"To go to the tribunes."
Gaius Gracchus, Tribune of the Plebs, addresses the people
Public DomainGaius Gracchus, Tribune of the Plebs, addresses the people - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The tribunes were officials whose role was to protect the people and their interests from harmful acts or decisions of the magistrates. A tribune was sacrosanct; any assault on his person was prohibited by law. Ordinarily, they had the right to convene the plebeian assembly, to propose legislation, and to veto any action or proposed law of a magistrate or the senate. However, the dictator Sulla had severely reduced the power of the tribunes in his reforms of 82/81 BC. At this point, a tribune’s right to veto was limited, his right to legislate and put someone on trial removed, and he was debarred from holding further office. The powers of the tribunes would soon be restored, but for now it is to these weakened officials that Cicero has gone for help.