Problems faced by Roman peasantry


As Rome gained more land through conquest acquired after the Second Punic War and other Land invasions, the slaves from these newly acquired lands would increase and due to this  surplus of slaves from Rome's recent conquests most “latifundia” (a large landed estate or ranch in ancient Rome or more recently in Spain or Latin America, typically worked by peasants or slaves) that had originally been worked on by peasants were replaced by slaves thus land became a prime investment for merchants the populace who profited from the gains in free labour had grown in wealth and influence from this, Whereas other native Italians became poorer and the divide pushed the modest natives in a minority.

Moreover, the merchants would stop treating it like a lease, and treat it like their own land. Plebeian protests were an attempt to put a cap on how much land could be leased (a proposed 320 acres), but the law was never actually put into play. The land was available for lease only, because it was government owned.

The native Italian peoples were being oppressed by taxes, penury (the state of being very poor; extreme poverty) and military service.

Most had little work due to the rich Romans owning most of the farming land and only using slave labour.

Gaius Gracchus, Gaius Sempronius Gracchus was a Roman Popularis politician in the 2nd century BC and he and other’s within the Roman government noticed the natives troubles and unrest, so Gaius decides on new legislation to insure that possession of land was evenly distributed, Gaius hasn’t been the first to push a land reform, 2.Laelius, consul in 140AD proposed a land reform bill but was rejected by the Senate and only a handful supported the idea.

The new legislation was as follows: Nobody could hold any more than 500 (330 acres) “jugera” of “this land” (farm land, not land in general) plus 250 jugera for each of up to two sons; i.e. 1000 jugera), and would be compensated by being granted a hereditary rent-free lease. Or pasture anymore than 100 cattle or 500 sheep.

What Gracchus had proposed in terms of measurement was not money but men, labour and the usefulness of a life of hard work. It restored to the list of those eligible for military service (for which a tradition of qualification was the possession of land) a section of society which had fallen out of the reckoning. His speech was aimed at showing how nothing more advantageous or admirable could ever happen to Italy although he took no account of the difficulties surrounding such a stance, Rome's well-being seemed more and more to be a secondary factor in the great contest of egos.

Gracchus' bill was 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.