Excerpt from: The cambridge ancient history: The last age of the roman republic

“The poverty caused by the greed of the wealthy was thus accepted by a number of Roman writers as a cause of civil conflict in the Forum and ultimately of civil war, though this was sometimes seen more in moral than socio-economic terms. The poor, it was held, fought not so much because they were poor, but because poverty embittered them and made them violent and greedy themselves. Moreover, the griefs of the poor were not thought to excuse their aristocratic leaders for clashes with fellow-aristocrats. In spite of his appreciation of the miseries of the plebs Sallust both in the Catiline and the Histories declared that the claim of its leaders to be defending plebeian rights was fraudulent: like the leaders of the Senate, they were using honourable pretexts to seek personal power – a judgement deriving from Thucydides’ account of civil strife at Corcyra in 427 B.C. Florus writes in the same vein, when assessing the Gracchi. Their measures appeared just, but they damaged the wealth of the state and the interest of the possessing classes (themselves part of the people): in reality they and other tribunes sought domination for their office rather than protection for the rights of the people.”

(Crook, J. A., Lintott, A., & Rawson, E. (Eds.). (1994). The cambridge ancient history: The last age of the roman republic, 146-43 B.C. (2nd ed.). Great Britain: Cambridge University Press.)

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