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General characteristics of the socio-economic development of Italy in the VI-III centuries BC.

In socio-economic terms, Italy of the VI-III centuries BC presented a rather motley picture. The most developed of its regions were Etruria and Campania, where agriculture, crafts, and trade flourished. Southern Italy, with its rich Greek colonial cities, ranked second in terms of development. Latium with the city of Rome, inhabited by pastoralists and farmers, very conveniently located at the intersection of important land and river routes, in the VI—V centuries BC. e. lagged behind its highly developed neighbors-the Etruscans and Greek colonies. Finally, in the mountainous regions of Central Italy, there were tribes that were at the stage of decomposition of primitive relations.

Agriculture of the tribes and nationalities of Italy in the VI-III centuries BC.


Etruscan buccero vase with a rooster. The second half of the VI century BC. e. Clay is dark gray, black lacquer. It is kept in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

Etruscan buccero vase with a rooster. The second half of the VI century BC. e. Clay is dark gray, black lacquer. It is kept in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

The leading branch of the economy of the majority of the population of the Apennine Peninsula was agriculture. The fertile soil and mild climate provided high yields in Etruria, Campania, and Apulia. Dense soils were treated with heavy ploughs with a massive iron ploughshare (in Etruria and Apulia), and loose soils with light ploughs with a small ploughshare. Along with the plow, hoes were widely used to loosen the soil by hand.

In the most developed areas of Italy, wheat, barley, millet, beans, chickpeas were cultivated; in less developed and mountainous areas — spelt, barley, beans, turnips.

The ancient inhabitants of Italy did not know sugar, the body’s needs for it were filled by natural grape wine. Usually it was not strong and was always diluted with water (for 1 part of wine, 2-3 parts of water). The vine has been known since ancient times in Italy. The Greek colonists made improvements to the local viticulture and turned many of the previously empty hills of Southern Italy into solid vineyards. Campanian and Southern Italian wines were famous throughout the Apennine Peninsula and even exported to Greece and Gaul.

The Greeks also introduced the inhabitants of Italy to the culture of olives. This heat-loving plant was cultivated mainly in Campania and the southern regions, while fresh and pickled olives, especially olive oil, were consumed throughout the country.

Cattle breeding

Italy is a hilly-mountainous country, with only 20% of its territory occupied by plains. The hills and mountains were covered with coniferous and oak forests, which favored the development of cattle breeding, especially sheep and pig farming. In the arid lands of Lucania, Calabria, and the interior of Apulia, which were not suitable for agriculture, cattle herding (sheep, goat, and horse breeding) flourished. Etruria was famous for the breeding of oxen — the main draught force in ancient agriculture.

Land law

Until the eighth century BC, the gentile system with public ownership of land reigned supreme in all of Italy. The emergence of Etruscan and Greek cities, where an early class society and state developed, led to the disintegration of communal and the emergence of the rudiments of private ownership of land.

On the territory of the Roman community, land belonging to noble families was cultivated by members of these families, their clients and slaves, usually in small plots. In addition to the patricians and their clients, the towns and villages were inhabited by plebeians who were not part of the Patrician families. The plebeians cultivated small plots of land from 2 to 7 yugers (1 yuger — 0.25 ha), which belonged to them on the rights of private ownership. Part of the land was owned by the city-state; it was not cultivated and was considered common (agerpublicus-public field), it could be occupied( from the word occupare-occupy), paying a small rent to the treasury. The right to occupy state lands was widely used by the Patricians. The plebeians did not have this right at first. During the VI-III centuries. they actively fought for the restriction of the rights of the patricians to occupy and for the division of the common land into small plots and granting them to the plebeians. In the IV—III centuries, the plebeians partially achieved satisfaction of their demands, which contributed to the intensification of agriculture in general. In the course of this struggle, the Patrician patrimonial land ownership lost the features of the ancient communal property, was divided into plots that no longer belonged to the entire family as such, but to the heads of individual families separated from the family, who owned land on the rights of hereditary ownership.

In the mountainous regions of Italy, communal land ownership remained predominant until the third and second centuries BC.

Craft and trade

Craft development in Italy

In the Etruscan cities, various crafts are created, and trade operations are activated. This was facilitated to a large extent by the presence of minerals, in particular iron ore, copper, clay, building stone, and ship timber. Etruscan mines on the island of Ylva (modern. Elba) was the subject of a fierce struggle between the Greeks, Carthaginians and Etruscans. The latter emerged victorious and organized the extraction and processing of metals. On the coast closest to the island, in Populonia, iron ore mining and smelting were also organized. Mountains of ancient slag still rise in these areas, testifying to the scale of the Etruscan metallurgy. The resulting metal was either processed in Populonia and neighboring Vetulonia (weapons, agricultural and craft tools, household items), or in the form of ingots was transported to other Etruscan cities.

Heavy acc. Ephesus. Geta, 211-212 BC Copper.

Heavy acc. Ephesus. Geta, 211-212 BC Copper.

In the VI—IV centuries BC, despite the introduction of iron into production, bronze was also widely used. Defensive weapons — helmets, armor, knee pads, etc. – were made mainly of bronze, bronze vessels, mirrors and various ornaments were widely used. The production of bronze products flourished in Etruria, in the Campanian cities (Capua and Dikearchia), the southernmost city of Italy, Rhegium, was famous for its school of bronze casting. Bronze Etruscan products were distinguished by technical and artistic perfection. They were in demand outside of Italy, particularly in Athens and other Greek cities.

The most popular of the crafts in Italy was ceramic: various dishes, containers, water pipes, tiles, construction and architectural details, raw bricks, funeral urns, lamps. In Etruria, terracotta (i.e., from baked clay) was produced on a very large scale.) statuettes and a round sculpture. Especially famous was the Etruscan black-lacquer ware with relief decorations “bucchero”. To date, the remains of numerous pottery kilns have been discovered in the ancient cities of Clusia, Arrecia, and Kalah — the largest centers of ceramic craft. In Southern Italy, the production of elegant ceremonial ceramics based on Greek models was established.

Less important was the textile craft, which had long maintained ties with the household, but in the IV—III centuries BC. e. woolen fabrics were already produced in special workshops in the city of Tarentum, and linen and sail canvas — in the city of Tarquinia. A major craft center in Latium was Rome.

The legendary king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, was credited with the establishment of 8 craft colleges (flautists, goldsmiths, coppersmiths, carpenters, felters, dyers and shoemakers). In small craft workshops of the VI—III centuries BC, the owner himself, members of his family and several slaves worked. The surviving inscriptions mentioning slaves, the finds of large ceramic stoves indicate the beginning of the penetration of slave labor into various crafts.

Trade in the VI-III centuries BC.

In the VI—III centuries BC, Italy became the scene of quite active trade contacts, and not only external, but also intra-Italian trade relations were established. Along with luxury goods, they begin to sell necessary products — iron and metal products, ceramics and bread, wine and olive oil. Etrurian wheat went to Rome and Latin cities, olive oil from Magna Graecia was imported to Latium and Etruria, the trade of the Greek colonies with Balkan Greece was based largely on the export of agricultural products (mainly wheat) and the import of necessary handicrafts. The iron produced on Ylva and in Populonia was supplied to Campania and to many Etruscan cities. The rugged terrain of Italy made it difficult to transport goods overland, and it was carried out mainly by water – by sea and by rivers. The largest shopping centers of the VI-III centuries BC. There were Syracuse, Tarentum, Dikearchia-Puteoli, Populonia, Adria, and Spina. Rome’s commercial importance grew.

Sestertius, Rome, 253 BC Silver.

Sestertius, Rome, 253 BC Silver.

In Rome, paths crossed from the many artisan centers of Etruria to the rich Campanian cities. It was possible to ascend the Tiber to the land of the Umbri. For trading here, every ninth day was allocated, which was called “nundin” (the ninth). Once a year, fairs were held, where residents of neighboring cities gathered. Fairs were timed to coincide with major religious festivals and were held near the sanctuary of the revered deity. Volsinii, the religious center of Etruria, was also the site of a pan-Etruscan fair; In Latium, trade gatherings were held at the shrine of the goddess Juno Feronia, located on the border of the four regions.

The size of foreign trade with non-Chinese peoples expanded. The Greek colonies were in regular trade relations with Balkan Greece, and the Etruscans also conducted active foreign trade. Their bronze products are found in Balkan Greece, Asia Minor, even in Syria. Trade relations were established with the Celts, who inhabited the Po Valley in the V — I V centuries BC, and with the Transalpine peoples, who were sold grape wine, handicrafts in exchange for raw materials and slaves. The Etruscans were monopolists of the amber trade, imported from the shores of the distant Baltic Sea. In Latin and Etruscan cities and necropolises, many items made in Balkan Greece and Asia Minor have been found. In Spina, the influence of the Greeks was so strong that this Etruscan city turned into a Greco-Etruscan city by the fifth century BC.

Since the IV century BC, the city of Rome was also involved in maritime trade, as evidenced by the foundation of the Roman port of Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber. The largest maritime power of that time — Carthage-concluded three trade treaties with Rome (in 509, 348 and 280 BC).

Appearance of the minted coin

The needs of domestic and foreign trade caused the appearance of the minted coin as a convenient means of exchange. First of all, the Greek colonies began to mint coins. Already in the VI century BC, many Greek cities in southern Italy and the islands of Sicily had their own mints. In the IV— III centuries, Greek monetarians achieved great perfection in the minting of silver denominations, which had a special purity of the coin metal and elegant, often artistic, images.

In the VI-IV centuries BC, the Etruscan cities did not yet mint their own coins and used Greek ones for calculations. The first Etruscan coins appeared at the very end of the V century BC. They were made of gold, electra, silver and bronze and initially had an image only on one side. In the IV-III centuries BC.

In Rome, the first coins were cast in molds; these were copper ingots weighing a Roman pound (273 grams), without images (the so — called heavy acc-aes grave). In the second half of the IV century BC, images of animals appeared on it — a bull, a pig, an eagle, etc. (ace with an image — aes signatum). These heavy and bulky ingots were of little use for trade. The minting of lighter and more convenient silver coins dates back to the end of the III century BC. The main coin denominations in Rome were bronze acc, silver sestertius (2.5 acc), silver denarius (equal to 10 assam -4 sestertii).

Social structure in the VI-IV centuries BC.

e. The social structure of Rome in the VI—IV centuries BC. e. was characterized by great complexity and diversity. There were three main types of social structures in Roman society: ancestral institutions dating back to primitive times, a new communal-peasant sector, and early slave-owning relations. In the process of further development, tribal institutions gradually died out, the communal-peasant sector was strengthened, and early slave-owning relations tended to turn into classical slavery.

In the concrete reality of the VI-IV centuries BC, the carriers of these structural types were class-class groups of patricians, clients, plebeians and slaves. Each of these groups occupied a special place in production and in society, having its own set of rights and obligations.


An Etruscan warrior. Bronze. Province of Campania 569-554 BC

An Etruscan warrior. Bronze. Province of Campania 569-554 BC

The patricians got their name from the word pater, i.e. the father of a large family, which includes, in addition to their own children, also dependent people and slaves. “Fathers” in early Rome were also called members of the highest body of government — the Senate. The Patricians were a privileged, dominant class-the estate of early Rome. They enjoyed full civil rights, voted in the curiate comitia, were elected to the Senate, and served in both the heavily armed infantry and the privileged cavalry. Each patrician was the head of a large family (familias), that is, the head of a large family. a large family community, for the maintenance of which they had the right to take solid plots of land from the community land fund. The main magistrate posts until the middle of the IV century BC were filled by patricians. The Patricians were divided into gentile groups (gentes), which went back to the distant ancestral divisions of the primitive era. And although the Patrician gentes of the VI-IV centuries BC had a different structure and organization than the primitive clans, nevertheless, the role of traditional family ties among the patricians was great. Being a privileged ruling class-a class of landowners, in the structure of which family ties occupied a significant place, the Roman patricians were a conservative element in society, which hindered the development of new socio – economic relations, private property, and slavery.


In early Roman society, a large stratum were clients-insolvent and politically disenfranchised people. Clients could be either freed slaves, or foreigners who moved to Rome, who were forced to seek protection and patronage from the patricians and came under their patronage. Clients joined the patrimonial organization of the patricians as dependent members, and received the family name of their patrons. They were charged with the duties of working on the lands of the patrons and performing various duties: to accompany their patron on a campaign, on the exits to the city. The property of the client, if he did not leave a will, was inherited by the patron after his death. In case of disobedience to the patron, the client could be turned into slavery by a court decision. In turn, the patron was obliged to protect the client from harassment of other notable persons, represented his interests in court. Clients who were part of the family of their patrons, connected with them by various, including religious, obligations, were separated from the plebeians and in the social struggle that took place in Rome in the V—IV centuries BC.e., they acted together with their patrons-patricians. But the weakening of the patrimonial ties in the Patrician families and the development of new social relations gradually changed the position of the clients. By the third century BC, most of them had already freed themselves from their dependence on patrons, having received land from the state, and turned into free farmers.


Septuary monument of the dying Adonis (Etruscans). Polychrome terracotta. Province of Tuscany, 250-100 BC

Septuary monument of the dying Adonis (Etruscans). Polychrome terracotta. Province of Tuscany, 250-100 BC

One of the main classes-estates of early Rome were the plebeians. Some of the plebeians were accepted into the Patrician families as dependent clients, but the majority of the plebs stood outside the social organization of the native Patrician citizens and were deprived of civil rights, although they were considered legally free, unlike slaves and clients. A significant part of the plebeians were the newcomers, who had severed all ties with their former homeland and stood outside the tribal organization of Rome. These people turned out to be a particularly favorable environment for the formation of private property relations, and their struggle with the patricians associated with obsolete ancestral institutions was historically progressive.

The plebeians cultivated small plots of land, engaged in trade and crafts. They lived mostly in the villages surrounding Rome, had their own community organization, a system of mutual assistance. The plebeians, as small farmers, represented the main part of the emerging communal and peasant sector of Roman society, although it was constantly replenished at the expense of clients, as they were freed from patronage, and the impoverished patricians themselves, who for various reasons lost their land holdings and their dependent names. In their environment, stratification occurred quite quickly and a well-to-do layer emerged. The general civil disenfranchisement united all the plebeians to fight the patricians. However, while the mass of the plebeians sought land and the abolition of bonded slavery, the wealthy and wealthy plebeians fought primarily for political equality with the Patricians.


In the VI—III centuries BC. e. slave labor penetrates into various sectors of the economy-slaves cultivate the fields, work in craft workshops, in the household. Prisoners of war were turned into slaves, bonded debtors became slaves. The prohibition of debt slavery in Rome in 326 BC made the enslavement of captives the main source of replenishment of the slave class.

Early slave-owning relations are called patriarchal slavery and are distinguished from classical slavery. Under patriarchal slavery, production is not aimed at creating a commodity, but only the means of subsistence of the master and his family name, natural economy dominates, and relations with the market are in their infancy. Since commodity relations were weak, and the need for the slave’s surplus labor was limited to the needs of the master and his family, the slave’s exploitation did not reach the extreme limits. Despite the use of slaves in various industries, they were generally few and far between and had not yet become the main producers. The master and his children worked alongside the slaves.

The slave was not regarded as a thing, but retained some (albeit the most minimal) rights of the human person. The slave was not included in the inventory of the estate, the slaves were responsible for some actions before the court (in a later period, he was punished by the master), could act as guarantors and be adopted. They had the right to participate in certain religious cults and festivals. According to religious beliefs, slaves were given rest during the holidays, and too cruel treatment of slaves, the shedding of blood in vain were recognized as objectionable to the gods.

Etruscan gold crown and jewels found in Vulci in the necropolis of Camposcola. VI century BC

Etruscan gold crown and jewels found in Vulci in the necropolis of Camposcola. VI century BC

The line between freedom and the slave state was not sharp, it was softened and obscured by the existence of various categories of dependence that passed from slavery to freedom: client relations, domestic slavery, bonded debt.

The most disenfranchised position was that of the slave prisoners of war, since their master had no tribal, kinship, religious, or any other relationship with them. Therefore, in early Rome, the contradictions between slaves and slaveholders were not exposed, were still hidden, and were closely intertwined with the social antagonisms of other dependent strata of the population: impoverished plebeians, bonded debtors, and clients.

From the period of the VI—III centuries BC, there was no news of mass revolts of slaves; they did not yet act independently, but fought in hidden forms (flight, damage to tools) or took an active part in the unrest of the semi-free and impoverished strata of the population.

Thus, in Rome, slaves took part in the capture of the Capitol fortress by Appius Herdonius, who sought to restore the royal power, in 460 BC, in the unrest of debtors at the beginning of the IV century BC, in the popular movement of 342 BC.

The struggle of the plebeians with the patricians

The struggle of the Patricians and plebeians permeates the entire socio-political history of early Rome, in the dramatic clashes of the warring parties, the main institutions of Roman society were formed in the V-IV centuries BC. The main antagonism was manifested in the fact that the Patrician nobility sought to preserve and strengthen their privileged position, based on ancestral traditions and ties, in the disposal of land holdings, cultivated by dependent clients and relatives, political domination in society.

The plebeian demands were reduced to three main points:

  • the admission of plebeians to public land, the restriction of patrician land ownership, the allotment of plebeians with land plots, i.e. the solution of the agrarian question;
  • abolishing debt bondage and limiting debt interest;
  • political equality, i.e. participation in all assemblies and the right to be elected to all public offices.

Since land was the main form of wealth, and agriculture was the main occupation of the population, the agrarian question lay at the heart of all the demands of the plebs.

As in the Greek city-states, in Rome, land could only be owned by full-fledged citizens, so the solution of the land issue was closely linked to the acquisition of civil rights and the plebeians sought primarily political equality.

The struggle of the plebeians with the patricians, which began in the middle of the VI century BC, ended only at the beginning of the III century BC.:

  1. mid-VI century BC -494 BC-from the reform of Servius Tullius to the establishment of the people’s tribunate;
  2. 494-444 BC-from the establishment of the office of tribunes of the people to the laws of Canuleius;
  3. 87 BC-from the movement of Manlius and the laws of Licinius-Sextius to the plebiscite of Hortensius.

First stage

Until the middle of the VI century BC, the plebeians were considered an alien element and were not even trusted to serve in the army. However, the increase in the number of plebeians, on the one hand, and the expansion of military activity, on the other, made it necessary to attract them to the ranks of the militia, which was consolidated by the reforms of Servius Tullius. The plebeians were thus included in the Roman community, became citizens, and received not all rights, but only the right to shed blood for the Roman state.

Second stage

First secessionExe

Execution of Spurius Cassius (according to one of the legends, he was executed by his father). Fresco in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. 1529-1535.

Execution of Spurius Cassius (according to one of the legends, he was executed by his father). Fresco in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. 1529-1535.

At the beginning of the fifth century BC, the plebeians already formed the main part of the Roman army, in which the patricians occupied all the command posts. Backed by a majority of citizen warriors, the plebeians fought for their rights, threatening to withdraw from Rome and found a new city. (Such departures of the plebeians from Rome were called secessions from Lat. secessio-care, removal.) At a time of serious military complications, the Plebeian army presented its demands to the patricians and retired to the Sacred Mountain (a hill located in the vicinity of Rome).

The withdrawal of most of the soldiers from Rome, of course, put the state in a disastrous situation, and the patricians were forced to negotiate with the plebeians, to make concessions. The most important of them was the creation of a new magistracy (office) of the tribunes of the people, who could stop all the decisions of the Patrician magistrates by pronouncing the word veto — “I forbid” (494 BC).

The struggle between the plebeians and the patricians was fierce and bloody. It was held with varying success. If the plebeians wrested from the Patricians the office of tribune of the people, they failed to pass the agrarian laws that were proposed by Spurius Cassius (486 BC). He offered to distribute the lands conquered from the Guernica tribe to the needy plebeians. However, his bill did not pass, he was accused of seeking tsarist power and executed. In 454, at the suggestion of the Tribune of the People, Icilius, the lands on the Aventine (at that time a suburban area of Rome) were divided among the poorest citizens.

Legal proceedings in Italy. Second secession. Law 12 tables

Dramatic events unfolded in the middle of the V century BC. Under pressure from the plebeians, the patricians were forced to create a commission of 10 people (decem viri —ten husbands) to record court decisions. Until now, the officials in Rome had conducted the trial in accordance with customs dating back to the ancestral past and already outdated. In addition, the patrician magistrates were abused in the courts, relying on their interpretation of customary law, which was not published and could not be verified. The Decemvir Commission began drafting written laws. However, in the course of its work, its members began to abuse the unlimited power they received, which caused the indignation of the plebeians and their repeated removal to the Sacred Mountain (449 BC— the so-called second secession). The Patricians again made concessions: a law was established by which every Roman citizen condemned to death could apply for protection to the people’s assembly. At the same time, written laws were published. They were recorded on the XII copper plates and put on display in the central square of Rome — the forum. The “Laws of the XII Tables” had a great influence on the subsequent development of Roman society and law. The old custom, connected with the gentile system, was replaced by written law, which fixed and sanctified private property, slavery, and inequality. Any encroachment on private property was punished, the perpetrators were severely punished and even executed.

The “Laws of the XII Tables” recorded the legal distinction between patricians and plebeians, patrons and clients, freemen and slaves. An important conquest of the Plebeians was the restriction of the loan interest to 1 ounce per 1 pound, or 8 1/3 % per year. However, the patricians managed to include in the text of the laws a number of points that infringe on the rights of the plebeians: their marriages with the patricians were prohibited, and the institution of the clientele was established, which was primarily beneficial to the Patrician families.

Three laws for the plebeians

In the same year 449 BC, the consuls Valerius and Horace passed three more laws in the interests of the plebeians: they confirmed the inviolability of the person of the tribunes of the people, the right of appeal to the people’s assembly of a citizen convicted by a Patrician magistrate to death or corporal punishment, and most importantly, the decisions of the plebeian assemblies received the force of law, binding on the patricians. Five years later (444 BC), the law of Canuleius recognized the legality of the marriages of plebeians with patricians and thus laid the foundations for the merger of the rich plebeian elite with the patricians into one estate.

The important plebeian demand for the highest office was satisfied, but the patricians ensured that the representatives of the plebeians were given the right to be elected not to the post of consuls, but to the post of military tribunes with consular authority. For a number of subsequent years, the consuls were not elected, and at the head of the administration were military tribunes, chosen not only from the patricians, but also from the rich plebeians. In 443 BC, a new magistracy of censors was established, to which only patricians could be elected.

Unrest in Rome. The third stage of the Plebeian-Patrician confrontation

The Laws of Licinius and Sextius

Rome of the 80-60s of the IV century. BC becomes the scene of sharp clashes and dangerous for the patricians unrest enslaved debtors. The first attempt to achieve debt relief was made by Marcus Manlius in the 80s of the fourth century BC; it ended in failure. Marcus Manlius was killed, but the unrest did not stop. According to legend, for 10 years the plebeians, led by the tribunes of the people Sextius and Licinius, continued to fight, and in 367 BC the Patricians were forced to yield. At the suggestion of Licinius and Sextius, very important laws were passed that satisfied the main demands of the plebeians:

  1. Whereas previously the patricians could occupy (occupy) any amount of state land and thereby reduce the land fund for the allotment of plebeians, the Licinius-Sextius law prohibited the occupation of more than 500 hectares (125 hectares) of land.
  2. The debt issue was also partially resolved. The legislators did not go for a complete cancellation (cassation) of debts, but significantly reduced the debt by the following recalculation: the interest paid was deducted from the principal amount of the debt, and the remaining part was paid on preferential terms for three years.
  3. The third law abolished the office of military tribunes with consular authority, and instead they began to elect two consuls, one of whom had to be a plebeian.

The legislation of 367 BC dealt a severe blow to the privileges of the patricians, and in the following time the plebeians quickly achieved new successes. To satisfy the land famine, the small-land Roman citizens began to be removed to colonies founded in different parts of Italy. During the period from 334 to 287 BC, the Romans founded 18 colonies, i.e. more than in all previous history, and the agrarian problem was partially solved.

In 326 BC, the plebeians achieved a very important reform. By the law of the Tribune Petelius, debt bondage for Roman citizens and their families was abolished. From that time on, the Roman citizen was responsible for the debt only with his property. It was now possible to convert mainly prisoners of war into slaves.

The reforms of Appius Claudius

Appius Claudius (presumably). A copy of the first century AD from the original 300 BC Marble. Kept in the Vatican.

Appius Claudius (presumably). A copy of the first century AD from the original 300 BC Marble. Kept in the Vatican.

The reforms of Appius Claudius, the censor of 312, played a major role in the struggle between the Patricians and the plebeians. B.C. He built the first paved road (the famous Appian Way, still preserved), a water supply system, which laid the foundation for the famous Roman roads and aqueducts. He included in the Senate those magistrates whose fathers were freedmen. The supreme governing body of Rome was replenished with new people, whose grandfathers were slaves. Appius Claudius patronized those plebeians who were engaged in crafts and trade, did not have land ownership and did not particularly need it: at his suggestion, Roman citizens who did not have land ownership could vote not only in urban territorial districts, but also in rural ones, i.e. their political influence increased.

In 300 BC, laws were passed that allowed the selection of plebeians in the priestly colleges. Finally, in 287 BC, it was again confirmed that the plebiscites (i.e., the decisions of the plebeian assemblies) are laws binding on all citizens, including the patricians (the law of the dictator Hortensius). The year 287 BC is considered the last year of the long struggle of the plebeians with the Patricians for their political equality.

In the course of the struggle between the plebeians and the patricians, the remnants of the gentile system were eliminated and the new social relations received favorable conditions for their development. From the end of the V century BC, elements of private land ownership began to form, both on the lands of the plebeians and the patricians, and the conditions for its concentration were formed. The abolition of debt bondage contributed to the growing role of foreign slaves and increased the aggressiveness of Roman society, which was increasingly in need of additional labor.

Results of the struggle between the plebeians and the patricians

On the other hand, the satisfaction of the basic demands of the plebeians led to the consolidation of Roman society; the class struggle, which tore and weakened the Roman state from within, fades; in the face of an external enemy at the beginning of the third century BC, Rome appears strong and monolithic, which could not but contribute to its military success. The equalization of the rights of the plebeians with the patricians changed the social structure of Roman society. The patricians and plebeians ceased to be different classes-estates. The upper class of the plebs now united with the patricians and formed a new class-the nobilis (from nobilis — the best, noble), consisting of large slave and landowners, from among whom the senate was replenished and magistrates were elected to public offices.

The well-to-do stratum of Roman citizens, associated with middle-class land ownership, trade, and commerce, formed the equestrian class. All the others were plebs — free peasants, small artisans, and merchants.

State structure of the Roman Republic V-III centuries BC.

Under the tribal system, the state as such did not exist. The state organization differs from the generic one in three features: the presence of a special administrative apparatus (army, courts, officials), the division of the population not by blood relationship, but by territorial basis, as well as taxes collected for the maintenance of the army, officials, etc.

The process of the emergence of the state in Rome was determined by the internal state of Roman society, but it was complicated by an external factor. At the beginning of the VI century BC, the Etruscans seized power in Rome, founded their own dynasty and created an administrative apparatus, which accelerated the process of forming the Roman state proper. The Etruscans organized a monarchical government headed by a king. It was, however, a primitive monarchy, greatly limited in its competence by the popular assembly, first by the curia and then by the centuria.

The republican form of government and its structure

The revolt of the local population of Rome at the end of the VI century (about 510 BC) eliminated the royal power; it was established that the community would henceforth be governed by the elders — magistrates elected every year. In Rome, the republican form of government was established (V-I centuries BC).

People’s Assembly. Types of people’s Assembly

The People’s Assembly was considered the highest state body. It passed or repealed laws, declared war and concluded peace, and was the supreme court that heard appeals and protests against judicial decisions. The People’s Assembly elected all the highest officials, in whose hands the entire executive power was held.

Servius Tullius-6th king of Rome. Image of the 16th century, by Frans Huys, 1522-62.

Servius Tullius-6th king of Rome. Image of the 16th century, by Frans Huys, 1522-62.

In Rome, there were three types of popular assemblies — comitia (from Lat. Before the reforms of Servius Tullius in the middle of the sixth century BC, the people’s assemblies met only in the curia and were called curiate comitia. They were the only kind of people’s assembly. The O naco curia were closed associations of patricians with strong vestiges of tribal administration and did not include plebeians. Servius Tullius, whose role in the design of the Roman state is particularly great, admitted the plebeians to military service and created the so-called centuriate system. Due to the fact that in the V-IV centuries BC. the most important problems of public life were generated by numerous wars, the struggle of the patricians and plebeians, the importance of the curiate comitia fell greatly and the meetings of Roman citizens in the centuries, which included both patricians and plebeians, became crucial in state life.

The centuriate comitii were assembled by the highest officials — the consuls — outside the city limits of Rome, on the Field of Mars (Mars is the god of war). All Roman citizens put up 193 centuries, of which the richest — the first class — 98 centuries, i.e. more than half. The vote was held in centurions, each with one vote. Votes were cast according to a strictly routine procedure: first the first-class centuries, then the second, third, and so on. If more than 50% of the centurions voted for the proposal, the vote was stopped, and the proposal became law. Under this voting system, all questions were decided by the 98 centurions of the first class, i.e., the richest part of Roman citizenship. The oligarchic nature of the centuriate assemblies aroused the discontent of a wide section of Roman citizens; they fought for the democratization of the centuriate comitia and the fair representation of the centurias. In the second half of the third century BC, a democratic reform of the centuriate comitia was carried out. Previously, each class fielded a different number of centuries and, therefore, had a different number of votes, now each of the five classes fielded an even number of centuries — 70, and in total in Rome there were 373 centuries (5 classes of 70 = 350 + 18 centuries of horsemen + 5 centuries of artisans and proletarians).


View of the Appian Way

View of the Appian Way

In the process of the struggle between the plebeians and the patricians, the assemblies of the plebeians in the territorial districts — tribes (the Roman territory was divided into 35 territorial districts —tribes, 4 urban and 31 rural) became important for the state. Originally, the tribunate assemblies were composed entirely of plebeians, and met in opposition to the purely patrician curia assemblies. The increasing political importance of the plebeians led to the growth of the state authority of the tribune plebeian assemblies. According to the laws of 449, and then 287, the decisions of the tribunate plebeian comitia were recognized as a law, binding on the patricians as well. The patricians also began to take part in the tributary comitia, and this type of national assembly by the second century BC became the main and decisive in the state. The tributary comitia, connected by their origin with the meetings of the plebeian masses, were distinguished from the very beginning by their democratic character. All 35 tribes, regardless of the composition of the population, had one vote and enjoyed the same rights. The democratic character of the tributary comitia was strengthened after the reforms of Appius Claudius (late fourth century), according to which artisans and merchants, always more mobile and restless people, could be assigned not only to the four urban tribes, but also to the other rural tribes, and thus exert their influence on the wider population.

Despite the well-known democratisation of the Roman popular assemblies and their wide competence, even the most democratic tribune comitia turned out to be an instrument in the hands of the aristocracy. The People’s Assembly discussed only the issues introduced by the magistrates and previously discussed in the Senate, i.e. it did not have the right to initiate legislation. In Rome, there were several types of popular assemblies: curiate, centuriate, and tributary comitia. Their functions were not clearly delineated, which was used for their own purposes by the ruling elite of Rome, represented by the Senate and magistrates.

The Senate

In the state life of Rome, the Senate played a very important role. No bill was submitted to the National Assembly for consideration unless it was first discussed by the Senate. Moreover, a law passed at the People’s Assembly became law only after it was approved by the Senate. The Senate thus controlled and directed the activities of the People’s Assembly in the direction it needed. The elected magistrates were accountable to the Senate for their actions, and thus were entirely dependent on its will. From the IV century BC. The composition of the Senate began to be replenished from the magistrates who had served their term, who, after resigning their powers, were included in the Senate list. This list was kept by a special magistrate-censor in a strictly hierarchical order. First came the names of the former censors, then the consuls, then the praetors, and so on. Only the highest magistrates could convene the Senate: the dictator, the consuls, the praetors. When discussing issues and voting, opinions and votes were submitted strictly according to the list. The decision was called the senatus consultum, or decree. The Senate was a stronghold of the Roman oligarchy.

State bodies of the Roman Republic III-II centuries BC

State bodies of the Roman Republic III-II centuries BC

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In Rome, there was no permanent official apparatus, all executive power belonged to elected officials-magistrates. Such magistrates were consuls, praetors, aediles, quaestors, who were elected for one year. The elections took place 3 to 4 months before the new magistrates took office. The system of Roman republican magistracies did not develop immediately after the expulsion of the last king, but was created gradually. It is assumed that in the first years of the Republic, the head of the executive power was

  • one supreme magistrate (official) – praetor (leading the way),
  • who was assisted by a deputy-quaestor.

After the first departure of the plebeians to the Sacred Mountain, the posts of tribunes of the people and plebeian aediles, their assistants, were created. However, the existence of the sole head of the executive power in the person of the praetor seemed dangerous, as it created the possibility of seizing power on his part and returning the hated monarchy. Therefore, in the middle of the fifth century, instead of one supreme magistrate, they began to choose two who enjoyed the same power and ruled together. They had to consult with each other and were called consuls (from consulo — confer). Later, new positions of censors were created, elected by 2 people once every five years for 18 months. The censors were chosen from former consuls. They were to divide the Roman citizens into property classes and, after checking, draw up a new list of senators. The praetors were given the judicial power. The complete system of Roman magistracies was formed only by the second half of the IV century BC.

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Under the Roman Constitution, all magistracies were collegiate (2 consuls, 2 praetors, 4 aediles, 10 tribunes of the people, 4 quaestors), re-elected annually and unpaid. Performing the duties of a magistrate was not considered a job, but an honor (honor) and therefore was gratuitous. The lack of remuneration made it impossible for ordinary Roman citizens to hold magistracy positions. On the contrary, for the election and administration of public office, it was necessary to spend a lot of their own money on the maintenance of a staff of scribes, heralds, guards, lower employees, etc. D., since there was no permanent state apparatus. Therefore, only a rich person could be elected as a magistrate. During the administration of the office, the magistrate could not be prosecuted or removed. The highest magistrates were censors, consuls, and praetors. The consuls commanded the army, exercised the highest civil authority, while the praetors exercised the judicial power. The tribunes of the People had the right of “veto” over the decisions of the magistrates, could introduce bills, convene tribune committees, and even had the right to arrest the magistrate and challenge the decision of the Senate. The person of the tribune of the people was recognized as sacred and inviolable (sacrosan ctus). Anyone who insulted the tribune-even with words-was liable to death. The power of the people’s tribune was very great, but there were 10 of them, and they could turn their power against each other, for example, using the right of “veto”, and thus neutralize the actions of their colleagues. In addition, the power of the tribune was limited only to the city of Rome.

The duties of the Aediles were the supervision of order in the city, the urban improvement, the care of food, the organization of public games. The quaestors were in charge of the treasury, kept financial books, accompanied the consuls on military campaigns, and managed the sale of prisoners and spoils of war.

In the event of an emergency (a difficult war, dangerous uprisings, or the departure of the plebeians from Rome), a sole dictator (dictator) and his deputy, the so-called chief of cavalry (magister eguitum), were appointed, to whom all officials were subordinate, but the dictator could not remain in power for more than 6 months.

The magistrates and the Senate enjoyed virtually all the full power of the state in the Roman Republic, which received a pronounced aristocratic character.

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