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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
IV. THE RISE OF ROME TO 264 B.C.
» Contents of this ChapterPage 14
THE ROMAN CITY-STATE
EARLY ROMAN GOVERNMENT
We find in early Rome, as in Homeric Greece, a city-state with its king, council, and assembly. The king was the father of his people, having over them the same absolute authority that the house-father held within the family. The king was assisted by a council of elders, or Senate (Latin senes, "old men"). Its members were chosen by the king and held office for life. The most influential heads of families belonged to the Senate. The common people at first took little part in the government, for it was only on rare occasions that the king summoned them to deliberate with him in an assembly.
THE REPUBLICAN CONSULS
Toward the close of the sixth century, as we have already learned, the ancient monarchy disappeared from Rome. In place of the lifelong king two magistrates, named consuls, were elected every year. Each consul had to share his honor and authority with a colleague who enjoyed the same power as himself. Unless both agreed, there could be no action. Like the Spartan kings, the consuls served as checks, the one on the other. Neither could safely use his position to aim at unlawful rule.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy