The Roman Republic

The Latin words res publica which mean 'commonwealth' or 'state' is the source of today's term 'republic'.
Rome was never a democracy as we would understand it today, nor as the Greeks understood it. For Roman society and the power within it was firmly divided by class.
Most obviously, there was a division between the free and the enslaved. But the free Romans were further divided. If they were free from birth or had been released from slavery, if they were Roman citizens or Latins, if answerably to a guardian, etc...
The early Republic was solely ruled by the two upper classes, the senators, who qualified by birth and wealth, or the equestrians or knights. The latter were the second most wealthy group in Roman society. Their name stems from the fact that they were supplied, by public expense, with a horse when required for military duty.
The change from Monarchy to Republic was a gradual one. What was the King's main function, including the waging of war, was then taken care of by two consuls (initially called magistrates) of equal rank, elected for one year.
It was Lucius Valerius Publicola who decreed that the lictors, the bearers of the fasces(see Kings) were to march in front of each consul on alternate months, so that there was not to be more symbols of power under the Republic than under the Kings.


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