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What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?
Transcript of What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?
Government & Citizenship
What form of government did the Romans have?
Who in Rome was allowed citizenship?
What were the social classes in Rome?
Who were important government-related people?
What laws did the
Roman government run on?
In 509 B.C., the Romans overthrew an oppressive monarchy. They then set up a people-based government: a Republic. Our government today uses some of the ideas the Romans used in their Republic. The Roman Republic lasted until 27 B.C.
The Romans were very accepting. They created a system called the Roman Confederation to rule their conquered people. Under the system, loyal allies could eventually gain full citizenship as well as other non-Romans; especially Latins. These ally-citizens were treated the same as other citizens under the law and could even hold office and vote. Allies that were not citizens were allowed to run their own local businesses, but they had to pay taxes to the Roman government.
The Romans' generosity paid off. Because they were so accepting, many people were attracted to Roman society. The Romans treated their conquests very well, so, as a result, Rome had many loyal allies and citizens.
The plebeians had very little say in government because they could not serve in public office. Also, marriage between the two classes was strictly forbidden.
However, in 494 B.C., the plebeians rebelled. They threatened to set up their own republic and leave the Roman Republic. They scared the Senate into letting them set up their own body of representatives called the Council of Plebs. The Council of Plebs elected officials called tribunes to represent them in the Senate. For the first time, plebeians had a say in government.
Over time, plebeians gained more and more power. In 455 B.C. plebeians and patricians were allowed to marry. Another major breakthrough for the plebeians was in 287 B.C: the Council of Plebs was allowed to make laws.
The First Triumvirate
There was a stage of Roman government before the Republic: a Monarchy.
Early Rome was only a small city. At that time, Rome was greatly influenced by their northern neighbors, the Etruscans. Eventually, the Etruscans took control of Rome in 650 B.C. The Etruscans transformed life in Ancient Rome. They were skilled metalworkers and they built temples, public buildings, and streets.
For over 100 years, the Etruscans ruled Rome. However, the ruling family, the Tarquins, became more and more oppressive over time. In 509 B.C., the Romans rebelled and overthrew the Tarquins ending the monarchy in Rome.
An Etruscan Mural
For many years, the laws of the Roman Republic were not written down but were passed on orally. However, in 451 B.C., the Roman citizens (plebeians) wanted to know the laws. The Senate then inscribed the laws on 12 bronze tablets and set them up in the Roman marketplace, the Forum. For the first time, plebeians could argue their case in court because they knew the laws. However, the Twelve Tables only applied to Roman citizens.
The Romans created laws for all of their non-citizens called the Law of Nations. Some of them are ideas we use today such as a person is innocent until proven guilty, a person accused of a crime can defend themselves before a judge, and a judge must look at the evidence carefully before coming to a conclusion. The concept that laws should apply to everyone is called "the rule of law". It gave everyone from the lowest peasant to the richest aristocrat equality. The rule of law is still a concept we use today in our society.
HOW DID IT WORK?
The Roman Republic had three branches: one to run the government, one to act as judges, and one to make laws; the three-branch system is also called a tripartite. It also had checks and balances to make sure one branch of government did not become too powerful. It was very much like our government today except for the fact that they did not separate their branches as we do today.
Running the Government
The most powerful governing body in the Roman Republic was the Senate. There were 300 senators, originally all upper class men (patricians). At first, the Senate's role was to advise consuls but over time the Senate's power grew. By 200 B.C., the Senate could also hold debates, approve government building programs, and propose laws.
All Senators served for life. When one died, every citizen voted on the replacement. One other unique feature of the Roman Republic was their system of dictatorship. In times of emergency, the Senate could appoint a dictator. However, the dictator could only serve for 6 months. When 6 months had passed, the dictator had to give up his office.
The most powerful government officials in the Roman Republic were the consuls. The consuls' role in government was to supervise the Roman army and to run government business.
There were only two consuls at a time and each only served one year. They also had the power to veto each other's choices. By making them accountable to each other, the system was checked and balanced so that one individual could not gain too much power.
Were Roman citizens
Were the only men who could run for public office
Had to pay taxes and serve in the army
Were Roman citizens
Could not run for public office
Farmers, merchants, & artisans
Had to pay taxes and serve in the army
Romans reading the Twelve Tables in the Forum
One of the most admired senate-elected dictators during the Republic was Cincinnatus.
Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was farming his fields when he was called by the Senate to become dictator. He accepted, defeated the enemy, and returned to his farm in 15 days.
Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus
Another important government official in Rome was the praetor. Praetors' jobs were to interpret the law and act as judges in court.
So... What have the Romans ever done for us?
1. We use the idea of checks and balances in our government today.
2. We use the "rule of law" invented by the Romans; it is the basis of our legal system today.
3. Examples of what doesn't work in government (hint hint all aristocrats in power).
The Assembly of Centuries
The original lawmaking body in the Roman Republic was the Assembly of Centuries. The Assembly of Centuries not only made laws but also elected consuls and praetors. Only upper class men could be in the Assembly of Centuries.
Patricians vs. Plebeians
A triumvirate is a political agreement between three people. The First Triumvirate of Rome was between the three prominent men battling for power: Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.
Crassus was one of the richest men in Rome as well as a military leader. Caesar and Pompey were not as rich, but they were also accomplished military men. Each of the men ruled from a different location: Caesar in Gaul (modern day France), Pompey in Spain, and Crassus in Syria.
While in Gaul, Caesar battled foreign tribes and invaded Britain as well as became a hero to the Roman lower class. Many in Rome believed that Caesar was becoming too popular, and when Crassus died in battle, the Senate decided that Pompey should take the power and rule alone in Italy. The Senate ordered Caesar to give up his army and return home in 49 B.C. Caesar refused to give up his 5,000 loyal soldiers and marched across the Rubicon river, the boundary of his command area. He knew that by doing this, he had started a civil war and there was no way back. Pompey tried to stop Caesar, but Caesar's army was the stronger of the two, and in 48 B.C. he destroyed Pompey's army in Greece. Caesar then ventured to declare himself dictator for life and he ruled Rome until he was assassinated in 44 B.C.
Caesar's death lead to another civil war. Out of the war arose a new leader: Caesar's grandnephew Octavian. Octavian and two of Caesar's top generals, Antony and Lepidus created the Second Triumvirate.
The new Triumvirate soon broke apart. Octavian forced Lepidus to retire from politics and the remaining two leaders split Rome between themselves: Antony took the east and Octavian the west. Soon, Antony and Octavian came to conflict. Antony was in love with the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra VII, with whom he made an alliance with. Octavian told the Romans that Antony wanted to make himself the sole ruler of Rome with the queen's help. This enabled Octavian to declare war on Antony. In 31 B.C., Octavian destroyed the enemy forces at the battle of Actium off the western coast of Greece. Antony and Cleopatra fled to Egypt and after a year, they killed themselves as Octavian was closing in on them.
This left Octavian at 32 years of age at the top of Rome. He transformed the Republic into an empire, with him as the emperor. He also took on the name Augustus, which means "the revered or majestic one".
Statue of Augustus/Octavian
Two plebeian farmers in the field
Patrician government officials
Some of our sources don't agree, such as John Green's video and our textbook on Cleopatra. One of them says Antony fancied her and the other says Caesar did.
Websites/ Books/ Videos:
Spielvogel, Jackson J. World History: Journey Across Time The Early Ages. NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2008. Print.
Ellis, Elisabeth Gaynor and Anthony Esler. World History. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Print.
"01 & 02/16. Engineering An Empire: Rome." YouTube. YouTube, 24 May 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.
"The Roman Empire. Or Republic. Or...Which Was It?: Crash Course World History#10." YouTube. YouTube, 29 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.
The End! We hope you learned something! :)