Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor

Cornelia, the Mother of the Gracchi

Cornelia and her two sons, Tiberius and Gaius, are famous in the annals of Roman history.

The mother of the Gracchi was the daughter of the first Scipio Africanus. With her father's consent, Cornelia married a young plebeian, named Tiberius Gracchus.

Her husband died while her children were still young, and from that time Cornelia lived to train and educate her boys.

Princes in foreign countries heard of the wisdom and goodness of the noble matron, and journeyed to Rome to beseech her to bestow her hand upon them. Even King Ptolemy of Egypt wished to make her his queen.

But Cornelia steadfastly refused each suitor, that she might be free to watch over her sons. From their childhood she taught them to love their country, telling them tales of those who had served Rome well, and had even given their lives for love of her.

And so the lads grew up longing that they too, like the heroes of old, might live and die for their country. But their mother taught them lessons the heroes of old had never learned, and one of these lessons was to care for the poor and oppressed.

One day, while her children were still young, a lady came to visit Cornelia. She was a rich lady, and proud of her jewels and her wealth.

Cornelia listened quietly as her guest told her of the precious stones and ornaments she possessed. When at length she grew tired of talking of her own beautiful things, she said she would like to see the treasures of her hostess.

So Cornelia led the lady to another room. There, in bed, fast asleep, lay her children. Pointing to the little ones, she said to the bewildered visitor, 'These are my jewels; the only ones of which I am proud.'

Tiberius was nine years older than his brother Gaius. The elder boy was gentle and deliberate, both in his ways and in his speech, the younger was vehement and impetuous. As they grew up, the differences between them grew more marked.

Both were great orators, but Tiberius spoke without gestures, and seldom stirred from one spot while he addressed his audience.

Gaius, on the other hand, was never still for a moment. His quick, passionate words were emphasised by his gestures, and as he talked he would walk up and down, sometimes in his excitement throwing his gown off his shoulders.

The two brothers were known as 'The Gracchi.' They had a sister who was named Sempronia, and she had married the younger Scipio. Tiberius served under his brother-in-law in Africa, and he was the first to mount the wall when the suburb of Megara was attacked.

In 137 B.C., soon after he returned to Italy, he was sent to Spain to serve with the army there.

On his way he passed through Etruria, where the land was divided into large estates. These estates belonged to rich people, who employed gangs of slaves to cultivate their fields.

Tiberius saw the slaves at work as he journeyed through the country. He noticed that they were loaded with chains and bent with the hard tasks that their masters forced them to do.

The young man looked at these poor creatures with pity, for Cornelia had taught her boys that slaves were human beings, and should be treated justly and kindly.

Why should the land belong only to the rich? Tiberius wondered. Had these very fields and estates not been won for Rome by her citizen soldiers? Yet many of the soldiers were now struggling with poverty, instead of owning part of the soil for which they had fought.

As he thought of the slaves, and of the unfair division of land, Tiberius remembered that the old Licinian laws forbade any one man to own large tracts of land.

So he determined that when he went back to Rome he would plead with the Senate to enforce these old laws, that the poor might share the land with the rich.

After he had made this resolution, Gracchus went on his way with happy thoughts.

Soon no chained slaves would be seen toiling in the fields, but citizen farmers, like Cincinnatus of old, would live on their own land and till their own fields. And he, Tiberius Gracchus, would have freed his country from a great evil.

The dreams of the young Roman that night were happy dreams.

When the time came for Tiberius to return to Rome, his mind was still full of reform. No sooner did he reach home, than he told to his noble mother his plans for helping the slaves and the poorer citizens of Rome, and begged for her advice.

Cornelia was full of interest in all that her son had to tell. She was pleased that he should wish to help the oppressed, and she knew that it was she herself who had taught him to be thus pitiful.

'I have been called the daughter of Scipio, but in days to come I shall be known as the mother of the Gracchi,' she told Tiberius, for Cornelia believed that both her boys would be honoured by the country they sought to serve.

So in 133 B.C. Tiberius offered himself as one of the people's tribunes. He was young, it was true, but already the citizens knew that he was their friend, and he was elected without difficulty.


Front Matter

The Lady Roma
The She-Wolf
The Twin Boys
Numitor's Grandson
The Sacred Birds
The Founding of Rome
The Sabine Maidens
The Tarpeian Rock
The Mysterious Gate
The King Disappears
The Peace-Loving King
Horatius Slays His Sister
Pride of Tullus Hostilius
King Who Fought and Prayed
The Faithless Friend
A Slave Becomes a King
Cruel Deed of Tullia
Fate of the Town of Gabii
Books of the Sibyl
Industry of Lucretia
Death of Lucretia
Sons of Brutus
Horatius Cocles
Mucius Burns Right Hand
The Divine Twins
The Tribunes
Coriolanus and His Mother
The Roman Army in a Trap
The Hated Decemvirs
The Death of Verginia
The Friend of the People
Camillus Captures Veii
The Statue of the Goddess
Schoolmaster Traitor
Battle of Allia
The Sacred Geese
The City Is Rebuilt
Volscians on Fire
Battle on the Anio
The Curtian Lake
Dream of the Two Consuls
The Caudine Forks
Caudine Forks Avenged
Fabius among the Hills
Battle of Sentinum
Son of Fabius Loses Battle
Pyrrhus King of the Epirots
Elephants at Heraclea
Pyrrthus and Fabricius
Pyrrhus is Defeated
Romans Build a Fleet
Battle of Ecnomus
Roman Legions in Africa
Regulus Taken Prisoner
Romans Conquer the Gauls
The Boy Hannibal
Hannibal Invades Italy
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
Battle of Trebia
Battle of Lake Trasimenus
Hannibal Outwits Fabius
Fabius Wins Two Victories
Battle of Cannae
Despair of Rome
Defeat of Hasdrubal
Claudius Enjoy a Triumph
Capture of New Carthage
Scipio Sails to Africa
Romans Set Fire to Camp
Hannibal Leaves Italy
The Battle of Zama
Scipio Receives a Triumph
Flamininus in Garlands
Death of Hannibal
Hatred of Cato for Carthage
The Stern Decree
Carthaginians Defend City
Destruction of Carthage
Cornelia, Mother of Gracchi
Tiberius and Octavius
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Death of Gaius Gracchus
The Gold of Jugurtha
Marius Wins Notice of Scipio
Marius Becomes Commander
Capture of Treasure Towns
Capture of Jugurtha
Jugurtha Brought to Rome
Marius Conquers Teutones
Marius Mocks the Ambassadors
Metellus Driven from Rome
Sulla Enters Rome
The Flight of Marius
Gaul Dares Not Kill Marius
Marius Returns to Rome
The Orator Aristion
Sulla Besieges Athens
Sulla Fights the Samnites
The Proscriptions of Sulla
The Gladiators' Revolt
The Pirates
Pompey Defeats Mithridates
Cicero Discovers Conspiracy
Death of the Conspirators
Caesar Captured by Pirates
Caesar Gives up Triumph
Caesar Praises Tenth Legion
Caesar Wins a Great Victory
Caesar Invades Britain
Caesar Crosses Rubicon
Caesar and the Pilot
The Flight of Pompey
Cato Dies Rather than Yieldr
Caesar is Loaded with Honours
Nobles Plot against Caesar
The Assassination of Caesar
Brutus Speaks to Citizens
Antony Speaks to Citizens
The Second Triumvirate
Battle of Philippi
Death of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
Battle of Actium
Antony and Cleopatra Die
Emperor Augustus