A known unknown

Portrait, believed to represent Plutarch (Delphi)

Portrait, believed to represent Plutarch (Delphi)

Let me offer you a little puzzle. It’s about the famous land bill of Tiberius Gracchus in 133 BC. Here’s the evidence.

Livy writes (Periochae 58.1) that Gracchus’ land bill implied that no one was to own more than 1,000 iugera of public land. Then, there’s Plutarch, who lived a century later and states that no Roman was to own more than 500 iugera of land (Life of Tiberius Gracchus 8.2). There’s an obvious contradiction here, but things are even more complex than that. Some two generations after Plutarch, Appian of Alexandria informs us that Gracchus’ land bill provided

that nobody should hold more than the 500 iugera of the public domain, and added a provision that the sons of the occupiers might each hold one-half of that amount (Civil Wars 1.8).

What to make of this?

[Read the answer on the blog of Ancient History Magazine.]

One Response to A known unknown

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