Following the defeat of the Etruscans, Rome was ruled by a Senate which was composed of elected officials from the patrician class (that is wealthy landowners and nobility). They chose 2 Consuls who led the Senate and held the position for 1 year; in all but name they were kings as they had more power than other senators and ruled the army, decided what was to be debated in the Senate, served as chief priests and headed the judiciary.
However, the power of the consuls was limited in that they only served for 1 year and had to return to the Senate after that term expired so they were careful to keep in tune with Senate feelings. The government in Rome, then, tended to be conservative and rarely extravagent.
In 494 BCE the city went to war against two neighbouring tribes. The plebeian (middle and working class) soldiers refused to fight unless they were given a degree of power in the new republic. This led to the election of tribunes from the plebeian class; initially they could only veto laws passed in the Senate but later on they held real power and could pass laws.
As time passed, the tribunes and the Senate grew increasingly close; the Senate needed the tribunes to pass laws and the tribunes felt obligated to the Senate. Eventually the plebeians and the patricians achieved political equality; however in reality a few plebeian families acheived similar standing to the patricians but remained uninterested in the average poor plebeian family.
During the 2nd century BCE the economic situation for many plebeian families reached crisis point. Many farms were sold (with the rich patricians buying them up) and unemployed plebeians flocked to Rome. This led to more plebeians voting in the assemblies and thus politics became much more popularist. Votes were given to those who could do the most for the average plebeian.
The history of politics in the Roman Republic was one of power struggles between the patricians and plebeians known as the struggle of the orders.
During the last 3 centuries of the Republic, Rome became the capital city of a vast expanse of territory acquired piecemeal through conquest and diplomacy.
The difficulties of governing an ever-expanding empire involving a major military commitment, and the widening gulf between those citizens who profited from Rome's new wealth and those who were impoverished, generated social breakdown, political turmoil, and the eventual collapse of the Republic.
Rome experienced a long and bloody series of civil wars, political crises, and civil disturbances that culminated with the dictatorship of Julius Caesar and his assassination on 15th March 44 BCE.
After Caesar's death, the task of reforming the Roman state and restoring peace and stability fell to his grandnephew, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus who was eighteen years old when he took over, wiping out all opposition to his complete control and leading the way to the Roman Empire.
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