The Roman Gazette

The Early Republic of Rome

Etruscan King Comes to Power

Around 600 B.C., an Etruscan became king of Rome. In the decades that followed, Rome grew from a collection of hilltop villages to a city that covered nearly 500 square miles. Various kings ordered the construction of Rome's first temples and public centers --the most famous of which was the Forum, the heart of Roman political life.

The last king of Rome was Tarquin the Proud. A harsh tyrant, he was driven from power in 509 B.C. The Romans declared they would never again be ruled by a king. Instead, they established a republic, from the Latin phrase res publica, which means "public affairs". A republic is a form of government in which power rests with the citizens who have the right to vote for their leaders. In Rome, citizenship with voting rights was granted only to free-born male citizens.

Life in the Early Republic

Government and the Roman Army

In the first century B.C., Roman writers boasted that Rome had achieved a balanced government, meaning that their government had taken the best features of a monarchy, an aristocracy, and a democracy. Rome had two officials called consuls, and the senate was the aristocratic branch of Rome's government. In times of crisis, the republic could appoint a dictator.

The Romans placed great value on their military, all citizens who owned land were required to serve in the army. Roman soldiers were organized into large military units called legions, each legion is made up of 5,000 heavily armed foot soldiers (infantry). A group of soldiers on horseback (cavalry) supported each legion.