Roman Govt Essay

This essay has a total of 4464 words and 18 pages.

Roman Govt



The Romans have had almost every type of government there is. They've had a kingdom, a
republic, a dictatorship, and an empire. Their democracy would be the basis for most
modern democracies. The people have always been involved with and loved their government,
no matter what kind it was. They loved being involved in the government, and making
decisions concerning everyone. In general, the Romans were very power-hungry. This might
be explained by the myth that they are descended from Romulus, who's father was Mars, the
god of war. Their government loving tendencies have caused many, many civil wars. After
type of government, the change has been made with a civil war. There have also been many
civil wars between rulers. But it all boils

down to wanting to be involved in government.
When the Greeks finally entered Troy after ten long years of siege, a man named Aeneas
escaped the city with his father, Anchises, and his son, Ascanius. They went to Mt. Ida,
where they were to meet Aeneas' wife, Creusa, but she never showed up. Saddened, Aeneas
acquired a boat and sailed around the Mediterranean. He bounced around from Asia Minor to
Greece to Crete looking for a place to found a new Troy, but he couldn't find a
satisfactory place. As told by Homer in the Aeneid, Aeneas was cared for by the gods.
Venus, in particular, was very worried about him. She asked Jupiter, king of the gods
about him, and he said this:

"Since you are so consumed with anxiety for Aeneas, I shall turn forward far
The hidden pages of fate and speak of the future. He shall conduct a great campaign for
you. And conquer all Italy and its haughty peoples. He shall impose laws on his own
people. And build walled cities for them; the third summer Shall see him rule in Latium,
the third winter Of warfare see the Rutulians [an Italian tribe] subdued. But his son
Ascanius... It is he who shall consolidate your power-For thirty years with all their
turning months; Then shall he move his capital from Lavinium To Alba Longa, which he shall
fortify To the uttermost; and there a line of kings... Shall reign and reign till Ilia
[Rhea Silvia], a priestess Of royal blood, bear twins begotten by Mars; And one of these,
Romulus, fostered by a she-wolf, And joyfully wearing her tawny hide, shall rule And found
a city for Mars, a new city, And call his people Romans, after his name. For them I see no
measure nor date, I grant themDominion without end. Yes, even Juno...Even she will mend
her ways and vie with me In cherishing the Romans, the master-race, The wearers of the
Toga. So it is willed."(Nardo 13)

Finally, he wound up at the mouth of the Tiber River in Italy. He went inland up the
river, which was a miracle in itself, because the river is very swift. He found Latium,
ruled by King Latinus, and married his daughter, Lavinia. With King Latinus' permission,
Aeneas and Lavinia founded a city called Lavinium, where they ruled side by side for many
years. When Aeneas died, his son Ascanius took over. Ascanius founded a new city, which he
called Alba Longa, and made it his capital.

Now we advance four centuries. The king of Alba Longa is Numitor. He had a jealous brother
named Amulius, who seized the throne and drove out Numitor. To prevent Numitor's daughter,
Rhea Silvia, from having children who could claim the throne, Amulius made her a celibate
priestess. While she was a priestess, Mars, the god of war, came and visited her and she
had twin boys named Remus and Romulus (Burrell 7). When Amulius found out about the twins,
he was furious. He ordered Rhea imprisoned and the boys drowned on the Tiber. The slave
who was ordered to drown them felt pity for them, and instead sent them down the river in
a basket. When they landed, a she-wolf found them and nursed them because her cubs had
just been killed and she was still fertile. Romulus and Remus were found by a shepherd
named Faustulus, who took them home to his wife to raise them. As they grew up, being sons
of Mars, they turned out to be very athletic and natural leaders, especially of the local
boys. When the boys grew up, they heard the story of Numitor and Amulius. With their local
friends, they attacked Alba Longa, killed Amulius, restored their grandfather to the
throne, and freed their mother.

After restoring Numitor to the throne, the boys decided to found a city on one of the
seven hills near where their basket wasfound by the wolf. This was a natural spot for a
city. Accounts Livy,

"Not without good reason did gods and men choose this spot as the site of a city, with its
bracing hills, its [spacious] river by means of which the produce of inland countries may
be brought down and inland supplies obtained; a sea near enough for all useful purposes,
but not so near as to be exposed to danger from foreign fleets; a district in the very
center of Italy, in a word, a position singularly adapted by a nature for the growth of a
city." (Nardo, 12)

The two boys couldn't decide between themselves which hill to start on, so they decided
that whoever saw a vulture first could pick. Remus saw the first vulture and five others,
and Romulus saw twelve. Remus had rightfully won, but Romulus claimed he should pick since
he saw more vultures. He borrowed a plow and team, and plowed a furrow around the Palatine
hill. He told his brother that was where the city would be, and if Remus crossed the line,
he would be killed. Contemptuous Remus immediately crossed the line, and Romulus killed
him. Romulus later said he regretted killing his brother, but life goes on. He built his
city on the Palatine Hill, and called it Rome.

When Romulus founded Rome in 753 BC, he made himself the king. Being a brand new city, it
had very few people. Romulus built up the population by allowing anybody who wanted to
live there, including criminals who flocked to the city. This caused a shortage of women.
To get some, the Romans hosted athletic games and invited their neighbors, the Sabines.
While they were at the games, some of the Romans sneaked off and stole the Sabine women
(Burrell 14-15). Realizing what had happened, the Sabines prepared their army. Expecting
this, the Romans were ready and the two forces lined up preparing to fight. Surprisingly,
some of the women ran into the no-man's-land in between the armies. This is what their
leader said:

"We were just daughters a short while ago, now we are both wives and daughters. We did not
choose our husbands - they chose us. We want this fighting to stop. If it goes ahead, many
will be slain. When our fathers are dead, we shall be orphans, but if our husbands die, we
shall be widows. We lose either way." (Burrell, 14-15)

Surprisingly, the two armies listened and put down their weapons.
Since anyone was allowed to reside, Rome had great diversity in its people. There were
three main ethnic groups: the Romans, who were first generation, the Sabines, and the
Latins, who Romulus is descended from. The Sabines lived in the mountains east of the
Tiber and north of the Latins. Later on, another group of people called the Etruscans
started moving in. They were unique in that their language had no relation to any other
known language, the only one like that.

Romulus established a government with a king, who was imperium, "Over all persons and in
all causes supreme" (Adcock 6). Romulus chose one hundred fathers to form the Senate.
These people and their descendants are known as Patricians, from the Latin word pater,
meaning father. He divided the people into three tribes, mentioned above, and each tribe
was divided into smaller curiae. The succession of kings wasn't hereditary. The previous
king appointed someone, and that person had to show the good will of heaven. Once king he
had to keep the pax deorum, Latin for peace of the gods. Romulus created an army that was
to have three thousand infantry and three hundred horsemen, one-third from each tribe.
This was a national guard, with people keeping their day jobs.

When Romulus died in 717 BC, the two main tribes, the Romans and the Sabines, couldn't
decide how to pick a king. Finally it was decided that the Romans would pick a Sabine
king. They picked Numa Pompilius. This is what Plutarch had to say about him:

"He banished all luxury and softness from his own home, and... in private he devoted
himself not to amusement... but to the worship of he immortal gods." (Nardo 19)

One of Pompilius' notable achievements was rearranging the calendar so it had twelve months instead of ten.
The third king, Tullus Hostilius, was a war monger. He believed his subjects would grow
soft if they weren't engaged in a war. Conquering neighboring people, including Alba
Longa, he extended Rome's rule out to twelve miles. Supposedly the gods got angry with him
and killed him with a lightning bolt (Burrell, 12).

The fourth king, Ancus Martius, was a Sabine. He extended Rome's boundary to the sea and
built the Pons Sublicus, the firstbridge across the Tiber. He also captured the Janiculum
hill on the far bank.

The fifth king, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, was the first Etruscan king. He got the throne
when he persuaded Martius to send his sons away. He was an architect king. He built the
capitol temple, drained the marsh between the Paletine and Aventine Hills, built the
Cloaca Maxima, or great sewer, and designed the Circus Maximus.

The sixth king was Servius Tullius, another Etruscan. He divided the citizens into five
social classes, from richest to poorest. All but the poorest had to provide soldiers.

The seventh, and final, king was Tarquinius Superbus. He was a bad king. He got the throne
by marrying Tullius' daughter, Tullia. He then pushed Tullius down a flight of stairs. He
sent men to finish him off, but Tullia ran over her father with a cisium, Latin for a
light, two-wheeled carriage. As king, he paid absolutely no attention to what the people
wanted. According to Asimov, when he was off at war withthe Volscians, the Senate voted to
exile him, and he wasn't let back into the city. After his reign, the people vowed never
to have a king again, and a law was made where anybody who even talked about having a king
back was executed. A senator named Brutus said,

"I swear, and you, o gods, I call to witness that I will drive [away]... Tarquinius
Superbus, together with his wicked wife and his whole family, with fire and sword and
every means in my power, and I will not [allow] them or anyone else to reign in Rome."
(Nardo 25)

Republic is English for the Latin Res Publica, meaning the public thing. A republic is "a
country governed by the elected representatives of the people" (Encarta "Republic").
Instead of a president or king, the Republic has two praetors, later known as consuls, who
were elected annually. The one exception was emergency dictators, who served for six
months and six months only. The Senators served for life. The object of the Republic was
to give the people a voice in the government, and to keep just one person from having all
the power. Noting the Greek government, the Romans created the Centuriate Assembly of
citizens. This was an assembly where citizens discussed and voted on important issues.
Many of the members were Patricians, but there were a few Plebs, or commoners too poor to
own land. Only free Roman adult men who owned weapons were citizens. Not

long after the Republic was formed, the Patricians closed off immigration of new patriarchal families.
In the early years of the Republic, the Patricians often made laws unfair to the Plebs.
Only Patricians could become consul, thesenate was almost all Patricians, and the
Patricians controlled the Plebs in the Assembly by giving the Plebs financial aid, who in
turn voted the way they were told. Public Officials weren't paid, so only wealthy people
could afford to serve on a regular basis. One time, the Plebs refused to serve in the army
until they got their way. As Livy said,

"The Patricians dreaded the Plebians [who were striking].... How long could it be supposed
that the multitude which had seceded would remain inactive? And what would be the
consequence if in the meantime a foreign war should break out? No glimpse of hope could
they see left except in concord between the citizens, which must be re-established in the
state on any terms." (Nardo 28)

In 494 BC, the Patricians gave up and allowed the striking Plebs their own council, called
the Popular Assembly, which excluded Patricians. This assembly couldn't make laws, but
they elected ten tribunes each year who had the power of veto. The Patricians pronounced
the validity of decisions made by the assembly. As the Republic grew older, it became more
complicated. The Assembly had to elect officials to help. They elected eight praetors, or
court judges, four aediles, whomanaged public streets and buildings, two censores, who
took censuses, admitted new senators and collected taxes, and twenty five quaestores, or
financial officers. In 450 BC, the Plebs demanded that the laws of Rome be written down so
that the praetors couldn't twist the law in their favor. They were written down on the
Twelve Tables. An example of a law from the Twelve Tables was,

"If plaintiff summons defendant to court, he shall go. If he does not go, plaintiff shall
call witness [to this]. Then only shall he take the defendant [to court] by force." (Nardo
28-29)

The Tribunes of the Plebs protected the Plebs from unjustness, and the Plebs protected
them by threatening to strike. As time went on, Patrician control over Plebians gradually
decreased, until in 366 BC, the Plebs were allowed to become consul. Soon it became a
custom to elect one Pleb and one Patrician (Nardo 28). In 287 BC, the Popular Assembly
gained the right to make laws.

Continues for 9 more pages >>




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