Tiberius and his brother Gaius Gracchus were to be two men who should become famous, if not infamous, for their struggle for the lower classes of Rome.
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus at first distinguished himself in the army (as an officer in the Third Punic was he is said to have been the first man over the wall at Carthage), after which he was elected quaestor. When in Numantia an entire army found itself in dire straits, it was Tiberius' negotiation skill, which managed to save the lives of 20'000 Roman soldiers and thousands more among the auxiliary units and camp followers. However, the senate disliked what they called a dishonourable treaty which saved lives, but admitted defeat. If the intervention by his brother-in-law Scipio Aemilianus saved at least the general staff (including Tiberius) from suffering any indignity at the hands of the senate, then the commander of the force, Hostilius Mancinus, was arrested, put in irons and handed over to the enemy.
When Gracchus won the election to the tribunate in 133 BC he had probably no intention of starting a revolution. His aim was largely economic.
As any projects of reform which would touch their own wealth or power would naturally be opposed by the nobles, Tiberius' ideas of land reform should win him few friends in the senate.
Tiberius brought forward a bill to the concilium plebis for a creation of allotments mostly out of the large area of public land which the republic had acquired after the Second Punic War.
Those currently living on the land would be restricted to what had for some time been the legal limit of ownership (500 acres plus 250 acres for each of up to two sons; i.e. 1000 acres), and would be compensated by being granted a hereditary rent-free lease.
But however reasonable some of his arguments might have been, Gracchus with his contempt for the senate, his flagrant populism and political brinkmanship, heralded a change in the nature of Roman politics. The stakes were getting ever higher, things were becoming more brutal. Rome's well-being seemed more and more to be a secondary factor in the great contest of egos and boundless ambition.
Gracchus' bill was unsurprisingly supported by the popular assembly. But the other Tribune of the people, Octavius, used his powers to overrule the law.
Gracchus now replied by applying his own veto as Tribune to every sort of action by government, in effect bringing the rule of Rome to a standstill. Rome's government was to deal with his bill, before any other matter should be dealt with. Such was his intention. At the next assembly he reintroduced his bill. Once again there was no doubt of its success in the assembly, but once again Octavius vetoed it.
At the next assembly Gracchus proposed that Octavius should be deposed from office. This was not within the Roman constitution, but the assembly voted for it nonetheless. Tiberius' agrarian bill was then voted on once again and became law.
Three commissioners were appointed to administer the scheme; Tiberius himself, his younger brother Gaius Sempronius Gracchus and Appius Claudius Pulcher, 'leader' of the senate - and Tiberius' father-in-law.
So too, hostile feelings against Gracchus arose, when rich, influential men discovered that the new law may deprive them of land they saw as their own.
The senate failed in an attempt to bar him from standing again, but a group of enraged senators, led by his hostile cousin Scipio Nasica, charged into an election rally of Tiberius', broke it up and, alas, clubbed him to death.
Nasica had to flee the country and died at Pergamum. On the other hand some of Gracchus' supporters were punished by methods which were positively illegal, too.