Marcus Livius Drusus (tribune)

For other holders of this name, see Marcus Livius Drusus (disambiguation).

The younger Marcus Livius Drusus, son of Marcus Livius Drusus, was tribune of the plebeians in 91 BC. In the manner of Gaius Gracchus, he set out with comprehensive plans, but his aim was to strengthen senatorial rule. He removed the jury courts from the jurisdiction of the equestrians in retaliation for their unjustified condemnation of Publius Rutilius Rufus in 92 BC and replaced it with a mixed jury of senators and equestrians.

He also passed a bill that would have doubled the number of senators from roughly 300 to 600, thus placating the most powerful of the equestrians who wished to become senators or have some of their family become senators. To gain support from the plebeians, he set up a commission to grant them more land, both around Rome and in new colonies (which was one of only two that was approved by the Senate during the late Republic) and reduced the price of grain which he proposed to pay for by using devaluation of the currency.

Up to this point, Drusus managed to have the support of many of the leading senators, including Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and Gaius Marius. However, Drusus wanted to grant citizenship rights to the Italic allies. This was vehemently opposed by many, and he gradually lost support from the Senate, the equestrians, the Roman population, who did not want the Italics to become citizens, as well as wealthy Italic landlords, who did not want to lose their land. The opposition was led by the consul Lucius Marcius Philippus and by Drusus's brother-in-law, the praetor Servilius Caepio, with whom he had originally been close friends.[1]

It was revealed that the whole of non-Roman Italy had sworn an oath to enter into his clientele if he managed to enfranchise them, which would have given Drusus considerable power. In political retaliation for his proposal to grant citizenship to the Italic allies, his previous bills were declared invalid on religious technicalities by the Senate led by Phillipus. Drusus refused to use his tribunician veto to prevent this from happening, his reasoning being that he wanted his bill to have a clear majority in the Senate. Soon after this, he was assassinated and the Italian allies revolted, starting the Social War of 91–88 BC.

His adopted son was Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus, father of the empress Livia. It was through this adoption that the Drusi became connected to the imperial family.[2] He also had a famous house built upon the Palatine Hill which was successively owned by Cicero, Censorinus, and Rutilius Sisenna.[3]

Family tree


  1. Smith, William (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. 1. Boston, Little. p. 1079.
  2. Smith, William (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. 1. Boston, Little. p. 1082.
  3. Smith, William (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. 1. Boston, Little. p. 1078.
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