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In nutshell, agrarian reforms of late Roman republic

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Famous siblings: Tiberius (on the right) and Gaius Gracchus
Famous siblings: Tiberius (on the right) and Gaius Gracchus

Land ownership is a very important aspect of the decline of the republic in ancient Rome. First of all, because of the peasant masses that sought a new division of the land, but also because of the soldiers, who were often given land after numerous conquests.

Agrarian reforms are usually associated with the laws of the brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. With the support of Appius Claudius (father-in-law of Tiberius), Publius Scevola (consul of 133), as well as the support of several other senators and the whole mass of the poor, landless peasantry, a committee of three (tresviri) was created to deal with the division ager publicus. First of all, it was established that the upper limit of ownership is 500 jugers (125 ha). Additionally, 250 juggers were allowed for two sons of the landowner. In this way, the family could have a maximum of 1,000 jugglers (250 ha) ager publicus. Surpluses of land were collected and transferred to needy peasants (30 jugers = 7.5 ha each. They received lands for hereditary use – without the right to divide and sell them, and they had to pay the appropriate fee for that use (vectigal. In this way, a committee of three confiscated over 1 million jugglers (250,000 hectares). The actions met with fierce resistance by the senate, while the “triumvirs” were supported by peasants in committees. As a result of the conflict, Tiberius was attacked by a group of senators with Scipion Nazyka on He died with his 300 followers, and after his death, his younger brother Gaius continued his work. An armed speech (consul Opimiusz) was also launched against him. Gaius, wanting to avoid death at the hands of his opponents, ordered to kill a trusted slave.

First of all, the reforms have shaken the monopoly nobilitas . Peasant masses, along with their political guides, showed their struggle for their rights. The situation also led to a disruption of equites and noblemen (also due to the emergence of the popular party that Gaius initiated). Agrarian regulations were also introduced by Sulla (to meet the needs of the army, which helped him to take over the dictatorship in the year 82) and Caesar (as consul of the year 59, he proposed a reform to satisfy Pompey’s veterans).

Author: Kacper Wardowski
  • M. Jaczynowska, D. Musiał, M. Stępień, Historia Starożytna
  • M. Jaczynowska, M. Pawlak, Starożytny Rzym

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