03 July 2008
A brief look at the Roman Republic, Part 2
...It is a general rule that governments effect society, but society shapes government. This is not always the case, nor indeed should it be. God's people have the requirement of obeying and keeping God's laws-not changing them according to the way society happens to perceive things at that time. An example from our own country is abortion, if God says we shall not murder then why do many Christians believe that taking a child's life can be right? But this brings up a whole different topic which is not under scrutiny here. The point merely serves to show us that in most societies the law can be amended and is subject to change based on the people it serves. Rome's Republic was no exception.
...Rome's slow evolving from a Monarchy to a Republic and then at last an Empire can be traced back to the people. The government of Rome reflected its peoples morals and beliefs. Early Rome was a Monarchy, the Monarch had a Senate of advisers but he was the ultimate authority. Then around 509 B.C the nobles rose against their king, overthrew the monarchy and established a Republic. This Republic reflected the strength of the Romans mind, his sanction of liberty. As the people dissolute and effeminate a shift took place in the government. In an instant the Roman Empire was conceived and and under Julius Caesar born. (29 B.C.) Its birth pangs were fairly peaceful in Rome itself, but the rest of the world soon felt the change. And one day, not to far away, Rome would collapse out of its own pleasure seeking and greed.
...But in the Republics day men were not yet so influenced by hedonism. Its citizens were farmers in peace and soldiers in war. Each man held his own land, and so, was self sufficient. Over time the nobles grew dissatisfied and heavy taxes were imposed. When the common man went to fight in Romes wars, away sometimes for years, he found upon his return that that his lands were confiscated. Why? Because while he was away taxes had not been paid. Now he was a tenant on his own land, lucky if he still had a family since the nobles often sold a mans wife to raise money for taxes. Can it be wandered that the Plebians demanded their own Concillium Plebis with Tribunes to protect them?
...A man was the head of his family, called "Paterfamilias" in Latin. Women were subject to their husbands in every way; although they retained their dowry and used it for support in the eventuality of widowhood or divorce. Children were raised with the highest respect for the Paterfamilias, who held the power of life and death over them. When a Patrician girl was between the ages of twelve and fourteen her father arranged a marriage; for the poor marriages generally took place later, around eighteen to twenty. Boys remained under their fathers rule even after marriage, he, his wife and children. when the Paterfamilias died the men started their own-being still connected to their brothers by clan ties called "gens".
...Slaves were less common in early Roman times, but increased rapidly as the Republic neared its end. They received no rights, they were not allowed to vote or own property. The Roman "jus civil" and "jus gentium" laws did not apply to slaves. In fact until the "natural laws" were put in effect, the recieved very little consideration in civil matters at all. Under the "natural laws" however, slave owners were required to treat their slaves well, and slaves were given some basic human rights.
...By the time the Republic became an Empire the people themselves had changed. They were less concerned with justice and equality, their natural vigorof mind dissapated to a mere shadow of its former glory. Rome as a nation was hungry for power, wealth and lands beckoned them alluringly, convincing the citizens that an Empire was desirable for conquest. Certain rich men corrupted the government, and worked on the minds of the common people until they gave up their hardy ways of life in favor of luxory.
...Romes rise and fall was a process, one that her imitators would do well to study. The government reflects the people, and the people need Christs transforming renewing power in their lives. If a people like Romes could create such a strong government; imagine what a people devoted to Christ might do! Men and women, devote yourselves to a high and noble calling-spreading the truth of the gospel in every sphere you touch.