Roman Republic

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Part of the series on
Ancient Rome
Historical Periods

Regal period (753 – 509 B.C.)
Republic (509 – 27 B.C.)
Empire (27 B.C. – 395 A.D.)
Western Empire (395 – 476)
Eastern Empire (395 – 500)

Great Romans

Marius, Cato the Younger, Cicero,
Julius Caesar, Pompey, Augustus,
Trajan, Diocletian, Constantine,
Augustine, Justinian I

Roman Legacy

Ancient Rome in popular culture

Related Articles

Pax Romana
Five Good Emperors
Third-century crisis
Edict of Milan
Edict of Thessalonica

The Roman Republic is the term used to refer to the second era of Roman history, between the kingship and the empire. The origins of the Republic are dubious and legendary at best, and utterly fictional at worst. However, the Romans had a concrete sense of the foundation date of their city, and referred to it frequently in histories. From Roman reckoning, historians place the pivotal events of the beginning of the Roman Republic at 509 B.C.

Historians also debate the time of the fall of Rome, based on their private conceptions of what Roman republicanism truly meant. In a sense, the end of the Republic was inevitable after the rise of Marius, but the true end of the Republic is often placed at either the death of Julius Caesar (when Republican government first truly ceased), the Battle of Actium (Augustus' victory over Marc Antony), or the Constitutional Settlement of Augustus Caesar, which recognized that ruler as princeps, or "first citizen," with plenary power over Roman holdings. Most historians agree to use the date of the Constitutional Settlement as the date when all possibility of the restoration of the Republic finally ended, bringing the Republic to its true close, in 27 B.C.

Early Years

A Short Primer on Eturian Influence on Rome

The Rape of Lucretia, and Overthrow of the Tarquins

The Gauls and Other Foundation Myths

Early in Roman Republican history, the city was besieged by the Gauls, led by Brennus, and ransomed. This was the first incursion upon the soil of the city of Rome, and the last time enemies passed the sacred pomerium (border line) of the city until 410 A.D. The account is romanticized in Livy's Roman History, where he describes that but for the efforts of the scorned hero Camillus, the Gauls would have utterly razed the city.[1] Instead, the ragtag remnants of the Roman Army were held the Capitoline Hill - one of the Seven Hills of Rome - against the Gauls in stalemate, ceding the rest of the city to the advancing armies.

After this stalemate had lasted for some time, the Gauls offered to leave Rome for a sum of gold. The Romans quickly accepted, and began to carry out their gold, and weigh out the appropriate price on a Gallic balance scale. The Romans soon discovered that the Gauls had deliberately tinkered with the scales so as to weigh the gold lighter than it actually was, to trick the Romans into paying more. As the Romans protested, and prepared to rescind the treaty, Brennus is said to have yelled "Vae Victis!", or, "Woe to the Conquered!", upon which he threw his sword onto the scales as an additional counterweight to the Roman gold. The Romans, their land savage and their gold extorted from them, set to rebuilding the city. The Gauls were never to return.

However, the rebuilding of the city proved difficult. Livy tells that the Romans almost considered abandoning the city of Rome, and moving wholesale to Alba Longa, the mythical nearby city of Aeneas, to begin their lives anew there. However, after an impassioned speech by Camillus, the Romans instead chose to rebuild Rome, at a breakneck pace. Livy blames this hurried reconstruction for the disorganization and haphazard layout of the Roman streets, when compared with the ordered city plans of provincial capitals and colonies.[2]
  1. Plutarch, Life of Camillus
  2. Titus Livius, Roman History

    The Conquest of Italy

    The Struggle of the Orders: the Gracchi

    The Punic Wars: Nascent Roman Imperialism

    The Jugurthine War, Marius, and the Beginning of the End

    The Long Fall

    Sulla and Pompey: "More Worship the Rising Sun than the Setting"

    The First Triumvirate

    The Fall of the Republic

    Roman Legacies

    Republican Overtones in the Early Empire

    Republican Terminology and Symbology Today