Roman Culture/Early Republic

Formation of the Early Republic in Ancient Rome


Rome was ruled by a monarchy from the beginning of its existence until around 509 BC. The shift of the political structure from a monarchy to a republic came from both a number of perceived injustices by the Roman populous as well as early senatorial and monarchical power struggles.[1] When the monarchy was overthrown the senate and the entire structure of Roman government was reordered to share power among the aristocrats of Rome. The new structure represents the interests of those who had a strong hand in creating it, namely the Roman aristocracy.[2] Understanding whose interests are being most served by sweeping structural changes in a society is crucial to understanding how that structure impacts or reflects the general culture of the society.

The issue that enabled the aristocrats of Rome to overthrow the king evolved from a publicized rape by the King Tarquinius’s son Sextus. Sextus apparently raped a well-known aristocrat's daughter Lucretia

Although stories about the specifics of the rape vary, each variation maintains that Lucretia was raped and subsequently killed herself. While this act in and of itself did not cause the aristocracy to revolt, it was final push that took the situation from extremely tense to violent.[2] The story of the rape was publicized and turned public opinion further away from Tarquinius, who had already significantly lost the confidence of the Roman people. From this a revolution was started, led by Lucius Junius Brutus, the now acknowledged founder of the Roman Republic. It was received fairly well by the citizens of Rome and before Lucretia was buried a general election was held that supported a republic. Underlying these larger issues dealing with Lucretia, there was tension between many senators and King Tarquinius.[2] The king had a fair number of senators killed during his reign and the relations between Tarquinius and the senate were strained to say the least.[2]

The new republic represented a drastic shift in the governance of the Roman society. The system that had previously relied upon hereditary monarchs now relied on elected government officials and various representative bodies.[1] The monarch's active role in the maintenance of the State was replaced by two “consuls” who would act as the highest political power within Roman life, each having a one year term in office.[1] The republic also has positions of tribunes, quaestors, aediles, praetors, and censors, although these positions did not necessarily exist at the outset of the republic.[1]

The republic was an idea borne out by the senate and the aristocracy,[2] even though it was passed in a general election, so naturally it represented the senators' interests. The structure that Rome’s republic took allowed equality and liberty among the very elite in their society while leaving the lower class out of the role of governance. This is evidenced by practices such as giving the larger electoral power to the upper classes,[1] and the initial decision to allow only patricians to be in decision making roles in the government.[1] While it is not easy to determine if the culture was defined by the government structure or if the culture represents the impact of the government structure, it is clear that the aristocracy is trusted with governance and with responsibility in a way the lower class is not. This builds a culture of equality only among the rich, while discounting any value that those who are not of noble birth have.

Editor's Note


Edited by Dominick DiMercurio II for a few minor grammatical errors. Checked with, status: unique, 100% originality. Note: No references are given.


  1. a b c d e f Abbott, Frank Frost (1901) A History and Description of Roman Political Institutions
  2. a b c d e "The Early Roman Republic".