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The Rise of the Roman Republic Chapter VI part III.

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1 The Rise of the Roman Republic Chapter VI part III

2 After the Romans kicked out the Etruscan king, Tarquin the Proud, and banished his family from Rome, they swore off ever having another king. The Romans established a new government. They called it a Republic.

3 A republic is a form of government in which power rests with citizens who have the right to vote to select their leaders.

4 To replace the position of king, the assembly, a political group of ordinary citizens chose two men each year to govern the nation, instead of a king. The men were to be called consuls. The consuls were given advice by the Senate.

5 The consuls were to rule in turn—one for one month, the other for the next, and so on for twelve months. At the end of the year two new consuls were to be elected. The consuls took care of the daily business of the government and of the army.

6 The consuls were also advised by a senate made up of 300 patricians.

7 The senate controlled the treasury (the money!) and Roman laws. Most of the senators were members of wealthy Roman families.

8 Though the consuls changed each year, Senators were chosen for life. The Senate was the most powerful group in the Government of the Roman Republic.

9 Rome’s Rebellion

10 There was a serious trouble between the common people (Plebeians) and the nobles (patricians). A great many of the people earned their living by farming.

11 Although the citizens elected their own representatives, the Roman Republic was not a democracy because not every citizen had equal power. Citizens were divided into two classes, patricians and plebeians. A Roman was born into their class.

12 Adult male citizens had certain rights, such as the right to vote and to own property.

13 But women citizens could not vote or take part in the government although they were protected by Roman laws.

14 As citizens, both patricians and plebeians had the right to vote. However, only patricians had the right to hold any political, military or religious offices. All power was in the hands of the patricians.

15 Some plebeians were quite wealthy. They believed that they should have the same rights as the patricians.

16 Slaves which were war captives, were owned by citizens and had no rights.

17 When there was a war the strong men had to become soldiers, and as Rome was almost constantly at war the men were nearly always away from their farms.

18 Very often, therefore, the Plebeians had to borrow money to support their families while they themselves were away fighting, for at this time Roman soldiers got no regular pay.

19 Now it was the rich patricians who loaned the money, and if it was not paid back at the time agreed upon they could put the Plebeians who owed it in jail, or they could sell their wives and children as slaves.

20 This system was known as "debt bondage".

21 A man in debt bondage became a servant of the man to whom he owed the money. He became a slave, and, without getting paid, he could never get the money he needed to buy his freedom. But the patrician government did nothing to end this cruel practice.

22 In this way the plebeians often suffered much hardship. At last a great number of them resolved to leave Rome and make a settlement for themselves somewhere else in Italy. The patricians did not like this very much, for if the common people went away there would be a scarcity of soldiers for the army.

23 A Roman historian named Livy wrote about a terrible time in the city of Rome in 494 B.C. “There was great panic in the city, and everyone was afraid. The common people were leaving the city and those left behind feared what the senators might do to them. The senators were afraid of the people remaining in the city, and could not decide whether to leave or stay. After all, how long would the crowds who stayed in Rome remain peaceful? And what would happen if an army was needed to fight foreign invaders?"

24 When the Plebeians left Rome they formed their own assembly, this became known as the Tribal Assembly.

25 The Tribal Assembly were allowed to make laws for the common people and to elect tribunes.

26 Tribunes were plebian elected officials who had power to veto laws they did not like, that is, prevent them from being passed.

27 Tribunes were able to protect Plebeian rights.

28 The patricians had no choice but to let the plebeians keep their tribunes. The plebeians could vote against any unjust law passed by the Senate.

29 The word veto, which is Latin for I forbid, is used in the same way in our own country. The President of the United States and the governors of some states have, within certain limits, power to prevent the passing of laws they do not approve. This is called the veto power.

30 Next, the plebeians demanded that the laws be changed. Rome’s laws had never been written down. The plebeians believed that patrician judges took advantage of this fact to rule unfairly against plebeians.


32 Finally in 450 B.C. the laws of Rome were engraved on 12 bronze tablets called the Twelve Tables. The tablets were then displayed in the Forum, so all citizens could see the rights given to them, though few could actually read them.

33 During the 300’s B.C., the plebeians gained more and more rights. Plebeians could now become priests in the Roman religion. Debt bondage was outlawed.

34 Since 509 B.C. the government had been headed by two consuls. By 367 B.C. one of those consuls had to be a plebeian.

35 Eventually plebeians could even become members of the Senate. But the plebeians and patricians still held their meetings in different places. The laws passed by the patrician senate applied to everyone. However, the laws passed by the plebian assembly applied only to plebeians.


37 The plebeians demanded that the laws passed by their assembly apply to all citizens. Once again, the plebeians forced the issues by leaving Rome.

38 This time the Patricians gave in and in 287 B.C. agreed to meet the demands of the plebeians. Plebeians and patricians were finally equal under roman laws.

39 As the plebeians gained power, Rome became more democratic.

40 Early Expansion

41 While the patricians and plebeians struggled for power within the city’s walls, there were other battles on the outside.

42 Year after year, the Roman army marched off to war against its neighbors to control more and more land and people.

43 The army did not always win. In 390 B.C., Rome was attacked and destroyed by the Gauls, warlike people from the north who were part of a larger group called Celts.

44 But Rome rebuilt and continued to grow. By 338 B.C., Romans had conquered Latium, the area right around them, and Etruria, the land of the Etruscans which was north of them. By 275 BC, Rome ruled all of Italy.

45 In 270 BC, Rome had more citizens and well-trained soldiers than any other civilization in the Mediterranean area.

46 Rome was successful because it made the defeated people allies, or friends of Rome. As allies, they had to fight for Rome in any future wars.

47 In return, Rome promised them protection and a share in the profits from future victories (part of the loot they stole would be given to them). In some cases, Rome even gave conquered peoples citizenship (the right to be called a Roman and to vote in elections).

48 From its location in the center of the Italian peninsula and the center of the Mediterranean, the Roman Republic expanded east into Greece, and west into Spain. During the next 100 years, Rome would conquer the Mediterranean world

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