Tiberius Gracchus? Proposal Essay, Research Paper
By Tiberius Gracchus? proposal of the law stated in the lex agaria, I speculate that he is trying to help the poor citizens of Rome, and at the same time, benefit the overall condition of the city. The law stated that those holding more than the legal limit of public land must give that land up, and that this land would be redistributed to ?Roman citizens in small allotments…? That Gracchus is trying to help the poorer citizens is shown through the small size of the plot of land given, the provision that a small rent must be paid, and that the land could not be sold. Handing out this land also would benefit the state because, by giving some of these plots to those who had no land, these people could now join the army. As well, this would de-crowd the actual city of Rome. Finally, he could not make this law by himself; it had to be approved by the aristocrats, so he had to benefit them too or they would not comply.
The plots of land that were to be split up and redistributed were said to each have a maximum size of 30 iugera. This allotment is not a large amount of land in comparison to the 500 or more iugera that other citizens are said to hold. The difference between the sizes of land seems to imply that those receiving these small plots would be of a lesser income, because there would not be much of a point in giving land plots of 30 iugera away to those who would consider it insignificant. Those Roman citizens that did not have a large quantity of money or land, however, would find 30 iugera to be a large allotment of land and would be able to find good use for it.
The law makes the statement that the new holders of the land must pay a small rent. This could be just instated so that the land is not just a hand-out. If land was handed out for free, that would most likely anger the rich that the land was taken from. As well, this alludes to simple principles. It would most likely not be acceptable in these days to hand out land for free, however, if a fee was added to it, no matter how nominal, it would give the idea that it was in fact fair for this to be done. Another possible reason for the rent being required could also be so that if the people given the land had to pay for it, they would put it to good use. If the land was given out for free, it might be taken advantage of and not treated properly. The fact that it was paid for makes it all the more valuable. Additionally, the fact that the rent is stated to be a small also insinuates that
this land will be given to the poor, and probably the poor that had not owned land before. If this land was to be given to the middle class or rich, almost certainly a larger rent would be asked for, since these people could afford it.
It is stated that ?the new holders were not allowed to alienate [the small allotments]?? This says that once they were given the land, the citizens could not sell it back for money. This implies two things. One, that the people the land was ?taken away? from could not get this land back by bribe or anything of that sort. And two, that this prevents serfdom in a way also because the original owners cannot try to get the land back and assert control over the new holders. Because the new holders have paid a small rent and could not sell their land, instead of working other citizens? land at the mercy of those they worked for, they were working their own land and were subject only to the government, whom they paid the rent to.
There are also possible additional benefits to giving these plots of 30 iugera to the poorer citizens. In the time when this law was made, any citizen who owned land had to be in the army. If some of these citizens who had just gained the new 30 iugera of land had previously possessed no land, then they had not been able to be in the army. Therefore, feasibly, by giving these previously landless citizens these plots, they could then join the army. Also, the holding of land and the ability to produce crops to make a living would permit these people to furnish themselves with the equipment necessary to join the army. If it is so that the small plots of land were given to citizens previously holding no land, then this could, in turn, add more people to the army. This would obviously benefit the state of Rome, because a larger army can be more effective, as well as act as a way of unifying the state. With the addition of lower class citizens into the army, more citizens would be brought together as a people.
Rome was a crowded city, and the area in which the poorer people resided was most likely not a very nice part of town. The city and the individuals would therefore benefit a great deal from the relocation of some of these poorer citizens. This 30 iugera of land would not likely be in the heart of the city, therefore, it was probably in a rural area. If this is so, the distribution of land would move people out of the city, which would benefit the actual city, in that crowding causes all sorts of sanitary problems, and
problems of safety, and crime. As well, living in an area without these problems is an obvious improvement for those citizens. So, if this is all true, the quality of living has increased greatly for those that leave the city, as well as those who remain in it.
Gracchus cannot make this law without the approval of the aristocrats. He has to go through a group vote to pass this. Therefore, he must benefit these aristocrats that vote with him in some way so that they will have some reason to vote in favor of the law. The 500 iugera spoken of as a maximum amount of land is public land. This amount is a great quantity of land, and the law even provides more land possible for each son of these holders. People who have this much land would most probably have to be very wealthy. This land was not previously owned and here, Gracchus is giving this land to the holders. Although he is taking the land away that exceeds this amount, he is taking away land that did not even belong to these citizens. Further, there is nothing in the law that mentions any price for this land that they are receiving. Besides this, the law states that the ?fertile ager Campanus was not included in the scheme.? This implies that these citizens with 500 iugera or more of land had even more land that was included in a different type of terrain. If any citizens were holding this type of land, they didn?t even have to include this in their maximum amount of land that they could own. Also, that the law says anything more than 500 iugera exceeds the legal limit tells us that there was a law already made concerning this issue, and that these people holding more than this legal limit are breaking that law. Instead of getting punished for breaking this law, they are, in a way, being rewarded. All of this definitely should be gain enough for the aristocrats to agree to this law.
In conclusion, by passing this law, Tiberius Gracchus is accomplishing multiple tasks. He helps the poor by giving them land to hold for a small amount of rent. Whether this land is given to those previously holding no land or those who only had a little plot before, it is beneficial. This will presumably take them out of the ?slums? of the city and allow them to be part of the army, and therefore, a more integral part of Rome. This benefits the state as a whole because it de-crowds the actual city, and it unifies and consolidates more citizens through a common ground. In doing this, Gracchus also gratifies the aristocrats that must be in favor of the law to pass it, by giving
them the land they were previously only allowed to hold, as well as not including any ager Campanus land they might hold in addition to the public land. Therefore, individuals, as well as the state as a whole, are aided through this proposal.