Rome began as a tiny village along the Tiber River.
ROME AS A KINGDOM: Early Rome was ruled by a series of kings for about 200 years.
ROME AS A REPUBLIC: Upset by the way they were being treated, the people overthrew the last king. The people said NO MORE KINGS. That was the beginning of the Roman Republic or the age of SPQR - the Senate and the People of Rome.
The Roman Republic was run by large group of men. They called themselves members of the Senate. The people of Rome elected the two top Senators. These two top Senators were called consuls. The consuls selected senators from qualifying patricians. You could only be a consul for one year, then you had to be elected by the people again. This system worked very well. That form of government lasted for about 500 years in ancient Rome.
As time went on, Rome had problems that the Senate did not seem able to solve, problems that kept getting worse and worse. One of the problems was that the government kept running out of money. They needed money to pay the military, pave roads, and do the many jobs they did. They kept raising taxes, but the people were taxed out. They didn't have any more money to give. As well, Rome suffered from graft and corruption amongst elected officials. Crime was terrible. It was unsafe to walk the streets of Rome. Things were out of control.
ROME AS AN EMPIRE: One leader, Julius Caesar, decided the only thing was to do was to take his army into town, and force the Senate to accept new leadership, someone who could solve Rome's problems.
This new leadership was a dictatorship. The new head of government was called an emperor. The emperor was supported by a strong military to force change. It was not long before the Senate lost nearly all power. People still elected senators but Senators could only advise the Emperor. The emperor made all laws and passed all taxes. Rome was ruled by emperors, each supported by a large military, for the next 500 years. This period of time is called the Roman Empire - rule by emperor.
There were good things about rule by emperor in ancient Rome. Women gained power. Crime was reduced. Welfare programs were established to help the poor. Huge entertainment centers were built, and admission was free. But it was still a system of dictatorship, and it had its problems. Some emperors were good, some were bad, and some were just plain crazy.
ROME FALLS: The system of dictatorship continued until Rome fell as a result of unsolved problems and barbarian attacks.
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