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The state system of republican Rome

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The term "republic", which traditionally characterizes the state-political organization of Rome in the IV–I centuries BC, does not have a qualitative meaning in the historical basis (res publicae — general affairs). The Romans saw the sense of organizing power in their state as ensuring civil rights and guaranteeing the special, privileged freedoms of a full-fledged citizen of the polis. The main danger to civil freedom was seen in the individual and executive power (decorating past tsars with many vices in their legendary history). Only the people as a whole have supreme power, entrusting certain parts of this power to different institutions and individuals. This principle became the foundation of the classical Roman Republic.

S. P. Q. R. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase "Senatus Populusque Romanus" ("The Senate and people of Rome"), which was depicted on the standards of the Roman legions and was used in both Republican and imperial times.

Inscription on the arch of Titus (1st century AD)

1. General concepts

The Republican form of government was established in ancient Rome in 509 BC, after the expulsion of Rex Tarquinius the Proud.

The republican period is usually divided into the periods of the early republic and the late republic. During this period, production developed intensively, which led to significant social shifts. The Roman Republic combined aristocratic and democratic features that ensured the privileged position of the noble and wealthy upper class of slave owners.

2. Social order

Only a person with three statuses had full legal capacity in Rome:

According to the status of freedom, the entire population of Rome was divided into free and slaves. The freemen in Rome were divided into two social-class groups:

Regardless of what place the slave occupied in production, he was the property of his master and was considered as part of his property. The power of the master over the slave was unlimited. According to the status of citizenship, the free population of Rome was divided into citizens and foreigners (peregrines). Freedmen were also treated as citizens, but they remained clients of the former owners and were restricted in their rights.

Only free-born Roman citizens could have full legal capacity.

The Peregrines were free residents of the provinces-countries conquered by Rome that were outside of Italy, as well as free residents of foreign countries. To protect their rights, they had to choose their patrons-patrons, in relation to whom they were in a position that did not differ from that of clients. The Peregrines were tax-bound.

With the development of property differentiation, the role of wealth in determining the position of a Roman citizen increases. At the end of the third and second centuries BC, privileged estates - nobles and horsemen - emerged. The upper class - the noble class-was formed as a result of the merger of the most noble and wealthy patrician families with the top of the plebs. The economic base of the nobility was large-scale land ownership. The equestrian class was formed from the commercial and financial nobility and middle-class landowners.

The status of the family meant that only the heads of Roman families - householders-enjoyed full political and civil legal capacity. The rest of the family members were considered to be under the authority of the landlord.

Only a householder, a free and free-born Roman citizen, could be fully qualified.

In public law, full legal capacity meant permission to participate in the people's assembly and hold public office, in private law-permission to enter into a Roman marriage and participate in property relations.

Map of the Roman Republic

3. The state system

The highest state bodies in the Roman Republic were the People's Assemblies, the Senate, and the magistrates. There were three types of people's assemblies:

The central role was played by centuriate assemblies, which ensured the decision-making of the prevailing aristocratic and rich circles of slaveholders. By the middle of the third century BC, with the expansion of the limits of the state and the increase in the number of free citizens, the structure of the assembly changed: each of the five categories of propertied citizens began to exhibit an equal number of centuries - 70, and the total number of centuries was brought to 373. The competence of the centuriate assembly included the adoption of laws, the election of the highest officials of the republic (consuls, praetors, censors), the declaration of war and the consideration of complaints about death sentences.

Tributary assemblies were divided into Plebeian and Patrician-Plebeian assemblies, depending on the composition of the inhabitants of the tribes. Their competence was limited. They elected lower-ranking officials (quaestors, aediles, etc.) and considered complaints against sentences of fines. In addition, the Plebeian assemblies elected the tribune of the Plebs, and from the third century BC they received the right to pass laws, which led to an increase in their importance in the political life of Rome.

Curiate meetings have lost their significance. They only formally inaugurated persons elected by other assemblies, and were subsequently replaced by an assembly of thirty curia representatives, the lictors. The Senate really played an important role in the state mechanism of the Roman Republic. Once every five years, censors (special officials who distributed citizens to centuries and tribes) compiled lists of senators from representatives of noble and rich families, that is, senators were not elected, but appointed, which made the Senate a body independent of the will of the majority of free citizens. Although the Senate was formally an advisory body, its powers included the following functions::

Public positions were called magistracies. Master's programs were divided into:

The dictator was appointed on the proposal of the Senate as one of the consuls. He had unlimited power, to which all magistrates were subject. The term of the dictatorship should not exceed six months. Master's degrees were replaced according to the following principles::

4. The Army

In ancient Rome, it played a very important role, since the foreign policy of this state is characterized by almost continuous wars.

Even in the tsarist period, the general assembly of the Roman people was also a military assembly, a review of the military strength of Rome; it was built and voted on by divisions - curiate comitia. Military service was required for all citizens from 18 to 60 years of age, both patricians and Plebeians. True, instead of a patron, a client could perform military duties.

In the Republican period, when the Roman people were divided into property categories, each category fielded a certain number of armed men, from which hundreds were formed-centuries. The horsemen were cavalry centuries, the first, second, and third ranks were heavy infantry centuries, and the fourth and fifth ranks were light infantry. The Proletarians fielded one unarmed century. Command of the army was awarded by the Senate to one of the two consuls.

In 107 BC, the consul Gaius Marius introduced a military reform, after which the army became a permanent professional organization. The military service of Roman citizens was limited, and volunteers were recruited who received weapons and salaries from the state. Legionnaires were awarded a part of the spoils of war, and veterans were awarded land plots from among the confiscated and free lands. The army became an instrument of politics, a mercenary force maintained at the expense of conquered peoples.

5. The Fall of the Republic

The development of slave-owning society has led to the aggravation of all its class and social contradictions. The most important phenomenon of the socio-economic and political life of Ancient Rome in the second century BC should be considered the crisis of polis organization, when the old republican institutions adapted to the needs of a small Roman community turned out to be insufficiently effective in the new conditions. The collapse of the Roman Republic was marked by the following notable political events:

Related topics

Roman Republic, Rome, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Gaius Julius Caesar, Slave Revolt in Sicily, The Rise of Spartacus, The Gracchi Brothers