The Roman Republic

“All roads lead to Rome.”
“Rome was not built in a day.”
“When in Rome . . .”
How did Rome win such a place in modern
popular culture?
• Let’s read about it!
Fortresses &
• Legend has it that
Romulus built
Rome on the
Palentine Hill –
one of the Seven
Hills of Rome
• People settled on seven hills along the
Tiber River between 1000-900 BCE
– Called Latins or Italics
• Many geographical advantages:
– Easy to defend
– Fertile soil
– Access to rivers allows for trade in the
Mediterranean Sea
– Other more powerful societies controlled
the rest of the Italian peninsula
• Example: Greeks and Etruscans
• Can be broken into three “eras”
– For over 200 years, Rome was a
– For about 500 years, Rome was a
– For about 500 years, Rome was an
• Early kings of Rome
– Not much is known as their
written works did not survive
– Who were they?
• Most developed Latin/Italic people
• Located in northern, central Italy
• Most likely descendants of
modern-day Turkey and native
Italian population
• By 6th century BCE they were the
most powerful city state (modeled
after the Greek system)
• Romans resented the all-powerful Etruscan
kings who gave them no say in their
• 509 BCE the Romans revolted against
Lucius Tarquinius Superbus
• Result: End of the Etruscan kings
• Romans keep many Etruscan
– Hierarchy of Gods (Greek in origin)
– Alphabet (also Greek in origin)
– Toga
– I told you they “borrowed” freely
from other cultures!
A spoonful
of Persian
A dollop of
A heaping
portion of
Goin’ back
for Greek
Just a
smidgen of
• Romans never wanted a king
again or any government with a
single ruler
– Establish a Republic…what is it?
• “Republic” literally comes from
a Roman term Res Publica, or
“the public concern” or “public
– This essentially translates to
sharing all power
• By 264 BCE the Romans controlled the entire Italian
• The Republican Government consisted of…
1. The Consuls
– Two chief officials who led the government
• Appointed to perform the duties that, prior to them, the
king was responsible for, like military authority and
ensuring civic welfare and acting as chief diplomat and
religious authority.
– Elected once a year; Each had equal power; could
veto the other
• By 264 BCE the Romans controlled the entire Italian
• The Republican Government consisted of…
2. The Senate
Originally advisors to the king
Chosen by consuls
300 upper-class patricians
Members for life
Most powerful part of the government
Deliberated on and voted on laws (consuls proposed)
The model for the US government
• What were the pros
of this system
compared to
• What possible
problems could this
lead to?
• Dictator
– Roman official who had all the power of a king,
but could only hold office for 6 months
• Used only in dire emergencies
• Praetors
– Junior consuls who helped develop first rules
for Roman judicial system (courts)
• Patricians – Members of wealthy
families; only people eligible for the
• Plebeians – everyone else in ancient
Rome (except the patricians) from
well-to-do tradesmen all the way
down to the very poor
• Similarities :
– Both pater familias
– Both could own slaves
– Citizens of Rome were
adult freemen from
both classes - plebs and
• Women, children, and
slaves were not citizens
• Differences:
– Did not mix socially
– Illegal for plebs and
patricians to marry
– Lifestyles were very
• Patricians very wealthy
and lived an opulent
lifestyle, plebs did not
• The Senate (power) was only open to
patrician families
• Plebeians resented the Senate who:
– Took riches from war
– Created prosperous farms run by slaves
– Left many plebian famers unemployed
• Reaction: Plebeians refuse to serve in the
military in protest!
1. Twelve Tables – 450 BCE; a board of 10 men were
entrusted to draw up a basic legal tradition and
publish them on wood (later bronze) to be placed in
the forum
1. Creation of the Assembly – an elected body that had 10
Tribunes to discuss and decide issues on behalf of
2. Plebs could marry into Patrician families
3. Eventually Senators could be Plebs (but very uncommon)
• Table I.
1. If anyone summons a man before the magistrate, he
must go. If the man summoned does not go, let the one
summoning him call the bystanders to witness and then
take him by force.
2. If he shirks or runs away, let the summoner lay hands on
6-9. When the litigants settle their case by compromise, let
the magistrate announce it. If they do not compromise, let
them state each his own side of the case, in the comitium of
the forum before noon. Afterwards let them talk it out
together, while both are present. After noon, in case either
party has failed to appear, let the magistrate pronounce
judgment in favor of the one who is present. If both are
present the trial may last until sunset but no later.
Table II.
2. He whose witness has failed to appear may summon
him by loud calls before his house every third day.
Table III.
1. One who has confessed a debt, or against whom judgment has
been pronounced, shall have thirty days to pay it in.
After that forcible seizure of his person is allowed.
The creditor shall bring him before the magistrate.
Unless he pays the amount of the judgment or some one in the
presence of the magistrate interferes in his behalf as protector
the creditor so shall take him home and fasten him in stocks or
fetters. He shall fasten him with not less than fifteen pounds of
weight or, if he choose, with more. If the prisoner choose,
he may furnish his own food. If he does not, the creditor must give
him a pound of meal daily; if he choose he may give him more.
3. Against a foreigner the right in property shall be valid forever.
Table IV.
1. A dreadfully deformed child shall be quickly killed.
2. If a father sell his son three times, the son shall be free from
his father.
5. A child born after ten months since the father's death will
not be admitted into a legal inheritance.
Table V.
1. Females should remain in guardianship even when they
have attained their majority.
Table VI.
1. When one makes a bond and a conveyance of property, as
he has made formal declaration so let it be binding.
Table VII.
1. Let them keep the road in order. If they have not paved it, a
man may drive his team where he likes.
9. Should a tree on a neighbor's farm be bent crooked by the
wind and lean over your farm, you may take legal action for
removal of that tree.
10. A man might gather up fruit that was falling down onto
another man's farm.
Table VIII.
2. If one has maimed a limb and does not compromise with
the injured person, let there be retaliation. If one has broken
a bone of a freeman with his hand or with a cudgel, let him
pay a penalty of three hundred coins. If he has broken the
bone of a slave, let him have one hundred and fifty coins. If
one is guilty of insult, the penalty shall be twenty-five coins.
3. If one is slain while committing theft by night, he is rightly
4. If a patron shall have devised any deceit against his client,
let him be accursed.
10. Any person who destroys by burning any building or
heap of corn deposited alongside a house shall be bound,
scourged, and put to death by burning at the stake provided
that he has committed the said misdeed with malice
aforethought; but if he shall have committed it by accident,
that is, by negligence, it is ordained that he repair the
damage or, if he be too poor to be competent for such
punishment, he shall receive a lighter punishment.
23. A person who had been found guilty of giving false
witness shall be hurled down from the Tarpeian Rock.
26. No person shall hold meetings by night in the city.
Table IX.
4. The penalty shall be capital for a judge or arbiter legally appointed who has
been found guilty of receiving a bribe for giving a decision.
5. Treason: he who shall have roused up a public enemy or handed over a
citizen to a public enemy must suffer capital punishment.
6. Putting to death of any man, whosoever he might be unconvicted is forbidden.
Table X.
1. None is to bury or burn a corpse in the city.
3. The women shall not tear their faces nor wail on account of the funeral.
Table XI.
1. Marriages should not take place between plebeians and patricians.
Table XII.
5. Whatever the people had last ordained should be held as binding by law.
• Eventually the Assembly was given the
power to elect the two consuls every
– So…what would be the impact?!?
Dictator in times of
extreme need
(6 months)
Consuls – executive
Praetors – looked after legal
Curulian Aediles – supervised
markets, festivals and temples
Quaestors – public finance
Tribunes –represented the
rights of the people (2-10)
Elected by Assembly
Censors – guided public morals
• Roman army had 30 Legions
– Each Legion had about 5,500 men
• Each Legion was divided into 10 units called
– The First Cohort consisted of approximately 800 men
• Had “specialists” such as blacksmiths or engineers
– The other 9 Cohorts consisted of approximately 480
• Each Cohort was divided into 6 Centuries of
about 80 men
– Each Century was commanded by a Centurion
– The First Cohort only had 5 centuries