French conspirator and secret society leader. Born into a poor family in provincial France, Babeuf (1760–97) worked as a minor functionary in the local government until the Revolution, when he went to Paris and became a journalist. During the elimination of the radical wing of the Revolution in 1795, he was thrown into prison, where he met Filippo Buonarroti, an Italian revolutionary. When they were released in October 1795, they launched the Societé du Panthéon (Society of the Pantheon), a semi-secret group that met to discuss egalitarian ideas and published a newspaper, the Tribun du Peuple. When the authorities shut down the newspaper in early 1796, Babeuf was ready to take the next step: the most committed members of the society were brought into a new secret society, the Conspiracy of Equals, and went to work under Babeuf’s direction planning a coup d’etat. See Conspiracy of Equals; French Revolution.
A police informer within the Conspiracy alerted the authorities to the plot, and just before the planned coup, Babeuf and 200 other members were arrested. He was tried in February 1797 and executed. His friend Buonarroti landed in prison. After his release in 1806 he pursued the plans the two of them had devised together for the rest of his life, becoming the most famous figure in the political secret societies of the nineteenth century. See Buonarroti, Filippo.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006