Monday, 8 May 2017

Janico Albrecht is going to present a working paper on 'The Death of Ti. Sempronius Gracchus: The Tribunicide as "Ur-Discourse" of religious Deviance of the Late Republic'

Transgressions of religious norms and the processes of social interaction in which they are treated as Deviance can best be observed in situations of crisis - this thesis of the sociologist Kai Erikson goes back to his (quantitative) assumption that phases of social uncertainty are show an increased amount of deviance. For the last nearly one hundred years of the Roman Republic - an epoch that as “Late Republic” or “crisis of the Republic” has long been connected to the decline of a political system - this can easily be confirmed: the contemporaries themselves explained the political- and social dysfunctions with violations against or neglect of religion.
This part of my dissertation is the qualifying interactionist study of a discourse of religious deviance associated with the event which supposedly triggered the phase of decline of the Republic: the violent death of the tribune of the plebs and social reformer Ti(berius) Sempronius Gracchus in the year 133 B.C. If, at first glance, the religious component seems to be evident in the sacrosanctitas which made the tribune inviolable in a sacred way, the discourse nevertheless developed in much more complex ways. The legal reaction had a clear direction and is negligible: it was considered not to be an unlawful act and trials were rather carried against the followers of Gracchus. Nevertheless, the topic remained a long-term issue and was perpetuated by other cases of murdered tribunes, and involved further questions such as the Senate's authority to claim extralegal and religious interpretations. In short: this tribunicide-discourse was firmly linked to the political developments of the Republic and developed enormous exemplary effectiveness. Although it has always been highly political, the complex political background will only be dealt with insofar it is necessary for the direct understanding of the actors and their positions.
In the first part, a research question (also of relevance to the history of scholarship) is taken up: The "correspondence" of Ernst Badian and Jerzy Linderski, who have considered the circumstances of Ti Gracchus’ death from the view of sacral law, has to be seen as symptomatic for the legalistic approach to the subject and highlights what is NOT in the interest of this paper. The question of the pro-Gracchian view, which is underrepresented in the sources, is discussed in this chapter only with regard to the literary agency of the younger brother of Tiberius, C(aius) Gracchus. The following chapter is devoted to the conspicuously irreligious tradition of Cicero, which according to the thesis is due to the dominance of the pro-Gracchian religious interpretation. For this reason Cicero is hardly mentioned as a participant in the "negotiation" of the tribunicide in this chapter. The focus is on those who are directly involved, such as Ti. Gracchus, his murderer Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio and C. Gracchus, who act as claim-makers with different audiences (Plebs, Senate, each other) in order to present and embody  their religious interpretations. However, some of the most informative sources (above all Appian and Plutarch, both Greek) are from the advanced imperial period. They can no longer be treated under the same conditions as the republican sources. On the one hand, their authors must, of course, be regarded as part of the discursive development of the tribunicide but because of the temporal and cultural distance to their historical content, they are also understood as recipients and interpreters who were confronted with complex, contradictory material and whose doubts and reflected observations can tell us a lot about how Roman constructions of religious norm and deviance worked.
The purpose of this chapter is not to elaborate a discourse chronologically or analyse the religious reception on the Gracchi, but to treat the tribunicide for a better understanding of 1. the social interaction processes in which religious transgressions can be negotiated and deviance can arise, 2. the participants which advance prejudices but also definitions or religious deviance and  must continually wager their prestige, their claim to religious-moral integrity, and 3. their appropriation of (sometimes innovative) modes to represent their own claims or to make accusations, to imbue their role as a claim-maker with religious capital and to contribute to their own social distinction - even through their own religious transgressions.

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