Enemies of the Senate Posted by on Feb 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

There were several people deemed enemies of the Senate. Most of those people were favorable towards reforms that benefited the plebeians. The Senate, fearing that they would lose their power, often devised methods to prevent or destroy those individuals from implementing those reforms.

Lucius Sergius Catilina, better known as Catiline, was prevented from becoming a consul in several repeated attempts by the Senate. Catiline promoted a policy of tabulae novae, which was a form of debt cancellation for the poor. Finally, after several frustrated attempts to attain power legitimately, he decided to take power through illegitimate means. Before Catiline ran for the consulship, he had a successful military career. Using his old military connections, he conspired to kill several of the Senators who consistently plotted to have him removed from power.

However, before Catiline could touch anyone, Cicero denounced him in the Senate, calling him a villain and a traitor. In addition, Cicero took the initiative to murder several of Catiline’s supporters. When the Catiline’s army heard about the murders, they were discouraged and disbanded. This left Catiline with a small army and Catiline was eventually defeated by armies sent from Rome. Although Catiline died with a tarnished reputation, he was still considered a hero among the urban poor. Catiline was a man of ambition who wanted to raise the standing of his family name in history. I suppose he achieved the goal of obtaining a spot in history, but not in the manner he envisioned.

Like Catiline, Tiberius Gracchus was from a prominent family. He also proposed a policy called Lex Sempronia  Agraria, which would redistribute some of the land conquered through foreign conquest, to the poor and destitute. Essentially it would take land away from rich landowners, so that some of the poor could become small scale farmers. Knowing that the Senate would disapprove, Tiberius went straight to the Concilium Plebis (People’s Assembly), which offended the Senate. The final blow to the Senate was when Tiberius promised to abolish the exclusive right of Senators to preside as jurors. The Senate saw this as a direct threat to their power and beat him to death with the Senate chairs. To appease the angry mob that had supported Tiberius’s reforms, the Senate allowed some provisions of Tiberius’s reforms to be granted to certain members of the populace. Ironically, Tiberius was able to implement more his reforms through his death, than when he was alive.

Tiberius’s brother Gaius, would continue the fight to limit the Senate’s power. Unlike Tiberius, Gaius’s reforms did not have widespread approval among the Plebeians. Gaius wanted to extend citizenship rights to Roman allies, which the Plebeians objected to. The Plebeians enjoyed certain citizenship rights like cheap grain, and they did not want to share those rights with foreigners. Like the Patrician class of Rome, the Plebeians had their own class snobbery when it came to foreigners. Gaius’s proposal was too radical for its time and he lost his bid to the Tribune. The Senate took this opportunity to kill Gaius and his supporters. Before the Senate could kill him, Gaius committed suicide. The grotesque way in which his older brother Tiberius was killed, probably affected his decision to end his life with his own hands.

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  1. Rose:

    I remember Cornelia Mother of the Gracchi was very well respected and young girls looked up to her as a model.