The Roman Republic Part One
The Roman Civilization dates from 753 BC to AD 476. The Roman Republic lasted from 509 BC to 27 BC. And this is from whenever the monarchy was overthrown and it became a republic, to when we got our first emperor in Rome.
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So, that’s what defines the period that is the Roman Republic. Rome was built along the Tiber River on the Italian Peninsula. So, since it was along a river, it’s going to have fertile lands, and it’s going to be able to develop a larger civilization than other areas.
Next Lesson: The Roman Republic Part Two
The transcript is for your convenience
Rome and society consisted of a social hierarchy. At the top of the social hierarchy, people descended from the founders of the Republic, and people who were often wealthy were called the patricians. All other freemen, so all other men who were free but weren’t necessarily in this top level of the social hierarchy, were known as plebeians. And then, at the bottom of the social hierarchy, you had slaves. So, people who weren’t free but they still made up some part of the social hierarchy because they were a part of Rome.
Women were not really involved in government or considered in this hierarchy. They just kind of existed as far as their parents, or their fathers, or their husbands. So, whichever category their fathers or husbands fell in, that’s where the women would fall into, and while they weren’t really considered equals, they had it a lot better than some of the surrounding territories and civilizations did. So, it wasn’t so bad to be a woman in Rome as compared to other places, but you still didn’t have equal status in the Roman Republic.
Now, the Republic was the first political arrangement for Rome, and it was led by two consuls who were chosen annually. And these two consuls presided over the Senate, which was a permanent group of previously elected men – mostly patrician – and the Assembly, which was made up of only plebeians. So, you can see the slaves did not have a part in this, and these were the men that took part in this. So, you’ve got two consuls or leaders that are chosen every year, and so, they could repeat years, but every year, the people were allowed to choose a new consul or two new consuls. So, it wasn’t always the same person ruling if they didn’t like the person who was ruling.
They also had the Senate, which was the group of patrician men – mostly patrician, there may be a few plebeians that made it into the Senate – and they were previously elected, and once they were elected, they stayed in the Senate. And then, you had the Assembly, which is made up of only plebeians. And so, that gave them a voice as well. Slaves didn’t really get a voice. So, all of these groups working together formed the Republic, and helped make the laws and enforce them in the Roman Republic.
Rome had extensive laws regarding individual and property rights. So, they did make laws and enforce them, and they had a lot of them regarding individual rights and rights regarding property. Rome also had goals to expand its territory. So, it started going out, conquering other civilizations and bringing them into the Roman Republic. And they didn’t really have a lot of resistance until they got to Carthage. Carthage offered the first real challenge to Rome, and it was taken slowly over a series of battles known as the Punic Wars.
So, during the first Punic War, Rome won and acquired Sicily in the process. But it didn’t defeat Carthage as a whole. During the second Punic War, Hannibal was leading the Carthaginians, and he made a lot of headway. He crossed the Alps into Italy, but his army was spread too thin, and he eventually had to retreat to defend Carthage. So, during the second Punic War, Carthage was still not taken. But during the third Punic War, Rome destroyed Carthage. You’ve heard probably the rumors about Carthage being burned to the ground, and the fields salted so nothing would ever grow there again.
So, we’re not sure about the 100% accuracy of that story, but there were some Roman senators who said “Carthage must be destroyed,” over and over, and they hadn’t really experienced any real resistance until they got to Carthage. So, you can imagine that it may be officials, the people and the two consuls, the senators, and the men in the assembly, all very frustrated that they were having to deal with Carthage when everything else so far had kind of fallen into place. They’ve gone in, they’ve taken over the cities, and then everything had gone on as usual. Carthage was the first place to offer real resistance, a real challenge to Rome.
So, they were frustrating to Rome, and there was a lot of bitterness there, so they really wanted Carthage destroyed, so it’s fully possible that they did burn everything there to the ground, and even salt the fields to keep things from growing there in the future. Now, after Carthage, Rome met little resistance, and that was because the Romans had superior weapons. So, it was easy, or fairly easy for them to beat other civilizations, for them to go through and conquer. Romans also allowed people to keep their own cultures, as long as they paid tribute to Rome.
So, the people weren’t expected to start following Rome in traditions. They weren’t expected to start saying they were Romans, they were going to do everything the same way Rome had been doing. They could do everything just as they’d been doing, except now, they had to pay tribute to Rome. And in some of those places, they had had to pay tribute to someone anyway. So, paying it to Rome, their life pretty much went on as usual, and that’s why the Romans weren’t experiencing a lot of resistance, up until Carthage, and even after Carthage.
Now, the Romans had to develop an infrastructure to connect all of their new territories. So, they had started on that Italian Peninsula, along the Tiber River, and they branched out in several directions. And so, they connect all of those territories, and to be able to go and actually collect that tribute that was being paid and bring it back to Rome, they had to have an infrastructure. So, the Romans are famous for the solid and durable roads they built, and for the aqua ducts that they built to transport water. And many of those are still around today because they built them so solidly and so lasting that they were able to withstand time up until this point, and still be functional right now. So, this is the first part of the Roman Republic. We’ve set up where it was established, what kind of society the Romans had, what their ambitions were, and what kind of political arrangement Rome had.
Next Lesson: The Roman Republic Part Two