Rome: Republic and Empire

Roman History

From the mythical origins of the founding of Rome to the end of the empire, Roman history is dominated by a succession of crises of conquest and exploitation.  Colonialism and imperialism, the conquest, occupation and rule over other people's lands is a brutal process.  The Roman system of expansion and consolidation through empire used a systematic exploitation and robbery of resources to enrich the Roman elite.  Neil Faulkner, the author of our text,
 Rome:  Empire of the Eagles (2008) adopts a Marxist and materialist explanation for Roman history.  Faulkner disputes that the Roman Empire should be looked to as a model civilization.  He argues, I think correctly, that the empire was a ruthless system of war, bloodshed, enslavement and exploitation. Faulkner also disagrees with the thesis that slavery was the key to surplus and accumulation of wealth (Faulkner, xii).  Instead he sees slavery as one of many components of labor stratification found in the Roman system that also made extensive use of various divisions of labor spread among serfs, debt-bondsment, tenants and seasonal laborers.  Taxation and war were also key elements of surplus generation for the Roman elite, with the former financing the latter. Here, Faulkner’s reliance on political economy needs to be tested, and the work of Gian Biagio Conte, Latin Literature:  A History (1994, ON RESERVE at the CCC library), is a good place to start.  Conte’s synthesis of the production of Latin literature, both in its literary and political writing, allows insight into the specific choices made by Roman elites.  A reading of Cato, the Senator and large latifudundist (land owner) and his De Agricola, indicates a heavy dependence on rural slave labor and a system of overseers that is analogous the American South in the antebellum period.   

A Comparative History of the Roman Empire.

A number of scholars, Walter Scheidel, 
Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, (Oxford, 2010), and Fritz-Heiner Mutschler and Achim, Mittag, eds., Conceiving the Empire: China and Rome Compared (Oxford University Press, 2009),  offer the comparability of the Roman Empire to the Han Dynasty in China.  This approach allows us to begin to understand the choices of seeking an empire and the position and response of peoples who are left out and the problem of resistance to empire. Faulkner asserts the comparability of the Roman system to the current American dependence on empire.   
Periodization of Roman History

Founding of Rome to the Regal Period 753-509 BC

This is the period of the mythical founding of Rome by survivors and descendants of the Fall of Troy, as depicted in two literary accounts, Virgil's The Aeneid, and Livy's The History of Romeboth written during the emperor Augustus' reign. Beyond the founding myths of the Trojan hero Aeneas, or  of the story of the brothers Romulus and Remus, Rome develops from a hilltop farming community into a dominant fortified hilltop that imposes its rule over the surrounding countryside through a system of chieftainship. These Latin speaking Romans aggressively expand against the Sabines and other neighbors and form a martial based royal chieftainship known during the Regal period. The abuses of these kings and under Tarquinius Superbus, led to an insurrection by plebeians against the patrician elite, as these ordinary Romans overthrew the Tarquinius clan's hold on power. Their overthrow marks the end of the regal period.  A literary rendition of the overthrow is found in Virgil's The Aeneid (Book VIII), which may be compared to Livy (Book I, 58-60)  which claims the final pretext for the coup was revenge for an assault by Sextus Tarquinius against Lucretia a wife of a prominent plebeian.  

The Early Republic 509-367 BC

The founding of the Republic following the overthrow of the Roman Kings, allows the lower order of the plebeians to establish legal codes, known as the Twelve Tables.  These laws codify remedies for criminal or civil infractions.

The Middle Republic 367-133 BC

This period is marked by the three major Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage for control of the Western Mediterranean.
 The defeat of Hannibal and end of the Second Punic War in 201 allowed Rome over the next half century to consolidate its hold on the Southern Mediterranean and to expand unobstructed into Macedonia.  Plutarch is our main source for the Macedonian campaigns and consequences of Roman expansion into the Eastern Mediterranean. At the beginning of this period, Rome was consolidating its power and hold on the Italian peninsula and its islands, but by the end of the period it holds or claims power over most of the perimeter of the Mediterranean Sea. In effect, Rome’s empire is underway, while it retains the form of a limited Republic for the Roman elite. 
For this period the career and writings of Cato, a large landowner and Senator is instructive.  He was born in 234 B.C. into a prosperous plebeian family of farmers near the area of Frascati.  This made him an outsider to the city of Rome.  His career took off through military service as a veteran of campaigns in the Punic Wars against Hannibal.  At the age of 20, in 214 B.C. he was selected as military tribune for Sicily.  He was aided in his career by aristocratic sponsors who sponsored his political career.    By 195, he was consul along with his aristocratic ally, Valerius Flaccus.  Over the next decade he served in various capacities, including as censor.  A fundamentally conservative politician, shortly before his death in 149 B.C. he pleaded openly for the destruction of Carthage, the Third Punic War.  His writings, especially the Origines reflect the power and role of the Senate as an aristocratic institution. In De AgriculturaCato describes the business and physical organization of running a large estate, largely as an absentee landowner, with descriptions of the role of slave labor. If one wants to understand the vicissitudes and requirements of large estates (latifundium) for accruing great wealth and power in the Roman system, De Agricultura is one of the best manuals to understand this.  The dependence on overseers and the threat of slaves running away is apparent in this section.  (The fact that the Cato Institute, a well-funded American conservative think tank, is named after a slave owner who advised to sell of unproductive elderly slaves, should warn one of the intentions of its followers.)

When the master arrives at the farmstead, after paying his respects to the god of the household, let him go over the whole farm, if possible, on the same day; if not, at least on the next. When he has learned the condition of the farm, what work has been accomplished and what remains to be done, let him call in his overseer the next day and inquire of him what part of the work has been completed, what has been left undone; whether what has been finished was done betimes, and whether it is possible to complete the rest; and what was the yield of wine, grain, and all other products.  Having gone into this, he should make a calculation of the labourers and the time consumed. If the amount of work does not seem satisfactory, the overseer claims that he has done his best, but that the slaves have not been well, the weather has been bad, slaves have run away, he has had public work6 to do; when he has given these and many other excuses, call the overseer back to your estimate of the work done and the hands employed. 
The Roman Revolution or the Late Republic 133-30 BC (Chapter 3, Faulkner)  
Scholars today are divided over whether the period of reform and crises between 133 BCE and 31 BCE is more accurately referred to as a Roman Revolution, or the Late Republic.  The Roman Revolution is actually a product of limited reforms begun by the Tribunate of Gaius Gracchus in around 133 BCE.  These reforms were defeated by a conservative counter-revolution that was periodically revived through the rise of dictatorships and martial rule until the last elements of republicanism were finally crushed by 31 BCE.  Politically, the notion of a republic is quite narrow functionally. In theory the establishment and recognition of a republican form was a long process derived from Roman custom and legal practices that had evolved since the legal arrangements and political structures established in around 509 BCE.  These included the establishment of the established collegiality or shared power and some form of popular election and rotation of office that were developed in the Early Republic.  The last century of these republican forms of the period 133-31 BCE is referred to as the Late Republic. The characterization of this later period was redefined by R. Syme in The Roman Revolution (1960). Syme placed the series of internal crises, provoked by slave revolts in the South of Italy and Sicily, and mounting inequity between increasingly large landholders made up of the patrician class who dominated the institution of the Senate.  Opposed to them were the plebeian orders who were increasingly losing land and means of support, and who desperately sought to hold on to the Tribunates.  The limited development of the Republic in this context is argued by Neil Faulkner, Rome: Empire of Eagles, (2008), as limited to a participation of elite wealthy Senators who are derived from the aristocratic patrician families. In effect the establishment of the Roman Empire had been in effect since the defeat of Carthage at the end of the Second Punic Wars in 202 BC and the Macedonian invasion and wars for the Eastern Mediterranean after 200 BC.  Other recent works include T. Holland, Rubicon:  The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic (2003), which provides a compelling narrative.  For the earlier period of the Republic, W.V. Harris’ War and Imperialism in Republican Rome, 327-70 BC, (1985) establishes the essentially aggressive nature of the Roman Republic.  For a study of the Roman colonies of this period, see E.T. Salmon, Roman Colonisation under the Repubic (1969).   

What sparked the reforms of the Late Republic or the attempt at a Roman Revolution? Between 136-71 BC Rome faced a series of well coordinated slave uprisings and slave armies that arose in Sicily and the South of Italy. These revolts were so successful and threatening that for a period of time Sicily was independent of Roman rule. The last of these was the two year campaign led by the gladiator Spartacus, a Theban or Greek slave, whose defeat required a combination of betrayal, payoff and several legions of Roman troops led by Crassus to suppress the slave revolt (Plutarch, Life of Crassus).

Cicero (108-43 BC) and Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) are key political figures in the Fall of the Roman Republic. The former is one of the Republic's last spokesmen and defenders, while the latter is the strongman who usurped power. We are fortunate in that we have extensive collections of philosophical and political writings of the former and a limited form of political self-autobiography and political writing on the Gaul campaign by the latter. There is a great deal of controversy about Cicero's role and advocacy. For Faulkner, Cicero should be regarded as an elite whose appeal to constitutional structures in his political writings mask his self-promotion and active role in upholding the expansion of the Empire and landholding interests. Others, including Gian Biaggio Conte’s masterful Latin Literature:  A History (1999), take a more analytical view of the writings of Cicero and see in his rhetoric a polemic or debate within Roman society about the divisions in Roman late Republic politics.

The career of Caesar is instructive of the making of a military and political career in the 1st century B.C. Born in Rome into an influential patrician family and related to the military strongman Marius. He was also married to the daughter of the Roman consul Cinna, and hence he was targeted in his youth by proponents of Marius’ and Cinna’s rival and successor, Sulla (Suetonius,Life of Caesar,1). This forced him into hiding and exile to bide time for political favors for his return. The way out was to seek a military career and he was sent off to Asia at the age of 19. There is a subtle hint of a homosexual relation at the court of Nicomedes (Suetonius, 2) or at least some scandal involving his time spent there. From there he was dispatched to Cilicia (Southern Turkey), where upon hearing of the death of the dictator Sulla, he returned to Rome, hoping to be part of a counter-revolution. After crossing some rivals he removed himself to the island of Rhodes in the Eastern Mediterranean, but was captured and held by pirates for a ransom.  By 67 B.C. he has returned to Rome and promoted through the posts of military tribune and quaestor, the main official given charge of financial affairs.These duties take him to Spain. Over the next decade Caesar holds every office of significance.

In the aftermath of a political crisis and impasse following the failed Catiline coup in 63 B.C. while Cicero was Consul, Caesar enters into a sharing of power with the other two main leaders of the Roman armies, Crassus and Pompey.  This secret agreement known as the Triumvirate, allows Caesar to rise to Consul by 59 B.C.  By 54 B.C. the Triumvirate had collapsed when Crassus was killed in battle in Asia. Because the consulship was a limited post for two years and was intended to shared, he simultaneously held the proconsulships, in effect the provincial governorships of Ilyria and Roman controlled Southern Gaul. When the Gauls resisted, he used border skirmishes to launch a full scale seven year invasion (58-49 B.C.) of Gaul and Britain which resulted in his memoir of the campaign, Commentarii de Bello Gallico. Ever ambitious, Caesar invaded his homeland of Rome with his armies to secure a second consulship as chief executive of the Roman empire and defeated the Senatorial army of Pompey, his former ally and now rival for the consulship. After Pompey’s defeat he usurps total control as a dictator.  In power, his latter expeditions to the Eastern Mediterranean and to Egypt finds him creating an alliance there instead of outright conquest, although this lay the foundation for later Roman consolidation of Ptolemaic kingdoms. Finally, the aristocratic vestiges of Senatorial Republican power conspired and led to Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C. Thereafter a civil war erupts for control of the Roman empire between the armies of Marc Antony, who attempts to gain allegiances with the Ptolemaic dynasty and the young Octavian Augustus who holds greater sway in the Western half of Rome’s empire and traditional Roman allegiance.

Primary Text Readings for this Section:
1.      The Roman Constitution by  Polybius (c.200-after 185 BCE) Book 6.11-18

Rationale:  Unlike the written form of  the modern American constitution, the Roman constitution was not written down but was based on arranged political customs that reinforced the shared power arrangements among the Roman elite.  One of the best contemporary descriptions and analyses of these political arrangements is found in Polybius.  We’ll read these short excerpts to gain insight into the power sharing and use of collegiality and rotation of offices between the patrician and plebeian orders. There is a useful table that compares the American constitutional system with the complexity of the Roman constitutional system of shared power. 

2.       Appian, The Civil Wars – on the Grachi  (from Fordham Internet Sourcebook)
In this section we read of Appian’s warning that following the expansion of slaves received from conquest, there was a fear that “the state itself would be imperiled by such great numbers of slaves.”  Out of this concern and a dispute over how to distribute surplus lands, Appian declares, Tiberius Grachus in seeking the political favor of the plebeians instituted reforms aimed at limiting the accrual and possession of lands by the wealthy. This provoked the patricians to organize a counter-revolution against the reforms, in two waves of repression that deposed the Tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus and his followers in 132 BCE and that of his brother Gaius Grachus ten years later.
 3     Spartacus and the Slave Revolts
Texts on the Three Slave Revolts.  Available from Fordham Internet Sourcebook.
In these excerpts students read of the accounts of the initial revolts in Sicily and finally of the revolt led by Spartacus.  The broad scope and scale of the slave revolts will become apparent and the general crisis confronting the Romans.
 4.      Cicero (105 – 43 BCE) On the Laws  Available from Fordham Internet Sourcebook
In this excerpt students read Cicero’s appeal to observance of laws, as a restatement or defense of the Late Republic.  Questions may be asked about the extent of Cicero’s belief or sincerity in republicanism.  Why for instance does he state that law is ultimately God given as an eternal principle rather than something that is man made?  And why does he limit his language in political agency to men only?  Why are women absent in his discussion about who makes law?
 5.      Suetonius ,Life of Caesar,1. Available from the Fordham Internet Sourcebook
This excerpt includes the return of Caesar from Gaul and his aggressive push toward Rome to claim sole power following the death of Pompey and the end of the Triumvirate.  It includes the classic account of the crossing of the Rubicon river, with the phrase“the die is cast,” and Caesar’s declaration, “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” (I came, I saw, I conquered.)  

Pax Romana or The Early Empire 30 BCE-161 AD (Chapter 4, Faulkner)

The term “Age of Augustus” needs to be considered and reevaluated with caution. (See the discussion on literature below.)  Claims for an Augustan renaissance or Augustan culture needs more precision (Conte, 249).  Only after the victory of the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. and defeat of Marc Antony and Queen Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic rulers, does Octavian rename himself Augustus in 27 B.C. once his hold on power and Marc Antony’s threat was removed. Indeed, prior to Augustus’ consolidation of power, Rome was not regarded as the most impressive of cities in the empire.  Alexandria, for example, may arguably have been better planned and maintained. Roman consolidation and expansion is aggressive in the first few decades of Augustus’ rule. On the problem of sources for this period, see the interpretive introduction to Suetonius in Conte, Latin Literature, and also, at the Fordham University online guide and this link to his Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Another contemporary source for dynastic politics is the Historia Augusta.  Augustus' memoirs as an expression of self-authentication of his consolidation of rule over the empire were published as the Res Gestae Divi Augustus.

The limits to Roman expansion became apparent in the slaughter of three legions of troops in the Teutoborg Forest in Germany in 9 A.D.  The death of Augustus in 14 A.D., ushers in a crisis of succession that plagues the Julian-Claudian family line.  A series of insane and incompetent rulers, including Caligula and Nero, ushered in a repressive systematic crisis in Roman society. This was a period in which the periphery openly rebels, including open rebellion in Parthia and the Jewish Revolts.  After the famous burning of Rome, the Julian-Claudian line collapsed in 68 A.D. when Nero was overthrown by a military coup. The crisis of succession was unresolved as four different emperors are tried in 69 A.D. A civil war ensues until Vespasian consolidates power and begins the Flavian dynasty that runs for the next 30 years.  From 98-161 A.D. The reigns of Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius usher in a period of recovery within Rome, but also a period of increased tension and expansion against Britain and Dacia (Balkans).  Thereafter, from about 180-285 A.D., with the exception of Septimius Severus (r. 193-211 A.D.) every emperor in power was killed either as a result of battle or a military or palace coup, or forced suicide. 

Decline and Fall of the Western Roman Empire (Chapter 5, Faulkner)

Marcus Aurelius (r. 160-180 AD) was a paradoxical figure.  Renowned for his ethical tract, The Meditations (written in 167 AD) while he was in Greece, he was also an oppressive ruler who extended military rule and personally led campaigns against rebellious Germanic peoples.  Commodus, his son and successor was especially detestable for his mental instability and masochistic acts and abuses of power.  

The rule of Septimius Severus (r. 193-211) and his family dynasty that succeeded him until 235 AD forced a unification of the military components of the Eastern and Western half of the empire with brutal consequences. 

The Anarchy 235-284 AD
The middle of the 3rd century is noteworthy for the collapse of central Roman command and a generalized climate of disorder and crisis.

Roman emperors took great risks to hold power domestically and often overextended their forces against the periphery.  The Emperor Decius Trajan (r. 249-251 A.D.) overextended by invading Arabia and was nearly killed in a failed siege, then faced rebellion from the Jewish population in the Levant before succumbing to either poison or illness (Cassius Dio, Book LXVIII, 32).  In 257 A.D., the Roman Emperor Valerian left his provincial administrative capital at Antioch and was trapped, captured and executed after a period of incarceration by the Sassanid Emperor Shapur I (See the
 Historia Augusta)  The implications of Valerian's capture may be read in this passage, The Two Galleini from the Historia Augusta

When Valerian was captured (for where should we begin the biography of Gallienus, if not with that calamity which, above all, brought disgrace on his life?), when the commonwealth was tottering, when Odaenathus had seized the rule of the East, and when Gallienus was rejoicing in the news of his father's captivity, the armies began to range about on all sides, the generals in all the provinces to murmur, and great was the grief of all men that Valerian, a Roman emperor, was held as a slave in Persia. But greater far was the grief of them all that now having received the imperial power, Gallienus, by his mode of life, as his father by his fate, brought ruin on the commonwealth.

Archaeological evidence from this period shows little evidence of public investment or improvement of Roman cities, and the end of substantial investment in colonial cities abroad.  On the trading city of Palmyra located in the Syrian desert (see the section on Palmyra in Charles Gates, Ancient Cities) came under increasing duress in sustaining itself and a rebel regime led by Odenath of Palmyra arose.  Faced with the competition of the Sassanid Empire based to the East and covetous of the trading routes that Palmyra straddled, the Romans had to accede greater power to Odenath of Palmyra, who was assassinated in 266 or 267 A.D. Palmyra was ruled as an independent city-state and trade based empire under the regent Queen Zenobia, whose autonomy was deemed a threat to the Romans.  In 271 A.D. they retook various Syrian cities including Antioch and Palmyra.  Even the large complex at Lepcis Magna in Libya shows signs of a decline and stoppage of building activity (Faulkner, 284). 

The Late Empire 284-467 AD  

Two recent works on 5th century Roman Empire history are Peter Heather,
 The Fall of the Roman Empire (Oxford, 2006) and Chris Wickham,  The Inheritance of Rome (2010,  Ch. 4 Crisis and Continuity, 400-550).  The general picture of Germanic settlement in the 5th century was challenged by Walter Goffart, in Barbarians and Romans, AD 418-584.  The Techniques of Accomodation (Princeton, NH, 1980).  He questioned the system of hospitalitas as a basis for a division of land and postulated a system of tax allotments asa basis for regular payment of annonae to the federate armies in Italy and Gaul.  Andrew Merrils, Vandals, Romans and Berbers:  New Perspectives on late Roman Africa.  For more on the 5th century migrations and the reordering of the Roman West, go to the Roman periphery tab above.
Ever since the defeat of three Roman legions by German tribes at the Battle of Teutoberg Forest in 9 A.D., the vulnerability of Roman power was evident to both Romans and on their periphery  As late as 357 A.D., 12,000 Roman defeated an army of 30,000 Alamanni at the battle of Strasbourg under the emperor Julian.  But wihin a genereation, the Roman Empire was in crisis.  In 376 a large band of Gothic refugees arrived at the Empire’s Danube frontier and were granted asylum (Heather 2006,  p. xi).  They revolted, and within two year defeated and killed the emperor Valens at the Battle of Hadrianople.  In 476, one hundred years later, the last Roman emperor in the West, Romulus Agustulus, was deposed and the descendants of the Gothic refugees established the military Visigothic kkindgdom in Southwest France and Spain. 

The invaders of the late 4th and fifth century came in relatively large numbers.  They included a mixture of various tribal peoples with varied geographic, ethnographic and linguistic origins, with troops estimated in the range of 10-20 thousand each. They included the Tervingi and Greuthungi who appeared on the northern bank of the Danube in 376. When the Vandals and Alans crossed into North Africa they had perhaps 15 to 20 thousand troops, not including their allies the Sueve.i.  All told, there were perhaps 110-120k armed outsiders bearing down on the western emprie.  Although the Roman army numbered upwards to 300 thousand, the mere numbers do not explain the failure of the Western Empire.  

That the Romans were dependent on assimilated tribal elites to bcome Romanized is apparent in the career of  Stilicho, the regent military Roman leader of the late 4th c. who was a Vandal. A number of key texts of the 5th century inform us of the nature of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire. 
Possidius, Life of Augustine, Chapter XXVIII, treats the life St. Augustine as Bishop of Hippo in Africa (Algeria) and the consequences of the Sack of Rome and the invasion of the Vandals into North Africa just before his death.  In Southern France, Boniface wrote that the Vandals had actually been invited into North Africa by Romans.  Boniface.
The unraveling of the Roman Empire was a gradual process that led to the Western Roman Empire's collapse in the 5th century CE, and the reorganization of the Eastern half into what became the Byzantine Empire.

Roman Art and Architecture as a Source for Historical Interpretation

Paul Zanker, a German scholar, has written several excellent studies of Roman art and architecture. The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus(1988) interprets the function of the visual arts as statements of the powerful and rich. There is however considerable material for students to analyze and to question whether there remains some autonomy in artistic production.  In Pompeii:  Public and Private Life (1998), the Greek Hellenistic origins of the city of Pompeii are compared to the colonization of the city by Romans during the period following Augustus Caesar.  Zanker compares the archaeological evidence to discuss the lives of the ordinary working Pompeiians up to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE.
On the organization of Roman cities see, Charles Gates,
 Ancient Cities, chs. 20-22.

Latin Literature as a Source for Interpreting Roman History.  

Gian Biagio Conte's Latin Literature:  A History (1994)  provides an insightful materialist analysis of the context of Latin literature from the Roman Republic, Empire and through the early Middle Ages.  A glimpse of social conditions is given in the comedic plays of Plautus (254-184 B.C.), including The Captive with  characters and dialogues between household slaves and masters. 

Conte's discussion of the Augustan age 43 B.C.-A.D. 17 allows one to read the key texts of the period by Ovid, Livy, and Virgil as a reflection on the dictatorship of Augustus.  Augustan ideology influences the production of Horace's
 Odes. Whereas Horace's Odes invokes the duties of citizenship, it is Virgil who renders in poetic form the idealic past of the Roman countryside through the recreation of Greek masterpieces. Virgil's Aeneid with  its hero Aeneas, as the mythological founder of Rome reified the function of Octavian's transformation into Caesar Augustus. The eloquent and elaborate structure of Virgil's form must be read against its absence of commentary on Augustus' consolidation of power.  The poetry of this period may be read with and against the political commentary written by Augustus himself, the Res Gestae as a statement of the reach of his power.  During the latter phase of Augustus' rule, the poetic verse of Ovid's Metamorphoses explored the transformation of human existence from mythic origins into the sentiments of love and the ordinary life.  The epic length of the poem's fifteen books is given a distinctive form in the use of the hexameter. Lesser known is Ovid's civic poetry, the Fasti, which may be read as a plea for artistic autonomy freed from the requirements of Augustinian ideology. For this and his personal complicity within the Augustus household he was banished to a remote region of the Empire on the Black Sea, where he died in around 17 or 18 A.D.  In exile, Ovid composed The Tristia, a lament on themes of his experiences with the so-called barbarians. 

Primary Sources:  

1.             Literature: Corpus Latin Scriptorum
2.             History:
3.             Later Antiquity and Roman Empire:

Guide to Roman terms of class and status and offices of state:  (Adapted from University of Texas website)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH -- the elected magistrates

Collegiality: With the exception of the dictatorship, all offices were collegial, that is, held by at least two men. All members of a college were of equal rank and could veto acts of other members; higher magistrates could veto acts of lower magistrates. Annual tenure: Dictatorship (6 months); Censorship (18 months).  Other terms of office were limited to one year. Rules for holding office for multiple or successive terms were a cause of contention.

CONSULS (2): chief civil and military magistrates; invested with imperium (consular imperium was considered maius ("greater") than that of praetors); convened senate and curiate and centuriate assemblies.
PRAETORS (2-8): had imperium; main functions (1) military commands (governors) (2) administered civil law at Rome.
AEDILES (2): plebian (plebian only) and curule (plebian or patrician); in charge of religious festivals, public games, temples, upkeep of city, regulation of marketplaces, grain supply.
QUAESTORS (2-40): financial officers and administrative assistants (civil and military); in charge of state treasury at Rome; in field, served as quartermasters and seconds- in-command.

TRIBUNES (2-10): charged with protection of lives and property of plebians; their persons were inviolable (sacrosanct); had power of veto (Lat. "I forbid") over elections, laws, decrees of the senate, and the acts of all other magistrates (except dictator); convened tribal assembly and elicited plebiscites, which after 287 B.C. (lex Hortensia) had force of law.

CENSORS (2): elected every 5 years to conduct census, enroll new citizens, review roll of senate; controlled public morals and supervised leasing of public contracts; in protocol ranked below praetors and above aediles, but in practice, the pinnacle of a senatorial career (ex- consuls only) -- enormous prestige and influence (auctoritas).
DICTATOR (1): in times of military emergency appointed by consuls; dictator appointed a Master of the Horse to lead cavalry; tenure limited to 6 months or duration of crisis, whichever was shorter; not subject to veto.


-originally an advisory board composed of the heads of patrician families, came to be an assembly of former magistrates (ex-consuls, -praetors, and -questors, though the last appear to have had relatively little influence); the most powerful organ of Republican government and the only body of state that could develop consistent long-term policy. -enacted "decrees of the senate" (senatus consulta), which apparenly had not formal authority, but often in practice decided matters.
-took cognizance of virtually all public matters, but most important areas of competence were in foreign policy (including the conduct of war) and financial administration.

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH -- the three citizen assemblies 

CURIATE ASSEMBLY: oldest (early Rome); units of organization: the 30 curiae (sing: curia) of the early city (10 for each of the early, "Romulan" tribes), based on clan and family associations; became obsolete as a legislative body but preserved functions of endowing senior magistrates with imperium and witnessing religious affairs. The head of each curia ages at least 50 and elected for life; assembly effectively controled by patricians, partially through clientela)

CENTURIATE ASSEMBLY: most important; units of organization: 193 centuries, based on wealth and age; originally military units with membership based on capability to furnish armed men in groups of 100 (convened outside pomerium); elected censors and magistrates with imperium (consuls and praetors); proper body for declaring war; passed some laws (leges, sing. lex); served as highest court of appeal in cases involving capital punishment. 118 centuries controlled by top 3 of 9 "classes" (minimum property qualifications for third class in first cent. B.C.-HS 75,000); assembly controlled by landed aristocracy.
TRIBAL ASSEMBLY: originally for election of tribunes and deliberation of plebeians; units of organization: the urban and 31 rural tribes, based on place of residence until 241 B.C., thereafter local significance largely lost; elected lower magistrates (tribunes, aediles, quaestors); since simpler to convene and register 35 tribes than 193 centuries, more frequently used to pass legislation (plebiscites). Voting in favor of 31 less densely populated rural tribes; presence in Rome require to cast ballot: assembly controlled by landed aristocracy (villa owners). Eventually became chief law-making body.

Civil litigation: chief official-Praetor. The praetor did not try cases but presided only in preliminary stages; determined nature of suit and issued a "formula" precisely defining the legal point(s) at issue, then assigned case to be tried before a delegated judge (iudex) or board of arbiters (3-5 recuperatores for minor cases, one of the four panels of "The one hundred men" (centumviri) for causes célèbres (inheritances and financial affairs of the rich)). Judge or arbiters heard case, rendered judgment, and imposed fine.

Criminal prosecution: originally major crimes against the state tried before centuriate assembly, but by late Republic (after Sulla) most cases prosecuted before one of the quaestiones perpetuae ("standing jury courts"), each with a specific jurisdiction, e.g., treason (maiestas), electoral corruption (ambitus), extortion in the provinces (repetundae), embezzlement of public funds, murder and poisoning, forgery, violence (vis), etc. Juries were large (c. 50-75 members), composed of senators and (after the tribunate of C. Gracchus in 122) knights, and were empanelled from an annual list of eligible jurors (briefly restricted to the senate again by Sulla).


First plebeian consul in 366 B.C., first plebeian dictator 356, first plebeian censor 351, first plebeian praetor 336. The many priestly colleges (flamines, augures, pontifex maximus, etc.) were also state offices, held mostly by patricians.
Imperium is the power of magistrates to command armies and (within limits) to coerce citizens.