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The Roman Republic: Political Structure What is a Republic? • A state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch. Rome became a republic in 509 bce : – The seven Etruscan Kings were considered to hold too much power. – This lead to and assassinations- political instability, mutiny and exile SPQR…wah? The standard abbreviation for the government of Rome was SPQR: ‘senatus populusque Romanus’ (the senate and people of Rome) Patricians vs. PlebEians In order to understand the Roman Republic you must understand that the tensions between these two groups shape most of Republican Rome Patricians • • • • Noble Families Own land Typically wealthy Able to participate fully in government Plebeians • Common nonaristocratic people • Own land • Forbidden from holding most offices Structure of the Roman Political System 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. The Roman Republic was organised much like our modern political system. Since the Romans did not want one man to make all of the laws, they decided to balance the power: Senate Comitia Centuriata- Assembly of Centuries Concilium Plebis- Plebeian Tribal Council The most powerful part of the Republic was the Senate… The Big Dogs: The Senate not an elected body,- appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic appointment to the Senate. About 300 members Served for life term and made laws Only patricians could be Senators The Senate passed money bills and control what money would be spent on. Had the absolute right of free speech The Senators Chose two consuls – chief executives Assembly of Centuries * Executive magistrates: Consuls, praetors, censors, aediles, quaestors and dictators. * All these positions had influence over law. • Each year, two consuls were elected together, to serve for a one-year term. Each consul was given veto (I forbid) power over his colleague and the assembly • Elected from the Patrician class • Consuls had extensive poweradministrative, legislative and judicial • In peacetime, they alternated their rule in Rome monthly but their command of the army rotated daily • They supervised the Senate • Controlled the Roman army during wars. Consuls By limiting consul’s time in office, Rome had system of checks and balances on power of government. * Veto, two consuls, one year termcould only serve every 10 years. Senate could also elect a dictator in event of war. Dictator = ruler with absolute power over government (usually for 6 months) OTHER MAGISTRATES Praetor (6) • 2nd most powerful next to Consuls •Duties include: administer justice and deal with Roman/Non-Roman citizens • by 197 bce- 6 people • one year but could be extended in war time AEDILES (2) Responsible for Maintenance of roads, public executions , water system QUAESTORS (2) Administered financial matters CENSORS (2) • Elected once every 5 years • Almost always ex-consuls • Duties include: registering Roman citizens and property, revise list of Senators, oversea public morality • much corruption in this position • extra caution exercised when electing these officials because of potential power Odds and Ends of the Political Structure • Women and slaves could not participate in government. • Citizenship was granted to patricians and plebeians. Citizens had two main duties: – Pay taxes – Military service • Military was mainly the legion – troop of 6,000 men. 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.