The Very Beginning … From 616 – 509 BCE (Before Common Era), Rome was ruled by the Etruscans. Relatively little is known about the Etruscans. They were a smaller-sized civilization, and the city of Rome was situated right on its edge. The Etruscan civilization had already been around before Rome was founded, but historians do not know when it first started.
Early Roman Society During Etruscan rule (616-509 B.C.E.), Rome was divided into two classes: The Patricians A small group of wealthy landowners. The Patricians controlled the most valuable land, held the important religious and military offices, and chose the “fathers of the state” (the men who advised the Etruscan king). The Plebeians Lower-class citizens. The plebeians were mostly peasants, laborers, craftspeople, and shopkeepers. Plebeians could not be priests or government officials, they had little input in the government, and were forced to serve in the army. Plebeians made up about 95% of Rome’s population.
The Roman Republic Eventually, the patricians began to resent being ruled by Etruscans. In 509 B.C.E., a group of them rebelled and drove out the last Etruscan king. They created a republic, a government in which the people elect officials to govern them and work in their best interest. Unfortunately for the plebeians, the patricians considered “the people” to be “the patricians.” The plebeians still had little say in the government. And they still made up about 95% of the population.
The New Government Most of the power belonged to the Senate. The Senate was a group of 300 men, all elected by the patricians. Senators served for life. The Senate appointed other government officials, served as judges, and advised the consuls. Senate decisions were treated as law. The army was commanded by consuls. Two consuls were elected by the patricians and advised by the Senate. The consuls commanded together, and had the power to veto each other. (Why do you think they were given this option?) Consuls had a term of one year. The new government was more democratic than the Etruscan monarchy, but only for the patricians. It was an “aristocratic republic”, not a “democratic republic”.
The Plebeians Start To Gain Power It was difficult to be a plebeian. The plebeians started out poor, and it didn’t take much to make them even poorer. Since many were farmers, they lived outside the city walls and their lands weren’t protected from enemies. Their farms were untended when they were serving in the army. When they built up debts, it was to the patricians. Since the rules were written by patricians, punishments for debt tended to be harsh.
Plebeians Revolt In 494 B.C., the plebeians decided they didn’t want to take it any more. They didn’t have many options, so they decided the best way was to tell the patricians that they would no longer serve in the army. They all deserted to a place called Sacred Mount and told the patricians that they’d have to protect Rome themselves. The patricians realized that they needed to make some changes. They were more reliant on the plebeians than they had realized.
Changes to the Republic New elected officials: Tribunes of the Plebs 2 at first, but eventually there were 10 The tribunes gave the plebeians’ input to the Senate and the consuls. The tribunes also had veto power over the Senate and government officials. New elected officials: the Council of Plebs The plebeians elected this council, and it made laws for them. The Council of Plebs laws did not affect the patricians, however.
Over Time… This was just the first step. It took about 200 years, but the plebeians continued to fight for more input in their government. 451 B.C.E. (approx): Laws were written down on tablets called the Twelve Tables. Since the laws were now written, the patricians couldn’t change them whenever they wanted to. 367 B.C.E.: A new law was passed to require one of the two consuls to be plebeian. Since consuls became Senators when their term was up, plebeians start to join the Senate, too.
Over Time, Continued… 287 B.C.E: laws approved in the plebeian assemblies affect all citizens. Plebeian assembles also nominate consuls, tribunes, and members of the Senate.
How did the final government look? Consuls Two consuls, served one year each. Elected by the Assemblies. Chief executives of the government and commanders of the army. Senate Most important governing body. 300 members passed laws, elected officials, and determined foreign policy. Chosen for life and advised Consuls. The Assemblies could veto what the Senate advised the Consuls to do. Assembly of Centuries The patrician Assembly. It elected the main administrative body of the government (the magistrates). Assembly of Tribes The plebeian Assembly. It elected the tribunes and eventually gained the power to make laws. Magistrates The magistrates had administrative authority to interpret and execute laws. Initially magistrates had to be patricians, but eventually plebeians could be magistrates, too. Tribunes The Assembly of Tribes elected 10 tribunes each year. Tribunes could veto the magistrates’ acts.
Influences How did the Roman Republic influence later governments (including ours)? Written laws Elected assemblies Checks and balances Republicanism (do you remember what that is? It’s from the fourth slide.) What else?
What Next? Today we learned about the Roman Republican Government. Next, we’ll learn about how Rome expanded.
Roman Expansion From Republic To Empire Once Rome became independent, it started to grow in size and power. Over the course of 500+ years, Rome expanded. There are roughly four major periods of Roman expansion.
The First Period of Expansion The first period began in 509 B.C.E., when Rome founded its republic. For 245 years, Rome fought in a series of wars to protect its borders and gain more land. During this period, the Romans fought against neighbors in what is now Italy. They defeated the Latins in central Italy and the Etruscans. The Romans became allies with enemies they had conquered. In this manner, Rome and its allies controlled all of Italy by 264 B.C.E.
The 2nd Period of Expansion 264 - 146 B.C.E. Rome fought three major wars with the city of Carthage in North Africa (now Tunisia). Because of these wars, Rome gained control of North Africa, much of Spain, and Sicily (an island off of Italy). Rome also conquered Macedonia and Greece during this time.
The 3rd Period of Expansion 145 - 44 B.C.E. Roman armies in the east took control of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. Roman armies in the west conquered much of Gaul (what is now France). These armies were led by Julius Caesar. Because of these victories, Rome now ruled everything around the Mediterranean. The Roman people were very proud of their power. There were problems, though. Civil wars started to spring up, and successful army generals started to seek more power. Julius Caesar, the most successful general, named himself Emperor. He was killed in 44 B.C.E.
The 4th Period of Expansion 44 B.C.E. - 14 C.E. Several years of civil war followed Caesar’s death. Octavian (Caesar’s grandnephew and adopted son) became emperor in 27 B.C. The Senate named him Augustus (“honored one”). Augustus pushed borders of the empire to natural boundaries (rivers, seas, mountains, etc.) to make it easier to defend. Subsequent emperors added more territory, until the Roman Empire stretched from Britain to the Black Sea.