The Fall of Rome and Republicanism

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The Fall of Republicanism and Rome

Why did Rome fall? Some say Rome fell because Roman Empire was just too big, making it collapse. Others say the empire spent too much of its resources on the poor, drawing away much needed funds from the empire. Another theory was that plagues reduced the population to the point it could not sustain itself, and another was that the citizens of Rome became too satisfied and lazy, allowing the empire to crumble due to neglect. The list goes on and on; did the empire bureaucracy become too top heavy, eventually causing the empire to collapse upon itself? Did God turn away from Rome due to its sinful nature? Did it fall as the result of barbarian invasions? Well, perhaps the answer lies in one of those theories, or perhaps there is no clear answer.

What is republicanism? Republicanism is in the first place a theory of freedom and, in the second, a theory of government. It equates freedom with the enjoyment of non-domination: of living without a master in one's life.  For the central theme in republican concerns throughout the ages -- the theme that explains all their other commitments -- has been a desire to arrange things so that citizens are not exposed to domination of this kind. They do not live, as the Romans used to say, in potestate domini: in the power of a master. Republicanism is a political philosophy. For me personally, when I hear Ronald Reagan refer to his idealistic vision of what the US should be as a "shinning city on a hill" I cannot but help to think of Rome also. Its classic Republicism. The idea of the Republic is drawn from Rome.

The Romans were convinced that their city was founded in the year 753 BC. Rome was started by Romulus and Remus. It was then, tradition had it, ruled by kings for many centuries. Livy's version of the establishment of the Republic states that the last of the Kings of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus ("Tarquin the proud") had an unpleasant son, Sextus Tarquinius, who raped a Roman noblewoman named Lucretia. Lucretia compelled her family to take action by gathering the men, telling them what happened, and killing herself. They were compelled to avenge her, and led an uprising that drove the royal house, the Tarquins, out of Rome to take refuge in Etruria. Lucretia's husband Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus and Lucius Junius Brutus gained election as the first two consuls, the chief officers of the new Republic. The early consuls took over the roles of the king with the exception of his high priesthood in the worship of Jupiter Optimus Maximus at the temple on the Capitoline Hill. The Romans elected a Rex sacrorum or "king of holy things." The people of Rome were divided into patricians and plebeians. The two classes were ancestral and inherited. One's class was fixed by birth rather than by wealth, and though patricians had in the early Republic monopolized all political offices and probably most of the wealth, there are always signs of wealthy plebeians in the history, and many patrician families had lost both wealth and any political influence by the later Republic. They could move from one class to the other by adoption, the way the the political operator Clodius, who managed to have himself adopted into a plebeian branch of his own family for political purposes in the late Republic, but this usually did not happen and was rare. . By the 2nd century BC many priesthoods remained restricted to patricians. The relationship between the plebeians and the patricians was very strained and the plebeians would secede from the city — they left the city, took their families and possessions, and set up camp on a hill outside the walls. These secessions happened in 494, 450, and around 287 BC. Their refusal to co-operate any longer with the patricians led to social changes. In 494 BC, only about 15 years after the establishment of the Republic, the plebeians for the first time elected two leaders, who they called tribunes. The "plebs"...
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