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The Roman Republic
Transcript of The Roman Republic
Rome began as a small city-state near the coast of central Italy. Because of Rome's location, its fertile soil, and natural resources allowed it to grow into a much larger society.
Rome Develops a Government
As Rome's society grew, it needed an organized government to control the growing number of citizens in Rome. For its' early years, Romans settled in city-states, or small self-governed communities, however as the civilization grew, they needed a government that would unite all of its people.
As Rome grew, its' government fell into a monarchy, much like many other civilizations in Europe. A monarchy is a centralized form of government which is ruled by a king. Rome had 7 Kings before the monarchy ended. The Roman elite put an end to the monarchy because they feared that a monarchy gave one person too much power.
Two Social Classes
The Romans had two main social classes:
Wealthy landholders and noble families making up the aristocratic class
Held the highest positions in early Roman Society
"Common People" - Farmers, Traders, Craftsmen
A very large part of the population belonged to this class
of the Republic
In 509 B.C.E., after the the last Roman King, Superbus, was overthrown, the Roman elite established the Roman Republic. It was designed to spread the power so that one person could not gain too much power.
What is a Republic?
A republic is a type of government in which the power lies with the people. In a republic, the rulers of the state are directly or indirectly elected or appointed by the people. The idea of a republic, is that it gives power to the people, and prevents the upper class from completely controlling the society.
SPQR is the slogan of the Roman Republic. It stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus or "The Senate of People of Rome"
Consists of three branches:
Two people were elected as Consul by the senate. The consul was responsible for the following duties:
Supervising government affairs
Commanding the Roman Army
Serving as supreme judges
The purpose of having two consuls was to prevent one person from gaining too much power. Therefore, according to the laws of the republic, one consul could not act without consent or permission from the other.
Consuls served for one year terms
When their term was over, they could not rule again for 10 years.
The Senate was the most powerful body or group in the republic. It was a body of patricians, or upper class citizens people whose job was to protect the members of the patrician class.
The senate was made up of 300 members
When you were elected to the senate, you served for life.
The senate had the following responsibilities:
Supervising foreign affairs
The Assembly of Centuries
The "Assembly of Centuries" was the chief assembly of the early republic. It was responsible for the following:
Voting on laws that were submitted by the consuls
Electing the high ranking government officials.
Membership and Voting were determined by:
Place of Residence
A fourth member of the Roman Republic was the dictator. This was one ruler, typically a retired consul with a superior military background, who would be chosen in a time of war or emergency. If Rome was at war and needed a strong leader, a dictator would be elected by the senate, and he would rule for six months, or until the crisis was over.
Ok... not quite the
Struggle Within The Republic
Held all the consulships
Dominated the Senate and Assemblies
Made most of the laws
Controlled all of the courts
Few social privileges
No voice in the government
Excluded from holding high public office
Lost property or sold into slavery for not repaying loans
Could not marry anyone in the patrician class
Rome was always at war with their Italian neighbors, and the patrician class could not handle war on their own, as they did not have enough people for a powerful army:
They had to rely on Plebeians for help
Plebeians wanted representation in the government for serving in the military
They threatened to leave the army in order to gain concessions, or recognition, from the Patricians
For many years prior, there were Roman laws that were established, however these laws were never clearly written for the public to read. Because the plebeians did not know the Roman laws, it was easy for the wealthy Patricians to take advantage of the poor and manipulate them to do whatever they wanted them to do.
In 450 B.C.E. the plebeians realized that the patricians had been taking advantage of them. They demanded that the patricians give them equal rights under the law, and the only way that the plebeians could get that, was to have the laws written out clearly for all to see. When the patricians said "no" to the plebeians, the plebeians all left the city of Rome and camped outside its walls for many days. Without all of the plebeians, the city could not function properly, and the patricians had to meet the demands of the lower class.
The patricians agreed to the plebeians' demands and wrote down all of Rome's formerly unwritten laws. They were carved onto 12 bronze tablets and were posted in the forum, or the center of Rome. They were written in bronze and brass so that the laws could not easily be changed. These laws were known as the "Laws of the 12 Tables", and protected the free-man.
This section of the city was now the center of the government
The law was now applied equally
The law was taught in schools
The Law of Twelve Tables became the foundation of Roman civil law
Results of the Struggle
Plebeians gained equality with Patricians
The changes made the republic more representative of the people
New class distinction began to develop
Rich vs. Poor
Wealthy plebeians and patricians worked together to keep control of the senate and hold onto power in the republic
The Republic's Legacy
The Roman Republic lasted from approximately 509 B.C.E. - 27 B.C.E., and while it continued to change a bit over time, its original ideas and principles remained.
The Roman Republic's principles were unique for its time, however the Republic laid the groundwork for the United States government that still stands today!