Monarchy is defined as ‘a form of government with a monarch at the head’ and was the first arrangement of power in Rome after its founding by Romulus, who reigned from 753-715BC.1 However, by 510BC, the despotic actions of Tarquinius Superbus marked the end of a succession of increasingly tyrannical kings, and the ‘Roman Republic’ was established. This system was based on a sharing of power between, foremost, two consuls who were elected by the people and held office for only one year, then 300 senators, and two popular assemblies, the comitia curiata and the comitia centuriata. With such a spread of auctoritas, the Roman state would be at less risk from corrupt men with their aims set on an autocratic rule. The precepts of the Roman republic were honourable and upheld, in the most part, until the civil wars of 91BC onwards disturbed it, culminating in what many would consider the fall of the Republic, and thus the establishment of a monarchy, with Augustus at the battle of Actium on 2nd September 31BC.
Indeed, many scholars do consider Actium as the event that defined the establishment of a monarchy in Rome and certainly the first instance of rule by an emperor. If we take ‘monarch’ to mean ‘sole person with power over a state’, I do think Augustus fulfilled this role, despite his never taking the name of ‘king’. Compared to the spread of control between two consuls, hundreds of senators (up to a thousand by the time Augustus came to power) and many religious posts, Augustus’ running as a single consul is certainly monarchy. Suetonius says that Augustus ‘twice considered restoring the republic’ but not that he actually did so, therefore implying that he maintained the autocratic power contrary to the Republican rules. Whether or not this was entirely intentional or with what motivations he acted is unclear. Following the example of Sulla and retiring would almost certainly result in a relapse into
Bibliography: Eck, Warner, The Age of Augustus (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007) Ewbank, Nick, Augustus and Propaganda (2010 on Clio History Journal, available on: http://cliojournal.wikispaces.com/Augustus+and+Propaganda accessed on 7/02/2012) Gibbon, Edward, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin Classics, 2000) Goodman, Martin, The Roman World (Routledge, 1997) Lendering, Jona, “The Senate”, Livius Articles on Ancient History (available from http://www.livius.org/se-sg/senate/senator.html, accessed on 7/02/2012) Mommsen, Theodor, Römische Geschichte Morey, William C., Outlines of Roman History (American Book Company, 1907 available on: http://www.forumromanum.org/history/morey01.html accessed on 5/02/2012) Oxford English Dictionary, Third Edition (2010) Scullard, H, From the Gracchi to Nero (Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1959) Suetonius (trans Syme, Ronald, The Roman Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1939) UNRV History, Kings of Rome (available from: http://www.unrv.com/empire/kings-of-rome.php accessed on 7/02/2012) [ 2 ]. Scullard, H, From The Gracchi to Nero, (Routledge 1959) [ 3 ] [ 4 ]. Eck, The Age of Augustus (Wiley-Blackwell 2007) [ 5 ] [ 8 ]. Morey, William, Outlines of Roman History, (American Book Company 1907) [ 9 ] [ 10 ]. Morey, William, Outlines of Roman History (American Book Company 1907) [ 11 ]