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Gaius Flaminius

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Gaius Flaminius was a politician and consul of the Roman Republic in the 3rd century BC. He was the greatest popular leader to challenge the authority of the Senate before the Gracchi a century later.

In the aftermath of the First Punic War, Flaminius, a novus homo, was the leader of a reform movement which sought to reorganize state land in Italy. As tribune of the plebs in 232 BC, he passed a plebiscite which divided the land south of Ariminium, which had been conquered from the Gauls decades before, and gave it to poor families whose farms had fallen into ruin during the war. The Senate was opposed to this and he did not consult them, contrary to the constitution and tradition.

Flaminius was governor of Sicily in 227. Meanwhile, the reorganization of the land contributed to a renewed attack on Roman territory by the Gauls, whom the Romans finally defeated at the Battle of Telamon in 224. In 223 Flaminius was elected consul for the first time, and with Marcus Claudius Marcellus he forced the Gauls to submit to Rome, creating the province of Cisalpine Gaul.

In 221 Flaminius was magister equitum to Fabius Maximus, then in 220 chosen as censor. During his term he arranged for the Via Flaminia to be built from Rome to Ariminium, established colonies at Cremona and Placentia, reorganized the Centuriate Assembly to give the poorer classes more voting power, and built the Circus Flaminia on the Campus Martius. In 218, while serving in the Senate, he was the only senator to support the Lex Claudia, which prohibited senators from participating in overseas trade.

In 217, during the invasion of Italy by Hannibal, he was re-elected consul with Gnaeus Servilius, in what was considered a rebuke of the Senate's prosecution of the war. Flaminius raised new legions and marched north to meet Hannibal, but was ambushed at Lake Trasimene. The army was destroyed and Flaminius was killed. His supporters in the Senate began to lose power to the more aristocratic factions, and the Romans feared Hannibal would besiege their city. The Senate appointed as dictator Fabius Maximus.

Reference

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