During the period of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, different leaders exhibited different styles of leadership and employed different political strategies. In addition, these leaders came to power and maintained their control in their own unique ways. Each leader seemed to have his own agenda, which set the tone for that era. Five prominent leaders of this time period were Agricola, Augustus, Julius Caesar, and the brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. The point to be made with respect to these particular men is related to the obvious correlation between the nature of a leader’s agenda and the impact of his reign. In the end, a ruler’s fate was dependent not on his agenda, but on style and strategy with which he pushed his agenda. Those leaders whose methods were completely altruistic were heralded as great leaders, while those with devious and/or unethical methods of pushing their agendas were hastily assassinated.
First consider Tiberius Gracchus. It is imperative to analyze his style of leadership and his political strategies. During his term as tribune, Tiberius’ major goal was to pass a land reform bill. This bill was biased toward the masses. Tiberius tried fairly and squarely to gain the support of the Roman senate, but this effort was to no avail. Tiberius then resorted to unfavorable tactics when he impeached another tribune, Octavius, the major opponent of Tiberius’ bill. Thus Tiberius willingly destroyed the long-held and quite favored notion of an immune tribune.
However, this is what the common people wanted. Tiberius’ big mistake was blatantly opposing, thus disrespecting the Roman senate. As a result, the senate assassinated Tiberius. The lesson to be learned here is not that Tiberius’ agenda was constructed out of self-interest or greed. Tiberius simply wanted to help the common people. However, Tiberius’ methods were not proper for that time in that place. And it is probable that Tiberius could easily have been persuaded to compromise. Thus, Tiberius’ downfall was not his agenda, but his style and political strategy.
A different example of the same principle is summed up with the story of Tiberius’ younger brother, Gaius Gracchus. Gaius worked not to appease the senate, but to appease the people. Although this seems quite noble of him, it was still a mistake to oppose the senate. Granted, this notion is counter-intuitive. One would expect that the senate is supposed to help the people, and since Gaius was helping the people, the senate should favor him. One would also expect that because it was the common people and not the senate that elected him, that he should have unwavering loyalty to the people.
However, one must not look at the situation with a 1990’s, American, free will and liberty, democratic eyes. Rome was not a democracy. The senate commanded respect, and to disregard the senate, whether the people were in favor of you or not, was not a wise thing to do. Thus, Gaius was also assassinated, like his...