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“What Have the
Romans Ever
Done for Us?”
Ancient Rome
1,000 Years of Conquering the
World… and Then Losing It.
The First 500 Years (or
The Republic
509 - 27 B.C.E.
Roman Contributions
Public Order
Political structure
Art & Architecture
Many of our words
Roman Empire at Its Height… but
how did Rome achieve this?
In the Beginning...There was Geography
• Rome won the geography lottery!
– Peninsula – midway point of the Mediterranean region
• Great trade and military location.
– Alps on the northern border and water on the other three sides
made it difficult to invade.
- Fewer mountains & less rugged than Greece meant more unified
- Most of Italy is fertile and excellent for growing crops.
Two Social Classes Living in Rome
(5% of the
(95% of the
Wealthy landowners who
held most of the power.
Common farmers, artisans,
& merchants. Many were
educated and owned
Rome Becomes a Republic
•Roman republic established in 509 B.C.
•What’s a republic?
• Republic = a form of indirect democracy in which power
rests with “citizens” who have the right to vote for
someone who then goes and votes in the government on
the citizens’ behalf.
– This is different than a direct democracy (like Athens)
where the citizens voted directly on all issues.
The Assembly
• Senate
Two Branches…
• Consuls
– Law-makers
– 300 members who
were ALL Patricians
in the beginning,
even though
Plebeians could
vote for them.
– Lifetime term
– Nominated Consuls
– 2 officials picked
from the Senate
- One-year term
- Heads of the gov’t
and commanders of
the military.
Painting of the Roman Senate
Picture of the U.S. Senate
But What Happened If Things Got Ugly
in Rome?
• Dictator! The Senate named
one of the two consuls as
– He served for six month terms.
– Had ABSOLUTE power.
– Romans LIKED this.
Things Went Along Fairly Well, But
Then: Plebeians Rising!
• Many Plebeians felt the elite Patricians had too
much political power. There were riots and
• Reforms were made:
– Tribunes were elected by the plebeians to protect their
interests and had veto power over laws the Senate
made. (Veto is a Latin word meaning “I forbid it.”)
– Eventually, the tribunes would gained great power as
members of the Senate and as one of the consuls.
One Law to Rule Them All – The Twelve
• Until 451 B.C.E., there were no
written laws in the Republic.
–What are some disadvantages of
an unwritten law code?
• The Twelve Tables (or Twelve
Tablets) were created to fix
these problems.
The Twelve Tables
A written law code that
was carved on 12 tablets
all Romans could see if
they went to the Forum of
their city.
The Twelve Tables established
the idea that all free citizens
had a right to protection under
the law.