Power and process under the republican "constitution"

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Republican Rome had no written constitution. It did, however, have an array of remarkably tenacious continuing institutions (in the broadest sense of the term), some of which were or at least seemed virtually primeval. And at all times it had men who were willing to make confident assertions - as senators, magistrates, priests, or specialists in jurisprudence, or in more than one of these roles at once - about what was legally possible under an often fuzzy and ever evolving political and administrative system. A few went a bit further than ad hoc pronouncements. Certainly by c. 200 B.C. the Roman elite was taking an academic interest in the city-state's legal history. In the developed Republic, at any rate, some important colleges of priests maintained books of precedents; the senate's past decrees could be consulted in written form. Cicero's On Laws, to single out just one of his contributions to political philosophy, actually contains a short (idealizing) constitution, a theoretical piece that treats Rome's magistracies and some aspects of the state religion. One must add that a well-connected outsider, the Greek Polybius, writing in the mid second century B.C., left us an invaluable, though frustratingly selective and overschematic, sketch of the Roman state as he saw it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)9781139000338
ISBN (Print)9780521807944
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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