How did the tribune of the plebs impact the late Republic's socio-political climate?

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The role of the tribune of the plebs impacted the socio-political climate of the late Republic because it greatly increased the plebeians' access to political power. During the late Republic, the office was most critical in shaping the careers of the Gracchi Brothers, who utilized popular politics to advance their political goals. In the process, they created a legacy critical in shaping Roman politics as it existed in the late Republic.

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Traditionally speaking, dating back to its earliest history, Roman political and social structure tended to be divided into two primary groups: the patricians, who represented the elites in that society, and the far more numerous plebeians, subordinate in position and privilege to the patricians. Throughout the history of the Republic, one can see these two groups in a somewhat tumultuous co-existence with one another. If you look back towards the earliest history of the Republic, political offices and power were monopolized by the patricians; but gradually, over time, the plebeians were able to gain an increased political voice. The emergence of the tribunes of the plebs was an important step in this process. Generally speaking, their most important power lay in their ability to veto government action and their status as sacrosanct (protecting them against physical attack and reprisals).

When speaking about the social turmoil of the late Republic and the role of the tribunes of the plebs within it, the key watershed moment lies in the rise of the Gracchi Brothers, who exploited popular politics to an extent never previously seen in Roman history. Emerging in the context of the radical expansion that followed the Punic Wars, Tiberius Gracchus called for a comprehensive program of land redistribution, a program which had mass support among the plebeians, even as it saw hostility from many of the Roman elite. Both he and his brother, Gaius Gracchus, would prove to be deeply controversial political figures of their era, utilizing popular support to advance their politics in ways that had, up to this point, never before been seen in Roman politics. Their example would be critical in shaping the political environment (and political turmoil) that defined the Late Republic.

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