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The Republican Period of Ancient Rome

June 13, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 218

A friend once asked me if I knew what kind of government and society Rome had in the Republican Period? We were talking about politics and he wanted to school me on some of the finer points of history. He knew many facts about ancient Rome, but he was purposeful in his brief lesson. It was a friendly discussion and I learned a lot. What I found was that the Republican Period spanned almost 500 years in Ancient Rome, from about 509 B.C. to the time of the first Roman emperor in 27 B.C. Both the government and the society of Republican Rome were marked by their practical, not their idealistic, theoretical approach to life. This is in contrast to the Hellenist approach to life and government which emphasized lofty philosophies and idealistic views.

With the overthrow of the Etruscan king in 509 B.C., Rome became Republican Rome. Initially, the republic was dominated by the patricians, or aristocratic leaders, who happened to be of the 'proper' lineage. There were two annually elected consuls, the Centuriate Assembly and the Senate. Both were aided by less influential elected magistrates and administrators. The commoners (plebeians) sought greater involvement in the political process and societal equality.

Eventually, in the early fifth century, the plebeians formed the Tribal Assembly, and as a result of their influence, in 450 B.C., the first Roman code of law was written. These first Roman laws were called the Twelve Tables. Although these laws gave the commoners additional rights, the aristocrats still controlled the government. The government and the law became increasingly secularized, and the Roman constitution was based more on civic needs than on religious traditions. This constitution literally evolved as the civic needs of the populous were addressed. As religious thought lost its grasp on the minds of the Romans, jurists (lawyers) replaced religious priests, and intellect and common wisdom gained the ascendancy.

Of note among Republican Rome's' famed playwrights are Platus, (c. 254 - 184 B.C.), and Terence (c. 185 - 159 B.C.), who wrote, "I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me," in his play "Heauton Timorumenos". Just as loved were the poets, Catullus (c. 84 B.C. - 54 B.C.) and Lucretius (c. 96 - 55 B.C.), and Ennius (c. 239-169 B.C.), considered the founder of Roman literature.

Two important undertones of the culture in ancient Rome were the concept of seriousness, and the philosophy of Stoicism. Gravitas, the Latin word for seriousness is understood to mean being sober, or serious in one's affairs. This, thought the Romans, allowed them to successfully navigate and be fruitful in public affairs. Traditional religion, politics, and public service all were a part of seriousness, and the model citizen was learned and active in all three arenas. Undoubtedly, jovial celebrations were a part of Republican Rome, but one's conventional public image was that of seriousness. Pragmatism, not idealistic, philosophical thought was the predominant mindset of the Roman.

Stoicism, a Greek concept, had as its goal a life lived in harmony with the standards of uprightness, or virtue which could be clearly seen in nature. The Stoic virtues were a perfect complement to the over-arching concept of Roman seriousness, and made Stoicism the most influential philosophy in the Republic Period.

Additionally, a major contributor to the culture in ancient Rome was the pantheon of Roman gods. Interestingly enough, these mirrored the major Greek gods. There was, for example, Jupiter (equivalent to Zeus) who was the greatest god and was believed to watch over the city and protect the people. Apollo, the God of the Sun, who shared the same Greek name, and Venus (Aphrodite in Greek), the Goddess of Love, who was later depicted in the famous painting, "The Birth of Venus," by the Italian painter, Sandro Botticelli. As with the Greeks, these, and numerous other gods and legends made their way into almost every aspect of culture in ancient Rome. The impact of the Romans' consideration for and treatment of these many gods during this Republican Period cannot be understated.

Together, the government and society of late Republican Rome and empire advanced and developed. The citizens enjoyed technological advances while at the same time developing the concept known today as the rule of law. The Romans' common sense served them well, as they expanded their power and influence to conquer and absorb other cultures and cities into that of Rome. As we've seen in this brief article, studying the politics of ancient Rome and the culture in ancient Rome is quite instructive for any student of politics.

Curtis Bradley is the father of three and a full time writer and entrepreneur, residing in Connecticut. He holds a B.S. Finance, Summa Cum Laude, from Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, CT). Curtis is an avid reader and enjoys learning immensely. Currently, he's reading through his list of the top books of all time and writing extensively.

Source: EzineArticles
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