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Senatus Populusque Romanus SPQR

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1 Senatus Populusque Romanus SPQR
The Roman Republic

2 Two groups: Patricians and Plebeians
Roman society remained split in two groups, but more distinct and official. Patricians: noble families, typically wealthy. Full citizens and allowed to hold all offices but one. Plebeians: non-aristocratic land owning citizens, not allowed to hold most offices. Over 500 years in the Republic, the plebeians constantly struggled for more rights (and gained some over time)

3 Assemblies Senate Comitia Centuriata Comitia Tributa

4 Senate Senators were not elected. They were appointed by magistrates, and magistrates became senators automatically after their term. The Roman Senate met to pass decrees called the Senatus Consulta, which was essentially advice to a magistrate. Usually the advice was for the consuls as the most powerful figures. The decrees did not have to be followed, they were not law. In practice, they usually were. Every Senator had the absolute right of free speech. The Senate had no power over laws. The Senate controlled the money of the Republic, and the administration of the growing Empire. Senate meetings had to take place within a mile of Rome. Used religious symbols in ritual, including a sacrifice before meetings and a search for omens.

5 Comitia Centuriata (Century Assembly)
Divided all Roman citizens into 100 groups (increased to as many as 197) Each group, called a century, got one vote. Presided over by one magistrate, usually a consul, who directed everything. Elected highest 3 magistrates (consul, praetors, censors) Could declare war and pass laws, but magistrates could veto Highest court of judicial appeal (especially capital punishment) Made decisions in steps: groups gathered in informal Conventions to hear about the issue. For legislative and judicial issues, private citizens could speak with prior permission. Then the formal Centuries gathered and voted to determine their Century’s position. The whole process had to be completed in one day. Religious officials named Augurs were present to detect religious omens that may require stopping the Assembly.

6 Comitia Tributa (Tribal Assembly)
All citizens were organized into 35 ‘tribes,’ 4 inside Rome, 31 outside Rome. Like the Century Assembly, each tribe got one vote, and voted on legislative, elective and judicial matters. Formed in Conventions first, then the official vote. Also presided over by a magistrate. Tribal Assembly elected the magistrate positions of quaestor, aediles and tribunes. Tribes were originally geographic, but men stayed in the tribe their father belonged to, so over hundreds of years it got very mixed up. Religious Augurs were present at the Tribal Assembly as well.

7 Magistrates Consuls Praetors Censors Quaestors Aediles Tribunes

8 Consul Highest elected office. Possibly didn’t exist until 5th century BCE. 2 Consuls at once, served one-year terms. Had executive and military responsibilities. Could summon any of the assemblies to preside over to make a law or other decision. Both consuls had veto power, over the Assemblies and over one another to prevent abuse of power.

9 Praetor Created about 150 years into the Republic to relieve the consuls of some of their duties. Began with 2 praetors, but more were added over time until there were eventually 4. Took consul responsibilities if both consuls were outside of the city of Rome Had judicial and military powers mostly. As the empire grew, they took on the powers of governing provinces. Considered so close to consuls that the two positions were elected and announced on the same days.

10 Censor The position was actually created during the Roman Monarchy by Servius Tullius when the census was established, but didn’t come back until about 50 years into the Republic. Always had 2 censors, elected annually after the consuls and praetors. Did not have the same sort of power of the consuls or the praetors, but was regarded as a sacred duty. Had only 3 jobs: conduct the census, keep public morals, and administer the finances and public buildings.

11 Quaestor Elected each year by the Tribal Assembly.
Originally 4, expanded to 10 in 267 BCE Supervised the treasury, the army and army officers. Also appointed to assist military generals, consuls, praetors and provincial governors First step of the cursus honorum, the ideal career path of the Roman politician. The cursus was the step-by- step program that listed the years in which politicians could take each rank from Quaestor to Consul.

12 Aedile When originally created, they were assistants to other magistrates, usually Tribunes, but also Censors and the Senate. 2 Aediles, elected by Tribal Assembly Their duties solidified into maintaining public buildings, enforcing order and most importantly to holding public festivals. Later in Republic there were two different pairs: Plebeian Aediles elected by new Plebeian Assembly, and Curulean Aediles elected by Tribal Assembly.

13 Tribune This position was created shortly after the creation of the Republic as a result of friction between patricians and plebeians. Tribunes had a lot of power in the Roman Republic, but only in the city itself. Their power was primarily in the ability to veto proceedings by any committee They were elected by the plebeians among themselves. Tribunes were sacrosanct. This meant that it was strictly illegal to harm or interfere with them in any way on penalty of death. All power came from this, rather than magisterial power – all to do with physical presence rather than orders. There were 2 Tribunes at first, but 10 Tribunes by 449 BCE. They were elected every year by the Plebeian Council which existed to elect Tribunes and Plebeian Aediles.

14 Changes: More Power to the People
A couple of decades into the Republic, the Concilium Plebis was founded. This was the Pleebeian Tribal Council. This council consisted of non-aristocrats. They passed Plebiscita or ‘plebiscites’ that expressed the demands of the people. Later in the Republic, plebiscites became as good as law. The Council was presided over by Tribunes, elected leaders of Tribes who were fairly powerful (and became more so over time).

15 DesperateTimes... A special magistrate was available when necessary.
The position of Dictator was reserved for times of crisis. In such an occasion, the consuls would name a dictator for a specified amount of time (usually 6 months to a year). The Dictator had supreme executive power – they could not be vetoed and they did not need approval from anyone.

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