Lecture 21: Etruscans, Early Rome

Words for Board: Etruscan, Patrician, Plebeians, Consuls, Senate, Assembly of the Centuries, Assembly of Tribes, Tribunes, Veto

Picture of Etruscan Figure The Romans are coming!! But first let's go back to the beginning and pick them up like we did the other big powers. They were located on Italy. There was a spine of mountains through Italy but they weren't tough and they didn't split up the country like had happened with the Greeks. The soil of Italy was much better than Greece and encouraged farming which leads to a higher food production and higher population. (The Greeks had to fish for food and send out their people to colonies.)

The Romans came down form the north about 2000 BC. They had to go over the Alps but there are some easy mountain passages in the Alps. These barbarians leaked down and settled around the Tiber River which is in the middle of Italy. The Etruscans were already living there. Etruscans are mystery people cuz we don't know where they came from. They were similar to Greeks in looks, but they don't speak any dialect of Greek. The Romans were under Etruscan rule. Etruscans ruled with kings. About 509 BC (10 years before Myletus pulled out of the Persian Empire and was beginning the Persian Wars), there was a little civil war by the Romans and they overthrew the Etruscan kings. After that they had a great fear of somebody becoming king cuz they said they were treated so badly under the Etruscans.

There were 2 social classes of Rome–upper and lower. The upper were called Patricians (similar to the Greek Eupatrids). In the beginning, the Patricians could trace their ancestry to one of the overthrowers of the Etruscan kings in 509 BC. That made them happy until they ran into the Greek who could trace theirs back to a union with a god. The Romans got an inferiority complex so they made up a whole new legend so they could trace their history back farther. The Patricians dominated society, set up the government, owned the land, etc. The lower class was called the Plebeians. They tried to look and act like the Patricians. They were treated very badly in the early days. In 490 BC, the lower class went on strike against the city of Rome (which wasn't much more than a mud hut village at the time). The Plebeians went out and sat on a hill and said they wouldn't come back til they got better treatment. The Patricians realized they needed the Plebes to have somebody to be better than, so they sent out their negotiating teams. The Plebes would only come back if they got their own government to take care of them, and the Patricians agreed.

So, there were 2 separate governments of Romans. The Consuls were at the top. There were always two who were elected for a term of one year. They shouldn't run for term two years in a row but could run more than once. They had to be a Patrician. They carried out the laws and led the army during war. The Roman Senate was not like the U.S. Senate of today. Senators were not elected. You become a Senator by graduating into a club. All the ex-consuls and ex-high officials were senators. You were in the group for life unless expelled for morals charges. They didn't pass laws. What did they do? They gave advice. That doesn't sound like much, but remember that all the ex-political biggies were in that group and they were supposed to know what they were doing. They were especially listened to when it came to foreign policy and money. They were very conservative.

The upper class had the Assembly of the Centuries. Before the strike, this was the only governing body. The Roman army had just thrown out the Etruscans and needed a government. The new government was based on the army units of a Century (100 men) and each Century had one vote. Majority won. There were 375 Centuries at first and it was fair in the beginning. But Rome was picking up lots of people and extra territory all the time. What do you do with the extra people? You either add new Centuries or stuff the new guys into the 375 Centuries that already existed. That's what they did–stuffed the new guys in. You had to be in Rome to vote. But the upper class screwed up the units (they gerrymandered them–that is arranged them for a political power advantage). They would add new guys to one unit which still only got one vote and eventually some units would have very few guys of upper class which also had one vote. The upper class got the majority of centuries so they passed laws and elected the consuls to enforce their laws. The lower class was getting screwed, which is why they went on strike.

After the strike, there was a 2nd government set up: the Assembly of Tribes. The Romans had come down in tribal units which was something inherited and couldn't be screwed up. Their votes showed the real majority of the population. They elected 10 Tribunes for a one-year term and they couldn't succeed themselves the next year. The Tribunes were sacrosanct (sacred) and inviolable while they were in office. That is, nobody could get them while they were in office for crimes, etc. The Tribunes had the special power of Veto ("I forbid"). Any of the 10 Tribunes could stop discussion on a law for a year. All 10 had to agree before any law could be passed by either house. Both governments passed laws for all the people. The Roman Republican government was very clumsy and could come to an absolute halt if everybody didn't agree. The Assembly of Tribes served as a break on the upper class.