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in hand, and faced them, under the stimulus of ambition and revenge, rather than from benevolence and patriotism. We shall see that all his career was coloured by these motives, a fact which accounts for the many deliberately immoral measures that are to be found in his legislation.
For some years after his brother's death he took no very prominent part in public affairs; yet he did not keep himself so secluded and obscure as Plutarch makes out. We know, for example, that he made an oration in favour of Carbo's bill concerning re-election to the tribunate, and that he spoke against the detestable law of Junius Pennus [B.C. 126], which expelled Italian residents from Rome.
Caius took the quaestorship in the year of the law of Pennus, and was sent to serve in Sardinia under the proconsul Aurelius Orestes. He was kept in that unhealthy and uninteresting island for two years, as his office was prolonged for a second term, owing to the jealousy of the Senate, who were glad to keep away from the capital one who bore the dreaded name of Gracchus. Thus, as it chanced, Caius was absent from Italy during the franchise agitation of Fulvius Flaccus and the revolt of Fregellae. This fact did not prevent the Optimates from accusing him of having had a guilty knowledge of the intentions of the rebel city. He won golden opinions for his efficient financial administration in Sardinia, as well as for his personal integrity; he was the only quaestor-as he himself said—who went out with a full purse and came back with an empty one.
After returning from Sardinia in B.C. 124, Caius stood for the tribunate for the ensuing year, and obtained the office without much trouble, so popular was his name among the multitude. The only effect of a bitter opposition to him, started by the Optimates, was that he wa returned fourth on the list, instead of at the head of the poll.
THE CHARACTER OF CAIUS
When once launched on the sea of domestic politics, Caius atoned by his unceasing activity for the long delay that he had made before plunging into the troubled waters. He was the most restless and
of men : beside him, we are told, his brother Tiberius had always appeared mild, moderate, and conciliatory! These are hardly the epithets that we should apply to the author of the confiscation of the domain-land and the deposer of Octavius, but the comparison enables us to understand the terrible vehemence of his younger brother. Caius had no moments of rest or quiet after he had once put himself forward as the friend of the people. His activity was militant and aggressive, his eloquence bitter and vituperative. He was always working himself up into the fine fury that ends in hysterics. We are told that he was aware of the fact, and that when he came down to the Comitia to speak, he stationed a discreet retainer with a pitch-pipe behind him, whose duty was to give a warning note whenever the oration was tending to become a screech. Unfortunately—like the Archbishop of Granada in Lesage's story—he did not invariably accept the criticism of his underling. He was always on the edge of over-emphasis. First of all Romans, as we read, he strode from one end of the rostra to another while speaking, and cast his toga from off his shoulders by the vehemence of his action. His enemies compared him to Cleon, the blustering demagogue of ancient Athens.
It is strange that a man of such a high-strung nature should have kept back from politics so long. His own explanation of the abstention was that he felt that he was well-nigh the last of his race: save himself and his
young son, the male line of the Gracchi had died out, though his father, the consul, had left behind him no less than twelve children. Cicero used to tell a story that Caius had sworn after his brother's disastrous end to hold aloof from the political life, but that his resolution was broken down by a vision. He thought, as he slept, that Tiberius stood before him, and cried, “Why this long lingering, Caius? There is no alternative. The fates have decreed the same career for each of us—to spend our lives and meet our deaths in vindicating the rights of the Roman people.” Dreams are often the reflection of the subjects on which the mind has been perpetually brooding in the waking hours, and the tale well expresses the blending of motives in the mind of Caius. He felt that it was his duty to avenge his brother, and he was deeply stirred by seeing the Democratic party mute and helpless, for lack of a leader and a programme, when he felt that he could so easily supply both these wants. Ambition and revenge were probably at the bottom of his resolve to a greater measure than he himself was aware.
Whatever was the spark that kindled this eager and susceptible temperament into a flame, there can be no doubt that, from the first moment of his election to the tribunate, Caius displayed the restless energy of a fanatic. He took in hand no less a scheme than the absorption into his own hands of the whole administration, foreign and domestic, of the Roman Empire. His plan was to overrule the Senate by the simple device of keeping perpetual possession of the tribunate, a thing which was now perfectly legal owing to the law which had been passed since his brother's death. As tribune he would bring in an unending series of laws and decrees dealing directly with all the departments of state, so that the Senate should have no right to meddle with anything. If the sovereign people claimed and used its power to settle every detail of the governance of the empire, there would be no room for senatorial interference. Mommsen has maintained that this scheme was a deliberate anticipation of the monarchy of
THE FIRST MEASURES OF CAIUS
the Cæsars, and that Caius, by proposing to hold perpetual office, as the sole guide and arbiter at whose fiat the assembly should pass laws, was practically intending to make himself tyrant of Rome. This, however, is unfair to Gracchus : it would be more true to say that he aimed at occupying at Rome somewhat the same position that Pericles had once held at Athens. The Athenian had been Strategos year after year, and had guided for half a lifetime the votes of the Ecclesia. Yet no one save comic poets called him a tyrant: he was poorátns Toû Snuov, as the Greeks phrased it, but that is a very different thing from holding a tyranny. What Caius Gracchus craved was much the same position; but he had not the calm wisdom of Pericles, and a man of his vehement and reckless temper was certain ere long to fall out with his supporters and wreck his career.
We have said that there was a strong element of revenge among the motives which stirred up Gracchus to put himself at the head of the Democratic party. His two first laws display it very clearly. One of them was a declaratory bill, which re-enacted the old constitutional V principle that any magistrate who in his year of office had put to death or banished Roman citizens without a trial should be called to account before the Comitia. This measure was aimed at the Consul Popilius, who, though he had not been concerned in the riot where Tiberius met his end, had subsequently seized and executed many of the reformer's partisans. The ex-magistrate recognised the intent of the law, and was perfectly conscious of the flagrant illegality of what he had done ten years before, and of the probability of his conviction for high treason. He fled out of Italy into exile, without waiting to be indicted. His fate was well deserved, for the conduct of his party had been abominable; after the death of Tiberius further executions had not been required; and if
they had been, there was no excuse for not proceeding according to proper legal forms of trial.
But the second law of Caius was by no means so righteous. It was aimed at the perfectly respectable and blameless tribune Octavius, who had opposed Tiberius on the question of the Agrarian Law, and had been deposed by him in such an illegal fashion. The bill now brought forward was to the effect that any magistrate whom the Roman people had removed from office, for any cause, was to be for the future incapable of holding office again. This was mere persecution, for Octavius had done nothing more than exercise a right, which he undoubtedly possessed, in a conscientious if somewhat obstinate fashion. All our authorities agree that there was no ground for believing that he had been actuated by spite or corrupt motives. It would appear that Caius found that public opinion was not with him when he attacked Octavius, or that he grew ashamed on second thoughts of this vindictive
At any rate, he dropped the bill, announcing that he did so in deference to the wishes of his mother Cornelia, at which (as we are told) the people showed themselves perfectly satisfied.
The other legislative proposals of the first tribunate of Caius Gracchus are of very various kinds, covering all sorts of different spheres of imperial and domestic administration. They plainly show that the vehement young tribune thought nothing too small or too great to be dealt with by the assembly, under his own superintendence as prime minister of the people. It is unfortunate that the historians on whom we have to rely for information do not enable us to make out the exact sequence in which the various laws were passed. We have to deal with them in classes rather than in strict order of time.
In some ways the most important of all was a bill which (in spite of all that the advocates of Caius can allege)