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Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Roman Republic (From Monarchy to Republic)

The Roman Republic
From its beginning as a small village on the peninsula of Italy, Rome grew to control a great empire. Early Rome was ruled as a monarchy. As Rome grew, however, its form of government changed.

From Monarchy to Republic
In about 600 B.C. the Etruscans, a people from Italy's northern region, took control of Rome. The Etruscans, who often traded with the Greek colonies, brought Greek ideas and customs to the Romans.

After almost 100 years of Etruscan rule, the Romans rebelled. They ended the monarchy and started a new kind of government. Wealthy Romans elected leaders to make all government decisions. They called their new government a republic.

As in Athens, free men in the Roman Republic formed an assembly of citizens. Both assemblies had the right to declare war, make peace treaties, and build alliances. Unlike the assembly in Athens, however, the Roman assembly elected officials to represent Roman government.

Each year the Roman assembly elected two chief officials called consuls. Having two consuls meant that no one person would gain too much power. The consuls led the armies, served as judges, and acted for the citizens of Rome. In an emergency, Romans could appoint a dictator for a six-month term. A dictator is a ruler with complete authority In Rome a dictator could give orders that even the two consuls Jhad to obey.

The elected consuls were advised by a governing body called the senate. Only some of Rome's citizens could hope to become senators. Early Roman citizens were divided into two groups. Patricians (puh»TRIH»shuhnz), who were the descendants of Rome's earliest settlers, formed one group. All other Roman citizens including farmers, merchants, soldiers, and craft- workers, made up the other group, called plebeians (plih«BEE«uhnz). The patricians controlled Rome's government and considered the plebeians to be less important.

In 494 B.C. the plebeians rebelled. They marched out of Rome to set up their own assembly. They then elected their own special officials called tribunes. The patricians realized that Rome's economy would suffer without the plebeians. They agreed to let the plebeians keep their assembly and tribunes. The tribunes could attend meetings of the senate and veto, or refuse to agree to, any laws they did not like.

The plebeians also protested Rome's unwritten laws. Only patrician leaders knew exactly what the laws were. In 451 B.C. and 450 B.C., the Roman government began recording its laws on tablets called the Twelve Tables. The laws were posted in Rome's forum, or public square. Many plebeians could not read the laws. However, the fact that they were now written down meant that what they said was no longer hidden from the plebeians.

Because the laws were now common knowledge, the plebeians knew how their rights differed from those of the patricians. More and more, they began to ask for changes. In time the rights of plebeians and patricians became more nearly equal.

What form of government did the Romans set up after they freed themselves from Etruscan rule?


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