Comparing the Res Publica (Roman Republic) to the US Government

Everyone learned that in the 1630’s, the Puritans bravely sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in search of freedoms they lacked in England beneath the overbearing rule of King Charles II. We know these patriotic Americans fought and won in the Revolutionary War against Great Britain in 1775, creating a need for a new government to monitor the young country. Then, we are told that the Founding Fathers, a group of brilliant, old, white men, went into a room, and when they came out, they had produced the Constitution- a document that would flawlessly govern the country for the next thousand years. What we aren’t told is that this ingenious Constitution, centered around the idea of separation of powers and democracy, was actually developed and utilized by the Romans more than two thousand years prior in 509 BCE. When a group of Roman noblemen overthrew King Lucius Tarquinius Suberbus after his son raped Lucretia, a highly respected, married Roman noblewoman, they replaced their government with a republic, known as the “Res Publica,” meaning “a public affair.” In the legislative branch, Rome instated senators, just like the Senate of the US Congress, and both groups have the duty of passing laws. However, unlike the US senators who serve for only six years, the Roman senators served for life. Along with the senate, the Centuriate Assembly, which is made up of commoners, is also tasked with enacting laws as well as voting on whether to go to war and appointing government officials. In the judicial branch, the Roman Republic elected six judges every two years to decide the degree of punishments to assign criminals just as the US District, State, and Supreme Courts would. Finally, the executive role was held by the two Roman consuls, who decided on laws, when to go to war, and monitored tax collection, like the US president.

Although both governments share a seemingly identical division of power, the Roman Republic has a key difference. It gives the senators and consuls the ability to appoint a temporary dictator during crises in order to make quick and impactful decisions. The dictator is given unrestricted power, complete control over the military, and does need any approval before making a decision. This powerful role, along with issues including economic problems, government corruption, increased crime rates, and the rise of a powerful leader all contributed to the fall of the Roman Republic in 27 BCE. Experiencing identical issues, the United States government is currently facing political instability across the entire nation. In the case of the Romans, this powerful leader, who rose from the role of dictator, named himself emperor, and replaced the republic, was Julius Caesar. In the United States, Donald Trump represents this influential leader, for he is gaining popularity and is followed by a violent anti-government group. Is the fall of the Roman Republic as a result of Caesar’s rise foreshadowing the fate of our own country, which is built on a similar governmental system?

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