Roman social and political structures | World History | Khan Academy

Roman social and political structures | World History | Khan Academy



talk a little bit about the social and political structures of ancient Rome and it's important to keep in mind that ancient Rome wasn't just the static thing that never changed it existed for over a thousand years from its period from its founding as a kingdom if you believe the founding myth found the founding myth founded by Romulus in 753 BC II most historians don't accept that founding myth but then it became they overthrew their last king in 509 BCE Tarkin the proud and then they established the Roman Republic which was eventually then turned into an empire by Julius Caesar and Augustus and so whenever you have something this long-lasting you could imagine the social and the political structures evolved over time but let's begin with the period when it was a kingdom because even then there were some things that were noteworthy and some social and political structures that continued on into the Republic period and even when it was an empire so one interesting thing is that when we typically think of Kings we think of it as being dynastic that if I am king then my oldest son or maybe in certain cultures my oldest daughter might become king or queen but it turns out that many of the especially the early kings of the Roman Kingdom were actually elected they had a lot of power all the power resided in them they were the executive the legislative they were the judicial they even had religious power but it's interesting to think of the idea of elected Kings now all of them weren't elected several of them were dynastic but it is an interesting idea now another idea that emerged during the Roman Kingdom is this idea of citizenship now it's important to realize today in a lot of countries we think of Oh everyone who's who's a formal resident of that country you can view them as a citizen or most of the people you can think of citizen especially maybe people born in a country but that was not the case in Rome and when we go into this Roman Kingdom I'll remind and I do this in many videos we're not thinking about this sprawling Roman Empire that we'll see several hundred years later at that time Rome was really just in control of Rome and over time especially during the Republic period it starts to expand and eventually have hegemony or dominant power over the Mediterranean and in the Middle East and or parts of the Middle East I should say and in southern and in southern Europe but let's go back to this Kingdom period and this what I'm about to draw actually stays true through true through most of Roman civilization if this white circle are the people who lived under Roman rule only a subset were citizens so this were the citizens these were male landowners citizens right over here and within the citizens that were further divided between patricians patricians and you could think of them as the nobility these were people and they became patrician based on what family they were born into and it's based on this idea and the word literally comes from this idea that you are descended from the founding fathers of Rome and then all the other citizens were the plebeians so all of the other ones were the plea plebeians right over here and as we'll see over the the patricians held most of the power and most of the wealth for a significant amount of time but as we go through the Republic period the plebeians start to gain more and more and more power and many plebeians also start to accrue wealth and some patrician families do end up poor but for the most part the patricians there the nobility they're associated with the aristocracy but the plebeians some of them become wealthy and powerful as well now you're probably saying what about all of these other people well you can imagine non land hold holding males you could imagine women you can imagine slaves and even though we aggrandize Rome and there were many very interesting things about Rome one of the legacies that Rome had which maybe is the history historians reflect a little bit more negatively on is that Roman society was built on the idea of slaves and most of the slaves were people that they said you know subjected subjugated people that they conquered in other lands they might have been people who at least the authorities thought they committed a crime of some kind but the society was built on slavery so you had a large segment of the population that wasn't had no had no rights that were considered slaves later on they start to gain some very very basic rudimentary rights but you could imagine as a slave no close to no rights whatsoever now other institutions that developed during the time of the Roman Kingdom or an institution that developed at the time of the Roman Kingdom was the Senate was the Roman Senate and under the king the King had most of the power but once the Roman Republic gets established it's actually the Senate where most of the power resides now this right over here is a depiction that came much later of the Roman Senate it's important to realize that the Senate was not the only institution or the only position within the Roman Republic the consuls were there and you could view the consuls as the executives or if you think of a system like the United States the executive power resides in the president so it's analogous to the president they have they are running the government they're also commander-in-chief of the military now consuls even though it was considered a very high title their power was very limited there was two of them at any given time so I just drew the two consuls they could veto each other at any given time to keep anyone consul from getting too powerful and they only had a one year term and during that one year they would alternate on a monthly basis on who was the more senior consul so you could imagine the scene look at the the consuls were limited in many many many ways and even though the Senate officially was supposed to advise the consuls in practice what the Senate's total the consuls to do the consuls actually did so another question is well who gets to be a consul and who gets to be a Senate well in the early days the Senate was mainly or was patrician and over time as you have as plebeian start to exert more and more power especially as we go into the mid and later republic Roman Republic you start to have more wealthy plebeians in the Senate but in general the Senate is composed of the aristocracy so wealthy wealthy and influential men of Rome are in the Senate how are they selected for the Senate well in the early days it was actually the consuls who selected the senators later on or shortly thereafter and for most of the Republic period of Rome it was a position called the sense or that that decided who got to actually serve in the Senate now another question you might say well who's deciding who gets to be a consul who gets to be a censor and there's many other of these executive positions that are generally called magistrates and that came from one of the Assemblies of the Roman Republic in particular the Centurion assembly center it century it assembly which elected consuls the senior executives the senior magistrates is one way that you could think about it they elected them and who who was in the century assembly and why did we they call it the Centurion assembly well it started off as a as a citizen soldiers being grouped into groups of a hundred and on a particular issue including who should be elected council this group of 100 would vote whatever the majority would be then their representative to the assembly would vote that way so they wouldn't just select a representative and that representative could do anything they want they would tell that representative how to vote but that's why it was called the century assembly because you had these groups of 100 and a lot of their power was in electing these consoles and these other senior magistrates but that wasn't the only assembly you also had the tribunal assembly this is breaking up the Roman population the Roman citizens citizens citizenry by tribe and this can they this had both plebeians and patricians in it so this is the tribunal Assembly you also have the plebeian council this was only this was only plebeians you also have the plebeian council and even though all of these in the evolved over time over time the plebeian started to get more and more power the general idea especially Oh during the Roman Republic is that the Senate is where the important debates on foreign policy happened the important debates on what Rome should become as an as a society as a republic and eventually as an empire

22 thoughts on “Roman social and political structures | World History | Khan Academy

  1. Thanks for gathering the info yet again you are the best at telling the history and the facts of the past

  2. The Senate did not have the legislative function (it had only consulative or administrative function – power to consult, power to enact budget, but later it gained senatus consultum ultimum etc.). The true normative power resided in the assemblies of people – in the comitia which were the responsible not only for issuing concrete acts with certain content such as electing magistrates (executive act) or rendering judgements (judicial act), but also for enacting laws (legislative function) in the form of leges (comitia centuriata/tributa) or plebiscita (plebian council). Even though the Senate did not have the legislative power (laws), it had certain administrative and executive powers. Compare for example the Senatus Romanus with the Congress/Senate of the USA or UK Parliament. Difference is that the Senatus Romanus is not legislative but consultative institution, unlike the USA and UK and other "modern representative" countries. Unlike these modern countries, Romans exercised legislative function (sovereignity) directly (direct way is the only way – because if you are being "represented" you no longer have that power – "representation" also is not a proper word to describe the non existent legal relation between a voter and elected before and after the election) by enacting laws.

  3. It's ironic that the Roman Kingdom was more of democracy than the Roman empire and the Empire more of a monarchy. Good video!

  4. Why "BCE" instead of BC? Why "CE" instead of AD? I am 50 years (with a degree in criminal justice) old and never seen these acronyms used until I came to your channel. In recent years I have researched and studied early American history with old and new history books. Is this something new that academia is using?

  5. This is a fantastic video! I see elements of the modern day "Electoral College" and the "Political Elite" reflected in this structure. We're basically repeating parts of history albeit with different names and slightly different compositions.

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