UNIVERSAL .HISTORY- THE ANCIENT WORLD.
as a breaker of the law. His popularity was somewhat shaken, and two
Senators-Scipio Nascia and Quintus Pompeius-gave public notice of their
intention to impeach the tribune as soon as the expiration of his official
term should expose him to such a proceeding.
In this emergency Tiberius determined to offer himself for reelection; for
by that means the tribunal office would secure him against arrest or
molestation. In order to strengthen his cause with the people, he announced
several measures of great importance as a part of his policy for the
future. Among these were statutes limiting the term Of military service,
conferring upon the knights the right of sitting upon juries, extending the
appeal to civil as well as criminal causes, and admitting the Italian
allies to full citizenship. These were the issues involved in the election.
The day for voting was set in the busy season of summer, in order to
prevent a concourse of the people. But the public excitement ran high, and
another expedient had to be adopted. On the day of election the nobles
interdicted the voting with the legal objection that it was unlawful to
elect a tribune as his own successor.
The partisans hereupon engaged in a violent dispute, and the assembly was
adjourned to meet on the following day. Promptly on the next morning the
people gathered in a great throng on the Capitoline Hill. The friends and
the enemies of Tiberius again confronted each other, and a violent riot was
threatened. It was whispered through the ranks of the popular party that
the Optimates had made a plan to destroy the life of Tiberius; while the
adherents of the aristocracy were told that the tribune, by raising his
hand to his head, had signified his ambition to be crowned.
While this tumult was surging angrily in the open space before the temple
of Jupiter Capitolinus, the Senate was holding a session near by in the
temple of Fides. In that body Scipio Nascia addressed the consul, and
demanded that the ambitious Tiberius be at once put down by force. Scaevola
replied that he would not undertake the death of any citizen who had not
been condemned according to law, but that if the tribune should obtain the
passage of measures by the assembly contrary to the constitution, he would
refuse to sanction the act. On this conservative declaration, Scipio arose,
denounced the consul as a traitor to the cause of the Senate, and demanded
that all who would aid in saving the Republic should follow. A large
company of senators thereupon rushed forth from the hall, armed themselves
as they might, and fell upon the popular assembly. The latter gave way at
their approach, and Tiberius, being left undefended, was beaten to death
with staves. About three hundred others were likewise killed, and their
bodies cast into the Tiber.
Thus by violence was destroyed the leader of the people. So great, however,
was his influence that the senatorial body was obliged to stand back from
the results of the bloody deed. The aristocracy did not dare to attempt the
legal abrogation of the Agrarian law which had been revived by Tiberius.
The Senate itself divided on the question at issue, and the party favorable
to the recent legislation gained a majority even in that venerable conclave
of the privileged order. Scipio Nascia, in order to save his life, was
obliged to be sent on a mission to Asia, and never saw his country more.
In the mean time Scipio AEmilianus returned from Spain, and became involved
in the political troubles of the state. At length he ventured, in the
popular assembly, to justify the assassination of Tiberius, and thenceforth
became an object of distrust and aversion of the people. Being a soldier,
he braved the tumult, and, addressing the assembly, said: "Ye stepsons of
Italy, cease your clamor! Do ye think by your noise to frighten me,
accustomed to the terrors of battle?''
Those who had been deprived of their lands now found in Scipio a champion
of their cause. A resolution was adopted by the Senate transferring the
authority of the land commissioners to the consuls of the Republic; but the
latter, fearing to assume such a trust, found opportunity to escape
therefrom by going into foreign parts. The law was thus, for the time, left
unexecuted, and no further distributions of land were made. The wrath of
the Populares was now directed in full force against Sdpio. The meetings
in the Forum and