Was Ancient Rome a Democracy Or a Republic?
The Romans of ancient times were divided into two main groups: the autocracy and the republic. The autocracy was ruled by an emperor and the republic was ruled by the aristocracy. As we will see, the senators were responsible for legitimizing an emperor’s rule.
Roman society was a democracy or a republic
The Roman Republic was the political system of Rome in its day. It was based on a system of checks and balances.
In the early days of the republic, Rome’s power was largely in the hands of aristocratic landowning families. Women were not allowed to hold official political responsibility.
Roman society was divided into two groups: the patricians and the plebeians. The patricians were the wealthy and the plebeians were the working class. Both had very limited rights.
During the Roman republic, a plebeian assembly was created, which was supposed to represent the interests of the plebeians. Unfortunately, the assembly fell apart under the reign of the emperor.
Another important element of the Roman government was the voting system. This was a system of checks and balances that ensured that the power was not centralized to a single individual.
In the early days of the republic, the censors were responsible for counting the number of Roman citizens. They also held the role of ensuring that the laws were legal.
The Roman Senate was the legislative body of the Roman government. This body acted as an advisory council to the consuls and king. Among its many duties was to pass laws and to propose legislation.
A consul was the highest-ranking magistrate in the Roman state. His duties were similar to those of a king or a praetor. He was the head of the army during wartime. When he was not at his post, a praetor would take charge.
The Roman Republic arose from the ashes of the monarchy. The Roman government consisted of three basic elements: the consuls, the tribunes, and the popular assemblies.
The Roman Republic is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, example of a democracy. As such, it is a model that has influenced modern democracies.
The aristocracy ruled the early Roman Republic
The Roman Republic resembled a democratic government, but it was dominated by the aristocracy. The aristocracy consisted of the rich and powerful families.
This was an oligarchy, a class society where the members were elected. However, the majority of the plebeians were excluded from this society. Those with a wealthier status monopolized the governmental power, while those with less money were not allowed to vote or hold official positions.
In the early Roman Republic, there was a political struggle between the aristocracy and the commoners. This led to the establishment of the Concilium Plebis, a legislative body to address the needs of the plebeian class. It was able to pass laws for the entire community and establish decrees for its members.
In the early Roman Republic, there were two consuls who commanded the military. These men were chosen by the Senate. They served for one year. Their duties included negotiating treaties, practicing rhetoric, and managing the state’s finances. They were attended by six special assistants.
There were also five classes of military representatives who were called tribunes. Tributes could propose laws and veto actions taken by the Senate.
As the Romans expanded their empire, their powers increased. This resulted in civil wars. Some citizens tried to establish reforms, but the aristocracy remained a dominant force.
One of the most important factors of the early Roman Republic was its ability to reconcile the goals of the patrician and plebeian classes. The aristocracy was able to influence the Senate, the executive, and the plebeian assembly.
The aristocracy’s influence on the Roman Republic was a problem. For example, many wealthy Romans often bribed voters and trial juries.
Eventually, the Romans created the first written record of their law. This was the Twelve Tables, which gave legal, social, and civil rights to the Roman people.
The senators legitimized an emperor’s rule
As Augustus became the emperor of Rome, he embarked on an ambitious program of artistic sponsorship. In particular, he used public buildings to showcase his ancestry, his wealth and his role as the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. This was an unprecedented use of public space in ancient Rome.
Augustus’s artistic achievements are a result of his belief that he was a divine heir, as well as his desire to unify Rome. He believed that the power of art would unite the Roman people and thereby achieve peace. The most prominent artistic achievement of his reign was the construction of a large arch to rival those of Rome’s other great emperors.
Other artistic projects undertaken by Augustus included the creation of the Forum of Augustus. This was a landmark in his legacy, as it integrated the name of Augustus into the fabric of Roman life and served as a meeting place for the Senate.
Among other things, the Forum of Augustus contained the Temple of Mars Ultor. It was also the largest arch built by a Roman ruler. Moreover, it was the only arch of its kind that Rome had seen.
Another architectural accomplishment of Augustus’s reign was the construction of the sewage system. During this period, the city of Rome was experiencing water shortages. In order to meet the needs of the growing population, the Forum of Augustus was constructed.
Although Augustus’s artistic endeavors were small in scale, they played an important role in securing his rule in ancient Rome. Specifically, the Forum of Augustus helped legitimize his powers as a divine ruler.
In addition to his benevolent attitude, Augustus took a number of steps to improve the state of Roman public infrastructure. He rebuilt the Capitol, repaved roads, created sewage systems, and improved public facilities.
The poorer and wealthier classes clashed
In the Roman world, a richer and poorer class of citizens fought for political power. This tumultuous period revealed the nature of Roman society. Eventually, it led to the creation of the Roman Empire.
The aristocracy dominated the early stages of the Roman Republic, but the plebeians fought to gain rights. They even gained the power to elect their own government officials.
One of the most defining features of the Roman government was the law of the twelve tables, a legal document created in 450 B.C. that allowed plebeians to enter the priesthood and the senate. It was the first concession by the patricians to the plebeians.
The ancient Romans had a complex system of governance, but it didn’t take long for the Roman ruling class to become too powerful. It led to an overflow of wealth, which caused civil unrest. Consequently, the Roman Senate eventually lost its status as the most powerful governing body in the Roman government.
One of the major reasons for the fall of the Roman Republic was the emergence of strongmen, men who had the military and political skills to take control of the city. A series of wars against Carthage followed. These wars led to the eventual destruction of the Roman Republic.
During the late Republic, the Optimates fought the Populares for dominance. These two groups clashed during the late third century B.C., ending the dominance of the senatorial class in Roman politics.
Among other things, the Law of the twelve tables protected the basic rights of all Roman citizens. It included written guarantees to plebeians, including the right to vote and the right to hold office.
The Roman Empire was governed by an autocracy
The Roman Empire was governed by an autocracy. Until its fall in 476, the empire was ruled by an emperor. This system of government gave the Romans enormous power. They were able to rule over the entire Mediterranean area.
While the emperor was in charge, the Romans acted in their own interest. They fought against other empires and conquered countries like Macedonia, Greece, and Egypt. Eventually, the eastern and western halves of the empire began to clash.
As the Romans gained more power, they turned from a republic to an empire. Their basic structure was modeled on the idealized view of a Roman republic outlined by Polybius in the 2nd century.
The Romans organized their people into provinces. Each province had its own consul and an assembly. These leaders represented the people in each area.
There were a number of military leaders in Rome who sought to be able to control the empire. One of these was Augustus. He had already gained a lot of power, but was unwilling to accept his title as a dictator. A mob attempted to force Augustus to accept this role.
In a time of military emergency, the Romans would appoint a dictator to govern. However, the dictator could not hold the supreme military command for more than six months. During these periods, the Senate was the largest governing body.
After Julius Caesar was assassinated, the Romans were ruled by his nephew Octavian. Octavian had a strong military record. Eventually, Octavian went to war against Antony in northern Africa.
When the Roman Senate became weak, they appointed a dictator. This was a political move. Unlike the Roman princeps, the dictator was a citizen who possessed the imperium. It was a license to lead armies.