Your name or nickname: JK
Your year of birth: 1986
A reliable DW account the mods can PM to reach you: ashavah or fishermansweater
Link to your hold comment: http://sixthiteration.dreamwidth.org/2016/03/04/holds.html?thread=139115#cmt139115
Character name: Gaius Sempronius Gracchus
Character type: Fandom OC
Fandom/Canon: Plutarch's Parallel Lives
Character DW journal: ad_dicendum
Does this character have previous CR?: No
Gaius Sempronius Gracchus was born into one of the most notable families in the Rome of his time (mid-to-late 2nd century BC). He's the youngest child of a distinguished father and a formidable mother, who just happened to be the daughter of Scipio Africanus, the guy famous for defeating the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War. His father died when Gaius was very young, so he was largely raised by his mother Cornelia, who unlike most Roman widows, shunned the idea of remarriage and chose to see to the education and rearing of her children herself. Cornelia took great care to raise her children with the sort of education that would fit them for a role in public life, and she was just as ambitious for their success as they were, telling them that she wanted to be famous for being their mother.
Not hard to live up to at all, that.
Three of Cornelia's children survived to adulthood: Gaius, his elder brother Tiberius, and their sister Sempronia. In one of the savvy political alliances common in Rome, Sempronia married Scipio Aemilianus, who was one of the most prominent men in Rome at the time. It was Aemilianus who finally conquered Carthage, and when he did so, he had Tiberius there in his army with him. The two brothers made good marriages as well, Tiberius to the daughter of the leader of the Senate, and Gaius to Licinia, daughter of the wealthy later-chief-priest Licinius Crassus.
After Tiberius came home from Africa, he went on campaign to Spain, which did not go well. He found himself involved in negotiations that caused a scandal, aroused the hostility of some of the Senate, and set one camp of senators against him.
Tiberius, unfortunately, needed all the help he could get, because he was elected one of the people's tribunes, and his signature policy was a land bill. His proposal would see public land that had been illegally occupied and converted to large slave-manned estates seized, broken up, and distributed among the urban poor. Needless to say, the wealthy landowners in the Senate weren't pleased with this, and they recruited one of the other tribunes, Octavius, to work against Tiberius. Octavius did everything he could to prevent the people voting on Tiberius' bill, and in the end, Tiberius proposed that the people vote to depose Octavius. They did so, and the land bill was passed, with Gaius as one of the commissioners who would administer it.
The Senate sabotaged the land commission, and when Tiberius proposed that a legacy left to the Roman people be distributed with his land grants, he faced immediate accusations of corruption. More than that, he was accused of breaking the law by interfering with Octavius' work as a tribune. His supporters feared that he would be in serious trouble that could only be averted by standing for a technically-unconstitutional second term as tribune.
On the day of the election, Tiberius' supporters in the Senate warned him that some of his enemies were planning to assassinate him. That's exactly what happened: a group of senators marched on the forum, where Tiberius' supporters were waiting with makeshift clubs. In the ensuing violence, hundreds were killed, including Tiberius, clubbed to death in the forum.
Gaius was serving in Spain under Aemilianus during his brother's tribunate, and was still out of the city when Tiberius was killed. On his return to Rome, he withdrew from public life and turned to the study of oratory. He couldn't stay out of things for long, and felt himself drawn into politics, inspired in part by the popularity he was winning in the law courts. He was elected quaestor, most junior of the Roman magistrates, and went to Sardinia on campaign. In Sardinia, he proved popular with the local people and, like Tiberius, wound up undertaking negotiations where others had failed.
Also like Tiberius, his success roused resentment back in Rome, but this time, it was mixed with the fear of what might happen if Gaius took up his brother's radical political programme. The Senate meddled to try to get him kept in Sardinia for an extra year so they wouldn't have to deal with him, but he got straight on a ship to Rome. Gaius then wound up having to defend himself for abandoning his post, and having successfully done that, found himself charged with taking part in a conspiracy he had nothing to do with. Gaius' decision had been made for him, and he stood for election as a tribune.
His legislative programme made his brother's look tame. He proposed agrarian laws, new roads, new colonies, judicial reforms that took aim at senatorial power, and laws aimed at punishing his brother's enemies. His initial success and seemingly boundless energy saw him become wildly popular, so much so that he was elected to a second tribunate without standing as a candidate, succeeding at the task that had killed his brother.
This, of course, led to the sort of power that makes an already uneasy Senate very fearful indeed. And Gaius pushed things a little too far when he proposed expanding citizenship rights. The Senate won over one of his colleagues and set him up as an opponent to out-populist the master populist. Everything Gaius proposed, Drusus went one better, and when Gaius went to Africa to see about settling a new colony, it left Drusus without the foil of Rome's best orator, just Gaius' friend Fulvius.
When Gaius returned to Rome, it was to find his popularity on the wane and his actions needed to be more and more extreme. In trying to win back the people, he offended the other tribunes, and lost his third election to the tribunate at just the time when his enemy Opimius had been elected consul.
Opimius set about undoing Gaius' reforms, and Gaius tried to rally support to keep his programme intact. Unfortunately, on the day of the proceedings, one of Opimius' supporters provoked some of Fulvius' friends and was stabbed to death. Gaius was devastated, knowing this was the blow their enemies needed to act, and they did just that: the next day, the Senate declared a form of martial law against Gaius and his friends.
Gaius, Fulvius, and their supporters headed for the Aventine hill, where they hoped to make their stand. Gaius wanted to negotiate, but his friends would not let him surrender to the senators. They, in turn, sent archers against the gathered populists, and Gaius, Fulvius, and their supporters scattered and fled.
Gaius comes to the game from the time of the flight from the Aventine, shortly before his canon death.
Plutarch groups Gaius and his elder brother Tiberius together in his Lives, and describes them as being very similar in many ways. They are both brave, and both served a long time in the army (though Tiberius with more distinction than his brother). They are both hard-working, and driven, and are idealists who truly believe in the radical policies they propose for Rome. They are also both generous to their friends, distinguished public speakers, and capable of significant self-sacrifice to see their ambitions realised.
Gaius, however, is very different from his brother in some important ways. Gaius is driven by passions and feelings far more than by logic. Plutarch draws this out in comparing his speaking style with his brother's: Tiberius appeals to logic, whereas a speech by Gaius is a performance of the sort of emotion that can sweep a crowd along with him. In particular, he's prone to anger, especially a vindictive rage against the men who destroyed his brother. He can be crude and cruel just as much as his rhetoric can fly high. He proposed laws that were clearly meant as personal attacks against the men who put down Tiberius and his supporters, and it took Cornelia's intervention to moderate his desire for vengeance.
It's hard to overstate the impact his brother's death had on Gaius, who was still a young man when Tiberius was killed. Tiberius had clearly been a role model for him, as his brother was nine years older and therefore by Roman standards an adult for much of Gaius' childhood. Gaius was savvy enough to know that what happened to Tiberius was likely to impact the entire rest of his career. It frightened him enough to draw him into a self-imposed retirement from public life in the immediate aftermath, and Gaius tried to make himself be the sort of person who is happy with life out of the spotlight.
Staying out of politics would, after all, be the logical thing to do.
He never was that sort of person, though, and eventually, a combination of loyalty to his brother's memory and his intense desire to be a part of public life proved impossible to overcome. And he genuinely enjoys the roar of a crowd and the high of things going his way, though that's far from his only motivation.
As well as a genuine belief in his cause and the pressure of living up to his brother, Gaius also has his mother to think of. Cornelia has literally gone down in history as an example of Roman motherhood. She was already famous because of her father and son-in-law, but she pushed her sons to make her famous for them, too. It's hard to imagine that Cornelia's influence didn't play a part in driving Gaius to follow his brother's path, especially since she influences his policies at least once in Plutarch's tale.
His passion for action, though, sometimes outstrips his ability or desire to put himself in danger to get things done. It's not that he's a coward, but he does sometimes think better of promises made in moments of impassioned rashness, as when he promises his supporters he will not allow them to be thrown out of the city and yet fails to act when his enemies move to remove them. It was Tiberius, not Gaius, who was a decorated hero in the fall of Carthage, and it was Tiberius who would stand his ground and die in the forum, and Gaius who would attempt to flee for his life. Gaius was in the provinces when his brother died, but he saw the repercussions, and he is haunted by a superstitious belief that he is destined to fall as Tiberius did, and does not want to meet his brother's end.
Gaius may be impulsive, but that doesn't stop him getting things done. He's one of those busy people to whom you should give something if you want it done, and he thrives on being in the middle of things. He's not only a politician, but a skilled administrator and negotiator, and he's good at finding the right people to work on something to make sure it gets done. Sometimes he thinks that person is himself -- and one of his flaws is that getting caught up in doing so many things means that he can sometimes miss what's going on around him.
Although he styles himself as a man of the people -- and genuinely does believe in his cause -- Gaius can still be haughty and arrogant, and in some ways, that arrogance leads to his downfall as he tries to hold onto power. It makes it hard for him to mollify his enemies, even when that would be a good idea, and even when he wants to give way, he lets his friends talk him out of it. Even when it would have been a really, really good idea.
What skills does your character bring to the situation?:
Gaius is a great administrator. He can handle several projects at once, and is enthusiastic about getting involved in things, even if actually getting his hands dirty is not entirely his strong suit. He's good at coordinating people and making sure that things get done, and is a perfectionist when it comes to projects. (Roads. He's great at roads. Does the village want its paths paved, he could arrange that.)
He's also a highly charismatic (if polarizing) leader. He's the best speaker of his generation, and he's capable of swinging a crowd to his point of view, and making them not only support him, but genuinely believe in him.
He also spent 12 years as a cavalry officer, so he knows how to handle horses, and will probably be able to help out with the livestock thanks to his familiarity with how to manage large domesticated animals. As an experienced military officer, it also goes without saying that he's a capable fighter. He's also dealt with wild animals before, and knows how to rough it, to an extent. (Only to an extent: an officer on the general's staff doesn't exactly have it quite as hard as an ordinary soldier, but it's not the high life of a nobleman in Rome, either.)
Unfortunately, knowledge of the English language is not a skill he'll bring with him, but there are enough characters with a knowledge of Greek or Latin that someone should be able to help him a little ... and the new power on offer will be a big help too.
Explain how your character would react to the following:
- Discovering that their memories may have been tampered with:
He's not going to understand, and may well think it's some sort of imposition by the gods. (It's the sort of thing they'd do.) Given the loss of sense of self that a Roman out of Rome experiences, it's likely to shake his idea of who and what he is even further.
- Having to do physical labor to survive:
Ugh, that's what slaves and hirelings are for. He's the son of a consul and censor and a former tribune, how dare you make him do things like this. Once he gets over the fact that he doesn't have slaves and estate managers to manage his land for him here, he'll turn his enthusiasm for public works projects and getting things done to working on the things he actually needs to do to survive.
- Having to share resources with others:
This is something he's actually likely to enjoy, and I suspect he'll wind up trying to help Kate with making sure everyone gets fed at least once a day. Gaius instituted the first public food program in Rome, so I can see him wanting to be a bit communist with the sharing and distribution of communal resources, and very much wanting to ensure that everyone can get by. He even has some experience with this: as quaestor, he was responsible for army pay and for acquiring and distributing appropriate winter clothing for the soldiers.
- Being unable to leave the area:
He's going to want to go home, to Rome. And he's fairly well-traveled for a Roman, so he's aware of the vastness of the world. But he's also likely to be able to understand and come to terms with being confined in the context of an exile from Rome, as a punishment. It won't make him happy, but he'll understand, and in understanding, he'll accept it.
- Doing without modern conveniences and technology and/or being around tech more advanced than they're used to:
The village will absolutely be a futuristic dream to Gaius. He honestly won't know what to make of a lot of the technology, but a lot of it is things he never needed to use himself in the first place: anything in the kitchen was done by slaves, and bathing was a communal thing. It'll be a big adjustment simply learning how an Edwardian house works, but he's smart enough that with a little help, he'll be able to figure it out.
- Being separated, possibly permanently, from loved ones and their previous life, including loss of powers, if applicable:
He's going to treat this as exile, which is the most hated condition for a noble Roman. To a good citizen of Rome, their connection to the city is as important as their self-identity, which is why exile is used as a severe punishment. Gaius will be cut off from his remaining family, his mother and sister, his wife and children. He'll be cut off from his city, and all the hopes he'd once had. And he'll be cut off from the traditions and honors of his family. These things will shake his sense of self and his sense of purpose.
But at the end of his political career, he had regrets, and he was willing to seek a peaceful solution. An exile, in which his family remains safe in Rome, while it wasn't what he foresaw, is something he has some context for. It will be hard, and it will take challenging his own worldviews, but it's something he can learn to cope with.
There wasn't actually much left for him in Rome anyway.
Threaded samples (albeit tiny threads):http://sixthiterationooc.dreamwidth.org/33153.html?thread=1244801#cmt1244801http://sixthiterationooc.dreamwidth.org/33153.html?thread=1242497#cmt1242497
Fic sample (this is a much older sample):
A calm has fallen over the house, but it’s a calm of foreboding rather than peace. The Claudii and Licinii returned to the Palatine, passing the silent mass of people clustered around the doorway to Gaius’ house. Publius was the last to leave, remaining by his uncle’s side after the others had left, his expression solemn. It takes little insight to know the thought darkening his eyes is the same as that which had hung over the family council, over the crowd gathered outside, over even the senators and equestrians safe in their homes laying plans for their response to the harsh words of the senate’s decree.
Let the consul see to it that the republic suffers no harm.
The words are bare, giving no indication of how it is to be done, but Opimius has made his intentions clear. If every equestrian and every senator is called to the forum tomorrow with armed slaves, the consul has only one end in mind.
Every mind in Rome tonight must be turned to the day when Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, son of a consul and censor, grandson of the man who saved Rome from Hannibal, was beaten to death in the forum along with his supporters and friends. Publius had been too young to remember what happened the day his father died, but he knows the tale as well as anyone, from his mother and grandmother. He may even remember dressing in the ragged clothes of mourning with his brother and grandmother and being taken through the forum as a desperate plea to the people for their protection.
The house, Gaius’ grand gesture of solidarity for the city’s poor, stands too big, too grand, for its neighbourhood in the shadow of the Palatine. Tonight, it’s as a citadel, strong and quiet, still lit hours into the night. Around the city, there are spots where unease grows into clamour; on the Palatine, Flaccus’ supporters shout and sing, and in the valley below, clusters of the people spill onto the streets, shouting up towards the hill where the houses of the men the consul has called to arms are lit late, their councils gathered in the same brooding air as Gaius’ had been.
The others had been seen out by slaves, but Gaius escorts Publius to the door himself, flanked by some of the freedmen who’d gathered to help see the family members home from the council.
“Remember my advice. You and your mother would do well to leave the city. You and I are the only sons of this family left. Do not allow my misfortunes to become yours also.”
Publius is still barely more than a boy, though he wears the toga of a man. His eyes — his father’s deep, thoughtful eyes revived — meet his uncle’s and for a moment, he is so like his father in poise and solemnity that Gaius’ expression softens.
“You have done all my father could have wished, Gaius Sempronius.”
Gaius’ smile is faint in response, but he steps towards his nephew and holds him, briefly, before he turns, one hand on the young man’s shoulder, and nods to a slave to open the door.
A patch of light spills into the street, and as Gaius steps out, a mass of faces lifts to look back at him, tinted yellow by the glow. Someone shouts something, and there’s the start of a cheer, but Gaius lifts his hand from Publius’ shoulder and holds it out, an appeal for quiet.
The crowd has grown since it escorted him home from the forum, and he sees many faces he recognises, faces of the most loyal supporters who have been with him through the glory of his first success and still remain when so many others have deserted him, men and sons of men he’d defended in the courts, who’d served under him in the army, who’d benefited from the agrarian commission, and a few, older men, men who’d owed his brother, even his father, loyalty and have kept their faith, even now.
“My fellow Romans,” he says, and the cheer falls into a hush, his followers still willing to show him the respect so many others have abandoned, of hearing his words. “We have a difficult time ahead. The consul claims that we are a threat, and that the republic requires protection. They say that I am driving you to violence, that having lost the election I wish to seize power.
“They said the same of my brother, whom they slaughtered. But I offer them no more threat than he. Tomorrow, I will plead my case to those of the senate who will listen. But tonight, there is one thing I would ask of you.”
“Anything, Gracchus!” the cry goes up, first from one of his clients, then echoes around the group.
They’d said the same when he’d asked for electoral support for Fannius, Fannius who had turned out to be unfaithful to the allies who’d gotten him elected. This plea, though, will not be such a mistake.
He cannot ask them for their faith and support again. Not tonight, when none of them knows what the morning will bring. But he can ask them, once more, to care for his family, these men who have stayed true to him when so many have been drawn away by Drusus.
He drops his hand back to his nephew’s shoulder. The crowd, seeing the gesture, fall quiet, a small section at a time, until they are silent. Gaius lets the silence hang for a moment, and his voice, when he speaks again, is quiet. But these men will remain silent to hear him, will value his words all the more for the quiet solemnity with which he speaks them.
“Before his death, my brother asked of you a favour. He bade you care for his sons, and I ask you that again. Of the sons of the noble Sempronii Gracchi, there remain only myself and this young man. See that he is safe. See him home tonight, and in the nights to come, and you will have served me well.”
He knows that in asking so little of them, in the morning, they will be inspired to do more, but for now, there is no more he can ask, and he watches as some of them split off and gather around Publius as he walks in their midst, some of them speaking to him, some falling back silently.
When Publius is gone, Gaius withdraws, leaving the faces of his countrymen upturned, expectant, but uncertain what it is they expect.
“Watch out for them,” he says, quietly, to the porter. “They are here in faith to me. I would have them protected, if I can.”
Their tribunes are noticeably failing in that duty, and tribune he may no longer be, but he would not have his most loyal followers come to harm on this night.
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