Tiberius Gracchus tried to push through his reforms programme while holding the magistracy of a tribune of the plebs.

I wonder, though, why he did not try to get elected as consul (very likely given his family connections and personal distinction) and to enact his reforms then. This would have taken more time but wouldn't it have a better prima facie chance of working out?

Or was he afraid of getting saddled with a veto-wielding conservative colleague in the consulship?

Are there ancient or modern sources discussing this angle?

  • Consuls did not have the veto. Only Tribunes did.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 10, 2014 at 23:41
  • @Oldcat Afaik, they did have the veto over each other's actions. Oct 12, 2014 at 10:36
  • 2
    No. Look at the lengths Bibulus needed to go to try and block Caesar's acts as consul. He stayed up all night looking for omens, and it didn't work. A true veto would have been far easier. Veto, and the sancrosanct persona was a power only the plebs had through the tribunate.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 13, 2014 at 19:06
  • @Oldcat Good point about Bibulus but nevertheless, I do maintain that the consuls had a veto. See here: livius.org/concept/consul I still have to figure out Bibulus, though. Oct 13, 2014 at 19:14
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    There are plenty of other instances of consuls disagreeing, even in battle - see the events leading to Cannae. I could see a disagreement being very weighty in the Senate, causing delays and such, but not a true veto. The point about consuls being able to override lesser offices like praetors is quite true. But not the tribunate, their power comes from another source. Pompey and Crassus is another instance of consuls that did not get along well, but had to limit it to scoring off each other with festivals.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 13, 2014 at 19:22

2 Answers 2


According to the Cursus Honorum, Tiberius was not eligible to be Consul until the age of 42. As he was killed at the age of only 30 (163/2 BC to 133 BC) he was a long cry from being eligible for the Consulship, even given the extreme bending of the rules that was becoming commonplace about this time.

The Cursus Honorum was a succession of offices to be held by Consulship candidates, each one with a successively greater minimum age much as the minimum age to be a US Senator is 30. The minimum age to be a Praetor, the immediate prerequisite for the consulship, was 39, and was to be followed by a two-year term in the provinces as Propraetor before returning to Rome eligible to stand for the consulship.

As great an honour as it was to even become Consul, those who like Cicero made it in their year were even more esteemed, as never having lost an election and stood for every office of the course at the earliest possible age.

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    And the other offices - only consuls and tribunes could create legislation. Praetors were judges, Aediles and quaestors administrators.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 10, 2014 at 23:44

As Pieter said, he wasn't eligible as yet. Tribune was one of the lower rungs on the cursus honorum. He had to wait at least 15-20 years before trying to become consul. But there was more:

The tribune had unique powers that allowed him to do far more than any consul could. He had the power of veto and could legislate laws by himself even if the whole senate was against it, bypassing the senate.

That was something a consul could easily forget, namely making laws without approval of the senate. Later in history they did, but by then the republic was almost an empire. Military force trumps just about everything. In Cracchus time a consul could legislate, but only with enough support from the senate. He would have to create a compromise. I'm not too sure if the senate would accept such a compromise here. Too many senators had too much to loose.

Becoming a consul was not easy. Fairly few senators managed to get that far. I'm pretty certain both Cracchi could have managed it, but that was by no means certain.

And finally, most politicians then and now look for quick solutions that work right away. Not something that might - or might not - work in 20 years time. Both Chracchi brothers were young men, they wanted to solve a nasty problem at that very moment. Not somewhere far away in the future.

By the way, only the tribunes of the plebs had the power of veto. Nobody else, including the consuls. The Cracchi wouldn't worry about a vetoing consul, that wasn't possible. But a consul buying one or more tribunes to veto for him was a very real possibility.

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