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Old December 25th, 2012, 09:02 PM   #1
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Monarchy within the Republic


One way to view the republican government of Rome is as an elected, shared monarchy. The 2 consuls had virtually monarchical power, however, were restrained by the following:
1) the 2 could veto each other
2) their term was fixed at 1 year
3) they were imune to prosecution while in office, but could be prosecuted after their term was complete.

One problem faced by democracies and republics around the world today is the gridlock caused by the inability of presidents and prime ministers to lead because of gridlock imposed by unwieldy legislatures.

Do you think modern democracies and republics could operate under a system similar to that of the Roman Republic?
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Old December 25th, 2012, 11:57 PM   #2

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Consuls duties were to carry out decrees of the senate not to act on whim, if they wanted to create a new policy they still had to get senate to pass it and even if they did the tribunes could veto it.
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Old December 26th, 2012, 06:24 AM   #3
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Consuls duties were to carry out decrees of the senate not to act on whim, if they wanted to create a new policy they still had to get senate to pass it and even if they did the tribunes could veto it.
My understanding is just the oposite. The Senate acted as an advisory group, while the consuls acted as monarchs. In fact, the senators were not elected officials. The Tribunes, as you say, also had veto power.
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Old December 26th, 2012, 07:14 AM   #4

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From my understanding, there is the possibility a consul could pursue their own agenda but in reality they were in fact senators, so believed in the senate and the intended jobs was for them to enact senate policy, not to abuse the position. Also they had to go back to the senate when they had finished their consulship so didn't really want to alienate themselves for the rest of their lives or even spoil their chances of a second consulship in a decade or so's time. Being a consul was also a great honour, not just for them but their descendants, families gained kudos for centuries for having a consul as an ancestor, so they wanted to be remembered as a good one. Finally the Romans had that little law that it was legal to murder any Roman who tried to make himself king.

Many consuls formed working parties of senators. rather like cabinet committees and these senators would be responsible for individual administrative areas, such as grain supply or land allocation policy. In many ways Rome mirrors modern government with a senate/parliament, cabinet of senators/ministers and 2 consuls/coalition prime ministers.

Of course this idealised system broke down in the final century of the republic when the consuls (and everyone else) started abusing power.
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Old January 13th, 2013, 06:39 PM   #5

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During a crisis, the Roman government would appoint a dictator to temporarily rule Rome. If that was the case today, countries would never get rid of the dictators.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 12:35 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Athena's Owl View Post
One way to view the republican government of Rome is as an elected, shared monarchy. The 2 consuls had virtually monarchical power, however, were restrained by the following:
1) the 2 could veto each other
2) their term was fixed at 1 year
3) they were imune to prosecution while in office, but could be prosecuted after their term was complete.

One problem faced by democracies and republics around the world today is the gridlock caused by the inability of presidents and prime ministers to lead because of gridlock imposed by unwieldy legislatures.

Do you think modern democracies and republics could operate under a system similar to that of the Roman Republic?
Modern democracies are not democracies firsts of all, they all are republics and they have very little in common with Athenian democratic constitution. If they have something in common at all which I doubt.

And second of all those republics do operate under system directly based on Roman one.

So how much more "Roman" you want their constitutions to be?

Last edited by arras; January 14th, 2013 at 12:48 AM.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 12:43 AM   #7
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My understanding is just the oposite. The Senate acted as an advisory group, while the consuls acted as monarchs. In fact, the senators were not elected officials. The Tribunes, as you say, also had veto power.
Main legislative body were Roman assemblies. There were several of them. Senate indeed was advisory organ in theory but in reality it was only one who could propose legislation ...which then had to be ratified by assembly. Senate also had powers in what you may call "foreign relations". If I remember right, it was Senate which declared wars for example.

As for consuls, they were executive institution with some judicial powers. Executive and judicial powers tended not to be separated in Roman constitution. They were by no means independent, they had to act according to legislation made by senate and ratified in assemblies.

Last edited by arras; January 14th, 2013 at 12:51 AM.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 01:00 AM   #8
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During a crisis, the Roman government would appoint a dictator to temporarily rule Rome. If that was the case today, countries would never get rid of the dictators.
If I remember right, dictator was appointed for period after which he automatically lost his powers.

While modern republics do not have separate institution similar to dictator, in times of war or crisis, government or president usually get some extra powers.
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Old January 14th, 2013, 01:14 AM   #9
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Little Dictionary of Roman Institutions

Look especially at Appendix K: D i v i s i o n o f P o w e r s in the Republic
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Old January 14th, 2013, 01:33 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Athena's Owl View Post
One way to view the republican government of Rome is as an elected, shared monarchy. The 2 consuls had virtually monarchical power, however, were restrained by the following:
1) the 2 could veto each other
2) their term was fixed at 1 year
3) they were imune to prosecution while in office, but could be prosecuted after their term was complete.

One problem faced by democracies and republics around the world today is the gridlock caused by the inability of presidents and prime ministers to lead because of gridlock imposed by unwieldy legislatures.

Do you think modern democracies and republics could operate under a system similar to that of the Roman Republic?
Not a monarchy at all. A bi-archy possibly, but the temporary nature of command rather rules that out since the consuls were elected under a different semi-democratic system. In any case, don't forget that republican Rome also incuded a post of Dictator, a short term office (6 months or until the problem was sorted) with absolute authority to be assigned in times of emergency. It was after all the award of Dictator-for-life to Julius Caesar that set the precedent for the autocratic Caesars that followed, as Suetonius observes himself, and not until Commodus was it said that a Caesar had been 'born to the purple'.

Could the Roman election system work today? Yes, in theory, but realise that the Romans introduced power sharing to avoid the natural tendency of ambitious individuals to become tyrants once in power (they want to be in charge - that's why they pushed themselves to the fore in the first place). Today is no different. Politicians aren't asking for your vote to make their decisions for them. That's why referendums are such contested issues in democracies. There's nothing worse for a politician than to take orders from the public.
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