2.5 The Dawn of Rome

AGE 2. The Time of Greeks and Romans
2.5 The Dawn of Rome

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AGE 2. The Time of Greeks and Romans
2.5 The Dawn of Rome

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Introducing the Romans
The Greeks had a very advanced civilisation. From the 5th century BC Greek culture and science flourished. Alexander the Great spread this culture in the Middle East in the 4th century BC.
But while Alexander was fighting his war in Persia, a new 
power arose west of Greece, in Italy : Rome.
Rome started as a small city state in 753 BC, but gradually the Romans took over the whole of Italy.
In 146 BC the Romans conquered Greece. They were impressed by what the Greeks had achieved. The Romans wanted to be like the Greeks. They copied their culture and spread it further across Europe, including the Netherlands. That is how our region became part of the Greek-Roman civilisation.

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What you can explain /  do after this lesson
  •  who the founders of Rome were
  • how Rome changed from a monarchy into a republic
  • How the republic was ruled
  • what plebeians and patricians were.

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Word Duty

Senate: group of wise, old men that advised the king. Made laws in the Republic.
Tyranny:  government in which the ruler is cruel, unjust and oppressive.
Republic: form of government without a king
Consul: head of the senate in the Republic, had the right to command armies
Patricians: ruling class in Rome. 
Plebeians: non-patrician people of Rome
Plebeian assembly: assembly of only plebeians. Made laws and elected 10 people’s tribunes
People’s tribune: official that was elected by the plebeian assembly to protect normal people. Had veto powers
Veto: literally means I forbid. Still the word used for the right to stop a law or decision


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Important dates in this lesson:

753 BC: founding of Rome. Romulus becomes the first king.
509 BC: Rome becomes a republic.

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This is the center of Rome, known as the "Forum Romanum". You can see ruins of temples and palaces.
But 2000 years ago, this place was the center of the world, the center of the Roman Empire.
Look at the video to get an impression what this place looked like 20 centuries ago....
25 seconds into the video you can see this building: a triumphal arch.

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The founding of Rome

You may have seen this famous sculpture before.
Today it is in a museum in Rome. It is very important to the people of Rome because this sculpture tells them about the beginning of their city.

According to legend, Rome was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, who were the sons of the god Mars.

This bronze sculpture of the wolf that rescued Romulus and Remus was made in about 500BC. The babies were added in the AD1400s.
To find and to found
That can be confusing, 

to find = vinden
you find = jij vindt (present)
you found = jij vond (past)

to found = stichten
you found = jij sticht (present)
you founded = jij stichtte (past)

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The legend of Romulus and Remus                                                            Read, or listen            or both.......

There was once a pair of twin brothers called Romulus and Remus. Their mother was Rhea Silvia, the daughter of King Numitor, and their father was Mars, the God of War.
King Numitor had a brother, Amulius, who wanted to be king so much that he took the throne for himself. He was so desperate to keep his position as king that he had tried to stop Rhea Silvia from having any children of her own because they might try to take back the throne.
When Romulus and Remus were born to Rhea Silvia, Amulius was shocked and very angry. In his rage, he put the twin boys into a basket and threw them into the river Tiber. He wanted nothing more to do with them.
After the two boys had floated down the river in their basket, they were rescued by a mother wolf. She cared for the boys as if they were her own wolf babies and she fed them with her own milk.
Once Romulus and Remus got bigger, they were taken home by a shepherd called Faustulus. He and his wife looked after them in his home until they were adults. One day, Romulus and Remus discovered who they really were and made a plan to kill Amulius and reclaim the throne for their own family.
Once they had carried out their plan and made their grandfather king instead, they decided to build a city of their own. They disagreed about where to build it. Romulus thought that they should build it on the Palatine Hill, but Remus wanted to use the Aventine Hill. They each began to build their own walled city.
One day, Remus paid Romulus a visit. Remus mocked Romulus’s city and its low walls. Romulus became so infuriated that he killed Remus instantly, declaring that he would kill any person who ever made fun of his city, which he called Rome. He continued to build up his city and officially made himself king in 753 BC.



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Early Rome: the monarchy

Rome was built on seven hills, close to the River Tiber.  Many ancient cities were built on hilltops, making them easier to defend. They were also built near a river, on which traders could sail with their merchant ships to bring food and other products to the city.
Gradually, Rome grew into a city-state.

At first Rome was run by a king, so it was a monarchy. The king made life and death decisions when he judged criminals. He also led the army and created laws. The king was advised by a group of wise old men, known as the senate. Senate comes from the Latin word senex, old man. 

When Rome was a monarchy, the city was still very small. 600 years later Rome would have more than a million inhabitants...
Romulus was the founder of Rome and also its first king. After Romulus, six more kings would rule Rome. All that time Rome was a monarchy.
Even a king can't do everything by himself. The Roman kings were advised by a group of rich, older men: the senators.
The assembly where they met to discuss politics was called the senate
But in the end it was the king who could make all the decisions himself.

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From monarchy to republic

After Romulus there were other kings, some were good, some were bad.  One king, Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud), became a tyrant. He had no respect for Roman traditions and soon the Roman senators made a plan to get rid of him. In 509 BC a man named Brutus led a group of senators against Tarquinius. They succeeded and the king was sent away from Rome. The Romans welcomed this as the end of tyranny.
And so Rome vowed never to have a king again. Instead they became a republic. 

A republic is a state without a monarch (king). 
The Roman republic was ruled by the senate, but the people too had a say through assemblies and elections.
As most of the power was in the hands of the rich senators, you can say that the Roman republic was more aristocratic than democratic.

The Republic of Rome was often shown in Latin as the abbreviation SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanorum – the senate and people of Rome) as was shown on the military standards.
the assembly of the senate in Rome. The senators, dressed in white togas with a purple edge,  discuss the politics of the republic. 

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The people of Rome

Even during the monarchy, ordinary Romans had a say. They did not have as much as the powerful nobles, of course, who formed a ruling class, known as the patricians. The patrician families owned most land, held many political offices and nearly all senators came from their class. All others were plebeians. They did not have much power and were afraid that the patricians might dominate them. So the Romans had an assembly just for the plebeians, called the Plebeian assembly. In this assembly each of Rome’s ten districts chose a people’s tribune. It was their job to protect the lower class from the upper class. When the patricians tried to make a law that would be really bad for ordinary people, a tribune would stop it. The people’s tribunes had the right to forbid a law, simply by saying “I forbid it” or veto in Latin.

Plebeians were the ordinary people, like shoemakers, carpenters, bakers, construction workers etc. 
But they were free men, not slaves. They were citizens of Rome, and therefore they had certain rights, like the right to vote during elections.
Patricians were the richest Roman families. They were also called the nobles / aristocrats (edelen)  because they owned most of the land and lived in beautiful villas. Children of patricians were automatically patricians too.
Only patricians could become senators. 

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Ruling the Republic

Ruling a republic was more complicated than ruling a monarchy. In a monarchy the king ruled alone. He made all the decisions, no matter if anyone agreed with him. If you have a wise king, that may be okay, but if the king is a murderous madman? He can cause disaster for the country and nobody can stop him.

Rome became a republic just to make sure that power was never again in the hands of one man. How did they do that?

  1. The highest office in the republic was that of consul (= like a modern president). The Romans had not one, but two consuls.
  2. The consuls were elected from the senators for one year only
  3. The consuls needed to agree with each other. A consul could veto (= forbid) a bad decision from the other consul.
  4. A tribune, a representative of the plebeians, could also veto a decision by the consuls.

The senate had some 300 members. So they still needed someone to lead the senate. This became a consul. You can compare a Roman consul to a modern president, like the president of the USA (also a republic, by the way). Like a president today, a consul was elected.

statue of a Roman consul from the 1st century BC. He is wearing his toga, the traditional Roman dress which only Roman citizens were allowed to wear.

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Politics of the Republic (2)
The plebeians were not happy that they could not become senators themselves.
They threatened to leave the city. Without the work of the plebeians the city could not function.
This helped. The patricians gave the plebeians some power. Each year they could elect two Tribunes. Tribunes were representatives of the plebeians. They made sure that the consuls not only made decisions that were good for patricians, but also for the plebeians.
The tribunes had one very strong power; the power of veto.
Veto means “I forbid”. With this power the tribunes could stop any decision made by the consuls.

See a graphic overview of Republic Politics here

the senators are discussing a new law that the consuls want to install
a tribune of the plebeians wants to use his veto to stop the new law of the consuls
the two consuls listen to the tribune who wants to stop their new new law
these are two "lictores", bodyguards of the consuls
The senate during the Roman Republic

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Political systems are very complicated. And they can change over time. 300 years ago, a king had more power than a king today. This is a simplified overview of the most used political systems 

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When the geese saved Rome (part 1)

There is a legend that in the year 387 BC the Gauls (or Celts) crossed the Alps and entered the Italy. They came searching for new land for their people and of course the wealth of the fertile north of Italy.
The Gauls heard about the power and wealth of Rome and so they wanted it for themselves. The Romans were warned of the advance of these barbarians from the north and went out to do battle. The Gauls were more terrible than the Romans could have imagined. Many of them fought naked and their bodies were painted and tattooed with strange designs. Their battle cries were horrifying. Their weapons were wicked and they wielded them with an ease that no Roman could match. The Roman soldiers, every one, turned tail and ran back through the city gates, leaving the gates wide open in their panic. They entrenched themselves on the Capitoline Hill.
At length the Gauls decided the Romans really were cowards and they entered the city, sacking, looting, and burning as they went. But they could not breech the high walls of the Capitoline Hill.
‘The Celts lived north of Italy. The Romans called them Gauls (Galliërs)

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When the geese saved Rome (part 2)

Then one night one of the Gaulish spies said he had found a way. They could climb up the back of the hill, up a steep cliff by means of handholds. If they climbed the hill quietly they could gather a strong enough force to battle their way to the gate and let their fellows in.
Now, the Capitoline Hill was the site of the temple of Juno. Since geese were sacred to Juno, the priests kept a flock of geese on the hill. It is lucky that they did for on the night the Gauls decided to scale the back of the Capitoline the sentries had fallen asleep on duty and the dogs were silently snoring. But the geese heard the invaders as they climbed the hill and they sent up such a cackling and honking and flapping of wings that captain Marcus Manlius woke abruptly, grabbed up his sword, and rushed out to the wall, calling his men as he ran. He was first to the wall, but others soon appeared at his right and at his left. They threw the Gauls back from the cliff.
The siege continued on for a few more weeks but the Gauls grew bored and decided to make a treaty. The Romans were able to buy peace at a great cost. But Rome endured and one day grew to be a great empire.

‘Celtic warriors, climbing the Capitoline hill, where the Romans were hiding
The Roman leaders negotiated with the Celtic leader Brennus for the price Rome would pay for the Gauls to leave. They decided on 1000 pounds of gold. But the Gauls used cheater weights that were heavier than standard. When the Romans complained,  Brennus said” Vae Victus”, "woe to the vanquished", and threw his sword onto the scale as well.

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