A republic is a form of government in which power is clearly and openly given to people as a right or responsibility. The people or citizens in turn use the power to elect the desired leaders or representatives. On the other hand, an empire is a form of government that represents a group of nations, people or groups. The government was in the form of an empress, or a powerful sovereign. The republican government in Rome began with the overthrow of a Roman monarchy. The constitutional government lasted for over 450 years until it was overturned in 29 BC.
Before its conversion, the Roman Republic was represented by a constitution that significantly depended on the distribution of power to different leaders. The republican government was considered informal. The law of Rome at this time was constantly evolving and was not written or codified (Murray 14). The republican constitution was primarily created because of the struggles between the patricians and the plebeians.
The republican government had a foundation set after the establishment of written laws. The laws require responsibility to be distributed among various representatives. The two most influential consuls during the republican government were the Roman Senate and the Assemblies, particularly the Plebeian Assembly. Every consul had a role in the government. The Assembly elected a magistrate, whose responsibility was to monitor judicial proceedings and decisions made by the assembly. On the other hand, the Senate was an official branch of the government. It was responsible for receiving and sending ambassadors. Also, the Senate was responsible for appointing governors, appropriating public funds, and organizing wars.
The Republic division arose within the Senate. Two factions from the Senate marked the beginning of government transition. The Populares held to the fact that the growing strength of the Assembly was the authority and law of Rome while the Optimates believed in the traditional form of the Roman Government. The division also marked the start of the civil war in Rome. During this time, conflicts between the Assembly and the Senate began to grow. With the rise in conflicts, the Republic’s finances were significantly affected. However, there were enough checks to ensure the smooth operation of the Republican government continued.
In 107 B.C.E, Gaius Marius became a member of the consul. During this time, the opposition of the Republican government increased within the Senate. Marius created a military system by employing the landless citizens to form a military campaign awarded by lands as retirement pensions. The Senate and other authorities engaged in open confrontation. The change in the military system provided the platform for the end of the republican government. The system introduced by Gaius led to the extending of territories to the Italian peninsula. Gaius led the Northern Legions while Lucius Sulla led the southern Legions to victory during the Social War. After the win, Sulla gave the Senate power over the Assembly, therefore, changing the balance of authority in the government. Years later, the Roman Republic was significantly destroyed by a slave revolt in 73 B.C. Spartacus, and thousands of slaves and gladiators carried raids across the Italian peninsula. (Grant 265)
The republican government faced another threat from Lucius Catalina. Catalina led the renewed call for debt freedom. The call by Catalina propelled the spread of discontent among the Senate and Assembly members. Julius Caesar took advantage of the unrest in the Roman republican government. Julius joined forces with Pompey and Marcus Crassus to form the 1st Triumvirate Alliance. The three members of the 1st Triumvirate Alliance took over the Roman politics and the military systems. However, Pompey and Caesar began a struggle for power that led to the split of the 1st Triumvirate Alliance.
After the Civil War, Julius became the undisputed ruler of Rome. Julius’ opportunity to become the ruler happened after Pompey’s army was defeated in Greece and Pompey himself was assassinated in Egypt. Julius Caesar began to centralize the Roman government and took great responsibility as a leader in Rome (Smith 198). Because Caesar was thought to be a dictator for ten years, he decided to act as one for the rest of his life. His dictatorship caused political confusion in the Roman Empire. Through his dictatorship, the political power wholly depended on the Caesar because of its unclear future.
The conspiracy and the reign of Julius Caesar caused a period of near utter authority. This situation made the Senate, a branch of the government, and its power more than just a verification panel. Octavian took over Julius and formed the 2nd Triumvirate Alliance comprising of Mark Anthony, Octavian, and Marcus Lepidus.
However, before the formation of the 2nd Triumvirate, Julius was murdered by the Senate members. As Julius took over the Roman Government, the Senate planned to assassinate Caesar for his dishonor. Julius was called to sign a petition in a Forum to restore the power of the Senate. During the process of signing, he was killed by the conspirators. His death lead to the formation of the 2nd Triumvirate which resulted in an intense civil war. The 2nd Triumvirate ensured the demise of Republic government and the start of the Roman Empire.
Murray, John. Epistle to the Romans. Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997. Print.
Grant, Michael. History of Rome. London: Faber & Faber Publishing Company, 1978. Print.
Smith, R.E. The Failure of the Roman Republic. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print