After the Second Punic war, Rome was left in a state of disarray. Many soldiers returned back to their homes and farms only to find them ravished from the war. Thus, they sold their land to the greedy rich just so that they could survive. They thought they would be able to find work in cities like Rome but did not realize that slaves occupied most of the jobs. Perhaps these war veterans had made a mistake and should return to the Roman army. However, when they returned to re-enlist, they learned they could not join the army if they did not own any land. Ultimately, they now had no land, no jobs, and no means of becoming soldiers again.
Tiberius Gracchus was a tribune who drafted a bill that he claimed would solve this problem. Tiberius wanted to take a portion of land away from citizens who were not in need of it and redistribute the land to the war veterans who were in dire need of property to farm. His ulterior motive, however, was to give more people land so that they could enlist in the army, and thus he could have a larger military.
Now, in the Roman senate there was some support for this kind of action but not entirely. Tiberius knew this, thus he decided to waste no time and brought his bill directly to the Concilium Plebis instead of seeking the Senate’s opinion first. This was a violation of Roman tradition. The Concilium Plebis found no fault in the bill and ultimately ended up passing it into Roman law. However, the Senate, fueled with rage against Tiberius for his treacherous act against Roman tradition, refused to fund the project.
But fortune favored Tiberius Gracchus when the king of Pergamum died and left his kingdom in the hands of Rome. Tiberius decided to fund his bill with the tax revenues from Pergamum. This action violated Roman tradition as well, because he did not have the power to collect tax revenues.
Marcus Octavius, Tiberius’s fellow tribune, was influenced by the Senate to veto this bill. According to the Roman rules of collegiality, both members of the tribune had to agree on a proposal in order to have it passed. However, instead of treating Octavius to a nice steak dinner where he could try to sway his mind, Tiberius aimed to have Octavius removed from office. Since Tiberius held a deciding vote in the Assembly of Tribes, he soon had Octavius deposed as tribune.
In order to further ensure that his bill would be carried out, Tiberius ran for a second term as tribune. Roman law did not allow this. A tribune could only serve one term to prevent him from becoming a despot. By now the Senate were disgusted and suspicious of Tiberius’s actions. And one day at a political meeting, Tiberius felt that he was in danger. Thus he made a gesture to his guards by raising his hand to his head, signaling to them that he was unsafe. His political opposition misread this as him calling for a crown. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The members of the Senate (who were strongly opposed to Tiberius’s constant overreaching of power) broke the legs off the chairs, and in a bloody struggle they beat him and his colleagues to death. Thus ended the reign of Tiberius Gracchus.