Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (consul 177 BC)

Last updated
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus
Bornc. 217 BC
Died154 BC
Office Tribune of the plebs (187 BC)
Consul (177, 163 BC)
Censor (169 BC)
Children Tiberius, Gaius, and Sempronia

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (c. 217 BC – 154 BC) was a Roman politician and general of the 2nd century BC. He served two consulships, one in 177 and one 163 BC, and was awarded two triumphs. [1] Tiberius is also noteworthy as the father of the two famous 'Gracchi' popularis reformers, Tiberius and Gaius.


Tiberius was of plebeian status and was a member of the well-connected gens Sempronia, a family of ancient Rome. Tiberius was the son of Publius Sempronius Gracchus, apparently the younger brother of the two-time consul and general Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (killed 212 BC). His paternal grandfather was also a consul in 238 BC. His mother's identity is not known.

His father was not the same Publius Sempronius Gracchus who served as tribune of the plebs in 189 BC. Instead his father had possibly died during the Second Punic War, since no further references exist to him.[ citation needed ]

Tribune of the Plebs, and Scipio

After serving in the army, Tiberius was elected tribune of the plebs c. 187 BC, in which capacity he is recorded as having saved Scipio Africanus from prosecution by interposing his veto. Tiberius was no friend nor political ally to Scipio, but felt that the general's services to Rome merited his release from the threat of trial. Supposedly, in gratitude for this action, either Scipio or his son Publius Cornelius Scipio betrothed Scipio's youngest daughter to him.

However, accounts of this are mixed with similar accounts about the betrothal of the younger Tiberius Gracchus to his wife Claudia, so the facts are not certain. In both versions, the father hastens to make a betrothal to a Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, without consulting the mother (his wife), to which the wife protests until she is informed that the bridegroom is Gracchus.

Since Scipio died in 184 BC or 183 BC and retired into the country well before then, and his youngest daughter Cornelia was only 6 or 7 at his death, it is more likely that the betrothal took place after Scipio's death, or that Tiberius was betrothed circa 186 BC to an older daughter who died before the marriage could take place. Plutarch's Life of Scipio has been lost, along with Scipio's own memoirs, and no contemporary histories or biographies of Scipio or Tiberius exist.

Political and military achievements

Tiberius was elected praetor for 180 BC, in which year he would have been about 38 if born in 217 BC. Following his praetorship, he took up the governorship of Hispania Citerior [ citation needed ] in 179 BC after successfully objecting to his predecessor's attempt to have the army in Hispania recalled for a triumph on the grounds that the task was not yet done. [2] Rome had been fighting a prolonged and continuous conflict in Iberia since the mid-190s BC. [3] [4] While governor and in conjunction with the other Spanish governor, Lucius Postumius Albinus, he campaigned successfully against the Celtiberians, Lusitanians, and other hostile groups and negotiated treaties to ensure a prolonged peace. [3] The agreements made mainly regularised tribute arrangements [3] and patterns of tribal settlement. [5] He claimed to have destroyed three hundred cities in Spain (almost certainly an exaggeration). [6] Upon his return, the senate awarded him a triumph where he and his colleague Albinus presented some 60 thousand pounds of silver. [7]

In 177 BC, he was elected consul with Gaius Claudius Pulcher. He was posted to Sardinia, where he suppressed a revolt assisted by propraetor Titus Aebutius Parrus. [8] He achieved a brilliant victory over the enemy, and then led his army into winter quarters. In the following spring he continued his successful operations against the rebels, reducing them to submission. At the close of 175 BC, he returned to Rome, claiming he had killed and captured some 80 thousand Sardinians, [9] and triumphed for the second time.

In 169 BC, he was chosen censor with his former consular colleague Gaius Claudius Pulcher, but his censorship was so strict that it provoked an attempted prosecution of his co-censor. Tiberius offered to go into exile with his co-censor, at which point the prosecution was dropped owing to Gracchus' popularity. Both censors appeared to have resigned, however, before completing the lustrum (a ritual cleansing at the close of the census). While censor, Tiberius had the Basilica Sempronia constructed in the Roman Forum; at this time, he also served on a senatorial embassy to ratify a peace treaty between the Republic and Pergamum. [10]

In 163 BC, Tiberius was elected consul again. When performing the auspices when conducting the consular elections for 162 BC, he committed a procedural error: after observing a negative omen, he crossed the pomerium to consult the senate and therefore relinquished the auspicia militiae needed to hold the election. [11] He discovered this procedural error after his successors had taken office and he had arrived in his province for his proconsulship, whereon he reported it to the senate. [12] The consuls were forced to resign, one of which was his brother-in-law Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum, husband of his wife's elder sister.

It is not clear if the loss of Scipio Nasica's first consulship led to strain or dissension between the brothers-in-law (Nasica was elected censor in 159 BC and again consul in 155 BC); however, their sons fell out politically some thirty years later with fatal consequences.[ citation needed ]

Tiberius was fluent in Greek, addressing the people of Rhodes in 168 BC in that language. Despite his military and political achievements, he was more renowned for his character. He was a respected consul, and an even more respected (if controversial) censor. At his death in 154 BC, leaving several young children and a young widow, he would have been considered one of Rome's leading men.

Tiberius's family

Tiberius married the eighteen-year-old Cornelia in 172 BC when he was about 45 years old. Despite the age difference, the marriage was happy and fruitful. She bore him twelve children, but all of them were sickly and most of them died in infancy despite their parents' assiduous care. Three children survived to adulthood; a daughter, Sempronia (who was betrothed to her mother's first cousin Scipio Aemilianus), and two sons, the Roman politicians Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus.

Tiberius is said to have loved his wife dearly (see anecdote below). Tiberius (and other Romans) also thought very highly of Cornelia as a wife and mother. When Tiberius died, Cornelia took charge of his property and the household; she refused to remarry, although she was offered marriage by several Roman senators and by the king of Egypt himself. Cornelia devoted the rest of her life to the education and upbringing of her sons.

Plutarch's life of Tiberius Gracchus (son of this Tiberius) narrates that the father demonstrated his love for his much younger wife in an unusual manner:

There is a story told, that he once found in his bedchamber a couple of snakes, and that the soothsayers, being consulted concerning the prodigy, advised, that he should neither kill them both nor let them both escape; adding, that if the male serpent was killed, Tiberius should die, and if the female, Cornelia. And that, therefore, Tiberius, who extremely loved his wife, and thought, besides, that it was much more his part, who was an old man, to die, than it was hers, who as yet was but a young woman, killed the male serpent, and let the female escape; and soon after himself died, leaving behind him twelve children borne to him by Cornelia.

Tiberius's own life and achievement are obscured, however, by the reputation of his widow Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi and the deeds of his two surviving sons. The elder son Tiberius would have been in his youth, while the younger son Gaius was a mere infant at his death. Both sons were apparently raised as much in the household of their kinsman and brother-in-law Scipio Aemilianus as in their own house and would have been influenced and educated by men such as the historian Polybius, the philosopher Panaetius, the satirist Lucilius, and the slave-turned-playwright Terence, as well as Scipio's own circle of friends from the Roman elite.

See also


Related Research Articles

The Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, were Romans who both served as tribunes of the plebs between 133 and 121 BC. They attempted to redistribute the occupation of the ager publicus— the public land hitherto controlled principally by aristocrats—to the urban poor and veterans, in addition to other social and constitutional reforms. After achieving some early success, both were assassinated by the Optimates, the conservative faction in the senate that opposed these reforms.

This article concerns the period 139 BC – 130 BC.

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was a populist Roman politician best known for his agrarian reform law entailing the transfer of land from the Roman state and wealthy landowners to poorer citizens. Against stiff opposition in the aristocratic Senate, this legislation was carried through during his term as tribune of the plebs in 133 BC. Fears of Tiberius's populist programme, as well as his uncompromising behavior, led to his being killed, along with many supporters, in a riot instigated by his senatorial enemies. A decade later his younger brother Gaius attempted similar legislation and suffered a similar fate.

Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus Roman general and statesman

Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus was a general and statesman of the Roman Republic. He was the son of Publius Cornelius Scipio and the younger brother of Scipio Africanus. He was elected consul in 190 BC, and later that year led the Roman forces to victory at the Battle of Magnesia.

Gaius Gracchus 2nd Century BC Roman politician and reformer

Gaius Sempronius Gracchus was a populist Roman politician in the 2nd century BC and brother of the reformer Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus. His election to the office of tribune in the years 123 BC and 122 BC and reformative policies while in office prompted a constitutional crisis and his death at the hands of the Roman Senate in 121 BC.

Cornelia (mother of the Gracchi) 2nd century BC Roman noblewoman, father of the Gracchi

Cornelia was the second daughter of Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, a Roman general prominent in the Second Punic War, and Aemilia Paulla. Although drawing similarities to prototypical examples of virtuous Roman women, such as Lucretia, Cornelia puts herself apart from the rest because of her interest in literature, writing, and her investment in the political careers of her sons. She was the mother of the Gracchi brothers, and the mother-in-law of Scipio Aemilianus.

Scipio Aemilianus 2nd century BC Roman politician and general

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Aemilianus, known as Scipio Aemilianus or Scipio Africanus the Younger, was a Roman general and statesman noted for his military exploits in the Third Punic War against Carthage and during the Numantine War in Spain. He oversaw the final defeat and destruction of the city of Carthage. He was a prominent patron of writers and philosophers, the most famous of whom was the Greek historian Polybius. In politics, he opposed the populist reform program of his murdered brother-in-law, Tiberius Gracchus.

Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio was a politician of the Roman Republic best remembered today for leading a mob that assassinated the tribune Tiberius Gracchus, and hunted and killed Tiberius' supporters afterwards.

Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus Roman general and statesman

Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus was a statesman and general of the Roman Republic during the second century BC. He was praetor in 148 BC, consul in 143 BC, the Proconsul of Hispania Citerior in 142 BC and censor in 131 BC. He got his agnomen, Macedonicus, for his victory over the Macedonians in the Fourth Macedonian War.

Publius Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus was the natural son of Publius Mucius Scaevola and Licinia, and brother of Publius Mucius Scaevola. He was adopted at an unknown date by Publius Licinius Crassus, his mother's brother, or by a son of the consul of 205 BC, Publius Licinus Crassus Dives.

Publius Mucius Scaevola was a prominent Roman politician and jurist who was consul in 133 BC. In his earlier political career he served as tribune of the plebs in 141 BC and praetor in 136 BC. He also held the position of pontifex maximus for sixteen years after his consulship. He died around 115 BC.

Cornelia gens Ancient Roman family

The gens Cornelia was one of the greatest patrician houses at ancient Rome. For more than seven hundred years, from the early decades of the Republic to the third century AD, the Cornelii produced more eminent statesmen and generals than any other gens. At least seventy-five consuls under the Republic were members of this family, beginning with Servius Cornelius Maluginensis in 485 BC. Together with the Aemilii, Claudii, Fabii, Manlii, and Valerii, the Cornelii were almost certainly numbered among the gentes maiores, the most important and powerful families of Rome, who for centuries dominated the Republican magistracies. All of the major branches of the Cornelian gens were patrician, but there were also plebeian Cornelii, at least some of whom were descended from freedmen.

Sempronia gens Ancient Roman family

The gens Sempronia was one of the most ancient and noble houses of ancient Rome. Although the oldest branch of this gens was patrician, with Aulus Sempronius Atratinus obtaining the consulship in 497 BC, the thirteenth year of the Republic, but from the time of the Samnite Wars onward, most if not all of the Sempronii appearing in history were plebeians. Although the Sempronii were illustrious under the Republic, few of them attained any importance or notice in imperial times.

Sempronia (sister of the Gracchi)

Sempronia, was a Roman noblewoman living in the Middle and Late Roman Republic, who was most famous as the sister of the ill-fated Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus, and the wife of a Roman general Scipio Aemilianus.

Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was a Roman Republican consul in the Second Punic War. He was son of Tiberius Sempronius Ti. f. Gracchus, who was apparently the first man from his branch of the family to become a consul.

Licinia is the name used by ancient Roman women of the gens Licinia.

Gaius Laelius Sapiens, was a Roman statesman, best known for his friendship with the Roman general and statesman Scipio Aemilianus. He was consul of 140 BC, elected with the help of his friend, by then censor, after failing to be elected in 141 BC. Gaius Laelius Sapiens was the son and heir of the Punic War general Gaius Laelius, himself consul in 190 BC. This Laelius had been former second-in-command and long-time friend, since childhood, of the Roman general and statesman Scipio Africanus. The younger Laelius was apparently born around 188 BC, after his father had become consul but had failed to win command of the campaign against Antiochus III the Great of Syria, which would have made him a rich man. His mother's name is unknown.

Tiberius Sempronius Ti.f. Gracchus, a Roman Republican consul in the year 238 BC, was the first man from his branch (stirps) of the family to become consul; several other plebeian Sempronii had already reached the consulship and even the censorship. He is best known as the father of the similarly named consul of 215 and 213 BC, and the great-grandfather of the Brothers Gracchi.

Scipio Africanus Roman general and politician (236/235–183 BC)

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus was a Roman general and statesman, most notable as one of the main architects of Rome's victory against Carthage in the Second Punic War. Often regarded as one of the best military commanders and strategists of all time, his greatest military achievement was the defeat of Hannibal at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC. This victory in Africa earned him the surname Africanus.


  1. Duncan 2017, p. 17.
  2. Drogula 2015, p. 262.
  3. 1 2 3 Baker 2021, p. 179.
  4. Baker 2021, p. 183.
  5. App. Hisp. 43.
  6. Baker 2021, p. 77.
  7. Josiah, Osgood (2014). "The rise of empire in the West". In Flower, Harriet (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 309. ISBN   978-1-107-03224-8.
  8. Drogula 2015, p. 203.
  9. Baker 2021, p. 78.
  10. Duncan 2017, p. 33.
  11. Drogula 2015, p. 77.
  12. Drogula, Fred (2007). "Imperium, Potestas, and the Pomerium in the Roman Republic". Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte. 56 (4): 439. ISSN   0018-2311. After his successors had been elected and taken office, and Gracchus himself had already arrived in his province, he suddenly realized that a flaw had occurred in the auspices during his successors' election. After he reported the flaw to the senate, the two men who had been elected were forced to resign...
Political offices
Preceded by Roman consul
177 BC
With: Gaius Claudius Pulcher
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman censor
169–168 BC
With: Gaius Claudius Pulcher
Succeeded by
Preceded by Roman consul II
163 BC
With: Manius Juventius Thalna
Succeeded by