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Murder of Tiberius Gracchus

colosseum rome italy

The murder of Tiberius Gracchus is one of history’s most significant murders and events that contributed to and marked the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire when Tiberius was murdered in 133 BC and his brother, Gaius Gracchus, was murdered in 121 BC.

The Roman Senate murdered both Gracchus’s brothers, with Tiberius himself beaten to death by Roman senators, similar to Gaius Julius Caesar, who was famously assassinated in 44 BC.

A group of as many as 60 conspirators decided to assassinate Caesar at the meeting of the Senate on March 15, the ides of March. Collectively, the group stabbed Caesar a reported 23 times, killing the Roman leader.

What makes the murder of Tiberius Gracchus so historically significant is that it marked a turning point in Roman political history where political debate and the ability to resolve substantial issues through a peaceful democratic process stopped working.

From 133 BC onwards, Roman political leadership no longer resolved the problems if they could not be resolved peacefully by debate and oratory but instead on the battlefield or through murder, which played the Roman Empire into its final destruction in 1453 A.D. by the Ottoman Turks.

Of the Roman emperors of first citizen, which will be the correct terminology of the Imperial Roman period for the ruler of that state of those leaders, 33 emperors were murdered or executed.

Thirty were despatched by sword or dagger. Of these, 26 were killed by Roman soldiers (five decapitated) and one (Valentinian III) by German mercenaries.

As for the Eastern Roman Empire, which existed from 330 A.D. to 1453 AD, eighty-eight emperors and empresses, forty-seven died natural deaths, and six were killed during military revolts, seven were deposed and mutilated, eleven were deposed and exiled or entered a monastery, two were deposed and pursued a further political career, three were deposed, imprisoned, and later executed, six were murdered in their palace, one in church on Christmas day, and one by his uncle, a mob killed one, two were killed by foreigners in battle, and one retired. Thirteen emperors founded dynasties in which multiple members of their family succeeded them.

Tiberius Gracchus

The Importance of Democracy

As was demonstrated by my words above, the murder of Tiberius Gracchus contributed, along with several other factors, to the decline in the form of the Roman Empire because his death marked a fundamental change in Roman political culture.

For people reading this who enjoy learning about the history of the rise and fall of empires, the murder of Tiberius marked the event that clearly shows a failure of politics that compounded over centuries throughout the Roman Empire.

For nations and empires to survive and be successful, there need to be political mechanisms that enable the winners to win and the losers to lose and not go and kill their opposition.

This is very relevant to modern-day politics within the United States.

Nations, particularly democracies, are becoming more tribalist in both political parties; either Democrats or Republicans are growing increasingly unable to find common ground, leading to increased instability within the United States.

This same attitude has become the new norm around Western democratic and liberal nations all around the globe, particularly in Europe and the English-speaking peoples.

Once we stop listening to one another, it leads to the failure of democracy and for sophisticated states to operate and function without becoming basket cases of instability and chaos that the late Roman Empire and have civil war after civil war and murder after murder of its leadership.

Tiberius Gracchus was murdered for attempting to reform the Roman Republic and remove it from dependency on the senatorial classes and their control over the wealth.

Tiberius wanted to give more power and influence to the Roman people and its middle classes.

Unfortunately, the wealthy Roman senatorial class saw him as a threat to their wealth and power and murdered him.

It was not until the dictatorship of Gaius Julius Caesar that the Roman Republic would be reformed and be able to function again as a governing body of the Roman Empire, which expanded throughout the Mediterranean even during the time of Tiberius Gracchus.

Rome also needed to be reformed because it was a Republican city-state that ruled an empire.

It needed to transform itself from a city-state into a governing body that could rule an empire due to Roman politics being developed to govern only Rome and the surrounding lands.

The Roman Republic was never designed to work as an empire.

This is why Tiberius tried to make reforms and why only Gareth Julius Caesar made the changes necessary to keep the Roman Empire alive by becoming dictator for life.

Why the successor to Caesar, Augustus, create the position of first citizen/emperor/precept they did in such a way that created a monarchy with Republican characteristics, which made the Roman Empire in regards to leadership incredibly dysfunctional and contributed to its collapse as well?

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