The Roman Republic

Rome had grown from a small town to a large city. Its power had started to spread across Europe.

In the first stages of Ancient Rome, there were no kings of emperors. Rome was governed by a group of men called the Senate. This Senate elected two men to have the final say on decisions. These two men were called the consuls.

Between the years 509 BC and 27 CE, Rome was a republic. The Roman Republic lasted 450 years.

Roman Senate

The population grew during this time and the Romans started to have more and more control over different countries. The Romans conquered the rest of Italy, Spain, Turkey, North Africa and Greece.

The Romans began building beautiful impressive buildings and public spaces. Some people in the Roman Republic were extremely wealthy, but some were very poor. Life was very different during the Roman Republic depending on whether you were born rich, poor or a slave.

What was it like in the Roman Republic?

A republic is not like a democracy. In a democracy, everyone gets a say in the way the country is run. In a republic, only a certain number of people can decide what happens.

The Roman Republic had lots of rules about who people were in society and what they could do. There were the plebeians who were the common people. The Senate was made up of a group of men called the patricians who were the wealthy classes. This group of wealthy, powerful, people made all the decisions for everyone else.

Everyone in Rome was a citizen, except for slaves, who were seen as being below citizens. The Romans decided that all men over the age of 15 were citizens. These men had to prove their ancestors were from the original tribes of Rome in order to be considered citizens.

Roman wealth relied on the work of slaves. Slaves were unfree people who did not have the same rights as citizens. Later into the Republic, if a male slave was freed, they could become a citizen too.

Roman rules

The Romans had laws written down called the Twelve Tables. The Twelve Tables had rules that tried to keep life pleasant for everyone and stop too much violence or crime. For example, it was forbidden to insult another man.

The Twelve Tables

Some laws may seem unfair to us today. For example, there were strict laws about women being controlled.

There were rules that might seem strange to us too. The Romans had rules like you could pick fallen fruit from another man’s farm. This type of rule was trying to make clear what theft was.

Even though some of the laws might not seem very fair to us today, the Romans had a different way of thinking to us. We have to remember as well that it was the small group of rich and powerful men that made the laws.

The Common people and the rich and powerful

Plebeians and patricians did not really mix. They were not allowed to marry or socialise together. They wore different clothing so everyone would know whether they were common people or rich people.

Patricians (the rich) often lived in big villas on the Palatine Hill, away from the poor.

Other Romans lived in tall apartment buildings called insulae. The poorer you were, the higher up in the insulae you lived. If you were lucky enough to live on the ground floor, you would have more space and proper windows.

Romans made great advancements in technology but not everyone benefited from this. The sewage system started in 6 BC but poor people living on the upper floors would not have had drainage or sewage systems. The poorer people would not have enjoyed such benefits as clean water and a nice environment to live in.

Did Romans eat pizza and pasta?

Roman food was different from the food you get in Italy today. There were no tomatoes, peppers, rice or sugar, or fruits like oranges and peaches. Most people ate a type of bread, grain or gruel. If you were very rich, you might enjoy spices or meats that had come from abroad.

Ancient Roman Food

What did Romans do for fun?

Romans loved leisure activities. For fun, they enjoyed gladiatorial competitions, chariot racing and theatre. Roman baths were very popular and most were free. Inside the bathhouses, they had different temperature pools, health centres and gyms. Everyone could enjoy these bathhouses. Romans believed that poor people needed entertainment too.

When a Roman finished their working day (normally at noon after starting at dawn), they would enjoy wrestling, chariot racing or other leisure activities.

Children enjoyed playing games, just like today, and historians have discovered evidence about toys and dolls that children enjoyed playing with.

Ancient Rome