Roman Republic, Athenian Democracy and the United States

Throughout history there have been several government structures that govern the people of the state, some ran differently, but maybe similar as well. There is a fine line between a democracy and a republic although there are some similarities. In a democracy, the citizens are their own form of government, all having equal say. In a republic, citizens still have high power but use that power to elect representatives to govern the state. I want to focus on two forms of historic government, that both reflect and contradict each other, that of the Athenian Democracy and the Roman Republicanism.

The Athenian’s emphasized political and modest display, and believed in the power of the individual human (Cole, Symes, Coffin, & Stacey 2011, 58), therefore citizens of Athens called the shots. Also, the citizens of Rome had the ultimate power, but they used that power to vote in chief executives to help govern Rome. Both governments have left a mark on history and in fact, they even are partially emulated by our very own, the United States of America. The two governments might be a little more democratic than the Federal Republic of the United States but it’s certain that they have been introduced. In the city of Athens, the change from Monarchy to Democracy was a slow but steady process.

Democracy was found here in there in the government of Athens (cite website), in which these institutions eventually created a direct democracy. This democracy consisted of three main structures, the Assembly, the Council, and the People’s Court, and there were the Council of Areopagus, the leaders, who overlooked the Assembly. The assembly was the regular gathering of Male Athenians, around six thousand, in which they discussed matters of Athenian life, allowing all decisions and proposals to be determined by a vote. Although women couldn’t vote, voting rights were given to all males, all with equal power and they carried on legislation. Anyone could speak, including women; the people pretty much had all the power.

They could spend money on public projects, declare war, and even decide on military operations and foreign policy. Five hundred Athenian citizens, fifty from each of the ten tribes, served as the full-time government known has the Council, carrying out the proposals the people voted for. Their main focus was to prepare the agenda of the Assembly. They would meet and discuss possible decrees, which acted as rules and regulations, and any that were passed would go to the Assembly for voting. You want to know something else? The people had their own right to jury, hints the name, “The People’s Court”. Male citizens had the right to listen in on trials and vote on innocence or guilt, and if proven guilty the punishments that follow. “In a very real sense, the people governed themselves, debating and voting individually on issues great and small, from matters of war and peace to the proper qualifications for ferry-boat-captians (Blackwell 2003, (2).” ”

Christopher Blackwell, “Athenian Democracy: a brief overview,” inDēmos: Classical Athenian Democracy, The Stoa, 2003), (1-10). In the city of Rome, west from the Athens, across the Mediterranean Sea, the romans were ruled by Etruria Kings in which the Etruscans influenced the Roman civilization. Eventually, the Etruscan royalty was conquered and overthrown ( “”,2008, ). It was a new beginning, as the Roman conception of the citizens began to evolve. They authenticated a form of government known as a republic, and in fact was imitated and reconstructed by countries for centuries; one, the United States of America, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The government was structured and run quite differently than the Athenian Democracy but likewise, the people ultimately had the last say. It was of three divisions, the Senate, the two Consuls and the Court.

The Court was simple, just carrying out the laws and rules. Directing Policy and In charge of all expenditures, revenues, public funds and most important, protection, was the Senate. It became ultimately the most powerful governing body as it elected two chief administrators by the voting of male citizens to form the Consuls. The Consuls directed the government and were in full control over the actions of the military and war and they were to report urgent matters and considerations to the Senate. Although the Consuls appear to have full authority over any mission at hand, they must have the cooperation of the Senate, and most importantly the People. Just like the people of the Athenian Democracy, the people played the greatest role of the government, having control over rewards and punishment.

All male citizens had the right to vote, in which they passed judgment of financial concern, punishment for serious crimes, especially capital cases, and the greatest of their powers, concerning peace and war.

They could ratify laws and act upon, approving or denying specifics of military alliances, truces and other treaties. They believed in “All Human Society Are Held Together” quote, and they lived by it. John Portor, “Polybius 6.11.11-6.18.3: The Constitution of the Roman Republic,” in Translations of Classical Authors The United States of America is founded upon the same belief, giving the citizens freedom and rights, and the power to vote on executive leaders, and laws and amendments. It reflects the role of the people in both the Roman Republic and the Athenian Democracy, but the two are much more democratic than the U.S.A.

We, the people of the United States are for certain not meeting monthly like the Athens, discussing matters that concern the country and we definitely do not have the power of judgment concerning peace and war or financial concerns, like both the Athens and Romans had. In fact, it would be difficult to run a FULL democracy, like the Athens with the population of today’s country. We, the U.S. citizens might play a similar role of the people of a democracy, but our government is run like a republic, and is structured almost identically like the Roman Republic. It’s of three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. Under the executive branch is the President, elected by the citizens.

The president governs the Country and runs the Army, just like the Consuls of the Roman Republic. The U.S. legislation is carried out by the House of Representatives and Congress, the Roman Republic’s was by the Senate, and not to mention, both judicial systems are set up the same way. The U.S. legislation and the Constitution, the legal code, might be more complicated than that of the Roman Republic but they did set the ground work of the government structure of the U.S. today. It’s interesting, the different ideas and structures of governing over history may differ but may also resemble each other. The Citizens of the Athens Democracy and the Roman Republic had such a high power on their country. It would be nice, as a citizen, to be a part of a FULL democracy like the Athens, but a country of such a large population like the U.S., a republic is the way to go.

Blackwell, Christopher. “Athenian Democracy: a brief overview.” inDēmos: Classical Athenian Democracy, (1-10). The Stoa, 2003. (accessed November 9, 2012). “.” Philadelphia : Independence Hall Association, 2008. (accessed November 9, 2012). Blackwell, Christopher. “Athenian Democracy: a brief overview.”inDēmos: Classical Athenian Democracy, (1-10). The Stoa, 2003. (accessed November 9, 2012) Cole, Joshua et al. “Western Civilizations: Their History & Their Culture Volume; Brief Third Edition.” The Civilization of Greece 1000-400 B.C.E., Edited by Durbin Jon, 58. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2011.

Portor, John. “Polybius 6.11.11-6.18.3: The Constitution of the Roman Republic” in Translations of Classical Authors, Saskatoon, Canada: University of Saskatchewan, 1995. (accessed November 9, 2012).