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Rise of the Roman Republic: Summary of Events

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  • 0:06 Birth of the Republic
  • 1:31 Location
  • 2:22 Military Strategy
  • 3:48 Political Structure
  • 5:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high History and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in Education.

This lesson explains the rise of the Roman Republic after the expulsion of the Etruscan kings. It cites location, military strategy, and a well-formed political structure as reasons for the Republic's rise.

Birth of the Republic

It's pretty safe to say most people know a little bit about Roman history. I'm guessing most of us can even name an emperor or two. The problem is that's all most of us are familiar with, Rome's imperial period. Very few have knowledge of Rome as a republic. Today we're going to remedy this by giving the Roman Republic its place in the sun.

To begin, when Lucius Junius Brutus led the Romans in the 509 BCE revolt against the very oppressive Etruscan monarchs, the Romans were finally free from rule by a king or an emperor. Tradition tells us that Brutus, who perhaps could be compared to our American revolutionaries, so hated the Etruscan kings that he had the people of Rome swear to never again allow any man to rule as king of Rome. With this at the forefront of their decision making, Brutus and the Romans established a republic, a system of government in which citizens choose representatives to govern on their behalf.

Now that we have a bit about the Republic's origin under our belt, let's take a look at three things that made its rise not only possible, but extremely successful. They are its location, its military strategy, and its well-formed political structure.

Location

Starting with location, central Italy was ideal for the Republic's rise. With the Alps as a natural protective wall to the north, and surrounded by seas in all other directions, the area lent itself to natural defense. Controlling almost all of the Italian Peninsula by around 290 BCE, the protected land mass became home base for the Republic's expanding conquests. It also allowed the Republic, after some intense skirmishes with the Carthaginians of north Africa, to dominate the Mediterranean Sea. This brought trade and wealth to its lands. Before Rome became an empire in 27 BCE, the Republic included places like the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, Greece, and even modern day France.

Military Strategy

With this list of conquered lands, we hit reason number two for the Republic's rise and success, its military strategy. Although the Roman military was definitely a force to be reckoned with, it was not just brute force that caused its rise to power. It was its strategy of appeasement, or in other words, the Republic's ability to keep its conquered lands happy.

Unlike many invading forces, when the Republic conquered a land, it respected and upheld the traditions and cultures of the conquered people. In doing this, they saw fewer costly revolts and less strain on their military.

With this strategy of appeasement, the conquering Republic also brought a better quality of life. Once an area was assimilated into the Republic, it was protected by the Republic and no longer as susceptible to marauding raiders. With this protection, the Republic also brought an improved infrastructure, a strong currency, and access to many more affordable goods and services. With all these positives, the Republic was able to keep its new constituents under control. Yes, they did have to give up some freedoms. Yes, they put up an initial fight. But in the end, many were appeased by their improved standard of living. With this set up, the Republic continued to rise in power.

Political Structure

This brings us to the last reason for its rise, its well-formed political structure. To help cement this in our minds, we're going to compare and contrast it to the United States government.

Unlike in the American system, the natural born inhabitants of the Republic, who were not slaves, were officially broken into two main groups, and mobility between the classes did not occur. The two classes were the patricians, members of the upper class, including the nobility and wealthy landowners, and the plebeians, or the common people of Rome. If a man was a patrician, he could hold the highest position in government known as Consul. Since this position oversaw the workings of the government and its officials, while also being the commander of the army outside the city of Rome, we can compare it to the U.S. executive branch.

The consuls were elected from the Senate, a group of 300 patricians who were, in essence, the law makers of Rome. They made decisions on spending, while also controlling taxation and relationships with foreign powers. Again, we can loosely compare the Roman Senate to the legislative branch of the American government.

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