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never be called to account. This theory was still worth defending if the Optimates wished for a fight.
When the point was brought up, the partisans of Tiberius raised loud cries of dissent, and such a tumult arose that the presiding tribune, one Rubrius, grew scared and refused to proceed. Then Mummius, the successor of the deposed Octavius, tried to take over the charge of the meeting, declaring that he saw no difficulty, and was prepared to go on with the election. But other tribunes intervened, declaring that either Rubrius must carry out his day's work, or else there must be a fresh casting of lots for the selection of a fresh president. While the magistrates wrangled, the people grew more and more turbulent, and when the meeting had degenerated into a riot it had finally to be adjourned.
This unexpected hitch in the proceedings struck dismay into the heart of Tiberius. He thought that he was lost if he should fail to secure his re-election, considering the fierce spirit which his enemies were displaying. Clothing himself in black, and leading his little son by the hand, he went round the Forum appealing to the multitude to save their friend from imminent peril of death. His indignant partisans closed around him, vowing that he should be preserved at all costs, and for the next few days he went about with a sort of bodyguard armed with staves and bearing torches after nightfall. This mob was a splendid mark for the satire and invective of the Optimates. Had there ever been before, they asked, a citizen of Rome who could not stir without a huge gang of bravos at his heels ? What could such assemblies mean? If Greek precedents went for anything, the “ friend of the people,” who declared his life in danger and went about with an organised band of satellites behind him, would some day blossom out into a tyrant, seize the Capitol, and massacre the Senate.
TIBERIUS PREPARES TO FIGHT
We may be perfectly certain that Tiberius had no thought of emulating Cypselus or Peisistratus, but it must be confessed that his actions bore a most singular resemblance to theirs. Even those who sympathised with his ends were scared at his reckless proceedings, for in this last crisis of his life he showed a complete lack of coolness and self-restraint. On the night before the adjourned election meeting he collected a great crowd of his adherents, many of whom encamped before his house and slept in the street. He harangued them, told them that violence would probably be used against them, and added that in that case they must meet force by force. He arranged that his partisans should mass themselves in the front of the place of assembly before the Capitol, and keep off their opponents by their serried ranks. Appian adds that he agreed to give them a signal, if he considered himself in danger, by raising his hand to his head, as a token that his life was at stake. If they saw the sign, they must prepare to fight. All this was a deliberate provocation of civil war: to endeavour to pack a meeting and to come down prepared for violence means rioting and not politics. It was quite enough to give an excuse to men much less angry and unscrupulous than the opponents of Gracchus.
On the eventful day the tribune set out, accompanied by a mass of his supporters. We are told that all the
very dismal that morning; the sacred chickens had refused to eat; Tiberius stumbled on his own doorstep and cut his foot; crows scuffling on the roof dislodged a tile which fell almost on his head. His satellites muttered that ill-luck was in the air; but his old tutor, the philosopher Blossius, cried out “that the son of Gracchus and the grandson of Scipio, the protector of the people of Rome, would never be held back by any omen from going forth to help that people in the day of their need,” and the cortége forced its way through the crowded streets toward the Capitol.
At first it seemed as if the reformer were about to carry all before him. His faithful tool Mummius had obtained the presidency for the day, and began to call over the roll of the tribes. There was a solid mass of democrats at the front, who received Gracchus with the loudest acclamations, and formed round him in a sort of battle array when he took his place with his colleagues. But presently it was seen that there was also a hostile element present; the possessores had sent down their clients and retainers, and scuffling and quarrelling began at half-a-dozen points, till all was clamour and disorder, and the voices of the tribunes could not be any longer heard. At this moment Tiberius descried a friend of his own, a senator named Fulvius Flaccus, making frantic signs and beckonings to him, over the head of the crowd, from a point of vantage on to which he had climbed. Flaccus, one of the few really warm partisans of reform in the Senate, had news for his leader. When he had been with difficulty thrust to the front, he gasped that danger was imminent, for the possessores were trying to induce the Senate to declare Tiberius a public enemy, and since they could not move the consul to action, were threatening to arm their friends and servants and to sally out into the streets to murder him. Without waiting to see whether or no the report was exaggerated or the enemy really at hand, Tiberius gave the signal for hostilities by making the preconcerted sign of raising his hand to his head. In an instant all was in confusion ; his friends girt up their gowns, broke up the fasces of the lictors, and any other woodwork they could find, to make bludgeons, gathered in a compact mass and drove the partisans of the possessores out of the field with bruises and broken heads. The other tribunes fled, the priests hastened to shut up the temples, and all
THE RIOTERS AND THE SENATE
peaceable citizens ran home to get out of the trouble, spreading various absurd rumours as they fled.
While all this was in progress, the Senate had been sitting in the temple of Fides, receiving from time to time more or less accurate accounts of what was going on before the Capitol. The news that Flaccus had carried to the assembly seems to have been somewhat highly coloured, for though the possessores had been denouncing Tiberius in the bitterest terms, they had not succeeded in moving the consul Scævola to take any action against him, nor had the Senate shown any willingness to pass a decree of outlawry. There were still many moderate men in it, who shrank from the responsibility of commencing civil strife. The debate in the Senate was only brought to a head when the clamour of the multitude who were fleeing
the scene of riot was heard. Inquiries made of the fugitives elicited the wildest statements; some said that Gracchus was deposing all the other tribunes from office (as he had once deposed Octavius); others cried that he was appointing himself without election tribune for the ensuing year. The most absurd version was that, when he had been seen raising his hand to his head, he was asking for the kingly crown.
The opponents of Gracchus were already wrought up to such a pitch of wrath by the financial ruin that he had brought upon them, that they readily believed—or professed to believe-even the wildest of these rumours. Their spokesman, L. Cornelius Scipio Nasica, a consular who had been a great holder of domain land, leapt to his feet and once more adjured Scævola to take up arms against the “ tyrant.” But the imperturbable magistrate merely announced that if Gracchus was persuading or forcing the people into irregular courses, he should take care to annul his proceedings, but that he would not be the first to have recourse to violence, nor would he ever put any citizen to death without a trial. Then Nasica cried aloud that since the consul refused to defend his country, he adjured all who wished to save Rome and her laws to follow him to the Capitol. So saying he girt up his toga, and cast the purple border of it over his head, that all might see his rank. He rushed into the street followed by many scores of the younger senators, who were joined outside by a crowd of their clients and attendants. They soon made their way to the Capitol, where they found Gracchus haranguing his partisans; the multitude was thinning out after the election proceedings had come to an end, and it is said that the reformer had now no more than 3000 or 4000 men around him.
Without any attempt at parley, Nasica charged at the Democrats, with his followers streaming in a wedge behind him, the senators at their head. Neither side was armed, save with staves and broken chairs and benches. Quite contrary to what might have been expected, the Optimates cleft through the mob of Gracchus's partisans without much difficulty. It is said that many instinctively gave way before the rush of furious senators, out of inbred reverence for the purple stripe. This much is certain, that, belabouring their opponents with their improvised weapons, Nasica and his followers cleared the Capitol, driving the Democrats before them and casting some over the cliffs of the ascent.
The fray was very bloody, for the assailants knocked on the head every man that fell; nearly 300 persons were killed; not one, it is recorded, by an edged weapon, but all by sticks and stones. Among the victims was Gracchus himself, who had been thrown down near the door of the Capitoline temple, in front of the statues of the ancient Roman kings. He had stumbled over a corpse, and as he strove to rise, a senator named Publius Satureius beat out his brains with a footstool.