19 June 2008
A brief look at the Roman Republic, Part 1
...In this essay I shall take a look at the Roman Republic in its height. It took many years for the Roman Government to develop into the Republic of Rome and it went through many stages. So for the purpose of lucidity I shall not focus on these stages, in much detail, here. Instead, for the reader interested in in the history of the development of the Rome's Republic, refer to my second essay on the subject which will give greater attention to the cause and effect of its development. Here we shall focus on the attained governments workings in general.
...Before moving on, it will be valuable for us to understand what is implied by the word "Republic." Broadly, it is a form of government where the leader or leaders are elected. This can be contrasted with a monarchy, in which rule is hereditary and for life;and can be compared to a democracy in which the people at large elect leaders. A republic can be run in several ways; such as by a large number of people electing leaders to office (a democratic republic, the United States for example); or by a small select group who represent the people. One of the worlds earliest republics was the Roman Republic, established around 509 B.C.
...The Romans were an independent, fiercely patriotic people. They wanted a government which would bring peace and maintain citizens rights. Yet it must also be strong enough to defend Rome in times of civil unrest.So they developed a Republic. It had offices on many levels, each one's terms lasting for different durations of time. Except for in times of national emergency the office of Consul, the governments head of state, gave the most individual power. There were always two Consuls serving at the same time, that way the power would be checked. Consuls were elected for a term of one year and could veto each others proposals. The most powerful body of the Roman Republic was the Senate however. Their responsibilities involved decrees, foreign policies, administration and finances. And they were in office for life. This was a good start, but nearly all the Senators and Consuls were upper class. Which meant the poor citizens were often taxed beyond their means and treated unfairly in court.
...So new offices had to be developed. The poor and middle classed, called Plebeians, insisted that the aristocratic Patricians give them fair representation in political decisions. When the Patricians refused, often with bloodshed, the Plebeians set up their own representative. Called the Concilium Plebis, which means council of Plebeians or working class, it was headed by an elected leader called a Tribune. This gave the people influence because the Tribune had the authority to veto the Senate and Consuls decisions if they were unfair.
...Yet even within this new system the government was never perfect. Sometimes the people had to much power, and at other times the aristocrats. But at least there was some balance.The different offices held eachother in check, and no one person could sieze absolute power. There was one special office reserved for times of emergency, when Rome itself felt threatened. Because the governement had so many checks and positions of authority, the Roman people knew it would be difficult to make quick desicions in response to a national crisis. So they priveded the office of "Tyrant", a special position for one man who would hold absolute power. His term would only last six months though. As Rome was very strong she rarely needed to appoint someone to this office.
...Stepping back to observe the whole, it must be acknowledged the Roman Republic was a very effective system of government. It had the advantage of representation and concerned itself with the lives of the actual people it served. No one man could sieze power or use power in exess for selfish gain. A republic has its downsides as well, though in most cases the good far outwieghs the bad. An unfortunate aspect of the Roman Republic could certainly be indeciseveness. And the lenght of time it took pass a law or take action.
...Nonetheless, often called the "most balanced of all governmental forms", many governments the world over pattern themselves after Romes Republic. Rome certainly proved for many years the effectiveness of its proud government. Which reflected the beliefs and rights Roman citizens held dear.