawled,
laid eggs, and brought forth young ones. The remembrance of which
made Tiberius more concerned now than otherwise he would have been.
However, he went towards the capitol as soon as he understood that
the people were assembled there; but before he got out of the house
he stumbled upon the threshold with such violence, that he broke the
nail of his great toe, insomuch that blood gushed out of his shoes.
He was not gone very far before he saw two ravens fighting on the
top of a house which stood on his left hand as he passed along; and
though he was surrounded with a number of people, a stone struck from
its place by one of the ravens, fell just at his foot. This even the
boldest men about him felt as a check. But Blossius of Cuma, who was
present, told him that it would be a shame and an ignominious thing
for Tiberius, who was a son of Gracchus, the grandson of Scipio Africanus,
and the protector of the Roman people to refuse, for fear of a silly
bird, to answer when his countrymen called to him; and that his adversaries
would represent it not as a mere matter for their ridicule, but would
declaim about it to the people as the mark of a tyrannical temper,
which felt a pride in taking liberties with the people. At the same
time several messengers came also from his friends, to desire his
presence at the capitol, saying that all things went there according
to expectation. And indeed Tiberius's first entrance there was in
every way successful; as soon as ever he appeared, the people welcomed
him with loud acclamations, and as he went up to his place, they repeated
their expressions of joy, and gathered in a body around him, so that
no one who was not well known to be his friend might approach. Mucius
then began to put the business again to the vote; but nothing could
be performed in the usual course and order, because of the disturbance
caused by those who were on the outside of the crowd, where there
was a struggle going on with those of the opposite party, who were
pushing on and trying to force their way in and establish themselves
among them. 

Whilst things were in this confusion, Flavius Flaccus, a senator,
standing in a place where he could be seen, but at such a distance
from Tiberius that he could not make him hear, signified to him by
motions of his hand, that he wished to impart something of consequence
to him in private. Tiberius ordered the multitude to make way for
him, by which means, though not without some difficulty, Flavius got
to him, and informed him that the rich men, in a sitting of the senate,
seeing they could not prevail upon the consul to espouse their quarrel,
had come to a final determination amongst themselves that he should
be assassinated, and to that purpose had a great number of their friends
and servants ready armed to accomplish it. Tiberius no sooner communicated
this confederacy to those about him, but they immediately tucked up
their gowns, broke the halberts which the officers used to keep the
crowd off into pieces, and distributed them among themselves, resolving
to resist the attack with these. Those who stood at a distance wondered,
and asked what was the occasion; Tiberius, knowing that they could
not hear him at that distance, lifted his hand to his head wishing
to intimate the great danger which he apprehended himself to be in.
His adversaries, taking notice of that action, ran off at once to
the senate-house, and declared that Tiberius desired the people to
bestow a crown upon him, as if this were the meaning of his touching
his head. This news created general confusion in the senators, and
Nasica at once called upon the consul to punish this tyrant, and defend
the government. The consul mildly replied, that he would not be the
first to do any violence; and as he would not suffer any freeman to
be put to death, before sentence had lawfully passed upon him, so
neither would he allow any measure to be carried into effect, if by
persuasion or compulsion on the part of Tiberius the people had been
induced to pass an unlawful vote. But Nasica, rising from his seat,
"Since the consul," said he, "regards not the safety of the commonwealth,
let every one who will defend the laws, follow me." He then, casting
the skirt of his gown over his head, hastened to the capitol; those
who bore him company, wrapped their gowns also about their arms, and
forced their way after him. And as they were persons of the greatest
authority in the city, the common people did not venture to obstruct
their passing, but were rather so eager to clear the way for them,
that they tumbled over one another in haste. The attendants they brought
with them had furnished themselves with clubs and staves from their
houses, and they themselves picked up the feet and other fragments
of stools and chairs, which were broken by the hasty flight of the
common people. Thus armed, they made towards Tiberius, knocking down
those whom they found in front of him, and those were soon wholly
dispersed and many of them slain. Tiberius tried to save himself by
flight. As he was running, he was stopped by one who caught hold of
him by the gown; but he threw it off, and fled in his under-garment
only. And stumbling over those who before had been knocked down, as
he was endeavouring to get up again, Publius Satureius, a tribune,
one of his colleagues, was observed to give him the first fatal stroke,
by hitting him upon the head with the foot of a stool. The second
blow was claimed, as though it had been a deed to be proud of, by
Lucius Rufus. And of the rest there fell above three hundred killed
by clubs and staves only, none by an iron weapon. 

This, we are told, was the first sedition amongst the Romans, since
the abrogation of kingly government, that ended in the effusion of
blood. All former quarrels which were neither small nor about trivial
matters, were always amicably composed, by mutual concessions on either
side, the senate yielding for fear of the commons, and the commons
out of respect to the senate. And it is probable indeed that Tiberius
himself might then have been easily induced, by mere persuasion, to
give way, and certainly, if attacked at all, must have yielded without
any recourse to violence and bloodshed, as he had not at that time
above three thousand men to support him. But it is evident, that this
conspiracy was fomented against him, more out of the hatred and malice
which the rich men had to his person, than for the reasons which they
commonly pretended against him. In testimony of which we may adduce
the cruelty and unnatural insults which they used to his dead body.
For they would not suffer his own brother, though he earnestly begged
the favour, to bury him in the night, but threw him, together with
the other corpses, into the river. Neither did their animosity stop
here; for they banished some of his friends without legal process,
and slew as many of the others as they could lay their hands on; amongst
whom Diophanes, the orator, was slain, and one Caius Villius cruelly
murdered by being shut up in a large tun with vipers and serpents.
Blossius of Cuma, indeed, was carried before the consuls, and examined
touching what had happened, and freely confessed that he had done,
without scruple, whatever Tiberius bade him. "What," cried Nasica,
"then if Tiberius had bidden you burn the capitol, would you have
burnt it?" His first answer was, that Tiberius never would have ordered
any such thing; but being pressed with the same question by several,
he declared, "If Tiberius had commanded it, it would have been right
for me to do it; for he never would have commanded it, if it had not
been for the people's good." Blossius at this time was pardoned, and
afterwards went away to Aristonicus in Asia, and when Aristonicus
was overthrown and ruined, killed himself. 

The senate, to soothe the people after these transactions, did not
oppose the division of the public lands, and permitted them to choose
another commissioner in the room of Tiberius. So they elected Publius
Crassus, who was Gracchus's near connection, as his daughter Licinia
was married to Caius Gracchus; although Cornelius Nepos says, that
it was not Crassus's daughter whom Caius married, but Brutus's, who
triumphed for his victories over the Lusitanians: but most writers
state it as we have done. The people, however, showed evident marks
of their anger at Tiberius's death; and were clearly waiting only
for the opportunity to be revenged, and Nasica was already threatened
with an impeachment. The senate, therefore, fearing lest some mischief
should befall him, sent him ambassador into Asia, though there was
no occasion for his going thither. For the people did not conceal
their indignation even in the open streets, but railed at him, whenever
they met him abroad calling him a murderer and a tyrant, one who had
polluted the most holy and religious spot in Rome with the blood of
a sacred and inviolable magistrate. And so Nasica left Italy, although
he was bound, being the chief priest, to officiate in all principal
sacrifices. Thus wandering wretchedly and ignominiously from one place
to another, he died in a short time after, not far from Pergamus.
It is no wonder that the people had such an aversion to Nasica, when
even Scipio Africanus, though so much and so deservedly beloved by
the Romans, was in danger of quite losing the good opinion which the
people had of him, only for repeating, when the news of Tiberius's
death was first brought to Numantia, the verse out of Homer-

"Even so perish all who do the same." And afterwards, being asked
by Caius and Fulvius, in a great assembly, what he thought of Tiberius's
death, he gave an answer adverse to Tiberius's public actions. Upon
which account, the people thenceforth used to interrupt him when he
spoke, which, until that time, they had never done, and he, on the
other hand, was induced to speak ill of the people. But of this the
particulars are given in the life of Scipio. 



Copyright statement:
The Internet Classics Archive by Daniel C. Stevenson, Web Atomics.
World Wide Web presentation is copyright (C) 1994-2000, Daniel
C. Stevenson, Web Atomics.
All rights reserved under international and pan-American copyright
conventions, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part
in any form. Direct permission requests to
Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
copyright (C) Thomas Bushnell, BSG.