Gaius Sempronius Gracchus (154 BC-121 BC) was a Roman politician of the 2nd century BC. He was the younger brother of Tiberius Gracchus and, like him, pursued a popular political agenda that eventually got him killed by the conservative faction of the senate.

Gaius was born in 154 BC as the youngest son of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (who died in the same year) and Cornelia Africana. The Gracchii, though not of patrician stock, were one of the politically most important families of Rome, very rich and well connected. His mother was daughter of Scipio Africanus and his sister Sempronia was the wife of Scipio Aemilianus, another important general. Gaius was raised by his mother, a Roman matrona of high moral standards and virtue.

Gaius military career started in Numantia, as military tribune appointed to the staff of his brother in law, Scipio Aemilianus. As a young man, he watched the political turmoil caused by his older brother Tiberius Gracchus, as he tried to pass laws for agrarian reforms. Tiberius was killed in 132 BC near the Capitol, during an armed confrontation with political enemies, lead by Publius Cornelius Scipio Corculum, their cousin. With this death, Gaius inherited the estate of the Gracchii family. History would prove that he inherited his brother's ideals too.

Gaius started his political career in 126 BC, as quaestor to consul Lucius Aurelius Orestes in Sardinia. After a few years of political peace in Rome, in 123 BC, Gaius is elected for the tribunate of the plebs, as every man in his family before him. The conservators soon understood that they might expect trouble from him. Gaius had similar ideals as Tiberius, but he had time to learn from his brother's mistakes. His program included not only agrarian laws, that stated that lands should be taken from the rich and given to the poor, but also laws that regulated the price of the grain. He also tried to limit the number of years and campaigns a man was obliged to serve in the army. Other measures included the creation of an extortion court, to prosecute illegal appropriations of money by members of the senate, and the awarding of Roman citizenship to several Italian allied nations. All of this, of course, displeased the senate, very keen to maintain their own privileges.

In 122 BC, Gaius ran for another term as tribune of the plebs – a very unusual political procedure – and got it, with the overwhelming support of Rome's lower classes. During this year, he continued to pursue his reforms and to deal with increasing opposition of the senate. Gaius tried to run for a third time, with Marcus Fulvius Flaccus his colleague and partner. But in this year, they lost and could do nothing besides watching the removal of all their laws by the new conservative consuls (Quintus Fabius Maximus and Lucius Opimius). In ordered to prevent the loss of all his work, Gaius and Fulvius Flaccus resorted to violent measures. The senate responded by tagging them as enemies of the Republic and they eventually had to run. Fulvius Flaccus was murdered with his sons, but Gaius managed to escape with Philocrates, his faithful slave. Pursued by the conservator's men, Gaius committed suicide in a cave where he was hiding. Following his death, about 1,000 men suspected of supporting him were killed and their estates confiscated.

Gaius Gracchus left only one daughter from his marriage to Licinia Crassa. The girl Sempronia, heiress to the Gracchi estate, married Fulvius Flaccus. This wedding also resulted in only one daughter, Fulvia, who became the wife of first of Publius Clodius Pulcher and then of Mark Antony.

See also: Scipio-Paullus-Gracchus family tree


Life of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, by Plutarch