I.1 The foundation of Rome. Rex.
From 9th to 6th Century B.C. Etruscans, Samnites, Sabines and Latins were the main ethnic groups in Italy.
The first settlement of Rome developed on the Palatine (Latins) and Quirinale (Sabines) hills. It is difficult to ascertain what is true in Livy's story about this period, because legend and history mingle.
The foundation of Rome has the conventional date on April 21st, 753 B.C.: however, the true appearance of the City did not take place before 6th Century B.C.
Its origins were humble and laborious.
At that time the rex was:
the holder of military power and magical-religious knowledge;
the military commander of the community;
the judge and administrator of the population;
the mediator between the Gods and Man: he would interrogate the Gods by dint of auspicia in making decisions concerning the daily life of the City.
In the Republican Age the rex would be regarded simply as rex sacrorum.
I.2 Tribus Patres Curiae.
The first nuclei of Rome consisted of three Tribes, Tities (Sabines), Luceres (Etruscans) and Ramnes (Latins). Each of them divided into 10 districts (Curiae), which in turn were subdivided into 10 Decuriae.
The male population was classified on the basis of lineage. There was a total of 3,000 soldiers, 100 men for each Curia, comprised of 10 knights each (with 300 knights in total).
The chief was almost certainly an elected rex, who surrounded himself with a council of 100 Elders (patres).
The Curiae were religious and military groups, the number of which increased over time with the growth of the Latin City to 21. They had a territorial dimension.
They represented not only the first military force, but also the great Assembly of Citizens (Comitia Curiata) that were convened for important decisions and community events, such as the election of the rex or the declaration of war or peace.
The Curiae continued to exist even in the late history of Rome due to the fact they covered an important political function, by conferring their executive power through the lex curiata de imperio, firstly upon a magistrate and then upon the Emperor.
II.1 Etruscan domination in Italy.
In 600 and 500 B.C. the Etruscan domination in Italy was large and powerful: there was a league constisting of several cities, some of which were located on the coast.
They worked copper and iron, cultivated the land (olive and grain), had an active textile industry and were skilled engineers (aqueducts and sewers).
The Etruscans traded with Greece, with the Greek colonies in Southern Italy and with the Phoenician cities.
However, their activities as pirates, rather than as merchants, put them in conflict with Greece. Between 500 and 400 B.C. the Samnites and the Greek tyrants of Sicily opposed the Etruscan expansion towards the South.
II.2 The Etruscan Monarchy.
In Central Italy there were the Latins, who tried to thwart the Etruscan ambitions on the peninsula.
Although Latium was not attractive due to its humid climate, it had a strategic location along the trade routes from Etruria to Ancient Greece and Southern Italy.
The Etruscans succeeded in creating a strong sphere of influence on the Latins as can be attested by the name of one of the first three tribus, certainly Etruscan (Luceres), and by the name of Rome itself (from Ruma).
At the beginning there were Latin or Sabine Kings (linked to the ancient aristocracy); later on appeared Etruscan Kings (VI Cent. B.C.) who introduced important reforms (public work, army, Senate, ager publicus, trade, crafts and territorial expansion).
Among these, the dynasty of the Tarquins was certainly predominant.
Moreover, thanks to this dynasty, the rex succeeded in defining his own power: he obtained supreme military and civil authority, decisions of life and death.
His personal power began to be exalted: he was preceded during a special oriental ceremony by the so-called lictors who protected him with axes.
II.3 The Plebs.
Shortly after Rome had won its war against the Sabines, the Equi and the Volsci, which entailed a major change in its social and economic conditions, it was necessary to reform the army.
A new social class, the Plebs, made up of a large multitude of people who did not belong to the ancient Aristocracy, grew in numbers and power.
The Tribes increased firstly to 21 (and in the era of the Republic up to 35). Only 4 of these were urban, while the rest were rural.
The Etruscan King Servius Tullius gave each Tribe the opportunity to cast a vote (based on their economic power) without any distinction of caste, regarding capital punishment and other important matters.
III.1 The birth of an Army and of the Assembly.
The military reform is usually attributed to King Servius Tullius.
The army now divided the male population (except for the 18 centuriae of knights) into 5 classes, each subdivided into centuriae of younger and older (iuniores and seniores): the first class counted 80 centuriae of infantry; the second, third and fourth classes consisted of only 20 centuriae; lastly the fifth of 30.
At the inferior level there were musicians, artisans, etc. in 5 centuriae for the poorest, the proletarii, the so-called capite censi; for a total of 193 centuriae.
The political weight of each citizen became commensurate to his personal efforts in war, in proportion to the level of his income.
Centuria was a land-owning military unit (with a minimum of 200 acres).
The richest Citizens were certainly in the higher classes, meanwhile the power of the Plebeians was proportional to their income.
From this Centuriatus Exercitus derived in time the main popular Assembly, which consisted of all Citizens who served the Army.
Their meetings were called Comitia Centuriata and became the most important Assembly of the whole City: they elected Consuls and voted laws.
III.2 The Fall of the Monarchy.
The Etruscan dynasties were forcibly ousted in 509 B.C., due to their opposing position to the Latin nobility: they had in actual fact given more power to the mercantile and less privileged castes by birth.
For the first time in the Roman History we find a separation and a distinction between religious and civil / military functions.
The sources tell of an outrage suffered by Lucretia from Sextus Tarquinius, the arrogant son of the King Tarquinius the Superb.
This led to the expulsion of the Tarquins and to the Fall of the Monarchy itself.
The Republic was finally born.
III.3 Origins of the Consulate.
Then began a period of darkness and struggle (V-IV Cent. B.C.), through which the role of the praetor maximus, head of the exercitus centuriatus, became the main power of the City.
The victorious aristocracy chose a pair of elected magistrates, praetores or consuls, each of whom wielded supreme power for a year over civil and military affairs.
In case of need, a dictator could have absolute supreme power, but for a period not exceeding six months.
After the last Etruscan king, the rex maintained the role of mediator between the community and the Gods (e.g. by interpreting their signs to people, auspicia), as high priest.
IV.1 The beginning of the Patrician－Plebeian Struggle.
The new arrangement rendered the historic nobility less powerful, and the Plebeians hungrier for power.
A long struggle began between the Nobility and plebs: the Plebeian Tribunes (the elected plebeian representatives) obtained the power of veto, which gave them the opportunity to defend the Plebeians against arbitrary proceedings (provocatio ad populum) and their person was recognised as ‘untouchable’ (sacred).
However, the main problem of the Plebeians lay with their debts.
After the attack of the Gauls, it became clear that they were indispensable for Rome and its army.
IV.2 Milestones in the Conflict.
In V Century B.C. there were two secessions of the plebs.
These stemmed from conflicts generated by economic issues (about land and debts, ager publicus and nexum) and from social claims (the opportunity to marry, conubium).
The Plebeians constituted their own Assembly in order to vote their decisions and to elect their own representatives who, however, were still limited in power.
In 471 B.C. with the Volerone plebiscite, the Plebeian Magistrates could finally be elected by Assemblies wholly constituted by Plebeians: they could vote on the basis of a division by territorial Tribes (concilia plebis tributa).
IV.3 Towards the Licinian-Sextian Compromise.
Thanks to the proposal of a tribune in 462 B.C., a special 10-member order of magistrates (Decemviri) was created in order to write laws (legibus scribundis): they published the XII tabulae in 450-449 B.C. (see lesson 5, slide 8, IV.1-6).
After its publication, the so-called Valeriae-Horatiae Laws (449 B.C.) recognised the new plebeian political position, concerning the value of plebiscita as leges (de plebiscitis); they also banned provocation-free courts, which had been suspended during the Decemvirate.
In 445 B.C. Lex Canuleia finally granted the conubium between Patricians and Plebeians.
After a long period (448-368 B.C.) of military power (tribunatum consulari potestate), in 367 B.C. the tribuni plebis Gaius Licinius Stolo and Lucius Sextius Lateranus promoted the so-called Licinian-Sextian compromise. It was an institutional agreement with the Patricians:
- on debts (payment of an outstanding balance ought to occur in three equal instalments over three years);
- regarding the ager publicus (nobody could own more than 500 iugeri of land);
- the possibility for Plebeians to have their own Consules.
Starting from 342 B.C. it is documented that one of the two Consules had always to be a Plebeian.
IV.4 Other moments during the Conflict.
Other important moments of the plebeian struggle, which led to a significant constitutional change, were:
- the possibility of running for Dictator (356 B.C.);
- the three leges Publiliae Philonis: (339 B.C.): de censore plebeio creando (one out of two Censors had to be Plebeian); de plebiscitis (not yet an equivalent to voted Laws, but to rogationes, that is proposals of Law by Magistrates); de auctoritate patrum (after the proposal of a Law by the Magistrates, the approval of the Senate had to be given before the popular vote);
- plebiscitum Ovinium, the Censors could choose Senators (even) among the Plebeians (318 B.C.);
- plebiscitum Ogulnium, the Plebeians could be chosen for the College of the Pontifices (increased from 4 to 8 members) and of the Aruspices (from 4 to 9 members) (300 B.C.);
- lex Valeria de provocatione (the only remaining documented lex Valeria) proposed by the consul Valerius Corvus, established penalties for Magistrates who deviated from the provocatio (300 B.C.);
- lex Hortensia de plebiscitis established that the Plebiscites were finally equivalent to Laws (287 B.C.) : they had the same value as Laws.
Risorse della lezione
- Institutions - The Foundation of the City.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #1
- Institutions - The Republic
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #2
- Institutions - The Principate.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #3
- Institutions - The Late Antiquity.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #4
- Roman Legal Science - First appearance of Ius.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #5
- Roman Legal Science - The building of Legal Science in the Republic.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #6
- Roman Legal Science - Jurists and Power I: The Compromise.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #7
- Roman Legal Science - Jurists and Power II: the Alliance.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #8
- Codes - The Code Pattern.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #9
- Codes - The Quest for Order.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #10
- Codes - The Theodosian Code.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #11
- Codes - The Great Juridical Reform by Justinian.
- Quiz: History of Roman Law: a Brief - lez. #12
Immagini slide 2
- Lapis Niger.
- Lupa Capitolina: the statue depicts a she-wolf suckling Remus and his twin brother Romulus, who is said to have founded Rome (bronze, XII Century A.D.; the twins are a XV Century addition).
Immagini slide 3
- L'Enlèvement des Sabines, N. Poussin, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York .
- The Abduction of the Sabine Women, painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1799, Louvre, Paris.
Immagini slide 4
- Etruscan cities.
- Etruscan Necropolis.
- Mars of Todi, life-sized bronze warrior, 5th-4th Century BC, Museo Etrusco Gregoriano, Vatican City.
- The Sarcophagus of the Spouses is a late 6th Century B.C. Etruscan anthropoid sarcophagus. National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, Rome.
Immagini slide 5
- Battle of lake Regillus, Fresco by T. Laureti, Musei Capitolini, Rome.
- The Etruscan Civilisation in the VI Century B.C.
Immagine slide 6
Immagini slide 7
- Roman military clothes, National Military Museum, Bucharest, Romania.
- The Comitium, where the popular Assembly gathered.
Immagini slide 8
- Sextus Tarquinius and Lucretia, Titian, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (detail).
- Lucretia, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Staatsgalerie Bamberg, Germany.
- Mucius Scaevola and Porsenna, P.P. Rubens, Szepmuveseti Muzeum, Budapest, Hungary.
Immagini slide 9
- Capitoline Brutus, believed to be the founder of the Republic, IV Cent. B.C., Musei Capitolini, Rome.
- The Miliarium, Rome, Mons Capitolinus.
Immagini slide 10
- Aventine Hill today.
- Localisation of the Mons Sacer, between the river Aniene (Anio) and the ancient Via Nomentana.