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reported as those of Tiberius himself explain the purposes of the law. “The wild beasts of Italy have their lairs and dens; but the men who fight and die for Italy have nothing else save light and air, as they stray, houseless and homeless, with their wives and children. Your generals,” he cried, “ do but mock their soldiers, in bidding them combat for their temples and their graves; for, in such a multitude, not one has either the altar or the sepulchre of his fathers left him to defend. They go to war and perish, while others live at ease and in the midst of luxuries; and though they bear the name of lords of the world, there's not a handful of earth for them to call their own.” 17 And, with more especial reference to the appearance and condition of Italy in general, he is said to have added:-“A warlike people has been reduced under our very eyes to poverty and desolation; and in their place has risen up a crowd of slaves, useless in war, and at all times faithless.” 18 The design of his law was, therefore, to reinstate the ancient class of freeholders in the independence they had lost; perhaps to form a new class out of those who never had been freeholders ; 19 at all events, to uplift the fallen, and at the same time to humble the proud, so that there might be no more who were bloated with lux. ury, no more who were wasted by decay, amongst his countrymen.
17 Plut., Tib. Gr., 9. Cf. Flo- 18 App., Bell. Civ., I. 9. rus, III. 14:— “Depulsam agris 19 'O per volls toù Boulevyatos hy suis plebem miseratus est, ne popu- oủk és europiav, all' és evavdplav. lus gentium victor orbisque pos- Ibid., I. 11. sessor laribus ac focis suis exula
Such was the scheme, fair to look upon, and apparently soundly framed in the consultation and long delay through which it had been raised; but the truth must be confessed, that it was built upon the sand, in forms so sharp and of materials so ill-composed as to make its downfall sure. The power of the rich, established, as we have read, through victories abroad, too great to be perpetually restrained by the whole lengthened chain of laws at home, was now expected to reduce itself within dimensions which a single law prescribed. Some there might be, like the Tribune's friends, to part with the lands bequeathed them by their fathers, in order to restore the peace and plenty they believed to have once existed; but where one was willing to confess, a hundred stood fierce to deny, the claim upon them. The enterprise of benevolence was no sooner proposed than it threatened to become one of hostility; and if there were any offers to or from Tiberius of altering the law he had brought forward, so that the rich might be indemnified for their lands, they were never seriously entertained on either side. On the part of the Tribune, there was the consciousness of rightful design and the excitement of the first advance towards its execution; and had he wished to yield, the cause was no longer under his control, since he had made it the public property of his partisans. On the other hand, his adversaries, angered, but not yet so vehement in resisting as he or his friends were in pressing forward his proposals, contented themselves with the promise they easily obtained from Octavius Cæcina, a rich young Tribune,20 that he would not suffer his colleague, and, as it appears, his friend, to do them harm. Tiberius, full of the most generous, even if it were sometimes too hasty enthusiasm, entreated Octavius, reasoned with him, threatened him, and offered to pay for all the land that might be taken from him; but without avail.
The exultation of the rich in the success of the expedient they had adopted was short-lived. Tiberius changed the terms of his bill to bear more directly against his adversaries, and issued an edict, in virtue of his authority as Tribune, suspending all public business until the people should have decided upon his project. But when the assembly was actually convened, the strife between the parties for and against the law ran so high, that Tiberius consented to refer it to the Senate, as if he now trusted that its usefulness, if temperately urged, would move its adversaries in its behalf. It was in vain, however, that he told them in the Senate 21 of the pecuniary losses he was himself to meet, if he succeeded; in vain he urged personal arguments and general motives in his support; he saw he had no prospect of sympathy from the Senate, or of triumph amongst the people, unless he threw off all restraints and dared to brave the laws themselves which seemed to protect the dogged selfishness of his opponents against his more charitable aims.
20 “ A grave and wise young and at present, therefore, a volunman," says Plutarch, Tib. Gr., 10. tary antagonist. Fragm. Peiresc., Plutarch says he was Tiberius's LXXXVII. friend ; Dion Cassius speaks of him 21 His discourse is in App., Bell. as an old rival, though a kinsman, Civ., I. 11.
He returned to the Forum ; tried once more to move Octavius by threats and exhortations; then declared he would appeal to the people. “ Will Octavius," he asked, “ propose that Tiberius Gracchus give in his resignation ?” Octavius refused. “ Then Tiberius will demand the resignation of Octavius”; and the Tribes were dismissed to meet again on the next day, prepared to decide whether the inviolability of a Tribune should stand in the way of justice and the regeneration of the Commonwealth. It is fair to state the question before them in terms thus strong. It is positively due, besides, to the memory of a man whose heart, as true as any in a Roman breast, knew no calmness or patience in its pulsations, to remember what we are told of the plots already formed against his life, and the dagger he already wore beneath his robes.22 The danger to his person but confirmed the resolution, already inspired by the danger to his hopes, of regarding the laws before or behind him as they ought to be, rather than as they were.
A greater crowd poured into the Forum on the following day, and with more divided opinions. Many of the warmest friends Tiberius Gracchus had must have come full of apprehensions that he was hurrying too fast to draw any cause after him to its advantage; but there were more, undoubtedly,
22 Plut., Tib. Gr., 10.
amongst his nearest connections to excite than to restrain him; and if the night or the morning had been spent by some in urging their remonstrances against his course, others had thronged his house to bid him be of good cheer against his adversaries, though the whole college of Tribunes should unite with them and their champion. While the partisans of the reformer, however numerous, were thus opposed to one another, his antagonists appeared with serried and deepened ranks, in which a large number, who had hesitated about supporting either side, were now arrayed, determined, they said, by the measures Tiberius threatened to pursue. He rose before the assembly, excited, yet resolved, first to entreat Octavius that he would retract his veto, and then, as this was more vainly attempted than before, to address the people and propose the deposition of his colleague for contempt of their will and defiance of their necessities. The Tribes began to vote; one after another, up to seventeen, declared their consent to the proposal; another Tribe voting the same way would make a majority, and decide the question; when Tiberius, pale, perhaps, and surely agitated, called out that the proceedings should be stayed. The people could scarcely fear, much less could the rich men and their retainers hope, that he repented of his design; but all eyes turned with anxiety to the rostra where the Tribunes sat, and where Tiberius stood, with arm uplifted, as he motioned to have the voting cease. It was not to recall the Tribes which had decided, nor to urge those which had