The Gracchi - World History

The Gracchi - World History
Posted on 30-12-2022

The Gracchi ( 140 ) The Gracchi attempt to reform the Roman Republic and are assassinated.

In the second half of the 2nd century, China experienced one of its heydays under Emperor Wudi. The new monarch limited the power of the local aristocracy by establishing a system of transmission of assets that forced the division of large estates to each generation, which satisfied the heirs while preventing the formation of large landowners. He established that next to each local prince there was an imperial "advisor" who acted as censor and spy. The Confucian scholars, persecuted by Qin Shi Huang Di and despised by Liu Bang, supported the new emperor, since they had facilities to occupy high positions. The civil service began to be selected by contests that required great preparation.mandarins. At this time lived the poet Sima Xiangru, who cultivated a new literary genre called fu, an extremely cultured rhythmic prose.

In the north, the Huns were appeased at the cost of supplying them with grain and silk. They were even provided with women, who were forcibly driven to the Hun camps. This had the consequence that Chinese culture spread beyond its borders. In reality, the Huns came to have a surplus of silk that they exchanged for other products with other peoples to the west. Little by little, silk made its way to the West.

In the West the Parthian Empire had replaced the Seleucid Empire, which was now reduced to Syria and more or less influenced Canaan.

The expansion of Rome had drastically altered its economy. The powerful families became rich with the conquests, they obtained lands and slaves that were forced to produce to the maximum, while the masters remained in the capital, without worrying about the methods used by the foremen. Small farmers could not compete with these farms, and migrated to the city where they became proletarians, which in Latin means "children's breeders", since the nobles saw the poorest citizens as producers of children for the legions. In the apparently democratic electoral system that functioned in Rome, the people had a certain power. Not that of taking care of their own interests, but that of settling between the interests of different factions of the ruling class. For this reason, politicians sought popularity by distributing food at a low price, sometimes even free, or by organizing games for the entertainment of the people (competitions, chariot races, gladiator fights, combats with animals, etc.).

Another novelty that had arrived in Rome a few years ago was the cult of Isis. Naturally, it came from Egypt, but the Greeks had long built altars to it. Traditionally, the Egyptians depicted Isis with her son Horus, a falcon-headed god, but in the maternal scenes the child had a human head, and the Egyptians referred to him as Harpechruti (Horus the Child). It was this image that was successful outside of Egypt. The iconography represented the child with a finger on his lips, in a childish attitude, as if he were sucking his finger, but the Greeks interpreted it as a request for silence, and Horus became Harpocrates,the god of silence Isis was seen as the "beautiful queen of heaven," and her sweet, protective, motherly demeanor endeared her greatly, first in Greece and then in Rome.

Abroad, Rome had neglected the Hellenistic kingdoms, and concentrated its efforts in Spain, where the main sources of resistance were the Lusitanians led by Viriato and the city of Numancia. In 140 Serviliano continued fighting Viriato, but he was surrounded and had to accept his conditions. Viriato was recognized as king and "friend of the Roman people". Territorial limits were set.

The Seleucid king Demetrius II invaded the Parthian domains. He won several battles, but in 139 he was ambushed. His army was destroyed and he was taken prisoner. Tryphon took control of the Syrian government. Meanwhile , Fifth Servilius Cepión was elected consul,who managed to get the Senate to annul the peace treaty that his brother Serviliano had signed with Viriato. He went to Spain and, pursuing Viriato, risked areas in the western part of the peninsula where a Roman army had never penetrated. His soldiers rebelled and he was unable to deliver the final blow. Viriato saw that his men were already tired after so many years of fighting, so he sent three emissaries to negotiate peace. Cepion bribed them to assassinate Viriato, they did so, and when they returned to collect what was agreed, Cepion paid them with a phrase that has gone down in history: "Rome does not pay traitors."

In 138 the consuls Décimo Julio Bruto and Marco Pompilio Lenas both moved to Spain. The first pursues the Lusitanos, now led by Tántamo, who cross the Miño and thus escape the Romans, who did not dare to cross it, thinking that behind it was Finis Terrae (the end of the Earth). From there they ran to take refuge in Numancia. This was the objective of Lenas, who again besieged the city with 8,000 men, but the Numantines came out and destroyed the invading army.

That same year King Atalo II of Pergamum died, and was succeeded by his nephew Attalo III (son of Eumenes II). He was fond of botany, especially the study of poisonous plants. The Parthian king Mithridates I also died, and was succeeded by his son Phraates II. At his death the Parthian Empire controlled most of what had been the Persian Empire, from Mesopotamia eastward, with the exception of the southern part of what had been Persia itself (whose population clung to radical Mazdeism and never became part of the Parthian Empire) and the kingdom of Bactria.

In 137 a brother of Demetrius II defeated Tryphon and proclaimed himself king under the name of Antiochus VII. Cleopatra Thea, the wife of Demetrius II, found out that he, in her captivity, had married Rodoguna, the daughter of Mithridates I, so she, spiteful, married her brother-in-law Antiochus VII. He tried to subdue Judea, and his armies faced the Jewish troops, led by the two sons of Simon: John Hyrcanus and Judas. They were victorious.

The consul Gaius Hostilio Manciano tried to besiege Numancia with 20,000 men, but the news that the Cantabrians and the Vacceos came to the aid of the besieged was enough to make his men flee. Manciano had to grant total autonomy to the Numantinos. The Senate, outraged by such signs of weakness, ordered that both Mantianus and Tiberius Gracchus, who had been under his orders as quaestor, be handed over to the enemy with their hands and feet tied, but the people did not consent to this punishment being applied to them. Graco. Since then, Tiberio abandoned the military career and dedicated himself to politics.

Around this time, the island of Sicily was the granary of Rome. Its fertile fields were worked by an army of slaves who supplied Italy with cereals. Their living conditions were subhuman. Nearly all of them had been free men long ago, their only crime having been resisting Roman rule or merely having inhabited a conquered country. In 135 a Sicilian slave of Syrian origin named EunoHe claimed descent from the Seleucid royal family, called himself Antiochus, and led a revolt. Probably no one believed him as to his ancestry, but they saw that he had leadership skills and followed him. The slaves indulged in looting and slaughter and soon dominated the island. Naturally, Rome intervened at once, and thus began the First Servile War ("servus" is Latin for "slave").

In 134 the astronomer Hipparchus observed a star in the constellation of Scorpio of which he could not find a record in any catalogue. This was important, as a fundamental belief of ancient times was that the heavens were immutable. However, he did not have the guarantee that it was actually a new star, since the available data were very imprecise. To prevent another astronomer from finding himself in that situation, Hipparchus recorded the exact position of more than a thousand stars, which he also classified according to their brightness in magnitudes. This is how the first rigorous star catalog was drawn up. Comparing his observations with older data, Hipparchus discovered the precession of the equinoxes,that is, the circular movement of the Earth's axis that causes the point in the sky to which the North Pole points to change slowly over time.

In Judea, Simon was invited to a banquet by his son-in-law Ptolemy. He came with his son Judas and, when they had drunk enough, Ptolemy killed them, just as he had agreed with Antiochus VII. In return he received the rule of Judea. Thus died the last of the Maccabees. However, John Hyrcanus, Simon's other son, took refuge in the mountains with a group of followers who rebelled against Ptolemy. He asked Antiochus VII for help.

With twenty-nine years Tiberio Graco, was elected tribune, along with his friend Marco Octavio.Alarmed by the neglect of the Etrurian countryside and believing that the defense of Rome could only rest in the hands of landowners, he strove to build a middle class and re-establish small property. For this he proposed a law by which the enormous properties of the landowners should be distributed among small owners. Once the distribution was made, they would be inalienable, so that the latifundia could not be rebuilt. In addition, each owner should hire a certain number of free workers. The scandalized landowners acted immediately. They bribed Octavian, who soon discovered that he was not really a friend of Tiberius and, when Tiberius was about to have his law passed, With the support of the majority of the Romans, Octavio was able to paralyze the vote, since the agreement of the two tribunes was necessary so that a law could be voted. Tiberius tried to convince Octavio, but failed. Then he managed to remove him through a vote, after which he managed to get the agrarian reform approved, but the landowners denounced that Octavio's removal was illegal (and they were right), and they used it as a basis to accuse Tiberio of trying to circumvent the law. Roman and overthrow the government.

These accusations made Tiberio lose friends. In 133 King Attalus III of Pergamum died and, since he had no descendants, he opted to bequeath the country to Rome, trusting that this was the way in which his citizens would be better protected. Pergamum thus became the Province of Asia, but Tiberius proposed that the royal treasury, instead of going to the State (ie the senators) be distributed among the owners of the redistributed lands to help create farms. This further angered the senators. On the other hand, Eumenes II had had a bastard son named Aristonicus,that it did not take long to put himself in charge of the sectors of Pergamum dissatisfied with the decision of Atalo III and claimed the throne.

Numancia was still the nightmare of Rome. According to their own historians, a false alarm, a loud shout or the rumor that the Numantinos were outside the walls was enough for the legionnaires to panic. The Senate decided to send the largest expedition ever sent: 60,000 men under the command of Scipio the Younger and Gaius Sempronius Gracchus. The Numidian Micipsa contributed horses and elephants. The Numidian troops were headed by Yugurta, Micipsa's nephew. He was suspicious of his ambition, so he adopted him and named him heir along with his sons, Adherbal and Hiempsal.

In two months, the wall of Numancia was surrounded by another wall 3 meters high, with towers with catapults every 50 meters. Despite the wall, five Iberians managed to evade the blockade and went out for wheat to Lutia, 15 kilometers from Numancia. When Scipio found out, he sent an expedition to Lutia, where he cut off the hand of 400 young men for having helped the Numantines.

After eight months of siege, Numancia was taken. Its inhabitants died of hunger and plague. Those who remained ate the corpses and, when they saw that they had no chance, some chose to turn themselves in, while others decided to commit suicide. The heads of the families killed their own, then they killed each other, and the last ones threw themselves into the Duero from the top of the walls.

Meanwhile, Antiochus VII invaded Jerusalem in aid of Ptolemy against John Hyrcanus, but what he needed was money to be able to rebuild his empire, and it turned out that John Hyrcanus offered him more than Ptolemy, so he finally gave Jerusalem to John Hyrcanus and Ptolemy he had to run away.

Around this time the Chinese Empire sent a military expedition to the steppe against the Huns, which was followed by several more.

in 132Tiberius Gracchus was about to step down as tribune, and he was aware that his life would be worth nothing from that moment on. (As long as he was tribune he was inviolable, and no senator could take any action against him.) For this reason he tried to be re-elected, but, again, this was illegal, and he was accused of trying to proclaim himself king, and this word always aroused in the town the memory of the horrible stories about Tarquin the Proud. The day of the vote there were disorders that ended in riots. Tiberio's enemies were better organized, and ended up assassinating him. His corpse was thrown into the Tiber. Tiberius' murderer was a cousin of his mother, Cornelia, from the Scipio family.

The disputes between reformists and conservatives did not end with the death of Tiberius Gracchus. Scipio and Gaius Gracchus returned to Rome and the former took the lead of the conservatives. In Spain he had publicly declared that Tiberius deserved death. Meanwhile the First Servile War ended. The slaves of Sicily were broken and the treatment they received from the angry Romans is easy to imagine.

Cleopatra, the ex-wife of Ptolemy VII, gained the support of his many enemies in Alexandria and ousted the king from power, placing his son Ptolemy VIII on the throne.

Aristonicus occupied the coastal city of Leuce. Shortly after he was defeated by the Romans in a naval battle, which forced him to retreat inland, where he obtained the support of a large number of disinherited and slaves (whom he freed), as well as a good part of the free population. due to the anti-Roman character of his movement. In addition, he had the support of characters such as the Stoic philosopher Blosio de Cumas, a friend of Tiberio Graco.

Meanwhile, the overthrown Ptolemy VII managed to kidnap his son Ptolemy VIII, had him murdered, dismembered him, and sent the pieces to Cleopatra.

In 131 Aristonicus managed to defeat an army sent by Rome, but the following year, in 130 , he was finally defeated, captured, and taken to Rome.

Antiochus VII had managed to raise a suitable army to try to obtain some booty in the Parthian Empire. He managed to conquer Mesopotamia, the Parthians withdrew to Media, Antiochus VII followed them and in 129 he was defeated and killed by King Phraates II, who then released Demetrius II. He hoped that having been a prisoner of the Parthians he would not dare to attack them again, and so it was. Demetrius II did not try to leave Syria, and even left John Hyrcanus alone in Judea. Demetrius II returned from captivity with his wife Rodoguna, but Cleopatra Tea had her assassinated.

The Parthians founded the city of Ctesiphon, which became the new capital of the Empire. It was located on the eastern side of the Tigris, near Seleucia. The two cities progressed hand in hand. Ctesiphon was the Iranian capital of the Empire and Seleucia the Greek capital.

In the Roman Senate there was a tumultuous session in relation to the reformist projects initiated by Tiberius Gracchus. The following day an intervention by Scipio the Younger was expected, which could be decisive, but he was found dead in bed. The conservatives accused the reformists of having poisoned him, but nothing could be proven. This same year Aristonicus was executed in Rome, while the consul Manio Aquilio ended all resistance in the province of Asia. He called to his aid King Mithridates V of Pontus, and in reward Rome ceded Phrygia to him. With Roman support, Pontus soon annexed Cappadocia and Paphlagonia (a border region with Bithynia).

Further south, John Hyrcanus invaded Samaria. On Mount Gerizim was the sacred temple of the Samaritans and John Hyrcanus destroyed it. If the Seleucids had sinned with religious intolerance, we must not forget that it was the Jews who invented it in their day, and now they could not come second.

Around this time Ptolemy VII managed to recover Egypt, and Cleopatra had to return to the Seleucid court.

To the northwest of China, beyond its borders, lived barbarian tribes known as the Yue Che. Around this time they were pressured by the Huns and migrated west. Thus they found the Hellenistic kingdom of Bactria. The Greeks called the Yue Che Tokarios . Bactriana was weaker than the Chinese Empire, so the Tokarians found it more convenient to harass the Bactrians. Emperor Wudi sent one of his officers, Chan Chien , to follow the Yue Che and seal an alliance with them against the Huns. Thus, for the first time, a Chinese detachment learned of the existence of Western civilization.

In 128 Nicomedes II of Bithynia died, and was succeeded by his son Nicomedes III. In 127 Phraates II died and the Parthian throne was occupied by Artaban II, who had to face the Tokarians, whose incursions were increasingly damaging.

In 126 the Chinese official Chan Chien returned to his country and informed the emperor of the existence of Western civilization. From then on, expeditions to the West multiplied, mainly of a commercial nature. The so-called Silk Road was formed, because silk was the main product exported by China. The main import was horses. Control of the various stages of the Silk Road was to be of paramount importance to both East and West for centuries to come.

In 126 a pretender to the Seleucid throne who claimed to be the son of Alexander Balas defeated Demetrius II near Damascus and proclaimed himself king, under the name Alexander II. Cleopatra Theia, the wife of Demetrius II, saw her intention of her sons inheriting the throne in jeopardy, so in 125 she had her husband assassinated, after which one of her sons declared himself king without her consent, under the name of Seleucus . V, but Cleopatra Theia had her second son kill him, and he succeeded to the throne as Antiochus VIII. She had to fight against the other king, Alexander II.

Meanwhile, the King of Judea John Hyrcanus conquered Idumea. The Jews forced the Idumeans to be circumcised and accept Judaism using the same means by which the Seleucids had tried to prohibit it. They had also tried it in Samaria, but with less success. After all, the Samaritans were primitive Jews, but equally clinging to their beliefs.

In Rome a law was passed whereby a tribune could be re-elected, which could be useful if a reformist tribune were to be elected again, to avoid suffering the same fate as Tiberius Gracchus. While Scipio lived, it was impossible to pass such a law. Gradually, the reformists were gaining ground in Roman politics. Among them stood out Gaius Gracchus and, even more so, Marco Fulvio Flaco, who was elected consul, but the Senate found a way to get rid of Flaco, at least temporarily. The Greek city of Massilia (Marseille) asked Rome for help because the Gauls were violating its territory, so Flaccus was sent to Gaul, but he soon defeated the Gauls and returned to Rome in triumph.

In 124 the Parthian king Artaban II died, and was succeeded by his son Mithridates II. The situation in Egypt was delicate for Ptolemy VII. Her ex-wife Cleopatra continued to have many supporters of hers, so the king eventually chose to reconcile with her and brought her back to Alexandria.

Ignoring his mother's pleas, Gaius Gracchus stood as a candidate and was elected tribune in 123. Gaius was much more eloquent than his brother, and he was determined to avenge his death. He coordinated the interests of various groups opposed to the nobility in the same program. He immediately put into effect his brother's agrarian reform law, which had finally been approved, but had not been put into effect due to Scipio's influence. He multiplied the plots of the remote and mountainous regions, respecting the possessions of the nobles in Campania, Lazio or Taranto. He increased the amount of the allowances, thus creating a wealthy peasant class. He got the approval of the creation of colonies in the territories of Taranto, Carthage and Capua. He managed to get a frumentary law passed, distributing wheat to the poor monthly at cost price, while establishing a tax on luxury items. To win over the middle class that was not part of the nobility, the so-calledequites (knights), assigned them the collection of taxes in the province of Asia. He also granted them judicial guarantees, by making them enter the courts together with the senators, and fixed their social importance by assigning them special seats in the theater.

By this time the Romans had settled on the Mediterranean coast of Gaul, the territory through which Hannibal had passed into Italy. They founded the city of Aquae Sextiae (Waters of Sextius, present-day Aix) by Sextius Calvin, who was consul that year.

In 122 Antiochus VIII managed to definitively defeat his rival Alexander II, who was killed. In Rome Gaius Gracchus was re-elected as tribune, and dedicated himself to the conditioning of the markets, granaries and roads. He proposed that all Italians be granted Roman citizenship, and the remaining allies the status now enjoyed by the cities of Latium. However, the nobles took advantage of these proposals to excite the egoism of the Roman people, who, despite their hardships, felt privileged compared to the Italians and was not willing to give up this status. They used the other tribune, Marco Livio Druso,who carried out a demagogic policy. Gaius Gracchus's popularity was waning and, when he nominated him for the tribunate in 121, he was not re-elected. During a discussion in the Senate, riots broke out, to the point that the Senatus Consultus Vltimus was resorted to, by which full powers were given to magistrates and individual liberties were suspended. There was a battle on the Aventine Hill between the supporters of Graco and those of the consul Lucio Opimio, in which three thousand citizens died, including Marco Fulvio. Gaius Gracchus, cornered, chose to commit suicide. In the following years the laws of the Gracos were gradually abolished.

That year disagreements arose between Antiochus VIII and his mother, Cleopatra Tea, she tried to poison her son, but was unsuccessful and Antiochus VIII had her assassinated. Cleopatra Evergetis, the second wife of Ptolemy VII, had three daughters. The eldest of her, Cleopatra, had married her brother and heir to her throne, while he now married the second, Cleopatra Tryphena, to Antiochus VIII. Meanwhile southern Gaul was turned into a Roman province.

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