During the time of the Roman Republic, Rome developed from a city into an empire.
It was in 509 BC that the last Etruscan king was expelled from the kingdom and the Senate took over. Rome was made a republic, a state where the people elect their leaders. The power was held by the Patricians, the powerful farmers and the rich citizens. It was the Patricians who made the laws and acted as judges.
The people’s suffrage depended on how rich they were. The richer the more influence they got with more votes. They also had to pay more in taxes and be at the forefront of the army.
Rule of two
Two or more men were appointed to each office so that they would monitor each other and not abuse their power.
The two consuls had the most important tasks; control the rule during the year and lead the army. The Senate acted as an adviser to the consuls.
Sometimes a dictator was appointed who had to make all the decisions for six months when the country was having a hard time.
Every five years, two censors are elected whose task was to decide citizens’ tax and military service.
The power of the Senate grew, and it was the richest families who had the most influence there.
The Senate controlled government officials, decided on government spending, and pursued foreign policy.
The small senate grew and eventually consisted of 600 members. A senator was wearing a cloak, gold ring and red shoes.
The senators directed the people to vote in a direction that was beneficial for the senate. Then it turned out the way the senate wanted in the end.
There were not only patricians living in Rome, but there were craftsmen, merchants and workers as well.
They didn’t own any land, but they were free people. They were called plebs. There were many more plebs than there were patricians, and they went on strike when they couldn’t accept anymore that they had no power in society. The plebs fought for several centuries for an equal society but never succeeded completely. But, overtime, the Roman Republic finally understood that the inclusion of ordinary people was necessary for the republic to survive. Over time, the less fortunate people gained a vote in the government.
The Senate appointed representatives for the plebs, the people’s tribunes. They would protect the plebs from the abuse of those in power. They could use veto power against proposals that could harm the plebs.
The consuls were elected by the Roman citizens and could serve a term of one year, but they could run again if they so wished.
The Roman Republic understood that it was important to learn from all of the different cultures of the conquered lands that they occupied and use their knowledge.
For example, the Roman Republic used many ideas from the ancient Greeks, such as architecture, science, law, and art, from writing plays to singing songs.
The Roman Republic built aqueducts to supply cities with water. They built roads to move troops and make trading easier. They also built thousands of bathhouses, so-called thermae, to promote hygiene among the poor and rich.
Now the foundation was laid for what would become one of the great empires of antiquity.
The Roman Republic lasted for almost 500 years, from 509 BC. to 46 BC. The Roman Republic extended over most of the known world.