ancient.gif (10064 bytes)

Plutarch on the Murder of Tiberius Graachus, 133 B.C.

[Nasic, a senatorial leader, urged strong measure:] "Let every one who will defend the laws follow me."  [Nasica,] then, casting the edge of his toga over his head, hastened to the Capitol; those who bore him company wrapped their togas also about their arms and forced their way after him.  And as they were persons of the greatest authority in the city the common people did not venture to obstruct their passing, but were so eager to clear the way for them that they tumbled over one another in haste. The attendants they brought with them had furnished themselves with clubs and staves from their houses, and they themselves picked up the feet and other fragments of stools and shares, which were broken by the hasty flight of the common people.

Thus armed, they made toward Tiberius, knocking down those whom they found in front of him, and those were soon wholly dispersed, and many of them slain. Tiberius tried to save himself by flight.  As he was running, he was stopped by one who caught hold of him by the toga; but he threw it off, and fled in his undergarments only.  And stumbling over those who before had been knocked down, as he was endeavoring to get up again, Publius Satureius, a tribune, one of his colleagues, was observed to give him the first fatal stroke, by hitting him upon the head with the foot of a stool. The second blow was claimed, as though it had been a deed to be proud of, by Lucius Rufus. And of the rest there fell over three hundred, killed by clubs and staves only, none by an iron weapon.

This, we are told, was the first sedition among the Romans, since the abrogation of kingly government, that ended in the effusion of blood.  All former quarrels which were neither small nor about trivial matters, were always amicably settled, by mutual concessions on either side, the Senate yielding for fear of the commons, and the commons out of respect to the Senate. . . . But it is evidence that this conspiracy was fomented against Tiberius, more out of the hatred and malice which the rich men had to his person, than for the reasons which they commonly pretended against him. In testimony of which, we may adduce the cruelty and unnatural insults with which they abused to his dead body.  For they would not allow his own brother, though he earnestly begged the favor, to bury him in the night, but threw him, together with the other corpses, into the river.

[Source: Plutarch, Life of Tiberius Graachus, 16-20, in Readings in Ancient History, vol. 2, ed. William S. Davis, (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1913), pp. 108-109.]

| Return to the Lecture |

| The History Guide |

copyright 2001 Steven Kreis
Last Revised -- February 28, 2006
Conditions of Use