The Roman Republic describes the period in which the city-state of Rome existed as a republican government, from 509 B.C. to 27 B.C. Rome’s republican government is one of the earliest examples of representative democracy in the world. 

Prior to the republic, Etruscan kings who lived nearby in central Italy ruled Rome. Once the last of these kings was overthrown in 509 B.C., Rome’s wealthiest citizens established a republican government by creating various assemblies of Roman citizens. These assemblies decided important matters for the city on behalf of its population.

The early republican Senate clearly held a bias towards the interests of the wealthiest citizens. After all, only members of the patrician class could hold office. Therefore, the plebeians, who made up the majority of the soldiers in the Roman army, staged protests outside the city walls. This conflict led to the establishment of other legislative bodies, such as the Concilium Plebis or Council of Plebs, the Comitia Centuriata, and the Comita Tributa or the tribal assemblies. In the Council of Plebs and tribal assemblies, laws would be passed based on the discussion of important issues that took place in the Senate. There, senators recommended which policies to implement.

The Senate and assemblies worked together to appoint executive officials called magistrates, enacted laws, and sought to increase Rome’s territorial holdings throughout the Italian peninsula. The Republic began to engage in wars with its neighboring rivals, slowly eliminating threats to its superiority in the Mediterranean. By the first century B.C., the Roman Republic stood alone as the dominant power in the Mediterranean region.

 

Roman Republic

The Roman Forum was a place where public meetings were held, legal issues were debated, and gladiators fought in combat.

city-state
Noun

independent political state consisting of a single city and sometimes surrounding territory.

democracy
Noun

system of organization or government where the people decide policies or elect representatives to do so.

Etruscan
Adjective

(~768 BCE-264 BCE) people and culture native to Etruria, in what is now northern and central Italy.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

king
Noun

male monarch.

patrician
Noun

a noble or person of high rank.

plebeian
Noun

common or low-ranking person.

representative
Noun

someone or something who acts in place of a group of people.

Roman
Adjective

having to do with the civilization of ancient Rome, including the kingdom, republic, and empire.