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p698 Leges Semproniae

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp698‑699 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

SEMPRONIAE LEGES, were leges proposed by Tiberius and C. Gracchus respectively, while they were tribuni plebis.

Agraria of Tib. Gracchus was proposed by him during his tribunate B.C. 133. The nature of this measure is explained by Appian (Bell. Civ. I.10, &c.). It was an Agraria Lex, the object of which was the distribution of the Public Land among the poorer citizens [Agrariae Leges.] Tib. Gracchus with the advice of P. Licinius Crassus, Pontifex Maximus, P. Mucius Scaevola, afterwards Pontifex Maximus, and Appius Claudius (Plut. Tib. Gracchus, 9), proposed that no person should hold more of the Ager Publicus than 500 jugera (cf. Liciniae Leges), but that for every son he might hold 250 more. The poor who were to be provided with land out of what remained after the large possessions were reduced, were not to have the power of alienating their own lots; and they were to pay the tenths. The law was enacted and the execution of it was intrusted to three persons (tres viri), who were Tiberius himself, his brother Caius, and Appius Claudius. The execution of the law was attended with great difficulty, because the public land which had been held for many generations by private persons, had been dealt with like private property, had often changed hands by sale, and had been improved and built upon. It was first proposed to indemnify the Possessors for all improvements, but it appears that when they made opposition to the measure, this proposal was withdrawn.

Other measures were designed by Tiberius, but his premature death stopped them. The execution of the Agraria Lex of Tiberius was impeded by a Senatusconsultum which put an end to the commission. The Lex was revived by Caius Gracchus, trib. pl. in B.C. 123. The senate ruined the cause of Gracchus by engaging the tribune M. Livius Drusus to propose measures of a character p699even more popular than those of Gracchus. The legislation about the Roman Public Land requires a history in itself.

De Capite Civium, proposed by C. Gracchus B.C. 123, enacted that the caput or condition of a Roman citizen could not be affected without a trial and vote of the people (Cic. pro Rabir. c4; and Cicero's disingenuous exposition, In Cat. IV.5). Plutarch (C. Gracchus, 4) appears to allude to this Lex; but if he does, he has mistaken its purport.

Frumentaria. [Frumentariae Leges.]

Judiciaria proposed by C. Gracchus, had for its object to deprive the senate of the power which they derived from supplying the Judices in Judicia Publica from their body (Plut. C. Gracchus, 5). Plutarch's account of this Lex is probably incorrect. Compare Appian (Bell. Civ. I.22); and Judex, p649B.

De Provinciis Consularibus proposed by C. Gracchus, B.C. 123, enacted, that in every year, before the Comitia for electing the consuls, the senate should determine the two provinces which the consuls should have; and the consuls were to settle between themselves by lot, or otherwise, which province each should have (Sallust, Jug. c27, and the note of Cortius; Cic. de Prov. Cons. c2).

There may have been other measures proposed and carried by C. Gracchus; but it is not easy to distinguish between all that was proposed and carried, and what was simply proposed. The Lives of Tiberius and C. Gracchus by Plutarch, translated with notes by G. Long, give some information on the legislation of the Gracchi, which should be compared with Appian (Bell. Civ. I.10, &c.).


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