Rome: Transition from Republic to Empire
Paul A. Bishop
Introduction________________________________________________ Since its collapse, historians have attempted to explain the struggle for power and control over both the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire that followed. To explain the complexities of the Roman Republic, the Empire, and their political complexities can be a daunting task. For nearly ten centuries Rome would rule most of the known world before the fall of the Western Empire (Byzantine) in 476 C.E. Before that fall occurred, a fundamental change would take place that would transform the original Republic into the Roman Empire. Many factors would be directly and indirectly responsible for this transition. These would lead the Romans from civil war to intrigue and back again as the Republic evolved and was transformed into an empire.
ROMAN FACTIONS and OFFICES
Republic – government of elected representatives of the people with no monarch. Patricians – elite families or aristocracy who made up the members of the Roman Senate. Plebeians – general body of Roman citizens distinct from the privileged aristocracy who made up the assemblies. Senate – main governing body of both the Republic and the Empire made up of noble aristocrats with appropriate financial and property qualifications. – highest elected Roman official acting as both civil and military magistrate
Tribune – official of the Plebeian assembly and magistrate to protect the peoples rights. Dictator – Senate appointed extraordinary magistrate to act in times of crisis. Imperator – originally equivalent to title of “commander”, in English – “emperor”. Princeps – official title of a Roman emperor, meaning “first citizen”. Augustus – title of authority over humanity, religious title meaning “the illustrious one”. Censor – high ranking magistrate responsible for the census and public morality.
Optimates – pro-aristocratic faction in favor of extending the power of the Senate. Populares – aristocratic faction who favored the Assembly to break Senate power. Tetrarchy – the separation of authority between four emperors within a divided empire. Annuality – the Roman policy of serving one year in an office of post of government. Collegiality – the Roman policy of having dual members serve in the same post to insure the check on power.
The Roman Republic and Law ________________________________________________ By the sixth century B.C.E., the Etruscan kings had created expanding confederacies that grew in power to control much of the middle Italian peninsula as well as the Island of Corsica. As late as the third century B.C.E., the Etruscan kings were known to have been the dominant power over Rome. With the sacking of the wealthy Etruscan city of Veii in 396 B.C.E., the Romans were able to throw off their Etruscan oppressors and begin to establish themselves on the peninsula. This led to the founding of their own independent kingdom, which would last until the establishment of the Roman Republic around 509 B.C.E. The arbitrary actions of the Etruscan kings had been the great contention for the Romans as they struggled to expand and establish themselves on the Italian peninsula. Roman distain for the Etruscans and their rule had increased as Rome began to establish its own social and economic dominance. By the time the Romans had overpowered the Etruscans, they had come to an understanding that the basic principles of law were necessary to curb the ambitions of the powerful, whether they be Etruscan kings, or rulers of their own making. Their further concern was with that of overwhelming personal power in the hands of the few. The government they developed would look to address and restrain these problems. The Roman Republic would therefore develop under a system of government that would divide power among two consuls, a Senate, and the Plebeian Assembly....
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