Study Guide to Roman History





Before Rome
Before the first nomadic ancestors of the Romans crossed into peninsular Italy, an agricultural way of life had risen in southeastern Asia, the Middle East, and the Nile Valley, which soon supported urban centers governed by warrior and priestly elites. At Çatalhöyük in Anatolia, modern Turkey, the remains of a large town have been excavated. At its greatest extent this town covered an area equivalent to fifty soccer fields and supported a population of 10,000 inhabitants. The oldest known town, it dates back over 9000 years, c. 7500BCE. Similar developments occur shortly after in the region of the Fertile Crescent.

It is important to understand that these early city states were still part of the stone age. The first use of copper and bronze is dated to approximately 3500BCE. The building of monumental religious structures such as the ziggurat are dated shortly after this, and the use of writing follows soon after . As we learn about the development of the Romans, keep in mind that their rise is the culmination of a process, which we rightly or wrongly call civilization, begun eight thousand years earlier. In less than eight hundred years, from 1000 to 200BCE Rome passed from the nomadic ways of the extreme late neolithic, or new stone age period in Europe, to holding sway over the lives of perhaps 5 million people living from England to the Middle East.


Apennine Culture
Archaeology reveals that the first bronze age nomads appeared in Italy approximately 2000 BCE. When they arrived they found a largely unpopulated wilderness. The material remains of these people reveal that they lived in small villages and practiced transhumant pastoralism, a fancy way to say that in the summer they drove their flocks up into the hills and in the winter brought them down to the farms. They grew several types of grain and vetch. In northern Italy there is evidence of defensive hill fort towns. The number of sites and the material remains within sites increases between the years 1800-1200. This is called Apennine Culture, which takes its name from the Apennine Mountains which run the length of Italy. On the basis of comparative linguistics, these are thought to be the first speakers of Indo-European to arrive in Italy. Apennine Culture is typified by inhumation; i.e., they buried their dead, unlike the later Villanovans for example, who cremated their dead. Apennine culture remains primitive down until the time of the crisis of the 5th century. Therefore, Apeninne culture spans the entire bronze age and the first four hundred years of the iron age, i.e. 2000-500 BCE.

The Italian Bronze Age
The Bronze Age in Italy encompasses the second millennium, or more precisely 1800-900. It is believed that over this time speakers of Indo-European migrated from the north and east into Italy. This is a millenial period. Lasting over a thousand years, a series of hardy peoples marched into Italy and formed large regional districts, the boundaries of which are still reflected in a modern map of Italy. Able to produce or purchase the best technology then available, bronze, the various Indo-European speaking nomads and herders began to develop a relationship to their land that we today think of as the Italian way of life. The populations of the largest bronze age settlements numbered no more than a few hundred inhabitants. The great majority of Italy remained uninhabited except for a few stray satyrs and nymphs. Modern linguistics has revealed approximately forty distinct Indo-European languages, sub-categorized as Italic, within ancient Italy. Across the Alps there existed many distinct I-E languages, also sub-categorized, e.g. Celtic or Germanic.

What is linguistics?
The science of linguistics studies the sound systems and logic of human speech patterns. Written records of languages never heard by scholars, languages that are thousands of years old, can be analyzed into their "rules." However, these rules apply to the ways sounds are made and not made. A linguist compares different languages and calculates the similarity of their sound system and makes an inference concerning the relationship between the two. There may be sufficient evidence to propose a parent language which gave birth to the two. These inferences are based on the constant patterns of human speech

The Latin Tribes
The most that can be stated with certainty about the Latin Tribes is that linguistically they are part of a larger group of speakers of the Italic branch of I-E, presumed to have entered Italy sometime during the Bronze Age, 2000-1000. There is no evidence of warlike invasion during any of the bronze age migrations. We may even imagine that these migrant peoples were confident, hopeful, and happy in their time. The relative lack of signs of war for so long a period is certainly significant. The Latin Tribes were a small population of just one language of the many which existed throughout the bronze age and well into the archaic iron age, if not right down to the Roman imperial period.


The end of the Italian Bronze Age
Between 1200-900, the final phase of the Italian Bronze Age, there is a rapid increase in the size and number of settlements throughout Italy. Material remains in the archaeological record increase, indicating advances in metallurgy and more productive agricultural practice. The production of metal is well established in the north; trade routes move goods all across the peninsula. In the north three distinct cultures emerge. There are found from Rome north to the Po river valley below the Alps fields of shaft graves, in which are placed urns containing the cremated mortal remains. Objects called grave goods are placed in the urns, items which reflect the person's status and occupation in life, and which we presume he or she will use in the next life. This style of burial is shared by the Golasecca, Este or Atestine, Villanovan, and Latial cultures. The speakers of Oscan, the hill peoples, continued to inhume their dead. The burial urns of the northern peoples were made of bronze, sometimes in the shape of a helmet. In Latium there is a distinct variation. The urn is in the shape of a primitive villa. These urns were buried in a deep shaft and covered with a stone slab. Large “urn fields” have been discovered across the northern half of Italy.



Who were the earliest Romans?
Our history begins during the transitional phase of the late Italian bronze age. The use of iron has been realized in Greece and will arrive within one hundred years and revolutionize the sleepy pace of bronze age Italy. The people who one day would become the Romans were part of a larger ethnic group, typically called the Latin Tribes. Linguistic and archaeological research confirms the close relationship between the Romans and the surrounding Latin Tribes. Cremation graves in the area of what would become the Forum and the foundations of simple huts on the Palatine Hill date the earliest occupation to approximately 1000. Archaeological remains suggest that in the very earliest phase there were several settlements on the Palatine, Esquiline Captoline, and Caelian hills. They practiced transhumant pastoralism and grew two types of grain. Beans and leafy greens were cultivated as well. After 900 the number and size of settlements increases. It is an assumption that the importation of iron tools has led to an increase in the agricultural efforts of the Proto Romans and other Latin tribes. More food must lead to a larger population and/or export. In either case, the prosperity of all the Latin tribes increased, including the Latin tribe which would become Rome.
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View of the Capitoline Hill c. 900



Other Iron Age Societies
By the close of the Bronze Age distinct regional cultures have developed in the northern plains below the Alps. Both the Golasecca and Atestine peoples are skilled in the use of bronze and will soon incorporate the manufacture of iron. Trade, agriculture, and animal husbandry are all important elements of their economies. To the south of these peoples are the Villanovans, with a similarly diversified economy. On the opposite side of the Tiber the people of Latium form a regional variation of Villanovan culture.

Villanovan culture describes a set of archaeological remains which occur the length of Italy but are especially concentrated in the center of the peninsula. Most prominent in the archaeological record are cremation burials. The burials consist of a large biconical urn into which are placed both mortal remains and miniatures of the items of daily life. In Latium there is a regional variation; often the urn is in the shape of a hut. Villanovan culture comprised both ethnic Etruscans and Latins, including, of course, the Romans. However, each went their separate way during the Archaic Period.

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Villanovan cremation urn
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Hut urn from Latium


One of the questions that modern scholarship seeks to answer is the origin of these various groups. Linguistic evidence shows that the Golasecca and Atestine are I-E, as are the people of Latium. The Villanovan peoples are not so readily categorized. The archaeological record shows that Villanovan culture, 1000-800, develops into Etruscan culture, c 800. However, two factors suggest that the Etruscans are late arrivals to the area who transformed Villanovan society. Etruscan is a non I-E language and its appearance is not readily explained. Second, the speed with which primitive Villanovan settlements are rapidly transformed into something resembling Greek and near eastern city states likewise requires explanation.

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Etruscan terracotta from Veii c. 650
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Etruscan tomb painting c. 600



The ancients themselves were aware of the problem and sought to explain it. According to the Greek historian, Herodotus, writing c. 430BCE, the Etruscans migrated from Anatolia because of famine. Inscriptural evidence and more recently genetic testing have been brought forward to support the hypothesis that the Etruscans did in fact migrate from the east.



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The Site of Rome
Rome is strategically located on the west central side of the Italian peninsula, approximately 20 miles inland, on the Tiber river; both the river and the seven hills upon which the city was built form natural defenses. The city is located at the lowest point along the river, allowing for an easy crossing. In particular it was perhaps the only point to move cattle across the river. Tradition holds that the cattle market, the Boarium, located at this spot, dates back to the very earliest times. There is a small island in the river here, and it is here also that the first bridge was constructed, the Pons Sublicius, or the Bridge on Wooden Piles.

The land west of the river was under control of various Etruscan city states, most notably the city of Veii. On the east bank of the river, i.e., on the Roman side, ran the Via Salaria, an ancient road used by traders to travel back and forth from the salt beds at the mouth of the river to the interior. On the opposite side, ten miles from Rome lay Veii. Non procul aberat. Veii sought to control the flow of goods from Campania and overseas to the upper Tiber and the piedmont or foot hills of Tuscany, i.e. Etruria.

Stretching east from Rome and the banks of the Tiber is the region long known at Latium. Here the Latin tribes, including the Romans, had developed their own regional culture. On the basis of archaeological remains, Latial culture is characterized as a variation of Villanovan. There were many Latin towns which, like Rome, were undergoing a period of rapid transformation as a result of contact with the Greek cities located around the Bay of Naples in the region of Campania. The Romans and the other Latin tribes shared a language, a way of life, and a set of religious practices. These include group worship at sacred sites within Latium and belief in the same set of spiritual divinities.

Prior to contact with Greek custom and belief, the indigenous or aboriginal divinities of the Latins were not anthropomorphic. There were no permanent buildings called temples. The religious and spiritual concepts of the early Iron Age Italians is best described as "animism." Such a belief is classified as superstitious, in that one believes individual spirits animate the various pieces of ordinary life such as animals, tools, and food. There existed some hierarchy of these spirits. Some were quite lowly, for example the force which caused mold on the crops both before and after a harvest. At the other end of the spectrum, these people loved and feared a force which made the earth fertile in general. The Greeks shared both the sentiment and the belief.


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Urbanization (750-575)
The archaeological record in Rome and the surrounding district of Latium indicates that the earliest Romans dwelt in huts, raised livestock, and grew primitive cereals and legumes. There were few specialized craftsmen, and metal tools were obtained by trade, most notably from the metal producing regions of Etruria. Small settlements occupied the several hills. There is no evidence of permanent social stratification, or economically differentiated classes. As the population expanded from a few hundred to perhaps a thousand or more, the settlements coalesced into a town, known as Rome.

The area later known as the Forum was a marshy swamp, first used as a burial ground. Approximately 650 the Forum was drained and paved. The burial grounds were moved to the Esquiline. This is a critical moment in the life of Rome and other ancient peoples, the point at which a permanent town center is conceived. When they arrived in 1000, it was a wilderness. Three hundred and fifty years later, in 650, they were paving the market, and gathering to hear important "cives orationes habentes."

Urbs, of course, is the Latin word for city. We can be sure that in 650 the heart of any young Roman swelled with pride at the sight of the paved center of town, beat quick at the sight of the Vestals, and quicker still on going to banquet or battle. Being a member of the Urbs was the identity of the Roman and generated feelings of patriotism. This is what urbanization means to a Roman.

To the modern archaeologist, historian, and student at Abington High School, knowing the date of the transformation of individual farms dotting first the Palatine, then the Caelian, Capitoline, and Esquiline Hills to first friendly villages, and later to a coalition of successful and competitive industrious citizens is knowing when Rome has become Urbs. In 750 huts were being replaced by permanent stone homes. There is now clear evidence of social stratification. By 650 sufficient organization and cooperation exist between separate settlements that a town center can be constructed. Within the Forum the well of the Comitium is built to accommodate meetings of citizens. The ethos of free speech is present at the very beginning. Soon after, religious unity is expressed by the construction of a sanctuary to Vesta within the Forum. In 575 the monumental temple to Jupiter and Minerva is constructed on the Capitoline Hill. The process of urbanization occurs over a period of more than a hundred years, from 750 to 575.

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Archaic Roman Temple c. 575



Greek Influences
Generally speaking, two main factors brought Greeks and other eastern peoples to Italy. Over-population and food shortages were one factor. The second is the search for sources of iron. The rise of both Italy and Rome can be traced directly to the beginning of the Iron Age. Central Italy was especially rich in easily obtained iron. We might add that this eventually drew Celtic tribes onto the plains of the Po river valley and into conflict with the Etruscan city states.

One hundred years prior to the paving of the Forum, Greek immigrants were laying claim to the lush region of Campania. Greek settlements spread around the Italian coast from the Bay of Naples to Calabria. In the south, the Greek poleis eventually dominated the coast, while in the hills the differing Oscan tribes, the Iron Age manifestation of Apennine Culture, chief among them being the Samnites, held sway. Both Greeks and Phoenicians traded with the Romans and Etruscans.

From the foreign traders, Etruscans and Romans borrowed and developed their alphabets. Archaeological evidence suggests that Romans were experimenting with the use of writing as early as 770. Literacy was a revolution which allowed both Romans and Etruscans to order and organize manpower and wealth in the service of a city-state. Literacy is a prerequisite to the formation of the city-state as it appears in the Mediterranean.

The Romans and Etruscans learned to build monumental architecture in the Greek manner, temples primarily, government buildings as well. After all, to any ancient city state religion and government are two halves of a whole. Across Etruria and Latium there is a flurry of large scale public building, dated from 650 to 550. Many of these temple buildings are dedicated to Greek divinities especially associated with traders, for example, Aphrodite, Hera and Demeter.

The sanctuaries were constructed to attract the business of such men who would make lucrative offerings to the temple in hopes of safe voyages. The Greek markets, emporia, which sprang up between 750-650 are the conduit by which Greek culture first entered Italy. This contact was a catalyst to the development of archaic Rome. By 500 it seems clear that Rome was an impressive city whose architecture and physical setting dominated the landscape.

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Rome viewed from the west side of the Tiber c. 500 BCE


The most profound consequence of contact between Greece and Italy was the adoption of the aristocratic warrior ethos. A warrior aristocracy goes hand in hand with an increase in wealth and stratification of society. Above all, the leading members of this society strove to outdo each other in the display of their wealth. Gift giving between warriors was a prominent feature of such display. It is during this time that luxury goods begin to appear heavily in the archaeological record.

Chamber tombs were constructed along the main roads into towns to display the wealth of this class. These warriors, or thieves, depending on your point of view, were in part family based. To this time is dated the rise of the clan system, i.e. the two name system. From this point forward, the archaic Romans conceived themselves as belonging to an extended family, with a history of glorious exploits, as well as to a city whose honor required their vigilance. The tomb stands as a lasting reminder, a history, of the warrior, to which his family and descendants may trace their lineage.

The ethos of the warrior, with its features of display and gift giving are highly reminiscent of the heroes found in Homer. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the Romans of the Archaic Period were consciously modeling themselves after the Greek heroes. If so, it would simply be another in a long list of cultural borrowings. The monumental style of temples with decorative statues, the adoption of anthropomorphic gods in place of spirits, distinctive pottery styles, methods of warfare, the use of an alphabet, the politics of a city state, these are all elements immediately borrowed by the Italians from the Greeks at the start of the Archaic period. Typically, we read about the consequences of Roman and Greek contact in the period after the Second Punic War, 200BCE. From the foregoing it should be clear that Roman contact with the Greek world is an important theme from the Archaic Period forward.

The Role of the Etruscans
Genetic Research on Etruscan Origins

Past scholarship viewed the Etruscans as a dominant culture which molded the Romans in their own image. It was believed that the Etruscans passed their understanding of Greek practices to the Romans. Today this theory has been greatly modified, if not discredited. Etruscan influence is now seen as less invasive, and direct contact between Romans and Greeks is accepted as the more compelling argument.

It is true that at the beginning of the Archaic Period, 800-700, the Etruscans were more organized and advanced than their Latin neighbors. It seems that men of Etruscan descent, possibly military adventurers, i.e. warrior aristocrats, were politically dominant in Rome for several generations, holding the title of king or, perhaps in the last generation of the monarchy, commander of the army.

600-500 (sixth century)
This period is typically viewed as a time of Etruscan ascendancy within Rome. The Romans certainly believed this. Their traditions maintained that the fifth and seventh king were in fact Etruscan. The problems associated with this question are too numerous for the present discussion. However, it is clear that, under a monarchical system, characterized by a warrior aristocracy, Rome was the dominant power within Latium from 600 to 500. Towards the end of the sixth century, c. 525BCE, central Italy enters a period of turmoil. Many cities are destroyed, and there is evidence for large scale migrations. The causes of this are unknown. Rome did not escape these disruptions. It is to this time, traditionally 509, that the violent expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus is attributed and the subsequent foundation of the Republic. This also marks the end of the Archaic Period and the decline of the warrior aristocracy.

The First Consuls
The Republican form of government which replaced the monarchy developed over the next two hundred and fifty years. Romulus himself was said to have created the senate, the main deliberative body of the Republic, calling them "Patres," the Fathers. How the office of consul was created and how it initially evolved is a disputed question. The central issue of this question is how did the "primitive" Romans come up with such a novel and workable plan? By workable plan we mean the collegial system of government offices. The consul or president could veto his colleage, i.e. the other consul at any time.

This concept of a check on supreme power, provided by the collegial system, gave the Romans a stable form of government for at least 350 years, and even with cracks showing lasted nearly a hundred more. In time the Senate itself became an even more forceful check on the power of the consul. The successful conquest of Italy and the defeat of the Carthaginians is primarily the success of the strategy fashioned by the consuls under the advisement of the Senate.

A brief modern parallel
Our own government recently debated the relative powers of the congressional assemblies and the president, with the Bush administration citing its "belief" in the unitary theory of the executive branch, i.e. the presidency. This theory states that the president's powers are unrestricted when he acts in the interest of national security. If the president claims to act in the interest of national security, he claims the right of unchecked power. Some would argue that this is not in the spirit of our democratic belief system nor does it honor the checks imposed by the constitution. It is the strategy of a weak opponent to cause his enemy to overreact to a sudden attack. We surely lose the war when we do damage to our own institutions.


500-400 (fifth century)
The new Republic was born under stressful conditions and perhaps in reaction to them. The migrations of the previous century continued with calamitous effects. The normal economic activity which had developed up to this time was now disrupted. These migrations are believed to be the result of overpopulation and food shortages. As a result, people were desperate and willing to shed blood.

Revolt of the Latin Towns
In the final one hundred years of the monarchy, Rome had dominated Latium. At the outset of the Republic this relationship was challenged. The chaos spreading through central Italy encouraged the Latin towns to rebel against the Romans. They joined together to put an end to Roman dominance in Latium. Armed conflict culminated in the celebrated battle of Lake Regillus. Read Livy's account of the Battle of Lake Regillus. Victorious over a combined league of Latin towns, the Romans negotiated the Treaty of Cassius with their defeated neighbors and kinsmen. Non-aggression and mutual defense were promised by each side.

The Aequi and the Volsci
Each side had something to gain. To the east two hill tribes, known as the Aequi and the Volsci, were attempting, with some success, to encroach on territory which Romans and Latins alike considered their own. The outlying towns of Latium in the eastern Alban Hills were captured and occupied by these people. Likewise they had occupied the Pomptine Plain which lies south towards the coast from Rome. During the previous century of the monarchy this had been under control of the final kings of the city. To the north the Sabines as well attempted to dislodge Roman citizens from their holdings. The next fifty years saw frequent combat between these various groups.

War with Veii
Across the Tiber, ten miles away, the Etruscan city of Veii occupied a large and well organized agricultural territory. The remains of paved roads and extensive irrigating canals have been excavated. Impressive temple remains and their beautiful adornments have also been recovered. This city had grown wealthy as a center of commerce by controlling the trade lines on the west bank of the Tiber which brought agricultural and manufacted goods from the Greek and Etruscan cities on the Bay of Naples to the interior of Etruria. Veii and Rome viewed each other with hostility. The two cities fought three wars over the course of the fifth century, resulting in the destruction of Veii and the annexation of its territory.

Economic Decline of Etruria, Latium, and Campania
The first century of the Republic 500-400 was dominated by the struggles between Rome and Veii, and between Rome and the Aequi and Volsci. As we have remarked, the end of the monarchy coincides with disruptions across central Italy which seem to be associated with large scale migrations, especially of the Oscan hill peoples pushing their way onto the coastal plain. Further south, in Campania, an Oscan tribe, the Samnites overwhelmed the Greek and Etruscan cities of the Bay of Naples. We can see the results of the warfare of this period in the archaeological record. There is a marked decrease in the number and quality of remains from the fifth century. Economically, Italy was in decline. Men fighting are not men working, and, accordingly, productivity was down.

The Origins of the Patricians and Plebeians and the Conflict of the Orders

Rome's ability to act during this unsettled time was futher complicated by a growing controversy between the status enhanced patrician class and the secondary class citizens soon to be known as the plebeians. This class struggle is typically called the Conflict of the Orders.

The origins of the patricians are to be found in the early archaic period. The patricians are the descendants of the warrior aristocracies which organized themselves under the clan system. The clans of the archaic period become the patrician families of the republican period. The chamber tombs are the best evidence for the rise of the clans and the future patrician class.

During the archaic period the clans reserved the right to serve as priests. Control of the priesthoods also gave the clans power over and protection from the king. This mirrors the development of other early civilizations in that religion is one of the tools to control the mass of ordinary citizens. Likewise, it is not difficult to find parallel examples of the struggle between elite groups to control religion. The Protestant Reformation is a fight between elite groups to take charge of religion and the power it brings.

The last king of Rome is portrayed as a tyrant, Tarquinius Superbus. There is another aspect of the last kings which the traditional accounts seek to obscure. The kings were popular among the common people, and each, king and people were reliant upon each other. As the archaic period progressed, the clans found it necessary to choose a king. While the role of the king as leader and symbol of the city are the clear functions of the king, he also serves a less obvious but equally important purpose. With a permanent leader in place, the clans have no reason to quarrel for supremacy within the state. Indeed, it seems that the early kings are distinguished by their lack of relationship to the powerful clans. The final kings sought to curtail the power of the clans/patricians. One method of doing this was to rule as a "popular" leader. A popular leader, in this sense, makes use of the frustrations of the poor to gain support. By administering to the needs of the lower classes the king gains their support and hopes to use them against any move against his own power.

For reasons that are not well understood, the clans/patricians removed the final king and abolished the office. Both the traditional record and archaeology reveal that the end of the monarchy was a bloody fight. The end of the monarchy is best understood as part of the larger disruptions and turmoil that began at the end of the sixth century and continued into the fifth.

We see the seeds of the Conflict of the Orders in the end of the monarchy and the larger disruptions of Italian society at this time. Without a king protecting their interests, those citizens who did not belong to the powerful clans suffered greatly in this time of economic distress. The weakest members of Rome were compelled to band together and organize themselves at this time. The removal of the king, supremacy of the clans/patricians, and economic distress of the fifth century are the reasons for the emergence of a self conscious class known as the Plebs. As with the patrician class, the plebeian class evolved over an extended period of time.

There existed in Rome at the start of the fifth century several socially recognized classes of people. The term "plebiean" was not in use. At the very top existed the members of the patrician clans who traced their ancestry well back into the monarchy. This group was without doubt quite wealthy. However, other clans had formed later in the monarchy. These were also quite wealthy. However, their relatively late rise to wealth or perhaps their status as later immigrants to Rome did not permit them the title of patrician. Next in line were the independent farmers. Relatively successful, they were able to provide their own weapons and armour to fulfill their military duties. This group was called "classis." Below these were other farmers or workers who, while not living in poverty, still could not afford to outfit themselves to fight. These were called the infra classem. At the very bottom were those called the proletarii.

The proletarii, by the end of the monarchy, were a sizable group. They were especially injured by economic decline and the expulsion of the king. At some point during the first decades of the fifth century there occurred the so called First Secession, in which this group withdrew from the city and refused to work or serve in the military. More significantly, this group organized their own assembly of the people, which they called the Concilium Plebis. This is the first instance of the term Plebs being used in this specific way. Additionally, they created the office of the Tribunus Plebis, councilman of the people. The Plebs, as we shall now call them, employed an ancient religious formula to accomplish this, called the lex sacrata, the sacred law. The sacred law made the Tribunus Plebis and the Concilium Plebis inviolable. If anyone attempted to harm either of these entities, the Plebs were sworn to kill that person.

At the very beginning of the Republic, the office of consul was open to anyone who could afford to be consul. Recall that Roman officials were not paid. The majority of people able to serve as consul were, naturally, patrician. However, there were wealthy non patricians. During the first twenty years of the Republic, approximately 509-490, these non patricians stood for office and were elected. After this point, and with increasing energy, the patricians attempted to bar non patricians from holding the consulship. The priesthoods were already off limits to all except patricians. The patricians clearly viewed themselves as better than all other citizens. They began to abuse the rights of the land owning farmers and the other workers of the city as well.

All non patrician elements of society soon viewed the initial actions of the proletarii, i.e. the formation of the concilium plebis and the tribunus plebis, as the vehicle by which to oppose the patricians. By 450, the plebeian movement is a state within a state. They passed their own laws. They threatened the patricians with a refusal to take part in city life, in other words, they threatened to strike. On several memorable occasions, they in fact did so. The tribunes were able to intercede if they believed a plebeian was threatened by the actions of a patrician. They were able to do so because of the lex sacrata. The plebs were prepared to carry out the threat of violence implicit in the lex sacrata.

One principal grievance of the plebeians involved debt-bondage. In order to supply a steady labor force for their estates, patricians "loaned" money to plebeians, knowing that ultimately the plebeians would be unable to repay the loan. At this point, the unfortunate pleb would become the permanent employee of the patrician. This is called debt-bondage. An additional grievance revolved around the Ager Publicus, the public land. The majority of Roman territory was so called public land. Theoretically, all citizens were welcome to make use of the public land for farming and grazing. In practice, the patricians had laid claim to almost all of it. The plebs demanded that a limit be set to the amount of public land any individual family could use. The wealthy "plebeians" had their own agenda. These people demanded to compete in the political arena on equal footing with the patricians.


Another important demand was that the laws be written down and made available for all to see. On this point the patricians relented. Approximately 450, in place of the consuls, a ruling body of ten men was elected, the decemviri, charged additionally to codify Roman law. This was subsequently recorded as The Twelve Tables. Inscribed in bronze and set up in the Forum, the Twelve Tables could be viewed at any time and by anyone. The demand for public accountability was at the heart of the plebeian movement. Ultimately, this was their only protection against arbitrary action on the part of the patricians. The patricians, as they had with the priesthoods and the office of consul, claimed knowledge of the law as their own and used it to exploit the lower classes.

In 449 the Valerio-Horatian laws were passed. These made legal the status of the tribunes as inviolable. The right of appeal was introduced. Now a citizen could demand a hearing before the people, if he believed he had not received justice from a magistrate. The acts of the consilium plebis were guaranteed to become law, provided the senate ratified them. Finally, these laws established the position of Military Tribune with Consular Power. This was a half way measure on the part of the patricians. Plebeians were allowed to hold this office. It was identical to the office of consul but lacked the same prestige. Ex-consuls were treated with great respect and granted the special priviledge of burial in a royal purple toga. Between 449 an 367 the supreme command of the state alternated between these two offices. As previously stated, the consulship was shared by two, the military tribunes varied from three to nine. Why one office was chosen over another remains an unresolved question.

In 376 the Licinio-Sextian laws were passed. It now became law that one of the consuls for each year be plebeian. The office of military tribune was abolished. A limit of three hundred acres was set to how much public land any individual could occupy. The laws concerning debt and debt bondage were revised to give greater protection to the poor. A government agency was established to help those citizens who could not pay off their debts. Finally, in 287, the Hortensian law established that the acts of the concilium plebis were law, without senatorial ratification. From this point forward it is proper to speak of a patricio-plebeian nobility. Those whose wealth had allowed them to break into the competition for political office now closed ranks with the old Roman nobility. The admission of new families into the senatorial order becomes increasingly rare.




Essay:
Characterize and fully describe the development of Rome in each of the following time periods: 1000-750; 750-650; 650-525; 525-287. The following topics should be covered: What was Rome’s relationship to the other peoples and ethnic groups of Italy. What is the relationship between the rise of civilization in Italy and the earliest urban settlements of the eastern Mediterranean? Who dwelt in the region to the north and the region to the south of Rome? How was Rome affected by developments in those two regions? How does Rome fit into the Italian bronze age and the iron age? What was the role of Greek influence? This should be fully described, not only at the point of initial contact but how this influence was felt in the final period as well. How does the archaic period fit into the picture? What social groups developed in Rome and how did they interact? Write in your own words. Any evidence of plagiarism will result in significant loss of credit. Your essay should be detailed and reflect a sound understanding of the major outlines of the Roman development. All work is to be typed and double spaced; the total length should not be less than seven pages and no more than twelve. Font size is to be 12. Absolutely no late work. No exceptions. Due Thursday next week.









[1] All dates are BCE