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Roman Republic

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The Roman social hierarchy split the population into two orders: the patricians and the plebians. Patricians were a small group of the most aristocratic families and plebians were the rest of the citizens. In the republic’s early centuries, turmoil over political and legal power sparked tension between the two orders. However, in 287 B.C.E the plebians forced the patricians to grant them the right to make laws in their own assembly. Patricians made up a small percentage of the population, only about 130 families.

The patron-client system was very popular in early Roman society. It was an interlocking network of personal relationships that obligated people to one another. A patron was a man of superior status who could provide benefits to lower status people who paid him special attention. The lower status people were his clients, who in return owed him duties.

Elected officials ran Roman republican government. The highest officials were called consuls and two were elected each year. The most important duty consuls had were to command the army. To become a consul, Romans had to climb a ladder of offices. The first step was getting elected as a quaestor, a financial administrator. After becoming a quaestor, few men reached the office of praetor. After that, the most successful praetors competed for the consulship. The patrician class tried to monopolize the highest offices, but the plebians resisted and forced the patricians to create a special panel of ten annually elected plebians officials, called tribunes. Also in Roman society were the assemblies. The assemblies were made up of male citizens who met in a complicated system of differing assemblies who officially determined legislation, government policy, election outcomes, and judgment in certain trials. That is the basic class structure of the early Roman republic. Consisting of basically two classes, there was never peace between Roman citizens of different rank.

The Roman republic declined due to the Roman commander named Lucius Sulla, who took advantage of civil war in Rome to gain political power, which broke tradition that leading citizens should put the interests



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